Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 30

Most of the others were prepared to grant at least the possibility that Michelle and Khumalo and their staffs might be correct — that Manpower or the Mesa System might indeed have been the prime mover. Might even have provided the “invisible” starships which had carried out the Yawata Strike. Michelle doubted any of them found the notion any less bizarre than she did, but they were at least open to it. And if she was reading the ONI appreciations from home accurately, opinion within the Admiralty and the Grantville Government was hardening in the same direction. There was, however, a vast gap between “prepared to grant the possibility” and “willing to bet the farm on it,” and she decided — again — not to go into all the details of the logic behind her proposed deployments.

She’d considered mentioning that she intended to base herself on Montana, closest to Mesa and what she believed was clearly the greater threat, while assigning the Tillerman force to Vice Admiral Theodore Bennington, who’d become her senior battle squadron commander upon his arrival from the home system. Under the circumstances, though, it would undoubtedly be wiser to let that particular sleeping dog lie. She didn’t expect Alquezar or Krietzmann to object, anyway, and they were the Talbott decision-makers who really mattered where fleet movements were concerned.

“In addition to the deployment plan Admiral Gold Peak and I are proposing,” Khumalo said after a moment, “there are certain other measures we’d like to set in motion. Three of them are especially important.

“First, as Prime Minister Alquezar, Minister Lababibi, Minister Krietzmann, Minister Clark, and I have already discussed, we need to complete our survey of the Quadrant’s industrial capabilities as quickly as possible. I suspect our local resources may be able to contribute more materially to our defense here than some people might think. Nobody’s going to be building any superdreadnoughts anytime soon, but several of our systems — Rembrandt, San Miguel, and Spindle itself come to mind — have sufficient local industry to provide significant support for both our local defense and striking forces. Obviously, we’ll be making technical advisors from Admiral Gold Peak’s repair and depot ships available wherever possible.

“Secondly, and possibly even more importantly, Admiral Gold Peak has proposed we begin a vigorous program to expedite the raising and training of naval personnel right here in the Quadrant. The Navy’s taken substantial losses in both the Battle of Manticore and the Yawata Strike, and unless I’m sadly mistaken, the emphasis in the home system and Trevor’s Star — where the bulk of our more…technologically sophisticated population is concentrated — is going to be on reconstituting our skilled labor force as rapidly as possible. I believe that, especially if we make use of the LAC simulators already available to us and request additional simulators from the home system, we’ll be able to produce and train a significant number of naval personnel. To be painfully blunt — and I hope no one will take offense — providing personnel with the education level we would expect from the home system or Trevor’s Star is going to be beyond our capabilities here for some time to come. Within the next several T-years, the effort being invested in improving the Quadrant’s educational systems is going to correct that problem. For the immediately foreseeable future, however, it’s going to remain with us. That means the personnel we’ll be able to train won’t be as fully trained as we might hope — won’t have as deep a skill set, let’s say — but they’ll still provide a very useful expansion of our manpower, and the technical aspects of their education can be continued aboard ship.

“The third initiative we’d like to consider very seriously is for us to use the Quadrant Guard as the basis for an expansion of planetary combat troops. Manticore has never had a powerful ground combat component and, frankly, a lot of what we did have has become committed to Silesia. Not because there’s a lot of armed resistance going on, but because we had to pretty much disband a sizable percentage of the existing Silesian forces when we started weeding out entrenched cronyism and military corruption. With them gone, we had no choice but to provide peacekeeping and law enforcement personnel — and cadre to train and supervise locally raised police forces — out of our none-to-large Marine and Army strength. That situation seems to be well in hand, but it’s still going to tie up those Marines and Army personnel for many months to come.

“That diversion to Silesia is also the reason we’ve seen virtually no Army personnel transferred to the Quadrant. Well, that and the fact that the Quadrant isn’t Silesia and — with the exception of Nordbrandt and a couple of other lunatics — we haven’t faced anywhere near the same need for additional peacekeeping and law enforcement personnel as Silesia, particularly with the Guard in the course of formation. In addition, as we all know, our new-build construction is very short on organic Marine detachments, and Tenth Fleet’s entire attached Marine strength amounts to little more than a pair of brigades. That’s a lot of firepower, given their equipment and training, but it’s a very limited total number of men and women. If the situation with the League turns as ugly as we think it may — if we find ourselves forced to carry out offensive operations against the League, for example — that shortage in troop strength is likely to come home to roost with a vengeance.

“Because of those considerations, we believe it would be a good idea to use the Guard as a platform to begin raising, training, and equipping at least several divisions of infantry and atmospheric combat support units right here in the Quadrant. We can teach the technical skills an effective ground force would require much more rapidly than we can train personnel in the sorts of shipboard skills the Navy will need. In addition, our existing infrastructure can produce planetary combat equipment as good as or better than anything we’re likely to face out here in the Verge…and probably get it into the troops’ hands in adequate quantities by the time we can get the necessary recruiting and training programs into place. Frankly, it may turn out that the provision of the ground forces we’re almost certain to require may be the most effective immediate contribution to the Star Empire’s overall defense that the Quadrant can provide. And, finally, while the skills we’ll have to teach our planetary combat forces aren’t the same ones the Navy requires, they’ll still represent a powerful step upward for a lot of our member star systems here in the Quadrant — one which is going to carry over to their peacetime economies once the shooting ends.

“In addition to the actual increase in manpower and eventual overall education and training levels, however, the sort of programs we’re proposing should also contribute to the Quadrant’s sense of solidarity and unity and that, after all, is one reason for the Guard’s existence in the first place. We all know this is still a new political unit. We’re all still…settling down with one another, and the threat of outside attack is generating a lot of fully justified anxiety and uncertainty. We believe — I believe — that directly involving as many as possible of our citizens in their own self-defense will be the best antidote for that anxiety. We’re not proposing this as any sort of placebo. If it succeeds as well as we believe it can, it will contribute materially to our ability to defend the Quadrant and probably to the overall defensive strength of the Star Empire outside the Quadrant. For that matter, I personally would strongly oppose any dispersal of effort that wouldn’t contribute to that ability and combat strength. I’m simply pointing out that it could contribute in more ways than one.”

There was silence for several seconds, then Prime Minister Alquezar looked at Baroness Medusa.

“I’m inclined to endorse Admiral Khumalo’s and Admiral Gold Peak’s proposals, Madame Governor. I know Henri’s already had considerable input into them, and while I’d like the opportunity to read over the details for myself, I have the greatest respect for both Admiral Khumalo’s and Admiral Gold Peak’s judgment. With your concurrence, I’d like to suggest we authorize them to begin organizing to deploy Admiral Gold Peak’s units as they’ve proposed and that you and I review those details with an eye towards giving them a firm approval — and requesting the Quadrant Parliament’s approval for the necessary funding, of course — within the next two days.”

“That seems perfectly reasonable to me, Mr. Prime Minister,” Medusa agreed. “And that ought to give everyone else involved” — she allowed her own gaze to slew sideways to Lababibi, Clark, and Westman for a moment — “enough time to review them and put forward any suggestions they might care to make, as well.”

“In that case,” Alquezar said with a somewhat crooked smile, “I propose we adjourn. I’ll see all of you at the War Cabinet meeting Wednesday, I’m sure. By which time, no doubt, the ghost of Murphy will have visited yet another crisis upon us.”