Promethean Shadows, Chapter 2: Balance of Powers
Promethean Shadows, OOC
Achenar System, Imperium Invictum Flagship
"All systems nominal." It was Grant Admiral Thraw speaking. I had appointed him as my executive officer for this particular mission, though to be honest he was too valuable as battlefield commander to keep him in such a role permanently. "We are clear to depart, My Emperor."
"Excellent," I said. "Set reactor power to 100%. Shields to 50%. Engines at maximum. All excess power is to be supplied to the energy banks. I want this ship fully operational and battle-ready, even if this is just a... parade of sorts."
"Understood," said Thraw. "Make the Emperor's will so," he relayed to the ship.
As soon as the command was given, I felt the surge of energy running the length of the ship as the full magnitude of nearly two petawats of antimatter energy began to channel itself through the ships, systems, the bulk of it going to the force field generators surrounding the reactors and the adjacent warp drive. The most powerful antimatter reactor in the galaxy was now powering all the systems of the most powerful warship ever created... at least since the Promethean Era.
At a quarter less than a quadrillion credits, it was one of the most wasteful spending projects ever conducted in the Imperial Armada. I had received numerous criticisms regarding this project.... namely the fact that I could finance two full assault fleets for the cost of this single ship. Can you guess how I responded? I think it was something like "If it's the cost of two, then our assault fleets are too small." I had in fact put forth a proposal to more than double the size of each assault fleet in the Armada. If passed Armada wide (the council was still debating it over, and they can sometimes take years to make decisions on this crap. They were probably delaying the decision until we had the proper finances, I think), my response proposal would more than double the strength of the Imperial Armada, without adding any more capital ships. Unless you're one of those silly people who considers light dreadnoughts to be capital ships, I guess.
But the real reason for this wasteful spending project was simple. I decided to build the Imperium Invictum flagship... because we can. It was a massively overpowered warship that was never intended to see battle... to prove that it doesn't have to see battle. Ever. To show the might of the Achenaran Imperium to the world. Imperium Invictum. Invincible Imperium, in the Romani language. The Romani language and culture has been, like many things, attributed to ancient Promethean mythology... namely the Promethean "demigod" figures Romulus and Remus. Some scholars believed they were warships, others commanders or leaders. What is known is that they interacted with the Romani greatly, but also interacted with the humans of the Sol system, as well as some extensive interaction on Achenar IV itself.
My attention returned to the matter at hand. Grand Admiral Thraw was speaking. My attention shifted to his words. "Engines operational... ready to move on your mark."
"Imperium Invictum and escort vessels," I said, "Move out on my mark. 10... 9... skip a few... 2.. 1... mark!"
There was a barely audible chuckle among one of the crew members as I skipped some numbers, but when I said "Mark," the pilots of the ginormous friggin spaceship obeyed. The most powerful warp drive ever created generated its sublight gravity drive bubble, and my flagship began to move.
As it moved, it was mirrored by the escort fleet, as well as the other warships that were being displayed in this parade. Above my ship was the newly-refitted flagship Heaven, finished roughly two months ago, and below my flagship was the Hell, finished last month. They were tied for the second largest warships in the Imperium, roughly doubled in size with their refit to tie my old flagship in size. But even these two mega-behemoths (they were bigger than the Behemoth, which was a Bahamut-class) were roughly one tenth the volume of the Imperium Invictum. Unlike the Imperium Invictum, however, Heaven and Hell were designed to actually see combat... provided a sufficiently massively-scaled conflict ever did occur. Such a conflict hadn't happened since the Jasidian War, but we had found new neighbors that could potentially pose such a problem in the future. There was a third Heaven-class flagship under construction, the Purgatory, but it wasn't scheduled to be completed until next month.
