Firstly, my Japanese language ability is crap. There's no guarantee what I've written is correct. Nor had I had time to review and edit. My English may be crap too.
Secondly, spelling of Abh terms etc are my own, and don't follow any particular convention.
Thirdly, I won't try to post any full translation. Tokyopop has an option on the novels. Support licensed versions.
Before I start my summary, a brief explanation of events in the previous volumes of the Seikai series by reference to maps. The maps show positions as at the beginning of Seikai no Senki I (Banner of the Stars I):
Imperial calendar year 952. Seikai no Monshou (Crest
Stars). You can see Hyde Sord at the top of the map, within
influence of the circular Abh Iriishu Kingdom. Jinto's home
system. The Abh are escorting him from Delktou in Voraashu
when the ship Gosroth is attacked by United Mankind ships from Keishu
193 sord. Jinto and Lafiel escape to Sufagunofu system.
can see both Voraashu and Sufagunofu sords in the the Iriishu
Kingdom circle ("northwest" and "west" respectively). The
Nations Alliance (but without Hania Federation) invade the Human Empire
by the Abh via the Keishu 193 and Suiivu 882 sords in the vicinity of
the Iriishu Kingdom ("northwest" and "east" respectively).
star system falls within the enemy's sphere of influence. (By
way, the dark patch in the middle of the planar space map is the
Central Circle, where ships cannot travel due to the dense space-time
Imperial calendar year 955. Seikai no Senki I (Banner of the Stars I). The Empire strikes back. In Operation Phantom Flame, Abh forces push "northwards" from Abh Syuruguzede Kingdom to form a corridor linking up with Abh Rasuiisu Kingdom, cutting off the "eastern" portion of the United Mankind. See the schematic chart. In the corridor, Aputikku Sord is wrested from United Mankind. The Aputikku Defense Fleet (including Jinto and Lafiel in the Basroil) is charged with the duty of preventing the enemy from re-taking the sord.
Imperial calendar year c.956. Seikai no Senki II (Banner of the Stars II). Operation Hunter to consolidate the gains from Operation Phantom Flame. Jinto and Lafiel are sent to Lobnas system (in roughly the same area, IIRC).
Imperial calendar year 956. Seikai no Senki III (Banner of the Stars III). With Operation Hunter the Hyde system once again falls within the sphere of influence of the Abh, but the people reject Abh rule. Jinto and Lafiel travel to Hyde system. Jinto reaches agreement with its government by which Hyde system submits, but the Abh rulers must not approach planet Martine.
Imperial calendar year c.959. Seikai no Senki IV (Banner of the Stars IV).
How many times have I been to a funeral? And how many funerals will I have to attend in future? Ramaj, 27th emperor of the Human Empire by the Abh thinks on the Imperial state ship Gaftnosh as it glides to the Imperial Funeral Hall. Although the Gaftnosh is state ship for the Empire and flagship for the Seikai Forces, it is designed for actual combat operations. Traditionally, the state ship has always been a state-of-the-art cruiser. At present, this meant a Kau class cruiser.
The ship docks and the Empress is met by chamberlains and a mobile platform. She mounts the mobile platform, which takes her from her quarters to the airlock of the Gaftnosh and then down the hallway of the funeral hall. Although the Abh normally like artwork depicting terrestial scenes, the artwork in the hallway is that of stars. The Imperial Funeral Hall is the largest funeral hall in Lakfakalle, reserved only for funerals of members of the Imperial family and state funerals. The Abh are not religious, and although funerals was for acquaintences to say goodbye, they are the event that would most notably seem like a religious event for the Abh. The Empress is met by Rear Admiral Shidoryua Boruju = Sid Seeru, son of the Imperial Prime Minister Shidoryua Boruju = Sid Siizu who recently passed away. The body of the late prime minister lies in a transparent cylindrical coffin in the centre of the circular hall. There is no real gravity in the hall, so Ramaj bounds to the side of the coffin, pays her respects and moves away for the next person. People do not salute her in here because in a funeral hall the centre of attention is the deceased. She takes her seat and places the tip of her foot on a protrusion from the floor, so that she does not float up from her seat.
A lander approaches her. It's not unsual to see landers here. The late prime minister was a lander himself. But this particular lander is not an Imperial subject - he is Ambassador Tin Kuihan from the Hania Federation. Tin says he has come because Prime Minister Shidoryua was a friend of his, but he would like a moment with the Empress later as well. She tells him that he should speak to the new prime minister. This is Burashu, previously director of the foreign office, and who should therefore be familiar with the Hania Federation. Tin says that he has not received the response from the prime minister that he had wished. Ramaj says that she does not like to infringe on the duties of her officials, but after the funeral is over, she will spare him the time it takes for the mobile platform to take her back to her ship. Tin pauses for a moment (probably dissatisfied with the short time allotted to him, but he does not show it), and gives his thanks.
As the number of funeral attendees slows, a low moan of disparate voices resounds in the hall, to which Ramaj adds her voice of parting regret. The voices grow in volume to engulf the hall and form a beautiful chord. This is an Abh dirge. Many landers wanted to be buried on their home planet when they died, but Prime Minister Shidoryua had requested an Abh funeral, and the Empire honoured him with a state funeral. Not all funerals of members of the Imperial family are held in the Imperial Funeral Hall.
