deWulf Corporate Democracy Turn 144

Fiction by Sylvester Wrzesinski

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deWulf Corporate Democracy Turn 144

Postby Xveers on Sun 12 Dec 2021 21:47

Conference Room 2
deWulf Naval High Command, 88th Floor
Fenris
deWulf Corporate Democracy

"Next on the agenda: Fleet Organization"

"Oh breaker, not this again." groaned PackMaster Klaus Thies.

"Yes Klaus, this again."

Several eyes rolled around the meeting table as the topic came up again. Fleet organization had been a ball kicked back and forth ever since the Binary War, a good idea that never seemed to get anywhere except a little farther down the agenda. The originator and proponent was PackMaster Janeth Heinrichs, Commander for Strategic Planning. And like most good ideas that really only benefited one person, it had become both a polite joke and a sore point.

"I know this is the fourth-"

"Sixth, actually." Interrupted PackMaster Hella Kobetsky, Ship Construction commander.

"Sorry, sixth time that I've brought this up, but I think our latest operations in Elysium have demonstrated a critical need for some better organization."

Janeth took a deep breath before activating the display unit, showing a trio of graphs.

"The first and most critical issue is command organization. With ad-hoc fleet formations like we have now, operational staff have to confirm order transmission to each and every ship as part of the formation. Analyzing after action reports show that tactical commands were significantly delayed during 3rd Elysium. Junior PackMaster Phelan's command staff was significantly overloaded, as they were having to try and manage targeting and maneuver orders individually for over seventy deWulf ships at once. Meanwhile, command response times for both the bombardment fleet and the Ibizan expeditionary force were significantly faster. While arguments can be made for the simplicity of the bombardment fleet's operational parameters, I think we will find it a sore point that the Ibizan fleet units were more responsive to changes in the tactical situation compared to our own units."

"Please" snorted PackMaster Brand, Commander of Research Co-ordination. "The Ibizans had a very simple tactical situation compared to our own fleet. Their better handling is nothing worthy of discussion."

"Statistics say otherwise" replied Janeth, as the display unit cycled to a new image. "While it is somewhat hard to pin down hard benefits, it is our estimation that dWS Wolfgang Scharnbeck would have sustained substantially less damage, perhaps limited only to her armored outer hull. Interviews with command officers all indicated an information bottleneck centered around fleet flag. While our combat data systems managed to keep everyone on the same page, there are at least four separate incidents where decisions that needed to be made at the ship or squadron level were forced to wait for flag to provide data updates."

"In the past I have argued that not implementing these organizational changes costs us time. I regret to say that they have cost us not just time, but lives."

"This is war, Janeth." PackMaster Theodora Schäfer, Commander of Naval Intelligence replied, her voice ice cold. "Our actual losses came up significantly lighter than our forecasts had predicted. I understand the desire to save lives, but there was always going to be a butcher's bill for Elysium. And it always was going to be heavy."

Janeth nodded "and I'm not saying that we couldn't have prevented all our losses. Just that we could have taken fewer."

"And I presume that this problem will only get worse as our fleet operations get larger, yes?" Senior PackMaster Rollen finally chimed in

"Correct, sir. And as we start looking at fleets passing one hundred ships, the problems will grow exponentially."

Rollen paused a moment, letting that information slowly sink in before speaking. "Authorized."

"Now sir, that's not entirely fai… what?" Janeth found her complaint shuddering to a halt as that single word sank in.

"I said approved, Janeth. Our fleet isn't going to be getting smaller. Well, it will be. But only for a time. So we should take advantage of while our fleet is reduced."

Hella Kobetsky's head slowly turned from her colleague to her commanding officer. "Smaller, sir? I'm sorry, my head must still be spinning from the fact that we're getting a bureaucratic layer in our command structure."

"Yes, smaller. There's going to be a fairly substantial peace dividend, and the navy's going to be paying the price. While we're going to be getting funding for a small satellite yard around Sif to maintain the reserve fleet, within the next sixty days we can expect at least half of our mobile units to be mothballed. At least. Most of our minelayers are going to go straight to the reclamation yards."

