In Step With . . . Admiral Tolwyn
In a Jubilee exclusive,
- Davis Davis interviews the architect of
- the Confed war effort
By Davis Davis, Jubilee Senior Editor
There's a certain feeling of awe, the first time you step into Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn's quarters in the Titan military complex. It's not just the fact of being in the presence of one of the three most important men in the Confed war effort―it's a feeling that comes from the rooms themselves. The admiral's personal quarters are pleasant, modest, scrupulously clean and orderly . . . and curiously sterile. Entering them carries something of the air of entering a pyramid or descending a lunar crater―going somewhere where human feet haven't been for a very long time.
“Home” is not a concept that means much to Confed's Chief of Fleet Operations these days. Or, if anything, “home” is a cabin on the Concordia, the admiral's flagship.
Today, however, the Concordia is several sectors away (exact location deeply classified, of course), continuing its ongoing operation in support of the border defenses, while the admiral has been recalled to Sol for a few weeks, to brief the Joint Chiefs and the Senate on the state of the war. Between the hotel room he occupied on Terra and the berth on the long-range shuttle that will return him to the front, he has a few days to catch up with affairs on Titan Base, and air out his Spartan home-of-record.
The Admiral is not a tall man―slender and compact, he seems designed by evolution for the narrow corridors and low hatches of a warship. His speech combines the cool, clipped efficiency of a captain at the helm, with the calm erudition of a college professor―both occupations that he has held in the past. Today he has put away the multitude of medals on the dress uniform that he wore while addressing Confed's leaders a day or two previous, and instead wears the simple fatigues of a deck officer. However, even in his informal guise his creases fall perfectly and his deck boots gleam.
When questioned about his unlived-in living quarters, the response is thoughtful. “I really do love it here on Titan. Not just being close to Earth, and Callisto and Mars, but the base itself. I like to feel it alive all around me. And I suppose I could do much of my job from right here, if I chose to. But I almost feel guilty, every time I come home like this. There are 40 million spacemen, marines, and soldiers out on the frontier right now. Most of them have far more to come home to than I do, and most of them won't see their home again until this is over―if, indeed, they ever return at all. When they're all home again, perhaps then I can relax.”
It's difficult to imagine a relaxed Geoffrey Tolwyn. The son of a wealthy and politically influential family (go back only three generations and you'll find four admirals, one general and three senators on the Tolwyn family tree), the admiral has relaxed very little in the almost four decades since he entered the Academy. Graduating first in his class, he went on to collect a masters in engineering and a doctorate in hyper-physics in record time, He earned his first star before his fortieth birthday, as an engineer building the first Grand Fleet in the Pilgrim War. A few much later, he gave up the star to take command of his first battleship, as part of the second Grand Fleet.
He did enjoy a few years between the wars, teaching physics at the Solar University in Reykjavík. But after the Iason incident, he was one of the first officers reactivated, part of the elite military brain-trust charged with seeing that Confed stood ready to go to war with an alien enemy. When war came he was quickly elevated to chief of Naval operations of the beleaguered Vega Sector. Rising to his current post in the command upheavals of '46, he is officially the third most senior officer in the Confed Navy. In practical terms, however, he remains the primary strategic architect of the Confederation war effort―the one single man whose decisions most effect the odds of victory or defeat on a daily basis.
Finally seated in the admiral's quarters, this reporter begins with the question that Tolwyn has returned to Sol to answer, “How goes the war?” Not surprisingly, the answer is a precise summation of that given when the Senate asked the same question. “In not more than three years―and probably far sooner than later―we have every reason to expect the Kilrathi to launch on human space an attack of unprecedented scale. This invasion will be, by far, the greatest, most deadly conflict in the history of the human race. At the moment, our forces stand ready to meet this assault. The colonies at the front, are, each and every one, an impregnable fortress, and our fleets are ready to fly out at a moment's notice to meet any alien threat. However, our preparedness must not be taken for granted. The smallest slip in vigilance or in the quality of our support will be seen and ruthlessly exploited by the enemy.”
Before the calm intensity of the admiral's eyes, the reporter almost fears to ask the next question. However, it's one that's on the tongue of every armchair strategist from the metroplexes of Terra to the dust-farms of McClean, and the reporter performs his duty for the public. “Why the defensive posture? Why the long wait? Isn't there some way to take the battle to the cats?”
The answer is calm but resolute. “Rest assured, we are not sitting idle behind our defenses. We'll have some unpleasant surprises for the Empire when they come, and if they don't come we'll have some even more unpleasant surprises to deliver to them. Nor must it be imagined that our long siege has been in vain. Kilrathi losses over the last decade have been astronomical. At least eight times our own, and possibly as much as twice that. The Kilrathi do not fear death, but you may believe that the Empire has felt the losses we have inflicted upon it. It is my opinion that if we can break the next Kilrathi invasion, it will be physically impossible for the Empire to mount another for decades, and that it will then be ripe for pacification, by force if necessary.” Something hard and cold enters his eyes. “We have already taught the cats respect. I fully intend to teach them fear as well.”
One more popular supposition needs to be answered. “What about the systems at the front? Many of them are still active civilian colonies. When the Kilrathi invasion comes, will they be abandoned like the frontier colonies in the early days of the Pilgrim War?” This answer does draw a more impassioned response.
“Never! I was there when we retook those worlds, and I saw what was left. We will not abandon a single . . .” Suddenly, the warrior remembers that he is also a politician. He takes a deep breath and chooses his words with care. “I don't wish to give the impression that I am criticizing the men who created the strategy of the last war. I understand why they had to do what they did. I'm just grateful that I didn't have to make their choice.”
“Nonetheless,” he continues, the fire rekindling in his face, “humanity now faces a far crueler foe than even the most fanatical Pilgrim. Retreat is not an option. I will never willingly surrender a single civilian colony to the Kilrathi. If we stand firm, the enemy will break himself upon the wall of our shields. If one fortress falls, the Emperor will find another equally strong beyond it. There will be losses, and I fear they will be terrible, but there will be . . . can be . . . no retreat. Humanity will stand, or we will die―those are the only options which our enemy has given us. I here to see that we do stand, not just today and tomorrow, but forever. And never thief, nor tyrant, nor petty alien god shall ever cast us down!”