A black cylinder covers the coffin, to protect the corpse for hundreds of millions of years. The covered coffin is loaded into an electromagnetic projection cannon. The volume of the dirge rises and the coffin is lauched towards the centre of the galaxy. The acceleration of the cannon is countered by the large mass of the funeral hall, producing a temporary comfortable gravity. Everyone's heels touch the floor simultaneously. With that sound the voices subside. The funeral is over.
Ramaj looks at the closed breech of the cannon. How many more times will I have to view this event... With a kick against the floor, she bounds to the Hania Federation ambassador waiting at the exit.
"ETA to space-time fusion 5 minutes" Deca-commander Ekuryua calmly says. Deputy Hecto-commander Lafiel nods to her XO. She is the second to captain the Frikov [Sobaash having been the first in Seikai no Senki III]. They're about to fuse with enemy mines. Signal officer Rear Flyer Yateshu notifies of an inter-bubble message from the flagship of 1st Devastation Squadron. Orders for the ships to split into single ship space-time bubbles. Changing to single ship space-time bubbles meant that each ship was more mobile, but defensive capability was reduced. And they were heading into an artillery barrage.
Lafiel decides not to try to evade the mines. 1st Devastation Squadron is at the vanguard of the assault division Bosuru. Behind the squadron are four assault ship squadrons and assault ships are more vulnerable to mines. In the past, the Abh used escort ships (which specialise in defense against mines) at the front of assault ships. But many such ships had been lost in the war to date and HQ seemed to be reserving their escort ships. Instead they now deployed raid ships and cruisers at the front. [I've called the ships of the Devastation Squadrons "raid ships" to distinguish them from "assault ships" and "cruisers". The Basroil was an "assault ship", and the Gosroth was a "cruiser". The Frikov is a "raid ship", a relatively new class of ship, somewhere between an "assault ship" and a "cruiser" in specification.]
They're about to fuse with the mines. Lafiel feels strange not piloting the ship. Unless she is demoted, she will not be piloting. Magnetic defense shields are up, mobile laser cannon banks are set to automatic fire. Lafiel feels an intense gaze on her. It's Line Wing Flyer Gunomuboshu. As a junior officer he has no specific duties on the bridge and feels uncomfortable with nothing to do at this time. Lafiel thinks of her younger brother - he too is a line wing flyer fighting somewhere in planar space. She decides to assign him to control the mobile laser cannon banks, not a complex task, but it will give him something to do. Gunomuboshu starts to thank her, thinks better of it, and just replies with a "Yes, Ma'am".
Three mines fuse at almost the same time. Gunomuboshu calls out that the laser banks have started firing and are operating normally, for which he gets teased for his impressive work by his immediate superior, gunnery officer Vanguard Flyer Arubofu. One mine is destroyed, and its antimatter fuel is repelled by the magnetic defense shields. A second mine is destroyed. Then the third. Another four mines fuse with the Frikov's space-time bubble.
Lafiel looks at the planar space map on her console. On the enemy side there are 10 space-time bubbles waiting for the 1st Devastation Squadron, probably 10 cruisers in single space-time bubbles. The Abh were sending mines against the enemy ships as well. Neither side used mines defensively, ie to counter the other side's mines.
One mine comes to within close range of Frikov. It's destroyed but Vanguard Flyer Jinto reports minor damage, though nothing internal. Gunomuboshu apologetically reports to Lafiel that laser cannon 304 has been damaged. New officers always seem afraid of Lafiel, but she's used to this. Lafiel orders Chief Engineer Gurinshia to initiate repairs. Gurinshia despatches personnel to the 3rd mobile cannon bank storage deck.
Ekuryua reports another three mines incoming. Yateshu reports Pankov destroyed. There's now just a flow of space-time particles. Gurinshia reports that it will take three hours to repair the damaged cannon. Lafiel orders the engineers on standby - better to let them rest than work on repairs that would not be completed in time for the battle. Her clyuno rings. Someone wants to talk to her privately. It must be an important matter for someone, even Jinto, to dare to contact an Abrial this way during a battle. It's Gurinshia, who suggests that she order the engineers to carry out the repairs, something to occupy their minds. Lafiel trusts Gurinshia to know the feelings of her subordinates. She terminates the clyuno call, and orders the engineers to repair the cannon, but with low priority.
They finish off the last of the mines. Inter-bubble message from the squadron flagship - Frikov to fuse with enemy space-time bubble 102. The enemy seems to accept single combat. Lafiel orders battle acceleration and the electromagnetic projection cannons ready to fire. She announces to all hands to prepare for irregular acceleration that will exceed the capacity of the ship's gravity control engine. She orders Arubofu to turn the ship to face the point of fusion and fire at will. Arubofu responds with enthusiasm. Lafiel envies him his job.
Space-time bubble fusion. Arubofu fires the electromagnetic projection cannons. The enemy fires six nuclear fusion rounds. Forward facing laser cannon banks fire. Nuclear fusion rounds move at 1/100th speed of light and are harder to counter than mines. But the laser cannon banks manage to destroy one. Arubofu shifts the ship to the side to avoid the other rounds. Both sides' rounds miss. Frikov loads and fires another salvo. Miss again. Lafiel gets impatient, and more envious of Arubofu handling the ship. Both ships are now firing laser cannon banks, but laser cannons can only scratch something as large as a warship. One of the enemy's nuclear fusion rounds explodes nearby. Jinto reports breach in the 2nd hold, but no injuries and air pressure unaffected.