"You have to be kidding Rollen! That's what, forty minelayers?!" Hella had stood up, staring at her fellow officer in shock. "My crews bled themselves for those hulls, and they're not even going into mothballs?!"

"Fifty-five minelayers. We always knew those were war-emergency designs, Hella." Klaus Thies was the commander of BuShips, and while Hella built them, it was Klaus's department that designed them. "We needed something yesterday; that's why they were so small and cheap. We've got a better long-term design in the works, but no idea when it'll see funding."

Hella slumped back into her seat, feeling a little defeated and more than a little shocked at the short life of so many hulls.

Rollen smiled a bit at Hella "It's not all bad news. There have been quite a few technological developments in the latter part of the war that we didn't deploy simply because they were not needed. As part of the 'peace dividend', we've been tasked to throw the corporations a bone. When the ships are rotated into mothballs, they'll be getting a comprehensive refit. The best systems we have. That way when we need them, and breaker knows we will one day, they'll be a bit closer to the cutting edge. And honestly, when we need them we probably won't have time to put them through a refit cycle."

"At least you're giving my crews some work to ease them back to civilian production levels." Hella groused, trying to find some kind of silver lining.

"There will be other places that the navy will find its belt tightened, I am certain. I am having a meeting with Chief Minister Rheinbach tomorrow to discuss how we will be winding down from our present combat stance, and I imagine he has not forgotten how we… how I pinned him to the wall with Article 17." Rollen paused a moment, looking down at the cold wood of the meeting table. "I have a few cards left in my hand to play, but Rheinbach will have more. And better ones. So if you hear that we have to bear some rather deep cuts, I want you all to know that it could have been much worse."

He looked back up to see the somber faces all staring back at him. "It's not that bad. He's not going to be demanding my head on a platter. And a shift back to peacetime operations is going to open up a lot of additional revenue streams for the corporations. The refit and mothball process is going to spread some fairly impressive credit chits across a lot of corporate balance sheets. That quite literally buys us some coverage. And Rheinbach isn't a fool. He'll have his own plans that I'm sure will blossom in due time. But we can manage. In the end, they still need us."

Theodora leaned back in her chair a bit, eyes unfocused as she looked up at the ceiling. "I've heard some rumors about a closer… understanding with the Ibizans. I suspect Rheinbach will try to maneuver us into having a unified fleet structure. Perhaps even a full-on amalgamation."

"Do you think he'll do it? And would the Ibizans go for it?" Queried Klaus.

"Hard to say this early. Not everything that whispers through the ether ends up on my desk, much as it seems that way. But I suspect that he'll pull it off in the end. Economically the Ibizans are getting more and more integrated with our own economy. Some of their navy components are… suspiciously compatible with our last-gen systems. It'll take time to pull off. I don't see it happening in a year. Or even two. But yes, I think he'll do it and the Ibizans will go along willingly."

She continued, leaning further back as she marshalled her thoughts. "This whole mess with Elysium has left a bitter taste in the Ibizan political structure. Our wholesale bombardment is… not the most politically acceptable event ever, but everyone else understands why it had to happen. And as much as the Ibizan government doesn't particularly want to be tied tail-to-tail with us, they'll find that they don't have a choice. Amalgamation will give them the ability to fight back on an even playing field. If not, then within the next five to eight years I suspect the corps will have control of the majority of their economy. And then they're going to be down the gravity well without a rocket."

"Something that I'm sure fills the corps with sadness" sniped Hella.

"The nature of the corporate game. Unfortunately the Ibizan economy is playing on the big table, and they're up against players who wrote the rules. They're trying, but it's becoming more and more apparent that it's a rearguard action, and the markets are waking up to the fact that their words are stronger than the Ibizan cards backing them." Theodora looked almost pained to admit it, but watching their corporate masters was in some ways more important than the actions of foreign nation states.

Rollen rapped his clawtips on the table. Not loudly, but enough to force heads to turn in his direction.

"I think this meeting is running out of things to discuss, so let us adjourn before we discover some new matter that will keep us here even later. Any objections? No? Good." Rollen's rapid fire questions blocked even Janeth from getting a word in edgewise, leaving her to sit pensively as she pondered her "victory".

