5: Into the Black (1/3)

18 2 2

March 24, 2180 (New Era Calendar)/
Antilla System, Alloyo Military Academy, Alloyo

Commander Myles Warren sat in complete darkness, the only light in his office coming from the hovering holographic projection of Septem Eslos, Antilla's Prime Minister.

...bringing in merc pilots. We are still maintaining fighter superiority, but just barely. For every two of theirs we take down, they get one of ours. On top of that, he is getting ships and materiel from somewhere. My intelligence leads are cold. Whoever Stenbach has running counter-intelligence is good.

Myles watched the recorded message intently. He knew the war with the Patriots wasn't going as well as Antilla's news outlets had been reporting, but the way he heard it in Septem's voice, there was a chance that Antilla could actually lose the war. Worse, the Commander may have agreed with him.

Not because of their capabilities in combat, or the will of the warriors out there fighting, but because of the bootstrapping coming straight from the Antillan Parliament itself.

Gradual escalation is what Parliament called it.

At the outset of the war with the Patriots back in 2177, instead of ending Zamir Stenbach's insurgency with the full might of the Antilla Space Force, Parliament desired to bring the man back into the government fold. The war was fought, not with victory in mind, but with the idea of sending a message, or warnings, or, some other intangible concept that made Myles' stomach turn in on itself.

The intent being that, if Stenbach didn't stop his war, Antilla would begin to fight seriously -- a concept that could've only been conceived by people who had never been in a fight before. The thinking at the time was that if Stenbach felt any real pressure, he would seek help from the Alliance or the Confederation, and that prospect scared most of Parliament. Neverminding the fact that Stenbach and his Patriots operated on a hyper-naturalist doctrine.

Regardless, that thinking trickled down into the rank and file of the Antilla Space Force. With Parliament micromanaging much of the conflict, they used their powers to designate targets. Patriot shipyards, supply depots, even Stenbach's network of mining platforms were all declared off limits.

A strike at any one of Stenbach's mining platforms would have delivered a serious blow to the Patriots' ability to acquire new ships. Myles knew, as did most of anyone with half a brain, that Stenbach had been using the raw dilithium tapped by his platforms to fund his war effort. That's what it was all about for the powers that be -- they just wanted access to Stenbach's platforms and the money that would come from them.

Myles shook his head.

Rules of engagement set forth by Parliament prohibited engagement of Patriot Forces unless there was a direct, immediate and confirmed threat. This negated the way Antilla's entire Space Force had been trained to fight, especially its starfighter crews whose primary role in most hard-space engagements was to provide them with a lightning fast, first-strike capability.

Myles stopped listening to Septem's message at this point and his eyes moved to the growing stack of datapads on his desk. He grabbed the one off the top of the pile and typed a few command strings that brought up a list labeled Pilot Candidates: Final. There were twelve names on the list and he went over them top to bottom, clicking each name and reviewing each cadet's file. Containing everything ranging from simulator scores to academic evals, these dossier files provided Myles with an extremely comprehensive overview that helped him make the decision on who would advance to this final stage in the program.

Ultimately, however, the final twelve were chosen not just because of their test scores, but because each one of them had shown the Commander flashes of leadership. This was crucial to him because upon graduation, the graduates would receive orders to report to front line squadrons where they would distill the lessons they learned at Alloyo.

Into the Black: Birth of LegendsWhere stories live. Discover now