The San Diego bar was occupied by the few remaining officers and crew of the USS Langley, SCVN 103, the first United States Nuclear Space Carrier. In 2053, four years before the end of the A. I. War, Langley was state of the art. Now, she was declared obsolete. Newer, faster, more heavily armed ships had quickly push Langley further and further into the background of earth's space going fleet. This was the wake for The Langley. Earlier today she was removed from active service. USS Langley was officially scrapped.
As somber as the general mood was, the mood of Marine Squadron 214 was darker still. They too had been decommissioned. They sat at a large round table, morning the loss of Langley, and each other.
"I can't believe they're just going to scrap her," lamented Lt. Will Harris. "You'd think being the first nuke carrier, they'd make her a museum or something."
Capt. Letha Wood drained the last of her bottle of beer. "The Tombstone'd make a shitty museum. She's a fighter, not a teacher."
"Some fighter, "Lt. Jere Franks groused. "All she's ever done is ferry us around to hunt for renegade AI."
Lt. Kristine O'Neill spoke without looking up from her half empty glass. "I can understand beaching Langley, sort of. But why us? We're the last unit with actual combat experience, for God's sake!"
"You know, I asked that very question," Lt. Tommy Schwartz said. "You know what Colonel Efrain Shepard, Esq. told me?"
Schwartz dropped his normally rather high pitch voice down to a gravelly growl, " 'Combat experience against AI's is experience against machines. Marines can get the exact same combat experience in a simulator.' "
"Lethal" Wood raised her empty beer bottle. "To our glorious leader, Colonel Efrain Shepard,"
Wood dropped her bottle to the floor. Her comrades dropped their drinks, empty or not to the floor as well.
"Maybe they'll keep us for Earth-side instructors," O'Neill said hopefully.
"Looked in a mirror lately, Kris?" Lt. Franks asked. "You're too damn old. Hell, we're ALL too damn old, except for Junior here," he said, draping his right arm over Schwartz.
Letha looked at the other members of the 214th. All had noticeable graying. She knew Schwartz was the youngest of the lot at 36. "Kind of makes you wish you'd took all those promotions over the years, huh?"
Each member of the 214th, The Black Sheep, had passed up promotions to stay with the storied squadron. At the time it seemed like a good idea to do whatever it took to stick with a unit that could proudly trace it's roots back to World War Two. Now? Not so much.
"Yeah. I guess there's not too much call for a 48 year old Junior Grade Lieutenant," Kris agreed.
Franks stood up a little unsteadily, "Bar keep!" he bellowed, "A double round for the oldest, meanest Squadron in the Corps!"
"On the way," came the reply, as Jere plopped back to his chair.
In the far corner of the bar, someone had turned on a large wall mounted TV. The fatherly visage of UN General Secretary Spencer Chartwell was speaking. A Chief Petty Officer turned the volume up high to compete with the murmur of conversation.
"Not since the moment of creation has our universe changed, so infinitely, so desperately, so quickly. Tonight for the first time in the brief history of mankind, we are truly of one planet. Last evening we confirmed that the landing party of the Tellus colony was massacred, unprovoked, by an advanced alien civilization of tremendous power."
All conversation in the bar ceased as everyone focused on the disturbing message being delivered by the United Nations Secretary-General.
"225 are dead. 25 are unaccounted for. Because of destroyed communications we've only now learned that the Vesta colony suffered the same fate. The alien civilization has not responded to our attempts at communication. Of this race we know nothing. The only clue to their people is the bloodshed they've left behind."
Behind the bar the telephone began to ring. The bartender, without taking his eyes from the television, picked up the phone and mumbled, "What" into the receiver.
Spencer Chartwell continued, "My fellow citizens of Earth no matter where you stand on this planet, either beneath the sun's warmth, or the cold of night, the storm clouds of war gather over our home. Soon they may fall in unceasing thunderbolts. We must stand together against the deluge. For we cannot possibly retreat. There is no moving the earth."
As the troubled visage of the Secretary-General faded from the television, the bartender hung up the phone and turned to the silent Navy personnel in the bar.
"All military personnel have been put on alert," he said in a nearly monotone voice. "Report to your duty stations at once. All current crew and former crew of the USS Langley are to report to the orbital shuttle pad immediately."
The members of VMF 214 gravitated toward one another as they headed toward the door. O'Neil opened her mouth to speak but no words would come out. No one else even attempted to speak, as Letha Wood shepherded the rest of the pilots from the bar.
Navy personnel were scattering in all directions, but nowhere was there any sign of civilians. The locals could stay inside and mourn, and later the military personnel would mourn as well. But now they had one thought on their mind. Revenge.