Commodore Dominque Loye looked about the flag bridge of the PNS Chen Wang, silently watching the hustle and bustle of her staff from her high backed chair, all of them scurrying with an urgency that she herself felt. Sitting back and trying to find a comfortable position in the command chair, she eased her aching legs into a more horizontal position and then stretched. She suddenly felt a lance of pain from another muscle pang in her left leg, muttering a curse she quickly bent down to nurse the offending body part. As she sat back up, Loye briefly looked over her uniform. The well designed gray and gold uniform of the Pact Navy, with its six pips of Commodore rank, was looking rather shabby, she thought to herself. Casually glancing around Command she once again noticed the lack of female officers and crew.

It was highly unusual that a woman, especially a black woman, had attained flag rank in the Navy, for all of the Pact's military services were not only highly xenophobic but quite sexist as well. Leaning back in her chair, she began to strum her long nailed fingers on the left armrest, pondering the current situation. Her staff was busy all around her, preparing for the coming conflict and she was grateful that she had had command of the oversized superdreadnought division for nearly a year. During that time she had drilled them ruthlessly in the lightly populated worlds of Guinea Cluster, forging BatRon 221 into a fine sword, able to maneuver and fire at her slightest command. Both her ship, the Louissant, and the Renown had just undergone major overhauls at Guinea Cluster Depot at Newport News, which included the installation of the new and highly secret Hypermass Generators.

She also had three upgraded Bombard-class destroyers and three recently modified Alert-class destroyers acting as escorts for her much larger capital ships. An outdated Centaur-class tug and the Rainhorse, a fat and ungainly marine transport and two medium-sized supply freighters rounded out her small task force.

Dominique looked down at her fingers, which had the unconscious habit of moving when she was thinking, and forced them to stop. The massive new weapons made her Resolute-class superdreadnoughts even more deadly than before, for the huge amounts of stellar matter they could concentrate and fire were highly deadly to any ship or small craft which had the unfortunate chance of being within its narrow firing arc. The technical team that had briefed her, her officers, and crew on the new weapons were highly capable. After that briefing, she was confident she would know how to use them effectively when the time came. The Hypermass Generators were a very short range, highly energy intensive system that would only fire for 150 seconds before shutting down in overheat.....and each of her SDs only carried two. However, due to the massive gravitational pull of the "hypermass", any small craft or fighter in the objects' path would be instantly destroyed, and any warships would take heavy damage.

She smiled to herself then, for the Pact had just begun a massive civil war, with fighting breaking out all over and she had been overly stressed for weeks. They had been ordered to Trantor to form the core of a new loyal battlegroup to defend that extremely vital system from attack when she had been short-stopped in New Sweden. The local Skywatch Commander, a short, cold hispanic woman named Gloria Hampden, had informed her that the system was cut off from Maui Cluster(and her destination) by rampaging Kangas. Their large colony at Goth Beg, which was adjacent to New Sweden already had significant enemy forces in it and the Maui Central Fleet was attempting to batter its way into that system from neighboring Heinreich according to Fleet courier drones and hyperwave broadcasts.

Unfortunately, Dominque thought moodily, we can't go back the way we came.

The high-population Newterra System had revolted the moment she and her warships had warped out to Yonup, and then to New Sweden. She had been working out in the multi-grav gym earlier today when that news had come. The furry three-armed Yonup were non-technological aliens but she felt revulsion at the mere thought of any alien race, and she privately wanted to nuke them all from orbit. The Onesiders were, however, far more fanatical and deadly.

How in the hell do they think they can get nearly forty billion people, "Back to the earth"? she thought disgustedly.

She felt a sudden surge in anger, and decidedly quelled it. No use in getting angry now, the Doc says it ain't good for me, she suddenly thought ruefully, and looked around the huge command deck. Nearly sixty personnel and androids were assigned to Command, and for good reason. Over five thousand people served on board a superdreadnought, each of them having highly technical skills, and her command staff needed to communicate effectively with all of them.

Hell, the new hypermass technicians alone had come to over three hundred people, Dominque thought to herself, reviewing the data in her head. As she was mentally musing a rather large and brutish person appeared in her line of sight, coming from the nearby holomatrix station.