Lafiel looks at the planar space map again. The dot representing combat space-time bubble 21 changed from purple (battle in progress) to yellow (unidentified). It approaches them. Yateshu reports that it seems Takukov has been destroyed, since he has received no friendly ID signal. The dot turns red (enemy). Lafiel tells Arubofu to hurry up. She also orders Ekuryua to move the space-time bubble heading 10 o'clock. But the enemy ship has a space-time bubble generation engine. The engines of the two ships quarrel. Ekuryua seems to be a little better. The space-time bubble moves, unsteadily, heading 10 o'clock. But the approaching enemy space-time bubble is faster. Frikov fires another salvo of nuclear fusion rounds at the enemy warship, but misses. The enemy's laser cannon banks damage the 1st electromagnetic projection cannon. Repair not possible. The two ships jockey for position. Frikov manages to come up behind the enemy. Lafiel orders Gunomuboshu to aim at the enemy's jet nozzles. She thinks to herself that she'll only give him one chance to do it, otherwise she'll take control herself - she can't risk the whole crew to train a flyer. Two jet nozzles are destroyed. The stern electromagnetic projection cannons fire. Another miss. The enemy ship's movements seem to have dulled. Some nuclear fusion rounds detonate off the port of Frikov, rocking the ship. Gunomuboshu starts to read out the laser cannons damaged. Don't report it, Lafiel interrupts him, just concentrate on the jet nozzles. He apologises. She glares at him. Gurinshia reports multiple damage, the engineering personnel are overloaded. Lafiel orders top priority to mobility. Gurinshia sends directions to her subordinates. If the Chief Engineer had been Samson, he would've commented about Seikai Force regulations on pay for being overworked.
Lafiel looks at the map again. The next pass will be the last opportunity for a one-on-one contest, then the enemy space-time bubble 21 will arrive. Then Ekuryua reports that Marusukov is approaching. That ship had disposed of its own enemy and is coming to help. Humiliating, but there's nothing Lafiel could do about it. Frikov fires another volley of nuclear fusion rounds. One gouges out the hold of the enemy ship, destroying it. The enemy is covered with its antimatter fuel, and is converted into energy.
Lafiel orders space-time separation on the double. They leave behind the mass which had been the enemy warship, and head for Marusukov. Lafiel orders damage reports. Everyone on the bridge is busy, except Arubofu, whose job is over. Lafiel asks him if he'd like to be replaced. He says no. She's disappointed. The ship's mobility is still good, but its fighting capacity has been significantly affected. She contacts the squadron flag ship Shutukov for orders. They are to take on enemy space-time bubble 21 in conjunction with Marusukov.
The war between the Human Empire by the Abh and the Three Nations Alliance is in its seventh year. The Empire has the upper hand for the moment. After three years' preparations, Operation Phantom Flame had cut off about 1/4 of the United Mankind's star systems. Then with Operation Hunter the Empire had recovered territory wrested from it at the outbreak of the war, and gained new territory. The Empire controlled the planar space, but it didn't completely control the ground worlds. Unless the landers entered planar space, the Abh would wait patiently for their submission. But if a ground world was hostile, a military force would be despatched to watch it.
The Empire watched for an offensive by the Three Nations Alliance. They had focused on defense in the two operations, so their main force must have been preserved. However, there was no sign of an offensive from the Three Nations Alliance. They wondered about this lack of an offensive, but were not prepared to slowly wait. A new strategy was proposed. Firstly to gain control over the area from the newly acquired territory between Rusuiisu Kingdom and Syuruguzede Kingdom to the Central Circle. At the same time, from Baruke Kingdom they would force their way up between the United Mankind and People's Sovereign Stellar Union, until they reached the Central Circle. Thus the United Mankind would be isolated from its allies. This operation was called "Twin Thorns". As was customary with grand strategy, the commander would be the Crown Prince, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Fleet, Imperial Marshall Dusanyu. But since this strategy called for two extended fronts, he would stay in Lakfakalle. Therefore two deputy commanders-in-chief would lead the fleets: Seikai Force Marshall Kotoponi would command the fleet in the new territories, while Seikai Force Marshall Rekefu would command the fleet from Baruke Kingdom. The raid ship Frikov commanded by Lafiel belongs to the 24th Twin Thorns Fleet, Assault Division Bosuru, 1st Devastation Squadron.
The Frikov and Marusukov destroy the enemy ship. Yateshu reports an order to withdraw from the Erukau, flagship of the 24th Twin Thorns Fleet. Each ship which receives the signal relays it. The signal resonates throughout the fleet. They receive an order from squadron HQ to assemble as the squadron base. The frontline is settling down. The enemy is sending a withdrawal signal as well. When Lafiel asks, Gurinshia reports no urgent repairs required. Although the ship is in bad shape, it can wait until they are docked. Lafiel orders the engineering crew to rest. Jinto reports no injuries, ships internal environment nominal.
