Questions Aboard The Dreadnought Zhang Yanmei 26th Of Ap

[17:04] <Minaplo> [26th of April, aboard the Federation Dreadnought Zhang Yanmei.-
[17:06] <Minaplo> [The bulk of the 2nd Outer Sphere Fleet was now safely in orbit around Sisu, arrayed in a spherical formation with the Zhang Yanmei at its core. A mammoth ship several kilometres that dwarfed any other around it, it drew the eye immediately.-
[17:07] <Minaplo> [And it was onto the ship- specifically in its conference room- that Captain Hyuga had been invited, to explain the situation to Admiral Archibald in detail.]
[20:55] <Kayoko> Kayoko had switched ships alone, taking the short journey in an automated shuttle despite Tran's insistence that she needed a real pilot. She arrived in uniform, one she'd had freshly cleaned yesterday in expectation of the admiral's arrival. Her hair, by contrast, was tied in a careless ponytail and left to dangle behind her shoulder blades. She'd arrived ten minutes early, meaning by the time she was escorted to the conference room she was almost on time to the minute.
[21:04] <Minaplo> [And so shortly after the door opened.-
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["Come in, Captain Hyuga." Said Admiral Archibald, standing at the far end of a (larger) walnut-and-silver conference table.-
[21:06] <Minaplo> [Admiral Archibald wasn't very tall- in fact she was a little shorter than Kayoko and a little thinner, too. She was white, with short jet black hair and large ocean-blue eyes, highlighted by the double-breasted navy admiral's uniform coat she wore. She had a calm, neutral expression; her hands were clasped and still behind her.]
[21:18] <Kayoko> The door swung gently shut behind her as she crossed the threshold, leaving Kayoko's hands free to give Archibald a quite salute. "Admiral."
[21:28] <Minaplo> [Archibald returned the salute. "Captain Hyuga, welcome. Feel free to take a seat."-
[21:28] <Minaplo> [Archibald sat regardless of what Kayoko did. "My commendations to you on a stellar performance, Captain."]
[21:43] <Kayoko> "Thank you," she said, taking a chair as soon as it was offered. "Minimal loss of Federation life or materiel… quite respectable, I think."-
[21:43] <Kayoko> "I imagine Command has a lot of questions for me, though."
[21:47] <Minaplo> ["Oh, yes. First and foremost: what precipitated this?"]
[21:58] <Kayoko> "Mm." She took a moment to roll back the stiff cuff of her right sleeve, revealing a plain chromed band Archibald would recognize as the more modern iteration of the Founding-era command gloves. She swiped it over a terminal on the edge of the table and made a few quick gestures, and a moment later there was a beep from the corresponding terminal in front of the Admiral.-
[21:58] <Kayoko> If Archibald were to look over the transferred files, she'd find Way Terminal logs, video footage and signed testimonies by both Franco and Commander Tyrell among many other pieces of neatly-organized evidence about the events at Frontier Gate.-
[22:02] <Kayoko> "We dropped out of slipstream on the way into the Zeruel System and got an SOS from Frontier Gate. As the only ship in the system, we responded," she said. "We encountered an unfamiliar cruiser attacking the station, as I'm sure you know. We had little trouble crippling it, though they tried to self-destruct when we trashed their propulsion and weapons."
[22:04] <Kayoko> "We were getting ready to consolidate our position and summon help when a fleet of similar vessels dropped out of the Way. We made the decision to retreat to Sisu with the Gate and our prisoners."
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["I see. Then?"]
[22:11] <Kayoko> "Interviewing the prisoners told us we were looking at a civil war driven by the Overseers, with the first ship being loyalists to the old order while the armada represented the Overseer-backed faction. The first ship had seen a Defector in the background when they hailed Frontier Gate, and just assumed…" She gave little shrug.-
[22:11] <Kayoko> "Our attempts to deescalate had no success and we needed time for your fleet to arrive, so we harried their supply lines and punished mistakes. When that wasn't enough, I prepared a final ambush against the bulk of the fleet. We were successful."
[22:23] <Minaplo> ["Indeed, you were." Said Archibald. "So, a civil war, then. That's unfortunate. Did the rebel faction simply not care that they were in a neutral system?"]
