Here’s the third chapter of Portal Woes, in which we pick up with the Galactic Union Blockade Division. (I didn’t expect it, but Admiral Chesnee has become one of my favorite characters to write.)
FROM the compartment in his quarters he used as an office, Admiral Giles Chesnee considered the world floating beyond his viewport. Lanx, with its ever-changing weather patterns, was a nice break from an endless stretch of stars—even if the view was marred by the iridescent energy shield encapsulating the majority of the world. The view was even sweeter considering his forces had a foothold on that world.
In the grand scheme of the universe, a chunk of unshielded planet was hardly the end-all and be-all of military achievement, but for his Blockade Division taskforce, it was worth its weight in the gold their opponents used as currency.
The occupied portion of Lanx was not visible now. Winds of Change, the Chironex-class battlecruiser that served as his flagship, currently faced Lanx’s night side. A glittering spray of lights beneath the shield marked out Lanx’s population band, which ran along the equator. The rest of Lanx’s rough, mountainous surface was too inhospitable for settlement.
Chesnee smiled to himself. Six weeks ago, all we knew about Lanx came from twenty-year old data.
Of course, six weeks earlier his command was also the joke of the Galactic Union StarFleet.
The Blockade Division had originally been tasked with subjugating the worlds in the Sta’Gloan system after their inhabitants refused to join the newly-formed Galactic Union. To their chagrin, the G.U. ships had found themselves confronted with an advanced planetary shield the likes of which the galaxy had never seen. They had only been able to partially occupy one world, Glo’Stea, and had cut the system off from the rest of the galaxy in retaliation.
Two decades of stalemate had eventually culminated in the Blockade Division becoming a training ground for troops—and a command graveyard.
Until they sent me.
Chesnee’s blue eyes flickered around his office. Five months into his command and he still had no idea why he’d been given the Blockade Division. True, he had succeeded where none of his predecessors had, breaching Lanx’s shield and holding two mining stations hostage, but whether he had been sent here to fail remained a mystery. At this point, however, does it really matter?
According to his aide, Lieutenant Josef Armal, morale throughout his taskforce was the highest it had been in years. The people in his command—including the crew aboard the Change—were beginning to trust him. We aren’t a joke anymore. One way or another, we will conquer the Coalition.
And eventually, when he had the time, he would conquer his office’s appalling décor. One of his predecessors—Chesnee still had no idea which one—had covered the bulkheads with glossy walnut paneling, laid down indigo carpet, and decorated with somber antique tapestries from various worlds in the Galactic Union. Why the man had not taken the tapestries with him when he retired was beyond Chesnee.
A soft chime drew his attention to the comm panel on his desk. Finally. His commanding officer was running late for their conference call today. For a man who takes as much pride in punctuality as Tyler, that does not bode well.
Straightening in his black leather chair, Chesnee tapped his comm panel and the holographic head and shoulders of a portly man with silver hair appeared floating in midair on the other side of his desk. He saluted crisply, snapping the palm of his right hand to his left navy-clad shoulder. “Admiral Tyler.”
“Giles! How goes the Blockade Division?”
Fleet Admiral Joseph Tyler had a voice like a foghorn. Well-prepared for this onslaught of sound, Chesnee discreetly reached for the volume control. “Things are going well, sir. Sapriske 6 is still at our mercy, as is the mining station in the asteroid belt around Xana 5. Neither of them have received fresh supplies or offloaded any ore in weeks. It’s only a matter of time before they decide to open negotiations for surrender.”
“Excellent. And the situation on Lanx?”
“As stable as can be expected. General Deam informs me the populace has settled down easily enough under our control, but a few pockets of guerrillas calling themselves the Lanxian Resistance have cropped up here and there.”
“To be expected.” Tyler waved a hand. “Are they proving to be more than a nuisance?”
“They have their moments.” Chesnee frowned. “A group of them broke into the Ladder in Quinton—that’s the Lanxians’ capital building, you recall—and managed to free the remainder of the politicians and bureaucrats Deam was holding there.”