The crew on the bridge are chatting and the conversation turns to what they would like to do in future. Gunomuboshu says that when a Vanguard Flyer like Arubofu is promoted, his next post would be as captain of an assault ship. Yateshu reveals that Arubofu has twice declined promotion to deca-commander. Gunomuboshu is surprised. Arubofu says that all he wants is to be gunnery officer, or more particularly, pilot. If he is promoted, he will no longer be able to do that. Nor does he want to pilot a transport ship or ship of the line. Gunomuboshu points out that as captain of an assault ship, he could pilot and have more freedom. Arubofu says that would be too great a responsibility; he wants as little responsibility as possible. Lafiel points out a gunnery officer has heavy responsibilities as well. He acknowledges this, but can put up with it. He can decide the extent of his promotion, a privilege denied to royalty. Lafiel acknowledges this - promotion is a duty of royalty. Her father Dubyusu rose to the rank of admiral. Now that war had broken out, he had been promoted to grand admiral and commanded a fleet. From birth she had thought of striving to reach the top as natural, and this had not changed, although at times she thought it unpleasant. Gunomuboshu dreams of becoming admiral. Yateshu would be happy to be baron of a tiny star.
Kemal Sord is a fortress. The People's Sovereign Stellar Union use long-range space-time mines, mines with the range of small warships. However, being unmanned made them inflexible, and less agile than regular mines in normal space, they were difficult to use. The Abh regarded the People's Sovereign Stellar Union as a particularly tedious enemy to fight, in part because of their long-range space-time mines. These weapons defend Kemal Sord. The star system has a factory for producing long-range space-time mines, and the raw materials are supplied from within the system. That is, there would never be a concern about running out of ammunition. The Seikai Force planned to tackle it with escort squadrons. However, escort ships are vulnerable to assault ships and cruisers, so it was difficult when the space-time bubble of the mine was fused with the space-time bubble of an enemy warship. Therefore they carried out various skirmishes to chip away at the power of the enemy fleet.
This is the first serious battle with the People's Sovereign Stellar Union. Until now their association with the United Mankind in the war seemed more due to peer pressure. Even when Operation Twin Thorns was commenced and their star systems were being invaded, they did not display much will to fight. Perhaps it was a ploy to draw the Seikai Force deep into their territory. But the 25th Twin Thorns fleet rearguard would prevent any such plan succeeding. As time passed, the thorn grew longer, and the Union became more isolated from its allies. At last the front reached Kemal Sord, the resolve of the Union seemed to be stiffening. This pleased the Abh, but it meant many fierce battles. Lafiel looks at Ekuryua - what is her dream? Instead of asking, she says she will take a rest, and leaves Ekuryua in charge of the bridge.
The other thorn of the Twin Thorns also continued to grow. The fleet group was approaching the Central Circle with the 11th Twin Thorns fleet at the vanguard. The enemy here is the United Mankind. When the operation is complete, the territory of the United Mankind will be less than half, and completely separated from the Greater Alkont Republic. The flagship Shaikau of the 13th Twin Thorns Fleet is berthed in the Elcon system, with the attack division Guderusu in orbit. One of those ships was the ship of the line Kaisofu.
A ship of the line basically holds a lot of space-time mines, and launches them in the battefield. Not much different from a transport ship, but with a lot of defensive weaponry. Imperial mines are small compared to the Union's long-range space-time mines, but still big nonetheless. They have to contain the space-time bubble generating engine and antimatter fuel as well. Therefore a ship of the line is a large ship, with a mass three times that of a cruiser. And the crew is large as well, mainly for maintenance and to manage the mines. The living quarters were on the scale of a village, with children allowed on board. In a sense, the Abh retained their old traditions, raising their children on warships, since they viewed their interstellar ships are dwellings. But after they realised that bringing children to the battlefield gave them a bad reputation with their enemies, who might think they were not taking things seriously, they stopped bringing their children. In peacetime one could still bring children when serving on a large ship such as a ship of the line, but the practice had disappeared on small warships.
The Kaisofu's living quarters has room for a nursery. But since the ship was built after the war started, no children have ever used it. Instead, it was fit out as a mess hall for flyers. If the Kaisofu survived the war, the room would be reset as a nursery. Deputy signal officer Line Wing Flyer Duhiiru doesn't like the place.
All the flyers are seated, having a meal. The captain of the ship, Hecto-commander Berusot, seated at the head of the table, calls to his deputy signal officer. Duhiiru puts down his bowl and responds, but his eyes are drawn not to the captain, but to the wall behind the captain. The walls are still designed for a nursery, with a rubbery body to gently catch Abh kids who run or fly into them. The walls are covered with pictures of winged cats and smiling stars. They remind him of when he was a child, colliding with such walls, enjoying that sensation of being absorbed.
Duhiiru dislikes the room because of the custom that all the flyers eat together, or more particularly because of the person who set that custom, Berusot. Berusot proceeds to give Duhiiru a hard time, interrupting his meal, first suggesting that Duhiiru may be unhappy to be in a ship of the line at the rear of the fighting, then when Duhiiru replies that he would not be ashamed to die on the ship, saying that while it is not a shameful place it is not a good place to die. When Duhiiru later apologises, Berusot says that a prince should not apologise so easily. He continues to keep the lowest ranked member of his bridge off-balance until Duhiiru's direct superior, senior signal officer Vanguard Flyer Vonyu intervenes and asks the captain to stop bullying her subordinate. Duhiiru doesn't hate her, but he dislikes her. She treats him like an outsider, even though she called him her subordinate. Berusot responds that he was not bullying, merely following his family's traditions.
