Phew, it's been a long time since I posted something here. Anyone who knows me will know me as an oft-absent fellow who cannot hope to update when he says he will, if at all.
That said, I've returned with a Starlancer fic in hand. This is set a few years after the colony ships departed for Sirius and works under the assumption that the Nomads didn't incinerate the Solar system shortly thereafter.
Rated for bog-standard adult themes, swearing and the like (if not now then soon).
The one Russian word that appears comes from a questionable translation website, as such it may very well be wrong. If someone can read Russian then please tell me if i've misspelt.
And finally, I do not own Starlancer, Chris Roberts does, I think.
Either Us or Them
By Richard Paul
Chapter 1: Indomitable
Captain Harvey LeGuin walked from window to window. Pausing each time to take a brief glance at the stars before closing the shutters. It made little difference to the light level in the room, but it was habit. One little tradition from the home that he and Jack had fled from and would probably never see again.
The final shutter closed with a quiet hiss. Fighting the urge to sigh, he turned back to face his son, who was watching him with impatient eyes.
"Ok then," He said, sitting down on the end of the bed, "Which one do you want to hear tonight?"
"Something new." Jack replied hopefully, Harvey smiled. That was what he always wanted. A new and exciting tale of the 100 year war, something that he and his friends could re-enact the next day in the playing field on J-deck.
There were no new stories, there were hardly any old ones. No one remembered the why of things, or when they happened. It was as his father had told him, there were only two sides, the Coalition and the Alliance. After a century of war and so many people dead, that was still the primary truth of the human race. Both sides continued to tear at each other, some out of hatred, some out of habit. No one could see anything else.
Still, that wouldn't make for a good story, and his son needed something to enjoy.
"Let me think." He paused, trying to remember what planets or moons he had already mentioned, "Have I told you about Cressida?"
"No." Jack grinned slightly at the unfamiliar name, unfamiliar names meant new stories.
"Right, well Cressida was, or is I suppose, one of Uranus' moons. There was a small alliance colony there. Nothing too big, it had only been colonised thirty years ago, most of the colonists were still living in the original artificial habitats. You couldn't even go outside cause they hadn't installed the atmospheric regulators. No air."
Jack nodded, as his father stopped for breath.
"There were still a lot of people there though, 9000 at least. When the Alliance pulled back from Triton they kept their main fleet around Fort Valiant in Uranus' orbit, but they moved three Class 2 carriers to Cressida to defend the colonists while they were evacuated to Pluto."
"Which carriers were they?"
Good question. He always wanted the names of the warships and pilots and fighter squadrons. This tended to result in some rather hasty and panicked guess work with each bedtime story, this one was no exception.
"Errr, I think it was the Armageddon, the Moran and the Spitfire."
"I thought the Spitfire was destroyed at Mars."
Harvey had to smile, Jack had inherited his mother's photographic memory, and was using it to trump him just as she had used to.
"This was a different Spitfire, a newly built one. This was all about thirty years after the Mars conflict came to an end."
"Anyway, for months the Coalition hit at the Alliance's defence perimeter with fighter wings and torpedo bombers. They were trying to knock out the Alliance's heavy ships one by one, and more often then not they failed. But while they were doing this, they sent their heavier forces to Cressida, hoping that by attacking the colony they'd draw our ships way from the main colony on Uranus."
"Divide and conquer." Jack said quickly.
"Exactly. But like all of the Coalitions plans, it didn't work out as easily for them as they would have liked. Our three ships gave them hell and more."
Jack grinned a familiar grin. The Alliance might not have many victories to its name, but they sure as hell never went down without a fight. That was as true today as it had ever been.