For a moment, Commodore Loye studied the officer intently. No one would mistake Commander(SG) Mavvik Lo for anything else but a heavyworlder. His massive six foot 250kg frame and slow gate hid a surprising mind, but it was the small red cross emblazoned on his forehead that clearly identified him not only as a high-grav native but a Pilgrim. From his records she knew that Mavvik had come from the Bennington Colony where many of the survivors of the Pilgrim System Disaster had been relocated. Thinking for a moment, she remembered from his file that Mavvik had nearly starved to death on Bennington, as had many of the other Pilgrim survivors, due to their high metabolisms and lack of hospitality by the native populace. The destruction of their homeworld by a rogue black hole was a real tragedy for his people, but many had wisely enlisted in the Pact Navy after the catastrophe, including her first officer.

Mavvik came to a stop beside his Commodore and appeared to be thinking mightily. His brutish features, which included huge black bushy eyebrows that threatened to overrun his eyes, were quite stark in their appearance. He almost looks like one of those ancient caveman, she thought seriously to herself for a moment.

Then Dominque smiled inside and with a general wave of her hand towards the main viewers said with irony, "You know....that woman down there is crazy."

Mavvik turned his massive frame, easily two humans wide, and looked briefly at the planet on the screen before slowly turning back to his superior officer with a large grin on his face.

"Well, they do say she has a hell of a temper Sir, so don't go gettin in any catfights with their President. What will I say to the crew if you do?" he said in his incredibly deep voice. A gleam in his eyes told Dominque that he was nearly at the point of bursting out in laughter, for he knew her very well. Her temper was legendary, and only her very hard work and superior abilities in combat as well as her close association with the famous Admiral Baranov, had gotten her this far in spite of it.

"Well," she said as she got out of her command chair, "I’d better get down to the planet. Meetings' in two hours. Get the Task Force ready to move to the Goth Beg warp point once I get back from seeing Chavez. Oh, and don't sit in my chair Mav, your mashing the cushions." As she walked to the transport tube that was to take her to the docking bay, she heard a slight masculine chuckle from behind her. She could tell, without looking at him, that her second in command had proceeded to sit in her seat anyway.

My poor chair, she thought with a muted laugh as she hit the transport call button.


The click of high heeled shoes echoed alongside that of three booted men, and President Anita Chavez knew almost immediately as she turned down the stark hallway leading to the conference room that it had been a mistake to wear her stilettos. In a flowing blue-green gown with the Head of State baton in her hand, the diminutive Anita looked absolutely small in comparison to her newly-appointed Defense Minister and to the two Marine guards escorting her to this important meeting. She had wanted to appear taller than usual, but now, upon listening to the clack-clack of her shoes upon the red tiled floors, she felt foolish.

As she neared the tall, gray doors, she glanced apprehensively at Mickey ("call me Mack") Armstrong, who easily towered over her by nearly two feet. His absolutely huge handlebar moustache was out of style within the Pact's political elitists, but then again he was cut from a different kind of cloth, having emigrated to New Sweden from Old Earth's Texas province.

Anita hid a smile as she thought of his absolutely hickish speech, a drawl that was barely understandable to most listeners. She herself had a hard time sometimes getting people to understand her hispanic accent as well.

Mick noticed a decrease in speed Anita's speed as they neared the towering doors and looked down at her. A former Marine, he was an old friend of Anita's and knew what she was thinking.

"It's gonna be aw'right 'Nita," he spoke in his slow Texas drawl.

She smiled at him briefly, and then as the Marine guards moved to flank the doors, she breathed a huge sigh of tension and entered the long, cold room.

Nearly instantly, people who were scattered across the blue paneled room stopped talking as she and Mick entered, all looking at her somewhat warily. With a slight wave of her hand she motioned the seven other people in the room to the chairs as she herself sat down and tried to get comfortable in the heavy dress.

New Sweden was noted for its extremely brutal winters and it was deep winter outside Government House, with snow piling fifteen feet deep in some places. Of course Anita Chavez had won her third term as President by managing to bring the planet out of serious debt while at the same time promoting social programs....including snow removal.

Again she smiled briefly and took a quick look at the people present.

To her immediate right was Mick, her new Defense Minister. He was currently reorganizing the planet's security and armed forces in the face of the gravest threat that New Sweden (and everyone else in this room in fact) had ever faced. Yesterday he had begun a massive system-wide recruiting campaign to enlist as many able bodies into the armed forces as quickly as possible. She smiled hugely at him, a smile which he returned with a wink, and she moved on.

