The flight back to Sen'Tral was far too short. Keith had next to nothing for time to himself. The shuttle was full of wounded in the bottom deck hooked up to stasis chambers while the top deck was crowded with soldiers heading home on leave. Keith however wouldn't get any such rest. He hung his head, hands folded on his knees thinking through all of the possible ways that blue squadron could have avoided getting killed. But after he realized that everything he was coming up with would have worked, It began to sink in that he was dwelling on biased solutions, some of them looked at far too optimistically. He rubbed his eyes as they came out of the sector gate wormhole and gazed at the seething deep blue planet of Sen'Tral. It's vast oceans were covered by blotches of cities and green luscious jungles. Large agro bulbs (spherical agricultural structures for producing fruits and vegetables designed to be left at sea for periods of time and harvested in bulk) floated in the fresh water seas and oceans. Sen'Tral was by far, the second most populated planet in the galaxy, Second to the neutral planetary district of Humanity, a man made moon of city populated by almost every intelligent culture in the galaxy. Trillions of vessels swarmed through out the system intermingled with advisory military warships positioned through out, maintaining a watchful eye on the populace.
Suddenly a small fleet of pirates hyper-spaced in and began opening fire on almost any ship in sight. Dozens of civilian ships rallied to the aid of the Federation warships as the pirates attempted to attack.
"Hey, what's going on out there?" One of the soldiers asked.
"They've been doing that ever since word got out that the Federation whooped the Empire over Kythos. They think the federation is changing the guard to get the weaker boys to the rear area And put the stronger ones on the front. Only we hadn't really thought that far ahead. So they're getting surprised pretty easily and don't stay long. Word probably hasn't gotten back to their dispatch station yet wherever it's at cause they're still coming in wave attack patterns." The Shuttle pilot said casually as he wove through the chaos towards the planet of jokes about the pirate attacks quickly were sent back and forth returned by laughter and cheers for the Auroran Federation. Keith stayed out of it and stared out of his view port window as they descended into one of the planet's numerous cities covering the surface. In any other instance, he would have joined in. Only he wasn't really feeling up to it.
The landing was smooth and easy. The rear wall split open and slid aside as the soldiers walked onto the landing platform. Keith shouldered his bag of belongings and walked into the city. It was rather nice to be somewhere warm again. Somewhere that at least had a sun anyway. After checking in at the initialization panel, he made his way over to one of the glass buildings the platform was adjoined to the landing pad and followed the others to find a inter city taxi. The terminal was swarming with everyday people. Some were busy trying to get to work, others were reading the headlines of the federation victory over Kythos waiting for the inter-metro shuttle to their destinations. Keith stood at the edge of the platform, wearing his blue camouflage uniform and blast proof vest. All of the soldiers wore it coming home since it was a sign of honor. And it got free rounds of drinks at some of the local bars.
He set his bag on the floor and put his hands in his pockets, watching the news updates on the federation victory on the transparent walls overlooking the beautiful ocean, foliage clinging to the walls to get a better position in the sun. He sighed sadly as he saw his military picture flash across as it's own article. How he struck a decisive blow to the Empire when he hijacked an enemy warship and led the daring move that forced the Imperial fleet to retreat. Each article was four heros short of the full story. The media would hammer him when he arrived at the galactic house.
A gentle tug on his pant leg caused him to turn around and find a five year old boy looking up at him, hands folded behind himself shyly.
"Are you a real soldier?"The boy asked pointing at the news walls with his picture on them. Keith looked over his shoulder at the articles about himself and got down on one knee so he was eye level with the boy and looked over the child's shoulder. His mother was sitting on a bench smiling hands folded over her knee. Her husband was seated next to her one arm around her shoulder beaming at his son, happy to be home. From his clothes, he appeared to be a Federation marine. Keith looked back to the boy and smiled.
"For what it's worth, yeah. You could say that." he said smiling.
"Like my daddy?" the boy asked.
"Like your daddy." Keith replied.
"Then why aren't you happy like daddy is?" the boy asked, reading Keith's emotions perfectly. Keith sighed and shook his head.
"I lost some friends back there." Keith said honestly pointing at the news articles on the battle for Kythos.
"And you won't see em' again, will you?" the boy asked, saying it more like a statement.