Surprised, Duhiiru asks the captain if he is a Spaurh. This doesn't seem likely, because many subsidiary families in that clan use the name Spaurh. This is different from the Imperial family, where only direct descendants may use the family name Abrial. Berusot replies that he is, in a sense. He elaborates that their family branched off before the establishment of the Empire, so they are not part of the Spaurh clan in strict terms. Nor even in a loose sense, argues Vonyu. Duhiiru reasons that the Berusot family would have worked in the engine department of the city ship Abrial. The Spaurh are the descendants of the chiefs of the engine department at the time of foundation of the Empire. At that time, each clan was responsible for a different department aboard the huge ship. If the Berusot family lineage was that of engine crew, they may have inherited traditions related to the Spaurh. But that thousand year old connection could not make them relatives, even in the Abh sense. Berusot says that it is settled that the engine crew would hassle the nagivation crew, though Duhiiru has never heard of such a thing from his family. Vonyu says that even if this is so, as captain Berusot should not be displaying such traditions. The argument continues between Berusot and Vonyu. The rest of the flyers are used to this, and either engage in conversation themselves or eat quietly. Duhiiru has no one to talk to, so he eats silently. Until Berusot asks him what he's drinking. Hot til nom. An unusual drink. Duhiiru points out his sister, Lafiel, likes it too. Berusot says he will try some. Duhiiru is unsure how to respond - to invite the captain to try it would likely continue the argument, while asking him to stop would be awkward too. Luckily, Berusot's interest shifts to another topic and the meal ends.
Berusot asks what their schedule for the day is. His XO, Deca-commander Kurobosu, replies that they have to collect their payload. In the last battle, they used up half their mines. Today is the day for re-supply. Duhiiru stands up and requests to be the pilot. In assault ships and cruisers, the pilot must be skilled for combat maneuvering, but in a ship of the line, piloting is assigned to the deputy nagivator, a person of low rank. Furthermore, there would be no combat maneuvers today. At such times, the job would be forced onto the lowest ranks, even in assault ships. Forced, from the point of view of experienced flyers, because piloting a ship of the line or transport ship is dull. Even so, Duhiiru feels it would be good experience for a new flyer, and he wants the opportunity. Berusot declines the request. Duhiiru asks for a reason. Berusot says he does not have to give a reason. Understood, Duhiiru replies, please excuse me. You haven't done anything that needs to be excused, Berusot laughs. Duhiiru hates him even more.
It is difficult to replenish the mines on the ship of the line. In the past, after firing its load, the ship would return to the capital for re-supply. But as the frontline extends further, this is not possible. If the ships of the line have to go back and forth from the capital one by one, this would be troublesome. Using transports is also inefficient. Each transport can only carry enough mines for one ship of the line for one battle, so the only difference would be that the ships of the line themselves would not have to go back and forth. So instead, the Empire brought the mine factories close to the battlefront. A mine factory is being developed at Elkon star system. Parts which cannot be manufactured locally, such as space-time bubble generating engines, are brought in on transport ships with materials from nearby star systems.
Kaisofu joins the line of ships waiting for re-supply. The ship establishes a data connection with the factory and switches piloting to remote control operation. With that, Berusot confirms to Duhiiru how little piloting is required. Duhiiru says yes, but he has connected his alfa to use external spatial sense, and his left hand is in the control glove, moving as if he were guiding the ship. Of course, the glove is not actually operating, as the ship is being remotely piloted. Berusot gives orders to prepare to load the mines. "And deputy signal officer, remove your control glove." "Yes, sir" Duhiiru blushes. Cruising on inertia, Kaisofu passes the mine factory, which looks like a huge pipe with transport ships attached to it. Instead, Kaisofu heads for the structure near the factory, where the completed mines are stored. The ship anchors at the side of the structure and the factory contacts them to begin loading. The mines do not have fuel in them to move (antimatter fuel is dangerous, so it is filled into the mines only shortly before launch), so a small carrier ship brings the mines to the ship of the line and loads them one by one. I can't even pilot the carrier ship, Duhiiru thinks.
52 hours later, the Kaisofu has been outfitted for battle, and it leaves for the Central Circle as part of the 13th Twin Thorns fleet.
Tin thanks the Empress for sparing time for him. She reminds him that his time is limited and invites him onto her mobile platform. There is a chamberlain on board as well, who acts as escort and pilot for Ramaj. Tin looks at the chamberlain uncertainly. Ramaj assures him that the most important ability of the chamberlain is discretion, and whatever Tin says will never pass the chamberlain's lips. Tin gets on board and Ramaj signals to start moving.
Tin asks Ramaj if she has heard of his proposal to the prime minister. She has, and she also rejects the idea of an alliance. Tin fears for the prospects of his nation, whichever side wins. Particularly if the Three Nations Alliance wins, since they will not look kindly on Hania Federation withdrawing. Hania Federation has survived by swimming between the stronger nations, and there are those who believe that if the Three Nations Alliance wins, the alliance will fall apart and Hania Federation could navigate its way between the three nations using its diplomatic skills. But Tin believes that United Mankind may absorb the other two nations (a possibility that the Empire has also considered), in which case they are unlikely to leave the Hania Federation untouched. Therefore he hopes for an Imperial victory. Ramaj again declines an alliance, saying that the Abh only know how to fight alone. In truth, she does not believe the Federation would be much help. Their equipment is outdated and their chain of command has problems. The Empire's intelligence bureau is not sure they could even properly defend themselves. To the contrary, alliance with the Federation would sap their power in having to defend Federation space.
To try to end the conversation, Ramaj tells him not to worry, since the conclusion of the war will be far in the future, when she is no longer on the throne (and he is no longer alive). The mobile platform has passed the halfway point of the journey to her ship. The ambassador then raises something he did not tell the prime minister. The matter is so sensitive that if some people in his own nation find out, he could be mistaken for a traitor. Ramaj no longer smiles. The Empire bears no good will to anyone who would betray their own nation. Nor would it be party to such things, since the Empire's prestige would be damaged. Tin argues that his idea is not betrayal, merely a different notion of the concept of nationhood. And if the Empire would consider his proposal betrayal, then the Empire has only recently been party to betrayal. Ramaj cannot ignore that implication. Her smile returns, but it is the smile of the Abh. Tin explains that he is referring to Hyde County. The Empress' interest is piqued. Tin says that if he could be honoured with an invitation to board the Gaftnosh, he could give a detailed explanation. Ramaj smiles, but with a little warmth this time. Just a little. She agrees, but would like two other people to accompany her: the Prime Minister and the Chief of Military Command. "As you wish", Tin smiles as if he has won. The mobile platform comes to a stop.
Leaving the Gaftnosh, Ramaj heads for the Hall of Larkspur in the Imperial palace. Normally, she would have been able to enjoy some solitude on the trip back, but the ambassador had deprived her of that. On the other hand, it had been a significant development. Prime Minister Burashu and Chief of Military Command Faramunshu have followed her off the ship. She asks them what they think of the ambassador's proposal. Burashu believes the ambassador to some degree. Originally, the people of Hania Federation were not interested in space. But when the population became too great, they had to look for other star systems to colonise. Although their ground worlds are very similar, or perhaps because of it, many of the planets are self-sufficient and the level of interplanetary intercourse is surprisingly low. Their only reason for federating was to avoid absorption by the other nations. The ambassador's proposal would leave the problems of space to the Empire, while they would their ground worlds. Ideally they would like to have some influence on matters of space, but the Empire would not allow that, so this was the next best alternative.
Tin's proposal was that the star systems of Hania Federation come under Imperial control. If their nation must fall, they would rather be ruled by the Empire. They would entrust space to the Empire but wanted to enjoy the fruits of their ground worlds. The ambassador had insisted this would not be submission, but rather "permeation" - an element of the Federation would permeate through the Human Empire by the Abh. What the officials of the Federation's central government demanded in return, apart from the usual requirement of defense, was surprisingly minor. Firstly, following the precedent of Hyde County, for a few of their important star systems, the lord appointed must be a prominent person from the Federation. For the rest of the star systems, the Empire could appoint whomever it liked. Secondly, they wanted an uninhabited, but habitable planet not within the territory of the Federation. There would be those in the Federation who saw the deal as betrayal, so the officials who would dissolve the Federation wanted a place where they could live with their relatives without their lives being in danger.
Faramunshu is against the proposal. The requirement to defend (former) Federation space would divide their military forces. And manpower would be required for disarmament at the beginning as well. Their forces would be overstretched. Defending Federation space would be a much more serious condition than the other conditions demanded by the Federation. Ramaj asks if it can be done. Faramunshu cannot say for certain, only that it would be difficult. But if the requirement to defend was less strict, then he would support the proposal, because it would eliminate the risk of Hania Federation entering the war, and could bring the conclusion of the war forward, such that Ramaj may see its end during her reign. Ramaj and Faramunshu joke that they will be able to boast of a quick victory to their children and that their children may try to start a war out of envy.
Burashu does not believe the requirement to defend can be relaxed. The Empire itself would not worry if it was pushed back into only one star system temporarily, as long as it ultimately wins the war. But landers are different. If their rulers keep changing, their society will be chaotic. What the people of the Federation esteem most is their lives on their ground worlds. They have made this proposal because they judge that the Empire is the nation most likely to defend their ground worlds. They would not be willing to give up the requirement for defense. But then, continues Burashu, Hania Federation has not sought any guarantee for this requirement - to this extent they are trusting the Empire. Ramaj is confused by what he is trying to say. What Burashu means is to make the contract without intending to honour strictly the requirement for defense. Ramaj does not like the sound of that. Burashu does not notice, and explains further. It would reduce the number of war dead, and if strict defence of Federation space could lead to the Empire's defeat, the Federation would have to accept that the Empire could only use its best endeavours, not be bound to the promise. That goes without saying, says Faramunshu. There is no perfect defense system. If the Federation expects them to be some all powerful god, they would have to decline.