"I will meet with Rheinbach tomorrow, or the day after. Expect to get official notifications of what we discussed here by the end of the week" continued Rollen. "We've won our war for them, so now it's time for us to pay for all the 'raw and unquestioning' support that we've been provided. It won't be easy, but we'll win the peace just like we've won the war."
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The Future

Postby Xveers on Wed 05 Jan 2022 04:38

Office of the Chief Minister
Chair of the Corporate Council
Lowell City, Fenris
Capital of the deWulf Corporate Democracy

It had been almost two years since SPM Rollen had entered this office, and very little had changed. The furniture had been replaced, looking more in keeping with the changes of current fashion. The displays were as they had been, a few subtle changes where artifacts had been changed out. An early Lohengramm dynasty vase had been removed, replaced by handcrafted mirror of silver and brass. Rollen walked over to the new mirror, looking over at it.

And carefully ignoring the owner of the office, quietly glaring at him from the desk that dominated the far side of the room.

"I don't recognize the piece" opined Rollen. "I'd hazard a guess it's maybe early Hecht, but the actual design work, well..." he shrugged some "Art never was my strong suit."

"I'm surprised you even got that far, Rollen" sniped Chief Minister Rheinbach. "I didn't think they taught anything like that in the armed forces."

Rollen pulled back a bit from the display, still not looking at Rheinbach. "I had to take an art elective. Back before I signed onto the deWulf Armed Forces. I passed, but I wouldn't say with any distinction."

"Well, I suppose I must congratulate you somewhat. The piece is reminiscent of the early Hecht dynasty, but it isn't deWulf."

"Oh, expanding your horizons, Rheinbach? I never would have thought you the broadening type."

Rheinbach chuckled slowly at that snipe. "Really? I'm guessing your precious Naval Intelligence isn't quite up to snuff anymore."

"As a rule, we don't spy on our own head of government. Bad for business." Rollen turned his head to finally look at the Chief Minister, a thin smile spreading across his face. "I scored quite well in Management, unlike my art classes"

"The piece is Ibizan. From the reign of Alfonso the First."

"Sign of the times, Rheinbach?"

"Something like that, Rollen. Now, why are you here. No, why did you actually book an appointment with me? Last time you were here, why you just showed up like a cloudburst. And just as destructive."

Rollen turned, pivoting on his right foot like a slowly swinging door before he stepped to the front of Rheinbach's desk. "Balancing accounts, Chief Minister. Balancing accounts." Swinging out from behind the commander-in-chief of the deWulf Navy was a small folio of paper. Carefully bound and professionally printed.

"Last time you came in here with paper, you threatened to wipe out the government." Rheinbach looked down at the folio like it was dripping poison. Carefully he took it in his hand, flipping the cover sheet to start reading.

"You're a busy man. Soon to be busier, so I'll get to the point. It is the estimation of the Navy that we will complete hostile combat operations within the next twenty-four hours. As such, we will be requesting a formal end to the State of Threat from the Corporate Council at its meeting next week. As Chief Minister, you are entitled to know about the formal presentation before it occurs. This-" Rollen gestured "is the executive summary. The full document will be along to your office sometime tomorrow."

Rheinbach couldn't help but smile "Oh I have been waiting for this..." Even a fenren given to a cold poker face couldn't help but smile as he thought of the sheer amount of ammunition he'd been handed.

"I thought you might. The Navy is expecting a rather substantial peace dividend to be coming down the ways, but we also estimate that a hard-stop will probably cause a minor recession just from cancelling ongoing contracts. So, in order to ease the economy back to a more... peaceable footing we've outlined a stepdown program; draws down our funding without imploding the market. We've outlined the spending suggestions in terms of which corporations would be getting what contracts, as well as graded them in terms of 'needs, wants and would-be-nice' categories."

Rollen took a bit of pleasure as he saw Rheinbach's jaw loosen, sentence by sentence. "The needs are not really in terms of military needs, but more ones that would provide the best stabilization to the economy. I'm certain you have a long list of payoffs, sorry, 'strategic investments' that need funds, so Naval Intelligence thought it best that we structured it that way for you. Oh, and I have their assurances that so long as nothing... excessive, shall we say, happens with costing, then the Navy will of course accept whatever the invoices say. In writing, of course."