[22:31] <Kayoko> "We were working under that assumption, given the lack of communication. We knew they were after a religious leader hiding on the first ship, and were simply willing to rouse us to capture or kill her. But…"-
[22:31] * Kayoko frowned. "Speaking to the enemy Admiral after we captured her dreadnought, she alleges that she was trying to negotiate with us, but only heard an aggressive 'automated message' in response. I… convinced her such a message did not exist, at which point she admitted that they had an Overseer translator on board as a middle-man, and that they would have had opportunity to falsify messages."-
[22:31] <Kayoko> "She submitted to a mindscan from Ahura El-hashem to verify the story. No sign of a lie."
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["Troublesome." Said Archibald. "I don't pretend to understand why the Overseers would trick their own partisans into a second war- it seems likely to only crush their chosen faction. But if that's their goal, then I very much doubt that the Federation Council will sleep soundly with such a belligerent force on our doorstep."]
[22:44] <Kayoko> "My understanding has always been that the Overseers don't care about their partisans on a micro-scale. Spending them lets them feel out a new player without expending their own resources."-
[22:44] <Kayoko> "Which matches their actions," she added. "The translator ran home before the last confrontation, almost certainly with every scrap of data the Freepathers had on us."
[22:45] <Minaplo> ["Damn." Muttered Archibald.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> ["Alright. What do we know about these new neighbours?"]
[22:56] <Kayoko> "They're either the Shrinepath or Freepath Devoted, based on which side of the conflict they're on now," Kayoko began, sending another batch of files as she spoke. "Almost certainly Wildflowers, based on both our investigations and our Attache's assessments. Bipedal, carnivorous, look like a bunch of cat-people. Dragged themselves out of a warlike dark age with the aid of a religion structured to temper their natural instincts, a religion which is now being second-guessed."-
[22:57] <Kayoko> "Apparently their homeworld contains an infinite - I do mean that literally, apparently it regenerates within days when mined - supply of transmatter, which they use to power their weapons and tech. It's solid-state matter that can be manipulated into a plasma that mimics most of the AT-piercing effects of our positron tech."
[23:01] <Minaplo> ["And this… Transmatter's not a new development, then? It's indigenous to their world?"]
[23:06] <Kayoko> "Common to Wildflower worlds, our Attache says. Usually it lets them slingshot their tech development, and then they get offworld and find it's one of the most valuable trade goods in known space."-
[23:06] <Kayoko> "… The replenishing mines aspect, though? I asked, and that's new," Kayako said with a frown. "If I had to make an educated guess at why the Overseers look like they don't care about the Devoted? They don't. They want the golden goose they're sitting on top of, and the species themselves are secondary."
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["That seems likely." Said Archibald. "I wonder if knowing more about us is more valuable than that goose."-
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["What about this religious leader you mentioned?"]
[23:12] <Kayoko> "Russkra Ssatra," Kayoko said, putting a holographic picture of the Maiden on the table's projector. "One of the last remaining Shrinepath Maidens and the likely pick for high priestess if she makes it home. She's quick on the uptake and she's been easy for us to work with, which means we're probably doing what she wanted anyway."
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["Which is sheltering her and destroying her enemies, so far."]
[23:14] <Kayoko> "Mhmm."
[23:15] <Minaplo> ["And High Priestess is the leader of their religion, I assume?"]
[23:16] <Kayoko> "Seems to be. She's confident enough to be speaking as the de-facto leader of the Shrinepath faction."
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["Hmm. No wonder she was being pursued so fiercely."]
[23:23] * Kayoko nodded. "She was at some sort of gathering for the Maidens to decide the new High Priestess. The Freepathers found out, and now she's either the last one alive or close to it."
[23:24] <Minaplo> ["Hmm… Considering the circumstances, it seems unlikely we'll be able to maintain our neutrality."]
[23:31] <Kayoko> "Probably not. The Freepath Admiral wanted to claim we'd chosen our side just by defending ourselves and refusing to let them kill Russkra, but given what we learned about their translator I think we could just as easily turn it into a wedge between them and the Overseers."-
[23:31] <Kayoko> She removed the picture of Russkra from the projector and leaned forward. "Based on what I've seen, we could decide the conflict without a great deal of effort. The only advantage they had here was in numbers, and we beat them cleanly. The Overseers would seem to be the actual concern."
[23:33] <Minaplo> ["Agreed." Said Archibald. "It's sixty years old, but I've read the old specs of Overseer Imperial warships. They build their Dreadnoughts to Angel-killing standards."-
[23:33] <Minaplo> ["Er, Great One, sorry. Habit. In any case, Eva or no, that implies that they pack serious firepower."]