"Allied central command had crewed those carriers with as many people as they could who had come from Uranus or Cressida, or with people who had families there. They knew that if those people had to fight for their homeland, and for their families, they'd fight with everything they had. And they did. The Coalition sent wave after wave against the three carriers, and they lost four cruisers, two of their own carriers and hundreds of fighters before they finally managed to overcome the Armageddon and even then, with her shields and weapons gone and the hull collapsing around the crew, the Armageddon's Captain flung the ship into a Coalition carrier, the Kvaloy, destroying them both
Jack's face fell slightly, for all the glorified exaggerations, there was no getting around the obvious truth that the Alliance lost in the end. The Coalition, no matter how much or little their nose was bloodied in the process now held the entire solar system, and all that remained of the Alliance was huddled together on Fort Sparta, a rickety space station on the edge of nowhere.
"They never stopped fighting. The Moran and the Spitfire held out for another two months while the evacuation transports came and went without any trouble. Then it finally occurred to the Coalition that they wouldn't manage to break through the line without one massive push. And even then, they lost far more then they gained."
He paused for dramatic effect, Jack waited expectantly.
"But I'll tell you more about that tomorrow."
"Ahhh, come on, tell me now."
"It's late." Harvey said, standing up, "And I've got to get to work." He ruffled Jack hair, earning a grunt of indignation from him as he did so.
Harvey moved to the heavy metal hatch which opened with a loud creak.
"Are you still gonna be flying when I'm old enough?"
"Old enough for what?"
"To be a pilot, I want to know if I'll ever get to fly on your wing one day."
Harvey wanted to say that it wouldn't be the same solar system when he was old enough, that the war would be over and that being a pilot wouldn't be quite so thrilling a prospect for the young. But he knew better. The war had raged for a hundred years, maybe it would go on for a hundred more. The only people who were free of it were the lucky sods on the Sirius bound sleeper ships. Assuming they were still alive that was.
"I don't know Jack." He said, "Hopefully."
"Yeah." Jack replied, yawning and pushing his head into the pillow, "I hope so."
Harvey, somewhat unsure of what to hope for, stepped through the hatch and closed it behind him.
"Keep it quiet people, let's get this done and then get out there."
The briefing room fell silent as Squadron Commander Arduino Mancini stepped towards the podium. He wasted no time in activating the map screen. The all too familiar and unpleasant sight of red outlines representing the Coalition ships of the восстановление (Restoration) fleet.
"Now first thing you'll be pleased to hear is that preceding strikes have finally succeeded in knocking two enemy destroyers out of the airwaves, as well as a class two carrier."
Three red outlines vanished from the screen. Some short lived cheering followed. Those were three less ships that they'd have to deal with when that fleet finally got underway for what the Coalition was hoping would be the final battle, which would destroy the Aliance once and for all. They kept hoping for that but it never seemed to happen.
"We'll bag another destroyer." Captain Amy Jones whispered to Harvey, "At least."
"More then that." He replied, "Another carrier."
"Now as we speak the 934th Saxons and the 942nd Katanas are trying to thin out the fighter support around the Czar class carrier Huang Di. They'll be pulling out in fifteen minutes, just as we pull in with the 939th Patricians. Now if we can trash enough of their fighters we might even be able to hit a turret or two, maybe even call in a bomber strike, but don't get obsessive. We're heavily outnumbered and the enemy still has more then enough ships to re-enforce from. Hit and run, same as always. Strong emphasis on the word run. God knows we can't take many losses.
Nods from the assembled pilots of the 989th Musketeers answered Mancini.
"Questions? No? Good. We launch in ten minutes, dismissed."
The Shroud Mk 8 stealth fighter was supposedly modeled for the classic that 'The Unnamed Pilot' had supposedly flown during his instrumental role in the attack on the Coalition's outer-system headquarters in the very first year of the war.
Harvey sniggered, 'The Unnamed Pilot' who had supposedly turned the tide of the war almost single-handedly, Amongst his, (or her, no one knew for certain) mythic achievements were supposedly the deaths of no less then six enemy ace pilots, including the first two members of the infamous Petrov legacy, now all dead thankfully but that was beside the point. Those weren't entirely unbelievable, but the stories only got more and more fanciful. One notable example was the destruction of the first ever Czar class super carrier with only two missiles. No one telling this story ever cared to point out the glaring absurdities in it. The strangest story he'd ever heard involved said pilot fighting alone in his trusty Shroud fighter against a genetically engineered space faring giant squid. Even as a naive schoolboy he'd taken that one with a pinch of salt.
