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“My King, our situation is degenerating much quicker than we anticipated."

 

"Just... deliver the report, Admiral Damien," I said, looking up from my terminal. Reports from all across the front laid on the terminal, each spelling out regrettable information that filled up the screen, forcing me to delay any appointments I had arranged.

 

"Operation Eternal Liberation is at stake,” Damien said, handling a stack of YOLOL chips to me. “The Empire is moving too fast for us to establish the strongholds needed to slow their advance."

 

"So I've heard, Admiral. You haven't told me the exact state of our defence.”

 

“The Third Fleet is in position for the second phase of Eternal Liberation to sever an Empire retreat around the frontier station. But our remaining fleets are in a state of constant retreat and we’re unable to mount a counter-attack. We’ve already lost a number of stations without a fight in this fashion.”

 

“And what of the state of the fleets?” I asked, quickly using my universal tool to look through the YOLOL chips. “We need every ship available to us for Eternal Liberation.”

 

“All of them are in poor shape. We lost four fleets and the remaining five are in much-needed repair. Our stockpile of spares has been depleted to the point that we've had to cannibalize badly damaged ships to keep others in service.”

 

“Then pull the rest of our forces back to Australis station. The Empire must go through it before they can attack our Capital.”

 

"You want us to completely abandon our primary defence line?"

 

“I want us to have a chance, Admiral. As long as we can hold for five days, we can turn the tide.”

 

“Why five days, my King?” Damien asked, his arms crossed. The tap of his fingers echoed across the room, giving away his anxiety. “Because in the worst case, we’ll have two weeks before they arrive at our capital. And please don’t tell me that’s how long it’d take for you to draft surrender documents.”

 

Sighing, I stood up from my chair, motioning for him to follow me. As we walked out and headed towards the meeting rooms, I looked outside at the capital, observing the Maintenance Company hard at work, rushing to load ammunition aboard freighters headed for Australis Station. Factories that once made leisure craft were now turned into war machines, churning out Knights and Lancers as fast as they could. It was a scene many had never imagined would happen in the Kingdom.

 

But it did.

 

“Seven months ago, I approved a project pushing for the Kingdom to produce capital ships of its own,” I said, handling a YOLOL chip to Damien, who quickly opened his universal tool. “At that time, the main focus of the project was to give us a suitable command ship to better coordinate fleet-wide operations. It was nearly cancelled twice due to cost overruns, but now we have three prototypes currently stationed here and being armed for the war.”

 

“The Arbalest project, huh?” Damien asked, still reading the chip. “Why wasn’t I told about any of this? If we have a ship that’s capable of rivalling even the Empire’s Centurio-”

 

“Exactly because we have such a ship, Admiral,” I retorted, shooting him a look. “The balance of power was already precarious when we only had the Lancer and Knight. If we had gone ahead and announced the project, the Empire would not take it lying down.”

 

“I… misspoke, my King, forgive me.”

 

“As for why you weren’t told,” I stopped at an intersection, turning round to look at the Admiral. “High Command had intended for you to receive a reward for your actions both within and outside the Kingdom. You’d have been the Arbalest’s first captain.”

 

“Well… thank you, my King,” he replied. “But isn't there anyone else who deserves such an honour more than I do? All these years, I’ve only helped those around me, not engage in massive battles or policing our space. I don’t think I should receive such a reward."

 

"In that case, Admiral, why not prove your worth?"

 

"What would you have me do?" He looked at me, puzzled.

 

"The Arbalest's prototypes will be ready in five days. By then, I want the King's Bastion to escort them to Australis station and aid in its defence. Afterwards, follow the plans for Eternal Liberation as the Commander in Chief of the Kingdom military. Use everything you need to earn your position.”

 

"I understand, my King. I will task the Peacekeepers squads and prepare immediately.”

 

Nodding, I motioned for Damien to leave, watching as he walked off in the directions of the barracks. Sighing, I pondered over my decisions, slowly walking towards the meeting rooms as my conversation with Marksman played over in my mind.