Skywatch Commander Gloria Hampden was a cold, silent person that Anita didn't know very well at all. Before the Civil War broke out, she had few dealings with the Admiral who guarded the entire system using fleet and carrier bases. She normally preferred her defense liaison to communicate with the short, hispanic woman. Clearly the Admiral was a woman in her early fifties but she always seemed to have a somewhat pained look on her face. Nonetheless, Hampden had the absolute support of her underlings in Skywatch and agreed with Anita early on that the system had to be protected, regardless of who was in charge.

Anita looked at the small, oriental man to Gloria's right and tried hard not to let her disgust show. Izo Yaizu was Hortalez et Cie's chief liaison to the planetary government and she had dealt with him a few times. His vast knowledge of corporate and military production would help New Sweden's defense build-up a great deal, but he was a corporate hack at heart, with a bigoted mindset as well, especially against women.

Maybe Clarence will sit on him, Anita thought silently to herself for a moment, then stifled a laugh. Clarence Ridgefield was the President of one of New Sweden's largest banks and although he weighed over 500 pounds, his mind was quick and his love of numbers only barely outweighed his love of food. A mere thirty-nine years old, Ridgefield's raw ability in banking would also help Anita's new Defense Policy Council in the area of finances, and desperately needed banking loans for the government.

Anita knew the man to the right of Clarence very well; as he had been one of her instructors at the University several years ago, and Anita had been grateful that he had signed onto her new government. The man, Anwar ibn Zha, was her newly appointed Foreign Minister and was well versed in policy, philosophy, diplomacy, and interstellar law. He had been a Professor Standing at NSU for nearly thirty years and was widely known for his ability to speak nineteen different languages. He was also, from what she had heard, quite a misogynist, even though he had three wives. An arabic and Islamicist at heart, Anita had several knock-down drag-out fights with the man over the last few weeks over policy, especially where women were concerned, but he finally had agreed to support her government, after she had agreed to his substantial pay requirements.

Commodore Dominque Loye was quite a different character from ibn Zha, a black woman with decades of combat experience under her belt. Anita didn't know her at all, and it was only sheer luck that Batron 221 was passing through New Sweden when the Pact-wide crisis had flared up. Anita had short-stopped the Commodore(and her task force) and they were currently the only mobile units in the New Sweden System. Although she was an unknown element, Anita was grateful for her presence.

The older man to her right was Senior Congressor Igor Petrov and he was Anita's Legistlative Representative at the cabinet level. A tall, bald man nearing 70, Igor was also a politically astute man, from Anita's records. She had dealt with him several times while she had been in office and knew that he could be counted on for political support and government financing as the civil war ground on. His knowledge of the NS political system and diverse government programs made him an excellent choice for liaison in her opinion.

Finally, the small balding man to Anita's immediate left was literally a godsend! How in the world had she been so lucky to have this windfall land in her lap? The Pact's leading military analyst, strategist, and weapons expert, Dr. James Dunnigan was in neither military or government service. He had been passing through New Sweden to his post at a private think tank in the Mission Stars District, with a stop-over at Trantor for an annual conference when New Sweden had been cut off from the rest of Maui Cluster. His constant frown and lack of hair didn't detract from respecting the man, since Anita had read some of his luminary works. She was very grateful for his presence.

"Well", she said in a clear alto voice," let's get started. First I would like to note for the record that their should be a Kona Tatsu representative here today for this vital meeting, but we all know what has happened with them recently". Anita's smile turned tight lipped at this, for the Kona Tatsu was the dreaded secret police of the Pact. But since the outbreak of the Civil War, the KT had begun an obviously pre-planned movement of disappearing into the woodwork of Pact society. The assassination of KT agents all across the Pact as the Civil War erupted was a shock to that highly regimented organization. Hundreds of visible KT in rebellious systems were killed in the first weeks of the war, and they had suddenly gone underground, striking at targets of opportunity and rebellious leaders ever since. Although their was technically no official KT representative present, any one of the people in the room could be acting in their stead, or the conversation in the secured room could simply be recorded.

"We are a loyal system," Anita continued in a stern voice, "We are part of the Pact and will continue to be, regardless of whether we are out of touch with the Cluster government or not. And this meeting is to lay down strategy's for the defense of New Sweden, not to declare independence". She strongly looked at all the people in the room, but most of them wore unreadable faces.

