*A friend of mine challenged me to write something out based on a single picture. Challenge accepted*
The room was well-lit, was the first thing he noticed at the doors opened. Stepping inside, he saw two screens at the front of the room, each with displays being loaded up. There was a table that formed into a triangular shape, with chairs evenly dispersed among them. In front of each chair was a name tag. He saw his – RDML Conrad Mackenzie. Taking a seat, he took in the rest of the room. Behind the triangular table were many other chairs. For those accompanying the people at the meeting? Every person above the rank of Captain had an attendant or two with them. Normally he was no exception, but he was informed before this meeting that no parties without Top Secret clearance were allowed in this discussion. Before coming in he had to pass through a couple checks with armed personnel. This was important. Maybe it was just how the room was set up for general meetings.
There was a blonde woman on her tablet across the table from him. A Navy tablet, synced to the database here. He had one as well, but it was not a custom to be on those before a meeting. In his experience, the most useful connections one made were waiting for these things and talking with his compatriots. This officer, with the name tag ADM Sarah Joliffe, didn’t look like she wanted to be disturbed. Best not to upset the vibe of a superior officer.
All of this had been so odd. To be pulled from his command at Lagrange 2 and called back to Earth, this felt very strange. There was an ominous kind of tone being set. No surprise. Things in the Colonies were getting worse and worse each passing day. Every Colony with a UNSN posting was feeling the heat. A couple of brushfire fights broke out in a Colony that had a Navy ship docked there. Keeping the peace was getting harder and harder. So why had he been called down here?
Several more people entered. All of them had Admiral decoration on their uniforms. I immediately stood. Looking at all the nametags, something struck me. Next to me sat a man who I was familiar with – Adm Masayoshi Kamina. His face was every bit the stern, but I knew him to be a pretty amiable man.
“Sir! It’s good to see you again.”
He nodded. “You as well. But please, no need to be so formal with me.”
A snort. “All due, I think I’m the lowest ranked person at this table.”
Looking around, he nodded again. “Perhaps. But since you’re the commanding officer at our chief L2 base, it’s foolish not to ask you to come.”
Leaning in close. “Does this mean you know why they’ve called this meeting? Seems a little weird to call me in from space when they could Comm this.”
Also leaning in. “Word is that something big is happening. They’re talking about Fleet movement. Maybe the 1st and 3rd.”
It hit him like a load of bricks. That was unthinkable. Moving the whole fleet meant combat deployment. It would be war, for sure.
“Bullshit! There’s no way we’d do something so openly aggressive.”
He shrugged. “That’s just what I’m hearing. We’ll see what happens next.”
The way that was said, so up in the air, it left him feeling the ton get even more ominous. His hand started shaking.
After a few more minutes talking with his compatriots, the room suddenly got darker. The lights were being dimmed. The door opened and in walked in a woman with a lower rank. She stood at the seat right beside the head of the table. It was where the two sides of the triangle met, it was flat and had a space for someone to sit.
“This meeting is classified. Ladies, and gentlemen, the FADM.”
Everyone immediately got to their fleet. Before they even came into view in the lacking light, everyone could tell who it was. One of his eyes was glowing red. It was a fake. His strong, dark features came into view. Crisp uniform, commanding the respect of all who saw it.
“As you were,” he said, taking a seat at the front of the room. Sitting down, the tension had jumped yet-again. The FADM was here! It didn’t get anymore serious. Which had the Rear Admiral wondering again why he was at this table. This was the meeting you have for the most senior officers in the UNSN.
Taking a seat, the Fleet Admiral hit a sensor on the console at his seat. There was an image that came up. It appeared to be orbit around Mars.
“This morning, at 0400 Greenwich Mean Time, one of our satellites got these images.” He hit the sensor and it ran through a cycle. First they saw Mars, but there were shadows around it. Dozens upon dozens of shadows. Maybe hundreds. It was hard to tell. They were around the Colony orbiting the planet. The first stop for those looking to make planetfall. Another image showed the objects in motion. It was coordinated. Then another came up showing them breaking off into various groups. Fleets? These had to be starships. The last image showed the same orbit, with everything gone.
“IS believes these to be starships, and has calculated that they were leaving Mars orbit with the trajectory of Earth.”