Still, the Unnamed Pilot and the band of merry supermen to which he belonged, namely the 45th Flying Tigers had provided both he and Jack with more then a few good bedtime stories, and so for that favor he tried not to laugh too loud when he thought of him, or her.
He had little doubt that there was someone once upon a time whom history had twisted into the oft-ludicrous legend, just as there was probably once a real 45th Flying Tigers or flying something, though they were probably not the ragtag group of former mercenaries, police pilots and civilians that somehow became the premier squadron of the war.
"Are you just gonna stare at that thing," Captain Valerie Enriquez asked, shoving Harvey forwards and then dragging towards the Shroud by his collar, "Or are we gonna go bury some Red-men?"
"Yeah, sorry." He released himself from his co-pilot's grasp and placed his blue and white helmet over his head.
"Just like the old days," Valerie mused, "God I missed this."
"There's nothing like it."
The two ascended their respective ladders and climbed into the waiting fighter. It was a cramped fit, and with the canopy closed there was barely a two meter gap between it and Harvey's head. Still, an overly luxurious war machine probably wouldn't be appropriate.
He flicked numerous switches, activating the ship's systems in preparation for launch as the magnetic crane overhead moved the ship to it's runway.
"Musketeers, you are cleared to launch. Give 'em hell."
"Wheeeeeeeeee!" Valerie shouted as the ship shot out of one of the many launch bays on the station. She did that every time.
Fort Sparta wasn't much to look at from the outside, the former deep space observation post, formerly known as Voyager 9, had been hastily converted to both a military headquarters and a fully fledged artificial habitat in only nine months. As a result of this rushed and hasty retrofitting, it looked a lot like a bulky spider with several legs missing. Not the most flattering of sights, but it certainly served its purpose.
"Okay people, you know the drill, get in, kill as much as you can in fifteen minutes and get out. If things get too hairy, bug out."
"Understood." Harvey responded.
"Yeah, yeah." Major Francine Davies said with a yawn of sorts, "We know the drill."
"Let's get going." Said another Finnish pilot whose name Harvey could never remember. He hadn't been with the Musketeers long.
"Hey, hold on people," The station's com officer said hurriedly, "I've got new orders for you. Bear with me a second."
"Oh great," Valerie said over the com to the squadron, "Probably another escort run. Someone pilfered a convoy full of crowbars and we've got to escort the freighter back."
"And you know it'll only be able to manage sub-light jumps." Harvey predicted gloomily.
"Ok," The com officer continued, stopping to clear his throat, "I've got good news and bad news. Good news is that a patrol wing picked up a Coalition convoy consisting of four Gilgamesh class bulk freighters moving past Neptune, looks like they've stopped to let their jump cores cool down. If we work quickly we can be in, ransack the transports and be gone before they can get a distress call off."
"Now that's more fucking like it." Lieutenant Damian Mason shouted, punching his cockpit with one angry fist.
"Bad news," The com officer continued, "Is that said convoy is guarded by a Coalition cruiser and its escort wing."
"Pffft." Was Valerie's comment.
"Go in, knock out the communication arrays, destroy the fighters, remove the turrets and engines on all ships and we'll send in bombers and boarding parties once you're done. Everyone clear?"
"Clear." Mancini responded for us all, "Ok people I've received co-ordinates, prepare to jump out."
Whereas once, a trip to Neptune from Fort Sparta would have taken the better part of a day even with a jump engine, the latest innovations in propulsion had rendered in-system jump travel as effortless as stepping across a room. They'd be at Neptune in under a minute.
"All ships form up," Mancini said, "Activate your jump engines on my command."
Harvey pulled his ship into formation with his wing leader and awaited the countdown.
"Three, two, one, engage."
To be continued.