Anita waited for a moment for that to sink in and them sat back into her high-backed velvet chair.

"Okay, this meeting of the Defense Council is the first of it's kind. I know you all are somewhat nervous in being in this position, as am I. But we have two deadly threats to this system, and I won't just lie back and let either annihilate us. We have eight billion people here; we can and will defend ourselves. So, Commodore Loye, will you begin?" Anita asked.

Clearing her throat and pushing her coffee cup away from here, Commodore Dominique Loye sat forward in her chair, crossing her fingers as she spoke, "Well ma'am, my superdreadnoughts have received a substantial tech upgrade a few months ago, and their firepower truly has to be seen to be believed. With my three SD's mounting the new Hypermass Generators, I believe I will be able to easily defend the Goth Beg warp point against any attacking Kanga forces." Her black face suddenly lit up with a brilliant white ivory smile while Admiral Gloria Hampden across from her snorted.

"Please, Commodore," Hampden said with derision in her voice, "Three superdreadnoughts aren't anywhere near enough if the Kangas attack in force. Of course they are racial cowards, but any sustained attack will most likely break through unless we have more warships in the line." Hampden's frown increased as she faced the Commodore directly across the table.

Commodore Loye thought for a moment and then said, "We'll see Admiral. I think what you need is a tour of my ship and her new weapons," she said with a slight sneer. The in-fighting between ships of the line and base commanders throughout the Pact's 6,000 year history had always been contentious, and this one seemed to be faring little better.

Turning to Anita, the black woman continued, "We have also been cut off from Guinea Cluster by Onesider's, but the static defenses I am erecting on the closed warp point in the Yonup System will effectively seal it. No warship will be able to survive the mines and automated weapons we are emplacing there, madam. I also want you to note that my three Bombard-class destroyers have been upgraded to the B version, with the installation of a large ADM Bay. These bays, my friends, will be able to destroy enemy warships engine rooms while leaving the ships themselves intact, awaiting our recovery. We can refit any enemy vessels in half the time it will take to build new warships. My Alert B-class destroyers are equipped with a new vertical launch system that is able to throw very heavy volleys of missiles.....for a limited time. I also have a Centaur-class tug with long-range scanning capability using a towed array system. All of these systems, by the way, are highly classified and the specs aren't widely know, but you Admiral," Loye said with a slight sneer back, "can look at the specs any time you want."

The short, hispanic woman, who had been lightly primping her hair into a bun, looked back at the black woman with a glare, then continued to push stray hairs out of her eyes at random.

Finally, I also have a Roughneck-class Marine attack transport with three regiments on board. Two supply ships also round out my force, ma'am." Dominique finished, waited a moment for any reply from the Governor, and then leaned back in her seat, glowering at the woman across from her. Although technically an Admiral, she wouldn't be able to command Loye's forces without Loye's consent, something that wasn't likely to ever take place.

Anita smiled at the Commodore, briefly thanked her, and then looked at Admiral Hampden, who was still frowning.

"Well ma'am," the Admiral began, "the most important thing on my mind is the defense of this system. As you know we haven't had a conflict in this area of the Pact in nearly two thousand years, so defenses here are very light: a few bases, but no PDCs or automated weapons like minefields. I want permission to immediately begin construction of mines, planetary fighters, and small warships in the orbital slips."

Mick Armstrong broke in for a moment, "Concentrating on traditional weapons will help us fight off the Kangas, but what about those new orbital weapons platforms we were talking about last week Admiral?"

The small hispanic woman smiled at her immediate superior and then spoke, "I have gone over it four times with the my staff, Sir. The power levels we need just aren't there." She thought for a moment, then continued, "The small orbital fort you proposed that is able to fire hetlasers and proton torpedoes is just too large. I believe that standard bases should be used to guard the planet, Sir."

She then went on, "I would like to have this Council consider something for a moment. The government in Maui Cluster has begun deploying a new class of dreadnoughts; the so-called Medusa-class. Now this ship has recently been fielded against Kanga forces with outstanding success, but serious fighting within the Maui Naval Command and the corporate government has hindered their ability to crush the Kangas. The situation is growing worse, but I believe that if we begin to lay down these warships, we can crush any Kanga force that shoves it's nose through the warp point, decisively."