Barushu starts to talk about the religion of the peope in the Federation, then thinks better of it. But he is confused by what Faramunshu then meant by making the requirement for defense less strict. The Chief wants not only the freedom to withdraw from a system if the defense fails, but also the freedom to abandon sords at the outset, for example if they have no military value or are too difficult to defend. That would be a matter of interpretation, says the Prime Minister. No, says Faramunshu, it would be deception to agree to defend Federation space but then abandon sords. But if that deception ends the war earlier, says Burashu, he would not be ashamed of it. Values are all very well, but he would rather minimise the number of dead.
But, says the Empress, if an agreement is reached, the terms will have to be made public. If the Prime Minister's plan is adopted, humanity will learn that the Abh Empress has lied. In the past the Empire has profited greatly from people's knowledge that the Emperor does not lie. It is why the ambassador has even made this proposal. With just one lie, that trust will collapse. Thereafter it will be difficult to govern without making great efforts to gain the people's trust. Burashu replies that when the Empire's enemies no longer exist, that will not be such a disadvantage.
Ramaj asks Faramunshu about disarmament. He cannot answer that immediately. She reproaches him for this negligence. One of the duties of military command is to plan for contingencies. That the Hania Federation would submit without resistance was difficult to anticipate, but not impossible.
Burashu again tries to persuade the Empress to accept the proposal, arguing that if it is rejected, the Hania Federation may enter the war against them. Not everyone in the Federation thinks like Tin and those forces may be strengthened if the proposal is rejected. Further, if Hania Federation surrenders without a fight, this may sap the will of the other nations and they may fall star system by star system. Traditionally, the Empire has been interested in fleets, not ground worlds. None of the nations organise their fleets by star system, so even if the government of a star system surrenders, this may not be any particular advantage. To the contrary, it would be disadvantageous in the short term because the Empire would have to take charge of the star system until it could be incorporated into the Empire's economy - imposing a burden on logistics. However, Burashu points out governing would be easier if the takeover was peaceful. Ramaj counters star systems will only submit if humanity's faith in the word of the Emperor remained intact.
Ramaj does not want to make a decision until she has considered opinions to review. Burashu says he will calculate the probabilities that the other nations will submit if Hania Federation surrenders, the time that will be saved in incorporating any territories which submit, and the effect on the progress of the war. Faramunshu is to report on disarmament and defense. She dismisses the two advisers.
Frikov receives an interbubble communication from the squadron flagship for all ships to stop. The 1st Devastation Squadron is in line formation. Many space-time bubbles pass through the line - escort ship units which had been kept in reserve until now. The Twin Thorns 24th Fleet continues its offensive against Kemal Sord. Only recently have they been able to make any progress - the enemy artillery barrage has become sparse. Either their rate of use of super long range mobile mines had exceeded their productive capacity, or it's a ploy to feign weakness. Lafiel doubts it's the latter. Her opinion is not important, but it seems fleet HQ is of the same view. This last time, the artillery barrage was extremely sparse - Frikov fused with only three mines and encountered no enemy warships. Kemal star system has not only a mine factory, but also a huge shipbuilding workshop. However, although it would have been easy for the enemy to build new ships, replacing crew is not so easy. For now, the squadron's task is the uninteresting one of escorting the escort ship units. Still no enemy warships appear. They receive the order to move again, but maintain to their distance behind the escort ship units. When the escot ship unit reaches the edge of the sord, they're ordered to stop again. A unit of ships of the line appears at the front and fires its mines into the sord. Next another unit of ships of the line is absorbed into Kemal Sord. Instead of mines they carry antimatter rounds. Those can move in normal space, but do not have space-time bubble generating engines, and are that much smaller than mines. Therefore, more such rounds can be loaded into a ship of the line. Finally the order for patrol ship units and raid ship units to attack is issued.
Lafiel announces to the crew that the ship will be descending into normal space soon and to prepare for a fierce battle. As they enter the sord, the area grasped by her spatial sense rapidly expands, as if the world had burst open. Lafiel feels slightly giddy. It's always like this when transferring from planar space to normal space. But there's no time to focus on that sensation - the situation in normal space is terrible. There is no correlation between one's location on the planar space side of a sord and on the normal space side. No one knows where on a spherical sord one will emerge into normal space. Even if a line of ships in majestic order enters a sord, the fleet would be dispersed when it emerges. On the other hand the defensive side can arrange its fleet in an orderly manner beforehand, and can put a mobile space fortress in order. This sort of fight is closer to a hunt than a battle. The mines fired from planar space and guided missiles launched from ships of the line help, but don't necessarily give the Seikai Forces the advantage. As Lafiel tries to calculate the route to their squadron's assembly point, scores of various shots fly towards them. She orders Arbofu to take evasive maneuvers, and warns the crew to prepare for irregular acceleration.
Yateshu reports three enemy warships approaching. The ship of the line unit has been getting excellent results, but its losses have also been enormous. The battlefield is complicated by the wreckage of warships of both sides and clusters of antimatter which have not yet diffused. Lafiel considers whether to fight the warships or turn and head for the assembly point. The enemy seemed to be defense ships. Not having space-time bubble generating engines, these ships specialise in normal space combat. The Seikai Force rarely deploy defense ships, but the Peoples Sovereign Stellar Union use them a lot. This is a difference between the Abh, whose knowledge is of planar space as the main battlefield and who did not adhere to the defense of star systems, and the Union who considered ground worlds to be the whole focus. Moreover, these ships are heavy defense ships equipped with electromagnetic projection cannons. Their armament is almost equal to that of a raid ship, but because they don't have space-time bubble generating engines, their mobility is higher. In normal space, a space-time bubble generating engine is nothing but extra weight. Three against one is hopeless odds. Even turning towards the assembly point would be troublesome. Lafiel orders Arubofu to fire one salvo then head for the assembly point. The gunner fires but has no time to aim properly. The enemy fires as well. Each side avoids the other side's fire. Frikov turns and heads for the assembly point at full speed.
