Diaries of a Loyalist Pilot
I doubt anybody can really tell you how the civil war started. People will talk about the why, the who, the where, and the what, but no one can tell you how. Sharon, my co-pilot, said it's the inherent slowness of interstellar communications. It's like we're back to pre-industrial Earth, when the only way people could communicate was by horse courier. You can't send messages faster than light, so when you're some stick-up-his-ass admiral trying to coordinate his forces on one end of Confederate space with some other admiral back in the Sol system, well, things got complicated quick.
I was stationed at the colony planet Nova Russia, attached to its local defense fleet. It was a small force, mainly to discourage pirate raiders from the neighboring Vala-Shiva system - Only four ships in all, none larger than a frigate. We were under the command of Commodore Robert Bertrand, a by-the-book officer with family planetside.
News of military units going AWOL and firing on each other didn't reach us until open conflict had completely broken out between the loyalists and the rebels. Sharon and I were enjoying shore leave in New Moscow when the colonial news stations broke the story.
Sure, we're heard about the fights between colonial and Earth representatives in the United Assembly. We saw President Jiang assassinated by that radical on Revolus and the emergency election that followed. Hell, Sharon and I were part of the top-secret bombing missions of suspected rebel bases on Ares Station before we got posted on Nova Russia. But we never thought it'd turn to open war.
As soon as the seriousness of the news sunk in, Sharon and I took the quickest cab back to the Navy base five miles out of the city. The place was in complete chaos.
From what we could tell, the commanding officer of the base, an Army officer, Colonel Levin, had locked it down. The rest of the officers had turned on each other, some supporting the government, others condemning it.
I couldn't believe it. Those of us in the service were allowed to hold our own political views and though we occasionally disagreed, I never thought we'd turn on each other like this. I knew other pilots in my squadron who thought Jiang's policies were wrong, that the colonies deserved as much say in the Confederate government as Earth's nations. They were good men. Hell, I was born on Arcturus. I'd never been to Earth, except during the Navy's victory tour after we destroyed the last Zek hive. But I never bothered with politics. I've served for eighteen years; I had no home other than the Navy.
At the base, the loyalists had the upper hand and a majority of the rebels were arrested. A couple guys got killed, mostly security officers under the rebels' ringleader, Lieutenant Daniel Olenko. Colonel Levin had been wounded, but was coherent enough to okay our request to return to the fleet.
Our Archangel was in Landing Bay B, where the thickest of the fighting had taken place, but it would take more than small-arms fire to damage her neosteel-armored hull.
She was beautiful. The T-95 Archangel Mobile Weapons Platform/ Variable Fighter was the pride of the Navy's Strike Corps. She could go from agile, elegant starfighter to ground assault walker at the push of a button. She could be tricky but in the hands of a good team she was unparalleled, and Sharon and I were the best.
Getting back into the pilot's seat was always like coming home. Slipping that helmet on, the earpiece relaying every breath Sharon took in the seat behind me, made me more comfortable than any music ever could.
"All systems go, LT," Sharon said into the comm as her console blinked to life.
With that, engines humming, I took us up and out of the landing bay. Then, thrusters roaring to full burn we shot skyward, leaving the base, then New Moscow as mere dots on a gray landscape.
As we punched through the atmosphere, our computer logged us into the fleet's comm-link. That was when we discovered the full extent of the rebellion.
The comm-channels buzzed with the chatter of a hundred voices, but what we gleaned from it was not good.
Of the four ships of the Nova Russia Defense Fleet, three were under the command of rebel officers, among whom was Commodore Bertrand. Only one ship, the IHS Narwhal, under Captain Rachel Mendez, had defied the rogue commodore's orders. She held position amidst the planet's orbital defense array, trading fire with Commodore Bertrand's ships. The twelve defense platforms, powerful gauss cannons mounted on satellites, fortunately under the command of loyalist crews, were also opening fire on the other three ships.
But the fight wasn't going well for the Narwhal. Commodore Bertrand knew how to fight and the three ships under his command were concentrating their fire on the defense platforms one at a time.
We drifted in space outside combat sensor range for several minutes. Attacking the rebel ships would be suicide, but I knew we couldn't just let Captain Mendez go down without a fight.
"Suicide - Heh, we've done it before. We can do it again," Sharon said.
What she said cemented by conviction. We were Archangel pilots - suicide missions were in the job description.
I put the thrusters on full, both hands on the control stick, fingers over the trigger. I took a breath.
"Here we go."
To be continued...