Tyler’s eyes narrowed in interest. “The same way they did it the last time?”
“No. They used a different method.” Chesnee hid a wince. That situation he had yet to fully explain to Tyler and the rest of High Command.
“Makes you wonder if the Lanxians had as much trouble with their security.”
“That it does.”
“What of the Sapriske 6 supply freighter’s crew? The Sprog, was it?”
“Yes. I’m holding the crew here aboard the Change.”
“Triumvirate still refuses to arrange a prisoner transfer, eh?”
Chesnee allowed himself a rueful smile. “I believe they are afraid I’ll knock out another shield generator if they open the shield for an exchange ship.”
Tyler boomed a laugh. “I imagine they are concerned, given your success rate. Have you gotten anything useful out of the prisoners yet?”
“Nothing of consequence. Although, we have learned that the Sapriske 6 mining station is apparently partially owned and operated by a close relative of one of the Sta’Gloan Representatives.”
“Interesting.” Tyler’s dark eyes glittered. “Perhaps we can use that.”
“Indeed.” Without so much as blinking, Chesnee changed the subject. “Admiral, it’s been a month since the Unity and her escorts arrived. I was wondering if you have any news concerning the remainder of my reinforcements’ ETA.”
Tyler’s round face lost a little of its good cheer and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Giles…”
I might have known. Chesnee’s craggy face settled into hard lines. “I can only assume the delay has something to do with politics.”
“What doesn’t involve politics these days?” Tyler grumbled wearily. “Giles, I would like nothing more than to send you as many ships and men as you need to crush the Coalition once and for all, but since we sent the Unity, the situation has become more…complicated.”
“Let me guess.” Chesnee’s lip curled. “Is it the Senate or the fact that someone leaked the bribery scandal to the media two weeks ago?”
“Blockade Division commanders taking money to let Coalition smugglers conduct business as usual?” Tyler shook his head. “It’s not going over well.”
Chesnee said nothing. He had reported this seamy underside of his new assignment after one of the Coalition’s Representatives on the Triumvirate approached him to strike a similar bargain. And someone on their end couldn’t keep their mouth shut.
“At any rate,” Tyler continued, “the scandal is fueling the growing faction in the Senate clamoring to send in peace envoys now that we have, and I quote, “made our point”.”
To his credit, Chesnee did not snort. “Are they now?”
“Unfortunately. Damn politicians.” Tyler’s face soured. “I’m doing everything in my power to get you those reinforcements, but until this investigation shakes out, High Command cannot devote any more resources to the Blockade Division.”
And who knows how long that could take, Chesnee thought sarcastically, but he inclined his graying blond head. “I understand, sir.”
Tyler eyed him. “Keep winning, Giles, and they’ll have no choice but to give you whatever you need out of sheer embarrassment.”
When the Fleet Admiral finally signed off, Chesnee leaned back in his chair, troubled. Not for the first time in the last few weeks, he wondered if it was time to inform Tyler and the rest of High Command he had reason to believe the Coalition might be developing a teleportation device. It’s possible the revelation might speed up the Senate’s decision.
The downside was, of course, that he had no concrete proof.
Just the ramblings of a Coalition scientist who broke under pressure and is now dead. Frowning, Chesnee drummed his fingers on the edge of his desk. He pointedly ignored the tapestry in the corner that seemed to have fixed beady eyes on him. If the bribery scandal has shaken High Command and the Senate this badly, what would unsubstantiated rumors of a transporter do?
He would either start a galaxy-wide panic, or else his superiors would dismiss it out of hand as preposterous.
His face hardened. No, if I intend to overcome the Senate’s whining and moaning about how expensive it is to run a union spanning half the known galaxy, I need to present them with concrete, incontrovertible proof that we need to subdue the Coalition sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, he’d just have to live with the sliver of guilt niggling in the back of his mind.
The Guardians: Portal Woes is available at: