Admiral Fenjeelin sat at his desk, staring blankly at a large pile of paperwork. He wasn’t really thinking about anything in particular. He was just kind of numb. Commanding a fleet of starships that had been besieging a planet for five years with no end in sight was actually quite boring. Every day was pretty much the same as the day before it, which would be the same as the next day. He sometimes found himself wishing that the Imperial Fleet would show up, just so he had something different to do. Or the Imperial forces on Cortaris could surrender. That would be good too.
The sound of the comm system beeping jolted him out of his numbness. He reached over and pressed the button to accept the call.
“Admiral Fenjeelin,” said the voice of an ensign, “Captain Soromine has returned from the surface and is requesting to see you, sir.”
“Send him in,” Fenjeelin said. A few seconds later, the door of his quarters opened and Captain Soromine stepped inside.
“Well, Captain,” Fenjeelin said, “How was your trip? Is the General in a better mood now?”
“I’m afraid not,” Soromine said, “In fact, he refused to meet with me at all, and sent me a message stating that unless I had brought three flights of Nightwings with me, then there was no point in me being there. He also said that if you keep refusing him reinforcements, then he’s going to report you to the High Council.”
Fenjeelin stared at his nephew with an unreadable expression on his face, and then said, “So I can safely say that you failed in your mission.” Captain Soromine stiffened slightly, but remained silent. Fenjeelin watched him for a few more moments, and then sighed heavily.
“I suppose that means I need to meet with him directly, then,” he said wearily, “I will leave immediately. You will be in command of the fleet until I return.” Soromine saluted and turned to leave.
“Captain,” Fenjeelin said suddenly as Soromine reached the door. Soromine turned to face his uncle.
“Don’t fail this time,” Fenjeelin said. Soromine quivered as if he had been struck, and then saluted smartly.
“Yes, sir,” he said, his voice dripping with contempt, “I will not fail you, sir.” With that, he left the room.
Fenjeelin glared after his nephew. He never should have made the idiot his XO. But it was too late to do anything about it. Now he had to leave the comfort of his beautiful ship and go down to the surface of this darkness-forsaken planet and meet with another idiot face-to-face. As he sat there, he thought to himself about what a disaster this trip was likely to be. Unfortunately, he had no idea just how right he was.
Admiral Forien Lomeur, Commander of the 18th Battlegroup of the Imperial Fleet, was preparing for the biggest test of her military career. She had seen plenty of action against Fangalin, but breaking the Fangalin siege of Cortaris was much more important and more risky than anything else she had done. The Imperial Fleet couldn’t muster enough ships or crew to match Fangalin’s numbers, so the success of this operation was going to depend on strategy, on courage, and on luck.
Admiral Lomeur had taken part in some important battles. She had been in command of the cruiser Faithful when the Imperial Fleet took the Fangalin commercial center of Namala. She had been the XO of the destroyer Tidal Wave during the Empire’s greatest victory thus far, the capture of the Fangalin capital of Numoris. In fact, her very first mission was as a new ensign on board the cruiser Intensity during Operation Hammer, the first in a long line of successes orchestrated by Emperor Belatras.
All those successes would be for nothing if Fangalin took Cortaris. Despite everything the Emperor and the Fleet had accomplished, Fangalin still possessed a great deal of military and economic power, and even at this point, all could still be lost.
Despite all the battles she had fought in, one battle she missed was the breaking of the siege of Trisitania. That had happened two years ago. She was already in command of the 18th Battlegroup back then, but the 18th was defending the province of Pellarus. The fear at the time was that if Trisitania fell, Pellarus would be attacked next, and High Command felt that the 18th was more useful where it was than as part of the force that broke the siege.
Which was all well and good. Admiral Lomeur didn’t fear battles, but she didn’t enjoy them either. She would have been content to sit out this battle as well, but it wasn’t up to her. This time, High Command believed that freeing Cortaris was more important than any other objective, so all available units were being called in to take part in this operation.
In any case, she wasn’t in command of the entire operation. That honor/responsibility went to the Emperor himself. As if to underscore the importance of this operation, the Emperor was taking personal command of the fleet. In fact, the Emperor would be commanding from Lomeur’s flagship, Summer Wind. He was due to arrive any minute.
Just then, the door to the bridge opened, and the Emperor and his retinue entered. It had been a couple of years since Lomeur had last seen Emperor Belatras, and the Emperor looked more haggard than she remembered. But, she supposed that was to be expected. This Fangalin offensive of the last few years risked undoing all the gains that the Emperor had made during his long reign. That had to be incredibly stressful for a man who already had plenty of stress as it was.
“Welcome to Summer Wind, sire,” Lomeur said, bowing. She had a deep voice for a woman, but it was surprisingly melodious nonetheless. “I deeply appreciate the honor you have bestowed on me and my crew by establishing your command here.” The Emperor nodded slightly in acknowledgement of Lomeur’s bow and words.
“Thank you, Admiral,” he responded, “Hopefully this operation will be over quickly and I can get out of your hair.” He smiled slightly, a gesture that was returned by Lomeur.
“As you command, your majesty,” she said, bowing once more.
To be continued…