 

“With that Old Republic Senator back, you should be careful with who you're meeting.”

 

“He isn’t adhering to the Republic’s decree of neutrality?”

 

“He isn’t adhering to anyone. I don’t know what he wants, but he’s planning something big. His proxies have been stockpiling nhurgite for a while now.”

 

“If he’s planning on using materials used for explosives to bomb Kingdom assets, we can’t let it slide. For now, I’ll have the Peacekeepers prepared for any attacks.”

 

High Command was already present when I entered the room, it's members waiting for me to take my seat before taking a seat themselves. No words had to be spoken to describe the general mood of the room as High Command looked around at one another, unsure of who should start the meeting.

 

“Right, since no one wants to, I’ll start,” I said, leaning back on my chair and staring at Supreme Admiral Hyperion. “Four fleets. Four fleets that are critical to our plans entirely destroyed by our opponent. How could you have allowed this to happen?”

 

“I’ve no excuses, my King,” his head lowered. “They’re using lightning warfare against us in such a way that whenever we try and start a counterattack or mount a coordinated defence, they send another fleet and disrupt us before we can regain the initiative. I can only hope that some miracle happens to allow us a chance to fight back.”

“You know as much as I do that the only miracles we are granted are the ones we make for ourselves. You could’ve set up fortifications on Australis and made that our start on a counterattack. You could’ve asked for permission to use the Arbalest prototype against those who seek to destroy the Kingdom.”

 

“My King, we were in no position to play our hand-”

 

“And what did you do? Sit there and lose four of our fleets because you were in no position to act? We had every chance to turn the tide and begin the second phase of our plans. If we do not go all-in on the cards we own, then when would we have that chance?”

 

The room was completely silent as I let my words sink in, watching each of their expressions carefully. Most of them had their heads bowed, either in thought or in embarrassment. Only one of them continued to look at me, slightly unhinged.

 

“Because of your failures, I’m removing High Command as the head decision-making body over the Kingdom’s military. Your replacement will be Admiral Damien and whoever he deems needed to ensure our victory. If you have any objections, voice them now.”

 

“I do,” Commander Traya said, standing up. I looked at her, noting that she was the one who had not bowed her head. “If we were to be disbanded now, chaos would ensue among our forces. If you want to do such a thing, then it’d be best to do so after the war is over.”

 

“My decision had already factored that in. Your forces have all been informed of the change in leadership before the meeting started. All resources would be made available for Admiral Damien.”

 

“I insist you reconsider, my King.”

 

“This was my reconsideration to you. If you will not leave this post, then you’ll be court-martialed when the war ends. I’m giving all of you a chance to step down. Take it.”

 

“In that case, my King,” she bowed her head, taking a step towards the door. “I will resign from the Arms of the King. If we’re forced to leave our position, then I’d rather leave this room by my own rights then be removed against my will.” With that, without looking back, she left the room, leaving it in stunned silence.

 

“Now then,” I sighed, looking at the now-former members of High Command. “Does anyone have any further objections-”

 

Before I could finish my sentence, I found myself flying backwards, heading towards the back wall. A familiar flash enveloped the room, sending everyone in it flying backwards in a loud boom.

 

And then I crashed into the back wall, my vision turned black, leaving me in darkness...

 

---

 

“Sir. Partial success reported from xhalium mine. Target is still alive.”

 

“No matter. As long as he’s out of the picture, we’re one step closer to our goals.”

 

“Sir.”

 

---

 

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About the author

Zearth

Bio: "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream." -Edgar Allen Poe.

"Let's suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream that you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time. Or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would, naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes. You would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each, you would say "Well, that was pretty great." But now let's have a surprise. Let's have a dream which isn't under control. Where something is gonna happen to me that I don't know what it's going to be. And you would dig that and come out of that and say "Wow, that was a close shave, wasn't it?" And then you would get more and more adventurous, and you would make further and further out gambles as to what you would dream. And finally, you would dream ... where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today." -Alan Watts

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