18th Dec 2006
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For those who have actually read my series, this is three weeks AFTER the Great Battlezone Duel and 50 years BEFORE the events in Politics and Soldiers.
Halfway along the Orion Arm of the Galaxy, a pristine new frigate zipped out of I-Flight. The stealth ship was brand new out of the Tantra Domum shipyards, bearing the proud insignia of Shadow Guard; they had, after emerging victorius in the Great Battlzone Duel, come to claim their prize.
"Bring us to 1/4 thrust, activate the camoflage plates, extend the radar-proofs," the young captain of the Heracles ordered. He wasn't especially worried that they would be detected; the Orion Arm had only been discovered a month ago, and Shadow Guard had been granted a full year to establish their bases in it before other forces could attack. Still, military protocol applied, and the young commander wanted to break his new crew in.
"Aye aye captain; all stations report stealth confirmation. The only thing that scanners of any kind could detect would be a bit of gas."
The rock-solid voice of his first officer was a good thing; except for the engineering chief down below, the entire crew were fresh from the academy. Despite their attemps to enmesh themselves in protocol, the captain could sense their nervousness; and that made him nervous too. After all, the Heracles was his first command; everything was new.
"Scanning officer, commence a sweep of the third and fourth planets. Watch for those gas giants helm, their gravity wells are huge."
The two crew members nodded, and with only slightly shaking hands made adjustments.
"Nothing sir," the scanner officer reported. It clearly took him considerable effort to speak, and his voice showed it. "No bases or anything. The third planet reads inhabitable, just like the probe reported; apart from an unusual number of meteors orbiting it, the planet is standard Class-H. Request a landing expedition before the colonists land to scout it out."
The captain gave the young officer a fierce glare, and let a hint of authority creep into his voice.
"Is that an order, ENSIGN?"
The young man paled, and quickly shook his head. "No sir."
The captain frowned, and nodded.
"Number one, launch Alpha Squadron. Get both the Falcon and the Wildfire on lead to guard the colony ship."
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