Winning the Peace

Conference Room 2
deWulf Naval High Command, 88th Floor
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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