Fortress of solitude
Grand Admiral Taif sat in the command pool, the screens circling his head as he lay back in the cooling waters.
Above him and the pool were the richest tapestries the Empire had ever sewn, but as usual, it was the jars that drew his attention.
Three of them were placed here, forlorn severed heads, their eyestalks swaying in their preserving juices. These were his predecessors, and they watched over every decision. Lifeless stares constantly judged him, reminding him of how important his station was.
The great leader and the architect of the galactic war Drof, with the shrapnel still embedded in his chin had been the first to die, killed by an Assassin in his own bed. His death was what prompted the construction of the command pool. Hermetically sealed and self-sufficient it was a one man command centre. Even a direct nuclear attack couldn’t breach the thick walls.
Of course, having the only person able to move your fleets sealed away in their own fortress of solitude presented its own problems. When the Rasto attacked whilst Grand Admiral Asteif was asleep the shame drove him take his own life. Even then the pool only opened when it had confirmed he was dead, and by the time Junior Admiral Raugaj was installed, we had lost 7 carrier fleets.
Raugaj lost another 15 carriers attempting to retake lost ground and 5 cycles later, when he was executed by gas for grand incompetence, no one was surprised. In his jar, you could see the chemical burns on his cheek, and the scratch marks where he had clawed at his own burning throat.
The war was not going well. But he, Tiaf, had stabilised the fronts, formed new diplomatic relations and expanded his research facilities. But as he agonisingly rebuilt, other empires grew ever stronger.
He had been in this pool, this room for over a week now. Now he realised he should have mentioned the claustrophobia before his promotion.
And now he heard the voices, whispering from the jars.
*“You’re mad you know? Just like me…”* *“Attack them all!”*
Tiaf started humming to himself and flicked back to the science research reports. But even as he focussed on the data, the volume of the dead increased, slowly tearing at his insanity…