"Oh you've got this all planned out, don't you Rollen." Rheinbach was trembling. He had planned out his victory, a cold and crushing restructuring of the Corporate Navy, something that would humble Rollen and his ilk and make sure that they wouldn't forget their place in society. But this... the worst part of this was that it was entirely likely that Rollen was right, and doing even a quarter of what was in the folio would bury quite a few skeletons in Rheinbach's closet. All it would cost him was his 'victory'.

"Well, planning is something the Navy does on occasion. Still, I imagine you've got other things planned, so I thought the best thing would be for me to get out of your way. Last thing you need is the CNO standing in front of you like someone reading their PA. So, I think I'll be taking some of my vacation time. I think I have oh... ten years’ worth banked up."

Vacation? That got the hair on Rheinbach's neck to bristle, which for him was about as much emotion as he'd ever shown. A vacation, even a short one would put him at least partially out of the Navy, and let him start to flex power in other spheres.

"Relax Rheinbach. I'm not going to be doing anything except sitting on a beach, sipping cold drinks and watching the clouds. Maybe a bit of boating. Fishing. Reading. Probably reading. I'll be nice and out of the way. I've picked up a small house just outside Konstanz, on Puerto Pollo. Just me, and a lounge chair, and a stack of books as tall as this tower. My subordinates can handle the Navy. As for politics..."

Rheinbach watched as Rollen shuddered. It was like he caught a blast of arctic air that cut through every scrap of clothing and pelt on him before he continued "As for politics... I promise anyone who tries to rope me into anything, even a ribbon cutting, will be, well..."

Rollen sighed a bit "Look, I know this doesn't feel like a victory..."

"Damn right it doesn't."

"And you're right. But when... when we took back Dave's World and saw what had happened. What started to... well, I decided not to aim for victory. Just survival. And I survived. We survived."

Rollen looked back up at Rheinbach. His eyes shined a little less, the colour almost flat. "So in a way, that means you won."

He turned as those words fell from his lips, walking out of the office without affording Rheinbach a chance to respond. Even as the commander of the deWulf Corporate Navy left, Rheinbach chose not to speak. He realized then, that while Rollen was not, and would likely never be an ally, he had never even when he had first stepped into this same office two years ago, been a threat.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Palace of Eternal Flight
Highspire
Planet Attica
Elysian Sovereignty

"It is not the dawn that we shall see. Or the twinkling of the stars. It is the future."

The were the words that Czar Scion had spoken as the last defenders of Elysium died, the words that had finally chased Solon from the Czar's private apartments. The words of a god were prophetic by nature. Even gods with questionable provenances such as he. Unfortunately, such prophecy was cold comfort when it came to pass but a few hours later. Without the defensive weapons mounted on the PDCs, there was nothing that could stop the rain of fire from the Sieg-class dreadnoughts that were in low orbit. The initial volleys had landed at the base of the Menausus peninsula, a sign that they were starting where they had once left off.

The following three weeks had been a continuing litany of suffering. Sometimes Scion could see the falling comets that signaled the death of another metropolis. It was a rare event at first, but slowly they became more and more visible, more and more common. Like a slow crescendo, the sound was felt before it was heard. A basso rumble that shook earth and stone and steel before ears had cause to listen.

Solon had stood before his god; some part of his spine having returned since the revelations of their last meeting some weeks ago. He had busied himself trying to find out just what was behind the bombardment pattern, and now he knew.

"Our power infrastructure. That's what they're targeting. It's haphazard; they clearly don't have accurate data, but that's exactly what they're doing."

Czar Scion had looked up from his desk, now covered in dataslates, half-consumed meals and drinks long gone cold. Even 'gods' felt stress.

"How do you know?"

"It took us a while to put it together-"
"You mean your analysts"
"Yes. They're not going after major power production facilities, but the distribution network. If you will open up the report..."

Scion didn't look away for a moment, but his holotable sprung to life, first displaying the planet of Attica, then an overlay of the major power links, and then the deWulf bombardment atop it.

