Monday, September 20, 2010

Chapter 4: Routine

     "Here are the day's reports, Admiral."
     Admiral Blake skimmed the infoscreen on the tablet.
     "Do we have data from the 523rd? They were scheduled to begin mapping asteroid Beta Saturi VII in Sector 73 today."
     "Aye, sir."
     The ensign tapped a few keys and brought up Captain Sagan's daily report. Blake expected to see the usual battle chatter that accompanied sortie reports from the 523rd. He didn't mind the Sideshow mixing it up now and again, but the survey ships, despite being old, under equipped and downright ugly, were rare and specialized ships that his task force needed. Blake's command was a deep space exploration task force, and they could not afford to be without their eyes and ears.
    The 96th Galactic Wing was under orders to patrol the outer rim, keep an eye on enemy movements and check up on some of the outer colonies. There were plenty of ships in the task force to complete the mission. The 208th Defense Squadron ("The First Rate" 208) with its mix of 40 ships served as the core of the Wing. With a good mix of craft, the 208th was able to undertake any mission the galaxy could throw at them.
     There was also the 599th "Decatur's Demons" Space Marine Squadron with its core of specialized Class 3 battle transports. Besides being filled to the brim with the toughest intergalactic leathernecks in the fleet, the ships were outfitted with disruptors to disable enemy ships, and grappling hooks to aid in pulling those ships closer so the space marines could take care of business. Among those modified transports, the lead marine ship, the Class IV S.S. Dick Dale, was rigged up with a dense-metal ram on its prow, giving the Demons a potent weapon in their arsenal.
     Serving with the 599th were the rocket troops of 1st Battalion 300th Galactic Grenadiers who have served in almost every conflict since the inception of the original Galactic Protection Force. The 599th also has its own attachment of Class 1 and 2 escort ships that serve close-support roles during  boarding attacks, planetary raids, and colonial and other rescue missions.
     The 47th Command Squadron was Admiral Blake's personal squadron. It was composed of four large Class IV ships besides numerous smaller support craft. Blake's squadron, besides having four Class IV vessels was similar to the 208th in ship composition, serving a multi-task role. Attached to the Command squadron was the 987th Fighter Escort, the "Happy Gats," who have made a small name for themselves, serving honorably in many battles.
     And then there was the 523rd Survey Squadron, "Sagan's Sideshow," whose report the Admirable was troubling over.
     "Ensign, are you sure this is all of it? I see nebular dust counts, radiation numbers from planet Eden, and the mineral report for Beta Saturi...." Blake paused to read more of the report. "And all this chatter indicates the 523rd fulfilled today's scheduled survey without incident."
     Blake stood dumbfounded. He looked at the ensign,  raised his eyebrows and smiled. "I guess the Sideshow will surprise you sometimes, eh, ensign? Finally, I get a day of boring, relaxing routine."
     "Aye, sir. But sir, I have one more report to show you."
     The ensign tapped a few more keys on the tablet bringing up another screen. He handed the tablet to the admiral whose countenance took on the resignation of knowing what he was about to read. The admiral scanned the short report.
     "Two Class IV Imperials?"
     "Aye, sir, listing and afire on the far side of Eden, along with what we think is the debris from several smaller escort ships."
     "Have we taken a count of the 523rd's ships?"
     "All accounted for, sir."
     The admiral's smile was gone, but he was still relieved that he hadn't lost any of his survey ships. He signed off on the tablet, handing it to the young officer.
     "Very well, ensign. Carry on."
     The ensign saluted and walked swiftly back to his duties.
     His fingers intertwined behind his head, the admiral sat back in his chair and looked out the window at the stars toward the planet Eden. He knew the 523rd's handy work, but he forced himself not to think about it. He sat there, cloaking those thoughts by reciting to himself, "Just another routine day. Just another routine day...."

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