[23:37] * Kayoko waved a hand. "Angel is a much better name, but maybe that's just the bias of childhood stories talking? Hm. In any case, it's not your fault that the rest of the universe is behind, Admiral."-
[23:38] <Kayoko> There was a pause as Kayoko thought, wracking her brain to work out what was already covered and what had yet to be.-
[23:38] <Kayoko> "… ah yes. One more serious concern to report, Admiral."
[23:38] <Minaplo> ["Go on."]
[23:48] <Kayoko> "In a rather convenient coincidence, there was an archaeological dig on Zeruel IV while all of this was going on. Their hired Guardian was the one to recover Russkra, as a matter of fact…" she began.-
[23:48] <Kayoko> "Shortly before he found her, though, he had an encounter with a live, apparently undegraded Watcher in the ruins. Mr. Mist said it told him it was a guardian of the "tomb world" where the FAR executed the Harvesters. It ordered him and his wards to leave."-
[23:48] <Kayoko> "Luckily they were smart enough to listen, because, well… let me show you." She gestured with her band again, and then a complex series of readings and a short video of the 'explosion' of Zeruel IV appeared on the projector.-
[23:48] <Kayoko> "When the time limit was up, it activated an energy pulse that wiped almost everything off the surface of the planet."
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["Bloody hell. That seems rather overkill."]
[23:51] <Kayoko> "Did the FAR ever strike you as a subtle people, as far as displays of power go?"
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["Sometimes, you know."]
[23:55] * Kayoko just shrugged. "In any case, we were finishing an engagement in orbit above the planet when… well, whatever that is happened. One of the enemy Superheavies survived and made it to slipstream, and I see no reason not to assume that the same data about the event made it back to the Freepath, and probably the Overseers."
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["Troublesome… We'll make sure to keep the system well-garrisoned."]
[00:05] <Kayoko> "I'd hope after this mess we'd keep every system properly garrisoned," Kayoko said, her tone light even a she locked eyes with Archibald.
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["We'll keep the strategic systems garrisoned." Said Archibald, a mild but noticeable firmness entering her voice. "You have both my condolences and my thanks for bearing the brunt so far."]
[00:31] <Kayoko> "Ah," she gave a little nod, full of apparent understanding. "When I write my report I'll include a recommendation for Command to change what they teach in the academy if the ranks with actual power have no intention of following suit."
[00:46] <Minaplo> ["I understand that you've had a very intense few days, Captain." Said Archibald seriously. "So I understand that someone in your position might overlook the strategic reality: we do not have enough ships to provide a garrison in every single system in the Federation, assuming you mean every system with nothing but a two-bit mining colony, or a system whose sole feature is sitting on a
[00:46] <Minaplo> Way-Point between two other more important systems. Even if we restrict ourselves to only the systems with inhabited planets, that gives us around seventy ships capable of Dirac jumps to spread around nine systems. Assuming the Defectors are correct and that advantage remains solely ours, here is what we will do: we will strip what ships we can spare from the Home Fleets to bolster the
[00:46] <Minaplo> Outer Sphere Fleets, and then we will move to seal the Way-Line borders. A concentration of our forces will remain in this system, as it is our current point of contact with our enemy. Any other forces we can spare will be sent to supplement local SDF where necessary. We will be well-protected, Captain Hyuga."]
[01:09] <Kayoko> "The past few days have no bearing on my knowledge of realities, Admiral Archibald, strategic and otherwise," Kayoko said, her tone turning abruptly frosty. "In fact, here are some more…"-
[01:09] <Kayoko> "Command sent me into the field without so much as an impact cannon. That's against both regs and common sense, I'm sure you know." And indeed, as she spoke the holoprojector was changing to display pages of text with sections clearly highlighted. "They also failed so utterly in using the Federation's colossal logistical advantage over anything else in known space that we only had something to stop the Freepath because we were lucky."
[01:09] <Kayoko> "You will find very, very few flaws in my actions over the past few days, I'm confident in that. If I'd been reduced to my constituent atoms eight hours ago I would have been annoyed, but at the very least I'd be confident that I'd done everything to the absolute best of my ability. Had the Freepathers run roughshod over the system, I do wonder if Command could say the same?"
[01:12] <Minaplo> ["Probably not, Captain."]

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