There was mumbling around the room. Everyone was thinking the same thing.
“At this time, we do not have an exact calculation of the number of ships. It’s believed to be over 200.”
Hitting the sensor again, it brought up a list of names.
“Over the past year, we’ve had a series of shuttles and cargo ships leaving Earth for Mars. Officially, they are part of an engineering team heading to the Asteroid Belt for deep space mining. But some of the names on the manifest caught IS’s attention. Among them are people who have been former UNSN Colonial forces from the now disbanded Colonial Navy. There are crew members, former officers, and pilots. After the destruction of the Agro Colony, the numbers spiked. However, after the most recent shipment, they stopped. There hasn’t been a single one since.”
The image changed again to the Colonial Embassy in the ANNA. It was completely abandoned.
“This morning, it was also discovered that the Colonies have closed their Embassy in Washington, along with the EU, AUN, and Asian Confederation. Their staff have returned to space. All files were destroyed, all consoles wiped.”
You could hear a pin drop with how quiet it is.
“All projections lead us to the conclusion that the rumors of secret bases in the Asteroid Belt for construction of warships was true. And now these ships are on the move. It appears that they all did a massive boost, and then had their engines go dark. The ships appear to be made of black steel to blend in with the darkness of space. With no running lights to keep track of, and no way to use LADAR until they get close enough to be a threat, it is believed that their plan is to make their approach to Earth as stealthy as possible. IS ran a projection based on what we were able to get, and said that it is going to be two to three months before they reach Earth’s orbit. And that is why I have called all of you here.”
The lights came up again. They could see the Fleet Admiral’s face plain as day, and it was a look of dead seriousness.
“I have called everyone here because I am going to be formally requesting that the UN give us leave to mobilize. I have the ANNA and EU’s approval, now we just need the AUN and Asian block’s permission. You all are in command of either the Fleets, or the central Colonial bases at Lagrange Point. You are going to be the front line of what’s coming. And I want you all to know what’s going to happen in the following days. The Colonials have decided to make their move. I don’t think it should be a shock to anyone that this was coming. It’s been whispered about for months.”
An Italian Admiral raised her hand. “Sir, if all of this is classified, then why are we being told about it? This seems like something we could be open about.”
Conrad thought for a moment. A good point. But if they had gotten permission for mobilization and it wasn’t in the news, that meant…
“Because we aren’t going public with this knowledge. The Fleet is mobilizing under the pretext that increased aggression with the Colonies has motivated us to move to seize control of several key sectors. Not even a lie. I am having the 1st and 3rd Fleet mobilize to L2 and L5, while the 2nd Fleet is going to divide its forces between the Natural Resource satellite bases and Luna. Our statement is that this is to help keep the peace of the Colonies, as brushfire conflicts have broken out at all of those areas. The public can think whatever they want about the actual reason. The knowledge about the Colonial forces moving in cannot be made public.”
To keep the peace?
“War is coming. It’s only a matter of time. But the longer we can keep the peace, the more time we have to ready our defenses.”
The blonde Admiral looked up. “Sir, do we have any intel on the enemy’s capabilities? Is this gonna be another Pirate Colony? Or do these people know what they’re doing?”
A long pause.
“We don’t know. We have virtually no intel on the enemy, their forces, or their capabilities. It will go down in history as the best-kept secret in all of human history. The amount of resources, personnel, and secrecy required is genuinely impressive. This must have taken years of work, and there wasn’t a single verifiable hole in their plan. It scares the hell out of me, trust and believe.”
Nobody knew what to say.
“Everyone, head back to your commands and prepare to mobilize your forces. I expect a declaration of war any week now. But while they may have kept this from us, they will NOT catch us with our pants down.” The man stood up, everyone standing up with him.
“That will be all. Remember, this meeting is classified.”
As he left the room, everyone was very quiet. It wasn’t a hustle and bustle of conversation that you’d expect after a meeting. It was just people heading out. The ominous tone had gone to a whole other level. War. Not a world war, but a war on an interplanetary scale. The thing everyone had been fearing. It was finally here. In that moment, nobody knew what to say.
Until next time, a quote,
“War is fear cloaked in courage.” – William Westmoreland