"No I won't see them again."Keith admitted.
"Daddy felt that way too once. But he got better. He isn't all better, but he is better." the boy said in his own way, hesitating on the phrases that repeated. Keith paused for a moment and looked back at the boy.
"You'll get better." the boy said certainly and walked back over to his parents. Keith met the eyes of the boys father. There was a pause of silence between Keith and the marine.
"Welcome home kid." The father said with a sincere nod.
"Good to be back." Keith replied solemnly and nodded in return before turning, picking up his belongings bag, and heading over to the inter-metropolis shuttle he was waiting for. He got on with around a dozen other soldiers and almost a hundred commoners, all headed for the capital city of New Citadel.
He got on board and grabbed onto one of the support rungs as the long slender vessel began to fill up. People began instantly recognizing him from the articles but when they saw he wasn't in a good mood of any sort, they refrained from interacting with him. However some were calling friends telling them they were on the same shuttle as Keith Roiker which was pretty cool considering that he was on the news the same minute as they were standing next to him. However he was far from enjoying all of the attention. News reporters would bombard him when he would arrive. Then out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of a familiar face.
"Jefraim?"Keith asked slightly stunned. Jefraim smiled and got up from one of the seats and strode over to him.
"How did you know what shuttle I was?" Keith asked to Jefraim's amusement.
" Actually I was hoping to meet you on the landing platform but we experienced a technical difficulty when we were relocating Stargate to it's new home New Citadel. I looked up in the landing records the current military arrivals and your name was already registered as landed and accounted for in this city. And since this city only has one shuttle directly to the capital, There would be a slim chance that I'd miss you. Sorry to hear about what happened back there by the way. You alright?"Jefraim asked, his mood changing to serious.
"I just wish that I could have done something." Keith said reminiscing over the scenarios he'd come up with.
"Keith, everyone in the Federation Armed forces has experienced the loss of buddies to the war."Jefraim said knowingly.
"Yeah? You're in the science division, what would you know?" Keith fired back.
"I wasn't always in the science division. I used to be a marine. You know that much. But the reason why I transferred to the science division is little known." Jefraim said seriously.
"Then why?" Keith asked still rattled.
"The Federation was conducting a routine raid on one of the nearby Imperial outposts. My team and I were deployed to the surface to shut down a research facility developing faster and more effective weapons batteries for warship installment. We captured the information alright. Numerous reports were coming in that teams were being ambushed on the other side of the compound. I thought since we were south of the conflict that we could reach the lift point without any trouble. Well, we got slammed by a crossfire of imperial remnants and lost half of our contingency. I lost every man in my platoon that day. Because I ignored the danger, it bit me in the back. From then on, I refused to lead combat encounters. I transferred to the science division to get away from the frontline." Jefraim said. Keith stared.
"Keith, there are some things we can't stop, no matter how many excuses we make for ourselves. Blue squadron was a part of you that was ripped away heartlessly by war. Giving a heartless verdict of failure to yourself doesn't help matters. War is heartless enough without your problems adding to the fact." Jefraim said laying a hand on Keith's shoulder. Keith sighed and looked back at Jefraim.
"So why exactly do I need to show up to this political nonsense?" Keith asked focusing on the problem at hand.
"The Federation has gathered together the ambassadors from all corners of the galaxy to ask for their allegiance. They want you to represent the federation's victory over Kythos." Jefraim said bluntly.
"Why me?" Keith asked.
"You spearheaded the attack with your hijacked Maximus Warship." Jefraim pointed out. Keith rolled his eyes.
"Do your job and everyone wants to hear about it." He mumbled. Jefraim grinned.
"That was more than your job specified you have to admit." Jefraim said jokingly.
"War has no rules, let alone job specifications. My job was to by any reasonable means necessary, repel the invasion. I did." Keith stated.
"They were expecting you to do your part in a fighter." Jefraim reminded blatantly.
"So they just want me to throw in some good words and get everybody to help the federation?"Keith asked.
"As many as possible. Or at least, that's the hope." Jefraim shrugged.
"Let me guess, no preassure?" Keith asked simply.
"Actually compared to previous adventures, no. There's a lot of pressure. Considering this may very well spark galactic civil war." Jefraim said nervously.
"Lucky me." Keith mummbled shrugging