No one spoke for a moment, and then Defense Minister Armstrong skeptically asked," What makes you think that these dreadnoughts will be useful Admiral? In my opinion, we need light warships and not ships of the line."

Gloria Hampden waited and then spoke confidently, "Sir, the reports we are getting about the Medusa-class indicate that one dreadnought has the firepower to destroy a dozen battlecruisers by itself using SBHAWKS." She let that sink in as people in the room began chattering out loud.

At the head of the long gray table, Anita's slightly rapped her baton on the table for silence. The room quickly quieted down, and she turned to the immensely obese man at the end of the table, "Clarence, can we afford it?"

"Well, I would like to look at the schematics and cost estimates, but if it is similar to standard dreadnought classes in expense, then we can pay for maybe two per month over several months. Now that's not including all the light units and automated defenses we talked about so far; we can easily afford those as well as the dreadnoughts. But our finances really limit capital warship production, and I shudder to think of the maintenance costs." And he did shudder, a ripple of movement going through a mass of fat. Anita tried not to smile and thought about the proposals.

Anita turned her head slowly towards Izo Yaizu and casually asked ,"Hortalez?"

Anita was proud of herself that she was able to keep the intense dislike out of her voice for the little man in front of her, and the corporate interests that he represented. As the Hortalez System Comptroller for New Sweden, Izo was currently the de facto Cluster representative and he was immensely wealthy as well. The central government of Maui Cluster was a corporate government, namely Hortalez et Cie, and although Anita had never really liked the megacorporations influences on local government, but the entire Cluster was heavily industrialized as a result of Hortalez' dominance. Compared to most Frontier Clusters, Maui was fabulously wealthy, but that was also in large part the major shipping of foodstuffs to the nearby megaplanet Trantor.

The small, bald oriental man (quite obviously of Japanese descent) did not move or speak for several seconds, although his eyes narrowed to slits as he gazed at the Governor. It wasn't a friendly look.

"First, madam," Izo began to say in a slightly haughty voice ,"Hortalez is grateful that the New Sweden system in not taking steps to seceed during this crisis, as many opportunistic planets have done. Of course, loyalty is to be commended, and once physical contact with the rest of the Cluster is re-established, that loyalty will be rewarded. Unfortunately, it is a time of war and Hortalez' resources are stretched very thin. Yes, very thin." At this the slight man smiled, almost evilly, as if he was proud to share a secret, and the roomful of people waited for the corporate representative to continue.

"As the senior rep of Hortalez, I am authorized by my megacorp to lend any and all assitance to the government of New a twelve percent rate."

No one spoke for a moment, and then the massive Clarence Ridgefield practically bellowed, "That is double the current lending rate!" As he was sitting next to Yaizu, the small man practically cringed, but he maintained a snarl-like smile in spite of his neighbors' outburts.

"That's blackmail Hortalez," Admiral Loye said in a very angry voice, but the little man just continued to look at Anita with near contempt.

"Hortalez has a long memory, chica," the oriental man spoke up. "New Sweden defaulted on loans to the megacorp over eighty years ago, if you recall."

No one spoke for a moment, then Anita, with a fierce look on her face said, "Okay, but where I am from we call that living in the past." Take that you little Chink!

"Hortalez' memory is long," Izo persisted.

Anita looked sharply at him for a moment and then said, "New Sweden has a long memory as well, and after the war, we might have a referendum or two here. And New Sweden workers will work even if you do call for a boycott." You corporate hack.

No one in the room spoke for second or two, hoping that the ugly exchange had ended and then the Defense Minister cleared his throat and said, "I would like to ah'so have considered the build-up of LACs." Although the Texan had proposed the construction of a number of small craft, no one said anything for Light Assault Craft were considered outdated. They were much larger than fighters but were unable to transit warp points and in minimal numbers quite deadly against smaller capital ships.

"I agree, Sir", the commander of Skywatch finally spoke up. "LAC's can be deployed from my carrier bases. Once Admiral Loye's forces are at the Goth Beg warp point, my bases will be moved forward to that location." The small hispanic women then leaned back into her chair, expressionless.

The Governor of New Sweden looked around at the people in the room. "Anyone have any other thoughts? No? Then this meeting is adjourned, and God help us all."


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