Chapter One: Galatea
The transport rocked as it exited subspace, the mottled blue-white of subspace shifting into a field of stars, a nebula visible as a small but still noticeable spot through the viewport. He leaned against the viewport, staring dully ahead, idly noticing the large station only a hundred kilometers away or so.
At this distance, it was little more than a blur, but he could see the Antares Station in his mind's eye, the great, slowly rotating disc, the long spar coming from it's middle on either side, with countless freighters and transports docking and undocking from it. He supposed it would be more quiet as civilian traffic was no doubt at a minimal, although he suspected there would still be a few cruisers guarding it, their fighters shifting to and fro.
"You don't seem terribly excited."
He snapped out of his reverie and looked over at the small, grinning woman seated next to him. "You've been about as lively as a dying fish since we left Aquilae Station."
"Was that a while ago?"
"Well, there was the jump from the station to the Antares jump point, the transit to the jump point, the jump through...about three hours. Most of the people on here are either excited or scared, you're just bored."
He glanced around, and could tell she was right. Nobody on the flight seemed particularly good at reading faces. "I've been out this way before. Haven't been around it in a few years, but this is nothing new."
"And being sent to go fight the Vasudans doesn't bother you?"
"I learned I was going out nearly a year ago. Between pilot training and travel time, I've gotten over it."
"You're a pilot?" She cocked her head. "That's what they decided I was fit for, too." She held her hand out. "Tanya Velikova."
He shook her hand. "Vincent O'Reilly." She had a firm grip, he noted. "You don't seem terribly bothered either."
"Never been into space before!" She looked around with a grin. "It's not quite as luxurious as the movies show it, but the view is incredible." She ran her fingers through her crew cut. "On the other hand, the haircuts aren't great."
A voice from the cockpit cut in. "Standby for turbulence, we're about to re-enter subspace." The transport began to shake gently as the blue-white portal began to form, the edges visible through the viewport. Tanya leaned over Vincent, her mouth half-open.
"Still haven't gotten used to it?"
"It's only my fifth trip through subspace."
He nodded, then found himself leaning against the viewport. They were only in subspace for a scant few seconds before the portal re-opened, the transport exiting. He furrowed his brow.
"That's odd. Where is it?"
The transport came around, a gigantic ship coming into view, a massive if somewhat ungainly looking ship, like a great sword hanging in space, bristling with cannons and antennae, a gigantic hangar bay on it's lower section. Most of the great battleship became obscured as the transport began it's approach to the hangar.
"Transport Bravo-Two, Galatea
welcomes you to Antares."
Tanya's mouth hung low enough that her chin nearly touched her collar, and Vincent couldn't help but feel impressed by the sight. He, and Tanya as well no doubt, had seen Orion-class vessels in news reports and movies, but seeing one in the flesh was a wholly different feeling.
The transport quickly moved across the space separating them into the docking bay and setting down with a bump and the sound of escaping gas as the clamps attached. A minute or so passed until the light over the ramp went green and the door slid open, leading into the colossal hangars.
Tanya hopped out of her seat, first in the transport, followed by Vincent and the rest of the passengers. He gazed around the deck as they stepped down, awestruck by the sight. The hangar seemed to stretch on forever, with hundreds of technicians working on dozens of craft. Vincent could pick out several types - Apollo and Hercules fighters, Athena and Medusa bombers, Poseidon-class haulers, and a few boxy Elysium-class transports like the one that had brought him to the ship.
"Looks even bigger on the inside."
* * * * *
A badly scarred woman paced to and fro behind the podium, gesturing periodically with her prosthetic arm.
"Pilots, welcome aboard the Galatea
. I'm Captain Shan, commander of Galatea
's second wing. You pilots will be replacing some of the casualties we sustained during the recent Operation Thresher. You're only the tip of the iceberg. Current casualty counts across the Fifth Fleet have us at five hundred and four pilots dead, fourteen missing." Which meant they'd been vaporized, or otherwise reduced to a fine spray of dust.
"The Vasudans still have a strong grip on the jump node to Vasuda Prime, but their inner-system assets have had supplies cut off, which means they're lacking reinforcements and supplies." Captain Shan reached onto the podium and flicked a switch, the screens switching from the GTA symbol into a still image of three huge, bizarrely shaped warships. Vincent leaned over, examining the bizarre shape. They resembled swords broken near the hilt, with the broken end forming the engine section, covered in brown-purple mottled armor.
"These are the core of the Vasudan's Third Fleet - Akenaten, Seti, and Ramesses, all of the Typhon class. Familiarize yourself with them and their known complement. Anubis scouts, Horus interceptors, Seth assault fighters, and Osiris bombers." The Captain stepped down, nodding to them. "I believe you're all scheduled for squadron briefings. The squadron briefing rooms are on the other side of the corridor as you leave. Suicide Kings down to the left, Rhinos dead ahead, Sabers to the right." She waved her hands at them.
"Get going, you're already late."
Vincent stood, Tanya bobbing at his side. "Damn. Five hundred pilots dead? That's, what..."
"About sixty percent of the Fifth Fleet's pilots. Mostly from Galatea
, and Vigilance
"Oh. You read the briefing docket on Thresher?"
"I had a long flight from Mars."
The two of them turned to the right and headed into the 44th Saber's briefing room. The room was about a third full, the seasoned pilots turning in their seats to see the rookies file in.
"So what happened to Captain Shan?"
One of the more experienced pilots heard Tanya's question. "She rammed a bomber making a run on the Galatea
. Ejected before the impact, but the blast and shrapnel..."
Tanya went a little pale, but seemed to retain her characteristic exuberance.
"Wow. She's a badass."
"Hell yeah she is." He turned back around to face the podium as the squadron's CO walked in. Vincent furrowed his brow, this wasn't the commander he had seen in the briefing docket.
"I'm Lieu-excuse me, I'm Commander Stiles, I'll be taking command of the Sabers." He looked a little young to be commanding a fighter squadron. Vincent grimaced. It looked like Thresher was causing some rapid advancements. "To new pilots, welcome to the squadron and the Galatea
. We'll be leaving Galatea
for the next few days to reinforce the GTC Orff
and GTC Surtur
in the Betelgeuse system."
He flicked a switch, displaying a series of shots of Vasudan fighter craft.
"We've had problems in this region with Vasudan raiders, most likely remnants from our taking of the system three months ago. Mostly just scattered groups of fighters, operating out of the system's asteroid belt. We'll be hitching a ride on the next group of transports, and from there assist our cruisers in mopping up. Since we've had about a fifty percent reduction, we'll be mixing our veterans and rookies together. I'll command Alpha Flight, along with Martinez. Blake, Victor, you'll be flying with us. Harbison." The veteran Tanya had spoken to nodded. "You'll be flying with Snipes, along with O'Reilly and Velikova. Connelly..."