When Lafiel asks, Yateshu reports that radio status is poor, making communication with the flagship difficult. The assembly point changes moment by moment. If the information connection is not maintained, it would be similar to losing their way. As long as they know the position of the flagship, they can link up, but on a battlefield where countless warships go back and forth it's nearly impossible to find the flagship by relying on spatial sense. Firstly, when radio status is bad, the ability to sense a ship also doesn't function well. It seems like one is in a fog. Things nearby can be sensed clearly, but things far away blur and cannot be grasped. The enemy warships pursue closely. Lafiel orders Arubofu to give priority to acceleration, but when he asks, she grants permission to use the stern electromagnetic projection cannons (when fired, they reduce acceleration a little). Again, each side fires and misses the other.
Lafiel senses the assembly point. However, none of the warship silhouettes which she would have expected to find are there. A communication channel is opened to them. They receive a message from squadron HQ, although sound only. Nevertheless, Lafiel salutes the screen, in case the HQ is receiving visual, and to keep up appearances with her crew. It's Atosuryua, sending navigation specifications and telling them to hurry to the rendevous point. Communication is at least good enough to transmit the specs electronically, instead of having to read them out orally. If communications are severed, they are to search for the squadron flagship. Their squadron is covering the ships of the line as they return to planar space for shelter. Arubofu changes course in accordance with the fresh co-ordinates. The link up point is about 25 minutes away.
But the enemy warships are still in pursuit. And Frikov seems to be attracting the interest of other enemy warships. On the other hand, friendly ships are continuing to appear form the sord. Lafiel orders Arubofu to take provocative action, flying to within 1,000 wesdaj of the surface of the sord. She calls for Gunomuboshu to give him new order. "Yes, Ma'am" the young line wing flyer stands up (though it's not necessary). He's assigned to watch the surface of the sord for signs of bubbling. When the surface of a sord bubbles, it's a sign that something is descending to normal space, in this case, a Seikai Force warship. Lafiel is prepared for death, but if it's caused by collision with a friendly ship she would be embarrassed to have her name carved on a stone monument in the Hall of Loss. On the other hand, there's the same danger for the enemy warships, who must also risk fire from Seikai Force ships -even a weak laser cannon can cause fatal damage at close range. Military technology has advanced to the point that the risk of friendly fire has almost been eliminated. So the enemy warships face greater danger than Frikov does. As Lafiel expected, the enemy keeps its distance from the sord. At the same time Arubofu's movements are now severely restricted. To approach the sord any further is too dangerous. To move away from the sord, their present advantage will be lost. Only two dimensional movement is possible. Lafiel has second thoughts about this tactic. Her clyuno rings. It's Jinto, who reassures her (her thoughts being clearly to see on her face). She then notices Ekuryua looking subtly at her. Lafiel discovers that there are several kinds of being expressionless. It seemed Ekuryua's face changed for an instant, and then became truly expressionless again.
Soon they're at the scheduled rendevous point. Lafiel's spatial sense makes out the squadron flagship. An information connection is established and information flows into the Frikov - the position the ship is to take up, and an update of the progress of the battle. Gunomuboshu is put back on mobile cannon bank duty. There are six of the enemy, while eight raid ships including Frikov have assembled and are encircling the enemy. The ships of the line to be protected can not be seen - perhaps they have already run into the sord. The Seikai Force is recovering from its temporary confusion. "Welcome, Frikov" Atosuryua's form appears on screen, and asks Lafiel to adjust the ship's position. Because there had been a slight shift between the position now directed by the flagship and the position received prior to the information connection, a correction is needed. They arrive at a good place for firing on the enemy warships. Atosuryua orders all ships to open fire. Nuclear fusion rounds are discharged. The main engine squeezes out maximum output. Lasers from the mobile cannon banks of an enemy warship sweep the bow of the ship. An enemy warship explodes, becoming countless fragments. Frikov is thrust into a cluster of fragments beginning to be attracted by the gravity of the star Kemal. The magnetic defense field isn't able to deflect the fragments, which are made of normal matter, and the fragments damage the hull.
When the eight ships of the 1st Devastation Squadron have finished the combined attack, the enemy warships had been halved. As far as Lafiel's spatial sense can tell, their side had not lost a ship. The enemy warships seem to be planning to withdraw. Lafiel seeks a damage report. Grinshia reports three mobile cannons damaged. The other seven ships seem all right. Atosuryua announces the orders to the squadron - secure the sord as it is (thus allowing the enemy to withdraw) and wait for further orders. Lafiel takes a deep breath. They've survived this time as well.
To be continued when I have time... :) (A Duhiiru chapter. I probably won't have time to update this page until January 2008 at the earliest.)
All rights (copyright and otherwise) reserved.