(Clears his throat.)
OK, I’ll cut to the chase.
Six months back, our platoon was headed to a remote sentry outpost on the frosty side of Anselm, swapping chairs with the poor slobs who had been assigned to that ice world for the previous year. We had just warped in-system and were calculating to make our final jump when we got the priority call from Korhal IV: all Minotaur-class battlecruisers were being recalled to the capital to be refitted for interatmospheric combat.
Instructions were for any non-critical missions to belay their progress, drop any passengers and payloads at the nearest habitable checkpoint, and warp to HQ posthaste. Retrieval would be assumed by secondary military vessels as command deemed appropriate. That sobered us up real fast. You know as well as I do that the term “habitable” can be used a little too loosely by the Dominion.
Unexpected transfers are a part of military life, Private.
Yeah, well, I don’t think anybody was happy about being indefinitely sidelined for a vehicle upgrade.
Our nav comp calculated that the nearest rock fitting these criteria was a barren mining world on the edge of our in-system range: Sorona. You’ve seen it – a rust-orange planet with a slender asteroid ring around its midsection. Looks like a fat kid wearing a dirty little belt.
(Laughs, then catches himself.)
Yes, I’ve seen Sorona.
Right. I’d been a medic with the 128th platoon for two years at that point. We called ourselves the Iron Jesters, under the command of Lieutenant Travis Orran. Only a handful of our crew had ever seen combat before, and most of that was just minor peacekeeping actions. Yeah, we were hardly the Heaven’s Devils, I know; they don’t send war heroes out to sit watch on Anselm. Regardless, I don’t think any of us imagined that our temporary setback was going to be somewhat more than temporary.
That was six months ago. Six months, Doc.
Regardless, there was no welcoming committee waiting for us on the hot tarmac.
This is not uncommon, Private. Some of the smaller colonies lack the personnel to keep a starport fully staffed.
This wasn’t a case of arriving during lunch break, Doc. The place was empty. Had been for a long time.
The lieutenant’s plan was to gather whatever supplies we could carry and slog the fifteen miles to the nearest colonial outpost, a little hole in the ground called Cask. There we would make contact with the local mayor and try to find a comfortable place to camp out for the duration. Lieutenant Orran joked that we’d at least be able to work on our tans before shipping out to Anselm. There were a few laughs; I think we were all trying to look on the bright side of the situation.
The zerg cut that short.
(This is followed by a long pause and the sound of Gentry shifting in his seat.)