I had been pleasantly surprised, in fact, that the Imperium Invictum was completed ahead of my initial forecast. I had expected this ship to take roughly a year and a half to two years to complete, because building a massive starship was much more time-consuming than building a smaller one. The actual frame was fairly easy to build... even the engines and reactor were fairly reasonable upscaling of existing models. The main problem had in fact been in the construction of the twelve "Imperial Mandate" cannons which made up the incomprehensible firepower of this massive ship. Main weaponry was always the most difficult thing of a warship, with the weapons and energy banks usually costing more than half the total cost of the ship, but considering a single cannon was roughly the size of a friggin Vindicator-class Heavy Dreadnought, the "Imperial Mandate" cannons were particularly difficult. Each cannon could probably take out an Excalibur-class in a single shot, and all twelve combined could destroy the Heaven in one shot, but such firepower was likely to never be used in battle. Using actual firepower for symbolic purposes... so very Achenaran.
Construction of such weapons and components had been hastened thanks largely to the existence of the Stellar Highways providing efficient logistics networks. Each device was in fact pieced together from many smaller parts, constructed simultaneously in numerous different locations, rather than constructing each device in its entirety, which takes much longer. The finished fragments were assembled together, sort of like the building blocks I used to play with as a child, into the massive finished components before or while being outfitted onto the frame of the Imperium Invictum itself. Similar procedures were likely to be put in place for all large-ship construction in the future, now that we had the supply chains necessary to perform such projects efficiently.
The Stellar Highways were providing incredible revenues to the Imperial Treasuries in addition, or perhaps because of, these supply chain advantages. Allowing other governments to use them as toll roads provided substantial revenues that went directly into the Imperium Invictum project, as well as significant financing towards the Imperial Armada in general. Dozens of new protectorates enjoyed the protection of the Imperial Armada, financing our own fleet in its duty of protecting them. Numerous minor factions were now able to join the Imperium as full members when they previously had been too far from the core of Imperial power to be considered for membership.
But with new opportunities came new threats. The rivals of Achenar may be weaker, but they are also numerous. As our chain of highways continues to expand, so too do we meet new neighbors... distant powers that would have never been considered neighbors before. Most were weak, but some were strong. Some in particular were very strong.... notably the three superpowers of Perseus and a certain Theocracy that was a direct, effectively equal-scale rival in Sagittarius. When I signed the Treaty of Horizon this summer, I acknowledged for the first time in a long time that Achenar had met a faction that they could consider "equal". The council disagreed, of course... they argued that the Imperial Armada was invincible, that it had never lost and would never lose a war, that it was three times as strong as one would expect from an Imperium the size of Achenar.
But I have seen war before. I have seen brutal, violent conflict. Sometimes it is unavoidable, such as the Jasidian War. Many times it could be done better, such as the recent battles in Sagittarius. And more times it could be avoided completely. Perhaps a day would come when Orion and Sagittarius would engage in the largest war since the Promethean Era... but my hope was to delay such a conflict for as long as possible. And to prepare. The Imperial Armada was strong... but it could be stronger.
Therefore it was my current policy of "passive expansion" that would pave the way for the future. We needn't conquer if we could pursuade others to join of their free will. We needn't strike first when we could conquer through retaliatory strike. We needn't bring our authority to others when we could persuade others to come to us.
Safety. Security. Economic prosperity. Health care. Education. These five pillars were easy to provide, and satisfied most basic needs of all sentients. Other needs were harder to satisfy... love, family, and a sense of belonging for example were hard to codify through laws... but we still try to do what we can to offer them to all Achenaran citizens and civilians.
Some view us as aggressive expansionists. Others view us as prosperous entrepreneurs. Some view us as warmongering conquerers. Others view us as chivalrous protectors. I can say for certain, however, that the policy of the Imperium was to benefit the Imperium, and what is good for the Imperial people is good for the Imperium itself.
With these thoughts in my head, I sat back in my designated throne in the Imperium Invictum. As a million Imperial Guard conducted their security roles and two million crewmen operated the vessel, I sat in quiet contemplation as the parade of warships and escort ships began to make its way through the Stellar Highways, displaying my new flagships for all to see. Spynet suggested there might be an assassination attempt.... which was friggin hilariously suicidal considering how powerful this ship was... but security was high. Honestly, an attack at one of the gate network systems would probably be far more interesting than sitting in a chair watching an endless stream of spectator ships that all came to admire my own vessel.
Well, at least it was a break from the throne room.