Ambassador Kurt Stevenson sighed as he looked over the files on his screen. So much blood, so much hate, had stained humanity.
For almost a century, the First Contact War had claimed billions of lives. Worlds had been burned, fleets had been shattered, and the entire balance of power had shifted and changed beyond all imagining. And before that, the First Inter Planetary War. And before that World War IV. It seemed as if it was humanities destiny to spread war across the stars.
Closing almost everything, he brought up the logs of the First Contact War. A comprehensive document, there was no secret unrevealed, no treachery or mistake covered up. With it, he could see and feel just what the war became from the eyes of the soldiers that fought it on both sides.
Opening it at a random page, he started to read it once more.
* * * * *
November 13, 2165
7 years into the First Contact War
Planet Solcar IV
It was utter hell in the the stars above the planet. The seventy ships of the Tenth Fleet were locked in battle with 80 enemy ships. So far, both sides had lost half their forces, and the inevitable ground war would soon begin.
No matter what, despite the heroics of the local freighter convoy in evacuating the research complex on planet, critical personnel and equipment were still there.
Meaning that me, Lieutenant Jason Harris, would need to lead a ground team to protect the complex until a heavy-lift shuttle could be sent. If it could sent at all. Fun.
I looked over my gear. The M-80 was a real piece of work. More durable than even the fabled AK line, it was the only small-arms assault rifle capable of comparing to Turian weapons. Sadly, even then, a good number of the secondary functions were still primitive, and could not take much heat in grenade launcher mode. Still, damn good weapon, especially compared to the crap that was the M-25.
That being said, my armor wasn't the best. The exosuits going into production were all reserved for commando and front-line assault units at the time, and the production of mark twelve polyplate eternads was nowhere near demand, meaning I was stuck with a mark ten, more fun.
My squad was no better off. The tenth fleet had been hastily assembled to deal with the need for more ships and was thus not well equipped. Fingering the old toothbrush strung to my tags, I took a minute to think about just what life would be like without the constant war going on. But I got nothing, whatever memories I had were only of war now.
The alarm rang. Time to drop. I mounted onto the APC and sealed the hatch. The countdown began.
"All units, seal hatches. Prepare for spacedrop." The tanks and APC's rolled onto the dropships, disposable one-shot fancy space-to-ground gliders that could carry a tank or a platoon of infantry. The icy conditions on planet made the choice clear. All fifty dropships carried vehicles.
"I hate this." I muttered as I stuffed a gumshield between my teeth.
Strangest thing though is that this operation reminded me of my first one. Which was almost exactly like this. Only worse.
* * * * *
Curious, Kurt went a few pages back. He was currently in the journal of former General Jason Harris, a former war hero before and even after his death in 2181. Finally he found his first battle, the A-day Invasion, the first major ground war against the Turians.
* * * * *
May 16, 2159
1 Year into the First Contact War
En Route to Planet Atero
History would hail this day as the turning point of the blitz. 'No more running' they would say. 'It stops here.' And so we were sent out, half-prepared, on a suicidal counterattack on the Turian homebase.
To say things were cramped was a damn understatement. I didn't even have a bunk, being a lowly private. Only a locker, and a sleeping tube. Even then, we still had to hot bunk. I didn't know who shared it with me, but damn if he didn't reek. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The USS Hope (United Solar Systems for those of you unwilling to reference a dictionary) was the ark that carried over fifteen thousand soldiers to our target. It was half complete, ugly, and underarmed for its size at five aircraft carriers. All it had was a few dozen gauss turrets for defense and only two layers of shields to protect it because its armor was a joke. The same joke applied to the thirty dropships we had. Made me wonder just why we were sent out when we still needed five months of training. Then Dave explained.
We were running out of time. No matter what, the colonies were burning. The frontier fleet wasn't out chasing the Turian armada, it was on the run from them and hasn't been heard from for weeks. As Dave said "We go half ready, or not at all."
And go we did. It a massive and ugly piece of work and not even fully painted. Heck, we had to do the painting. Ships engineers were too busy still building the thing. The escorts weren't better off according to Katrina, just corvettes, frigates, and destroyers of varying quality. Heck, I even saw a Q-ship out a viewport once.
For six months we trained, painted, fixed, and did almost everything onship the crew and the overworked men on Mars couldn't. I bet I could have earned a degree in engineering after that if I tried. But I learned a few grim facts in the process. The computers were buggy, sometimes going down altogether, but the backup system was more reliable, ish. But the grimmer fact was that we only had fifteen upships, Proper shuttles that didn't have anywhere near the carrying capacity of a dropship but could land and take off again multiple times. Scuttlebutt was that we only had enough fuel and upships for half our people. Meaning the bigheads at the Pentagon thought we would take at least 50% casualties. They were so wrong.
One silver lining I had on that trip was Olivia. Almost every chance we had to be together we took. Admittedly, it almost led to my third court offense, if it weren't for the fact our good general was a little lax on the rules. He knew it was a suicide mission and we had the right to spend the last months of our lives doing whatever that made peace with ourselves. Or prevented use from being pycho wrecks. Still didn't stop him from giving the talk though.
Skipping ahead, by the time we reached the last relay, I did what I always tried to do for the past two years, tell Olivia how I felt. I did. She said no. I was to be attached to the General's guard, she was a dropship pilot. When we hit the dirt, I was supposed to be the one to bite the bullet for the man, while she would stay with the secondary units as a auxiliary. Things didn't turn out that way.
But still, she said no because she was afraid of losing me. Gods, how that turned around.