"Yes. As you can see, they hit Jukta, and Kios hard. Those are two of the critical distribution points for all of north Potidaea. They then did a targeted strike on Thorcu, presumably to knock out an older cross-connection. But they're unaware that this same connection was upgraded three years ago to support PDC Apamei to the west, so they didn't fully black out the northern half of Potidaea. There are more examples elsewhere, but this is the cleanest example."

Scion continued to stare impassively "What can be done to stop this?"

"Nothing, as much as it pains me to say it. We could replace power links themselves, certainly, but the targets are the switching and distribution systems. And even a 'targeted' strike is the equivalent of a mid-range nuclear weapon. We've experienced tactical kinetic bombardment back on their planet-" Solon could no longer bring himself to say the name anymore "but this is several orders of magnitude worse."

Solon paused a moment, taking another breath. "That's half of the pattern. If it was simply a matter of crippling our infrastructure and making it easier to mop up-" Scion interrupted, his voice cold and bitter "I think the term you want is 'cost-effective', Solon."

"Yes.... making it more cost-effective to mop up, they could hit elsewhere. They certainly know where our major power generation facilities are located, despite our attempts to conceal them. The other reason is this."

The holographic map reset, starting with a pristine, unbombed world. Then the strikes began. Spreading here and there, initially looking haphazard. But soon another pattern came into view.

"They're working their way closer to Highspire. Aside from the strike on Menausus, they started on the far side of the planet, and have been steadily closing in. I estimate they will be hitting the outskirts of Highspire within a week. Two, on the outside."

Scion sat up from his chair, walking around his desk to the doors that opened onto his private balcony. He stretched his wings, unfolding them for a moment before reefing them back in close. "So they are shattering our ability to respond, and ensuring that I will be able to see every blow they land. We have angered them indeed."

"Sir?" Solon blinked a little at the comment.

"They are merchants and money counters, Solon. They kneel before the altar of wealth instead of greater powers. If they just wanted us dead, they would have hit Highspire first. Decapitated government and faith in one strike. Then worked their way outwards hitting every power signature they could identify. Instead, they are cutting our tendons one by one. Taking a hammer to our joints, forcing us to lie sprawled on the ground so we have to watch every moment of our destruction." Scion stretched his wings again, forcing small measure of calm.

"If they only wanted us dead, they would not have done this. They are doing this because they want us to know why we are dying."

The last words that slipped from Czar Nova Scion's lips vented the last tastes of frustration from his soul.

"Because they want my citizens to look up, and in their last moments see Highspire standing. And know that there was nothing I could do."

--------------------------------------------------------------------

In the end Solon was off, but only by a few days. Czar Scion stepped out to the balcony overlooking his city and watched the sun rise. The first rays reached out, dust scattering the light as shadows slowly were burnt away. Solon was quiet, seated on a soft couch to the side of the main room, just inside from the balcony. Scion spared him no thought. His silence was the permanent sort, the tool of choice a drink of last resort.

Solon closed his eyes, wind softly whistling as he listened...

... The Peyxos was filled to capacity, the Rook of Nobles sparkling in silver and gold. Voices raised in unity, arms all outstretched in prayer. Grey and molted, brown and ochre, even white feathers all trembled as the voices grew louder still...

... Laughter filled the Clara Soles Domi Hospice as attendants carried baskets of food and toys, books and eager bodies as they played. Funding had grown by leaps and bounds, the rough outside bricks smooth and polished, care and love now ably lavished upon those who deserved nothing less. The soft clatter of wood and plastic, the splash of drinks and soft crunch of food the sounds of a party that refused to end...

... Wind whipped through empty streets, inhabitants having fled, taken what was dear to them and run for the hills, for wilderness that promised some empty kind of safety. Any hope, any possibility was better than none. Had some survived? There was no news. But the absence of answers was all the truth that some needed...

... Scion opened his eyes, looking out over his city. His home. His charge. The sun grew suddenly bright. From merely dazzling to a painful brightness that made a mockery of anything that tried to dull its brilliance. He realized it was not the sun.

It was the future.
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