Chapter 1: Out of the frying pan...
Horizon Point Station, Cerol
Cerol System, UEE Controlled Space
Cerol System, UEE Controlled Space
Horizon Point Station, part imperial shipyard, part frontier trading post, throw in a few 'navy' bars, and a sprinkle of rustic charm and you had a recipe for... whatever this was. While it wasn't quite a backwater but one could hardly call Horizon Point a thriving center of commerce. While technically a civilian station, since it was seated above the only inhabited planet in the Cerol system, Horizon Point served as one of the UEE's forward operating bases, set a few systems deep into the FEZ/No man's land that the UEE and Coalition were currently fighting over, a point of egress between the frontlines and the UEE's more fortified colonial systems.
As a result, it saw plenty of UEE traffic, and the station's economy ended up growing to suit its military centric clientele. A hodgepodge of services both legal and illicit to provide for the tired and ailing soldier quickly cropped up, and it was often said that an enterprising soldier could find most anything he could need here. Shuttles and freighters laden with supplies zipped back and forth between the station and the surface, bringing supplies to ships docked to its shipyard arms, as wings of fighters and MAS units flew on regular patrols. Several fleets floated in close proximity to the planet, some preparing to leave, others returning from the front lines for much needed repairs.
Among the returning fleets was the Fifth Imperial Expeditionary Fleet, or the 'Fighting Fifths' as the men and women of the fleet often called themselves. Having just returned two weeks prior from heavy conflict within the Ilyan System, fending off a Coalition attempt to establish yet another foothold into UEE space, the majority of the Fifth fleet was undergoing repairs, with several smaller ships being built from the ground up to replace fleet losses. Transports shuttled back and forth through the ships of the Fifth Fleet, delivering supplies and transporting personnel. Shuttles bearing the black and gold stripes of the 101st Legion flew from the the surface of Cerol to several of the fleet's capital ships, as they dropped off new pilots and MAS's to replace the fleet's losses during its previous operations. The majority of the Fifth Fleet and its crew were set to be rotated off the frontlines- moving into a reserve and training role as new pilots and crew needed to be inducted into their specific roles and brought up to speed.
Horizon Point Station
From view on Horizon Point, the planet below looked blue and peaceful, beautiful even. The thick layer of fluffy white clouds almost managed to cover the cratered, scarred, and war torn surface of the planet below. Cerol had been fought over and nearly destroyed half a dozen times over the course of the war, its resources raided and razed, but from up here, one could almost ignore the destruction down below.
"Lieutenant Barret!" called out a voice, young, clear and bright. Looking up, Barret saw a fresh faced young man- almost a boy- approaching him. His face was full of youthful enthusiasm and his dress uniform crisp and freshly pressed, the shiny silver bar on his shoulder marking him as an Ensign in the Imperial Navy. The nametag on his chest denoted him as a man named Sika.
"Did you hear anything about our orders?" Sika asked.
"Nope, nothing's changed since the last time you asked, 15 minutes ago." Barret replied with a shrug as he began walking off, motioning for the young ensign to follow him.
"Its a relief though, this has been a long time coming." Barret said with a relaxed sigh, as the two made their down well populated halls of Horizon Point. "We won't get another chance like this, not for a long time."
A pair of Imperial soldiers met the two officers at the airlock door that led them into the station's UEE branch of the communication hub, the Empire's own personal communications center for military use on the otherwise civilian station.
"C'mon Sika, keep up." Barret called out towards the lagging Ensign. "We're still on the clock."
Onboard the INS Roanoke
Ares-Class Light Carrier
Universal Earth Calendar Date: November 1, 2723
Local time: 0730
The hangar bay of INS Roanoke was abuzz with a quiet commotion. Just outside the ship, the muffled rumble of heavy duty torches could be heard as whole plates of damaged armor was repaired or replaced. Inside, engineers and technicians were walking around making repairs and adjustments to the MAS's and the interior of the ship, working in seemingly tireless shifts as they brought the Roanoke back to full strength. Despite this, the attitude within the hangar was light, lax even, as crew chatted about, eager to finish up shift and cash in their leave passes for a trip to Horizon Point station proper.
The presence of the full engineering team out in force didn't make conditions of the already crampt hangar any more comfortable for the pilots of the 7th MAS Squadron, but they had managed to eke themselves a little circle in one of the emptied MAS bays in the hangar. Sectioned off with a small collection of spare crates the remaining pilots of the 7th Squadron were idling away their last few moments of an admittedly relaxed morning drill. The Roanoke was set to have a new shipment of crew and pilots to restock the ship's losses, and the 7th were standing by to roll out the welcome mat before they began training and orientation. Brit and Sokolov sat cross legged in the center of their little circle playing cards with a few others- gambling for spare rations, trinkets, passes, favors, and whatever else they felt had some sort of tangible value.
Ingram sat on a crate towards the edge of their little gathering, nursing a steel thermos of coffee in his hands. It tasted like shit, and whoever had brewed the coffee this time around had put too much water into the pot, watering down the already piss poor tasting roast. At the very least it was warm, he could feel the heat radiating through his work gloves. The 7th squadron had been pulling rough assignments for the past few months, so the idea of finally being shifted off the front lines had Ingram in a rather celebratory mood. At least for the moment, he relaxed the regulations on pretty much anything the squadron did- not that it was entirely unexpected. Damn near everyone, Ingram included was itching to get off the fucking Roanoke and onto solid, dry land- or at the very least solid, stable orbiting, station steel. The squadron had an easy schedule for the day, and Ingram didn't feel like being the one to rock the boat. At least not this time anyway.
"'Ay Boss." called Brit, in his characteristic cockney drawl, finally taking his eyes off his card game as Sokolov threw his head back and grabbed at his hair in defeat. "If we're calling drill early, what do ya say about letting us off the hook for orientations too?"
Ingram shook his head in response, "As much as I'd love to, unfortunately that's a no-can-do." he replied. "We've got new pilots being flown in, so everyone needs to know what's what."
"Ah Come on boss, that's no fun. We're here for a whole 'nother week, what's waiting a day or five on orientation going to do?" Brit pestered on, winning another trinket from Sokolov, who seemed to be growing increasingly short on goods and increasingly high in desperation.
"Exactly, we'll be here all week" Ingram agreed, "So you'll have plenty of time to get sloshed with the rest of the crew. After, orientation. Besides, orientation takes all of half an hour, how much are you really missing on that station?"
Brit rolled his eyes and groaned, but didn't protest further, instead settling on scamming Sokoklov out of yet another leave pass.