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    Thread: A Hard start to Life

    1. #1
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      Default A Hard start to Life

      The Hard Road to Life


      Chapter 1: Stanley does his best to survive

      Stanley Hudson was the oldest of 6 kids...a fact that doesn’t mean much in a run down town like this one. His dad couldn’t keep it in his pants, so he had more kids than enough, and was still at it.

      And things here are tough too, the mine the town was based on was slowly dying, and work was getting less and less. No one had much education because it was never needed, the mines were always here and calling for help. But that wasnt the case anymore and Stans dad, Joe Hudson was sure they were all going to die here...probably of starvation...and had all but given up.

      But Stan did his best to help out...he worked part time as mechanic and an apprentice under old man Harris at the Scrap yard...and was learning pretty well too, but his dad wasn’t taking it well, not even when Stan brought in some extra food to help out...he felt he was belittling him for not taking care of his family himself.

      Even though it might look that way Stan was only trying to survive, as his mom mentioned a few times, but Joe was a stubborn fool and after a while he seemed to get an idea that pleased him, and so he said he and Stan were going out for a walk, and when he returned he had cash for the first time in a long while...and Stanley was gone.

      His mom was seriously pissed and screamed until Joe said he got Stan a job on a space freighter and he was out there now working as a mechanic for some Cargo Captain, and she gave him a really dirty look that he ignored easily.

      “And they paid you for finding him, not selling him as a slave?” She screamed as Joe just sat back with a cold drink and shrugged.

      “ Might as well die out there as here...” he mentioned as she finally knew the truth, and decided that she wasnt long for this house anymore.

      The Captain Joe sold him to was a fool of huge proportions, in all and many ways. He thought the Universe orbited him and his ideas, and that thought got him into trouble more then a few times in the past,usually when his mouth got the best of him and he got his butt kicked for saying something someone didn’t want to hear.And when a 300 pound man hits the ground rooms shake,and people laugh...a lot.

      But his opinions were his own and he wasn’t going to change them even while someone was helping him back to his feet.

      Women should bow down to men..was one...and Slavery will save the Human race..was another, and while some planets allowed it many didn’t, and so his ‘crew’ got hidden away when he made deliveries there and many station managers knew it and asked nothing so long as the cargo got delivered.

      But on one such job the cargo was sliding down heavy metal rollers into the stations cargo bay when a roller broke and trapped one station workers leg under it. His leg was smashed pretty badly and the old Captain screamed for help, and Stan heard it and ran out to see what he could do for him. He saw Stan trying to pry the thing off the man and screamed and knocked him off his feet with a backhand, as everyone nearby looked shocked.

      “I told you never to come out on the docks!” He screamed as Stan jumped up with blood running from his nose and screamed right back that HE had called for help, so he came as fast as possible. “Get back inside, do it now!” Stan heard as he refused saying if they didnt get this off the man he would lose his leg, and the Captain drew back again when Security ran in to see what was happening, and the trapped man said Stanley was trying to help him but this fat fool wouldn’t let him.

      “Get that off him now and get him to the Infirmary.” The head of Security screamed and everyone got under it and lifted and one lady officer dragged him out with blood running everywhere. “And now you....” He said turning to the Captain and he saw Stanley getting shoved up the ramp into the ship.

      “Papers please...” The Security man said as the Captain tried rushing back inside but he got grabbed rather roughly from behind and dragged back down the ramp backwards to the dock.” You too, come here.” He screamed as Stan walked back out and stood there while they demanded they see the Captains papers, for the ship, the cargo, and all his workers, as the big man tried everything to get out of it but within an hour he was in jail, and his crew was getting physicals, and questioned, and more charges went onto his total.

      Assault, sexual assault, slavery...and the list went on... and by the time they were done that ship would not be leaving this port under the same management ever again.


      Chapter 2: New Start

      The next morning Stanley was sitting in a room talking to some serious looking middle aged lady about his skills, and what little education he had.

      “The stations management saved you from slavery, but we cant pay you forever to do nothing.” She explained as Stan agreed. “ So tell me about anything and everything you have ever done.” And with that Stan explained about working in a scrap yard, doing ship repairs and even a few things he was forced into that she really didn’t want to hear.

      “Mechanical ability, thats good, there are never enough skilled mechanics or engineers on any station.” She admitted as Stan looked a little more hopeful. “I’ll set up some tests for you and if you like we’ll make training available to get you more ready before we release you.” She added and he agreed to that too, and it looked like his Life was starting to turn around.

      That afternoon he did a test, then another, and soon they were stacking up as he looked tired. But they were going pretty well too and his scores for skills and experience started up into a range seldom seen on this old station.

      He got a break and a meal while others got tested too, and soon they were all sitting together in a room where that same lady was all smiles.

      “It doesn’t look like any of you will be a burden on anyone. You’ve all worked at different things and gotten a lot of experience at them. Some we usually don’t approve of easily... but still they are something.” She added as one or too looked embarrassed it got mentioned.

      “Free education will be available starting tomorrow, just go to the nearest screen you see unused in this room and pull up anything you want to learn.First Level training will be more of a review for some of you but do them anyways,the Government wants to see every test result before handing out Degrees for passing them.” She added as many agreed, and one young lady opened the small screen on the seat in front of her to see what was available, as the lady waved saying she wished them well, and she left the room while every one started talking and looking for things to learn.

      It didn’t take long to see that for every test you passed you get a small cash reward. It seemed the station, and through it the local government, was willing to go the extra mile to get skilled people.

      In less than a week many got enough training to survive on, and others were still working at it.

      Stanley finished the first lesson for Mechanics the first day and got his reward, his own bank card with a few credits on it. He then did a second level test and the next day got the results, passed again, rather highly too. It seemed anything Mechanical related he learned quickly, and soon he got a hint to try something else and was slid over onto Electronics too. It took a day or two but he passed the first level for that too, and he smiled saying he never tried that before, but by the end of the first month on station he had starter degrees in Mechanics,Electronics,Fabricating Tools and Parts, and Management.

      He was having a good time actually and when asked he said that ‘I never knew studying was such fun’ because he never got that chance before this. So even while he started getting offers for work he declined saying there was still so much to learn, and the station manger looked shocked and the lady in charge of the crew laughed saying it looked like they created monster, and he laughed and agreed.

      Even with their high tech learning machines years of study can only be condensed so much, but after another month Stanley had a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and was well on his way to wards one in Electrical Design and Repair.

      The little cash incentives he got for finishing and passing a test kept him going for now and his ability to survive on very little got noticed by more than just the stations management.

      One day as he was walking towards the testing area a man stepped up, all smiles, and Stan recognized the uniform as Sector Security.

      “My Commander would like to speak with you if you don’t mind.” He got asked and he agreed, not knowing what Sector Security would want with a young student, but he’d soon find out.

      He was led to a fine looking office and met a well dressed man in a nice suit, not the uniform he expected, he sat down and after listening to the sales speech for a minute Stan said he didn’t see what he had to offer a Security firm.

      “You an intelligent young man, you enjoys studying and learning new things, and your skills are rapidly improving daily. Many organizations on the station have noticed so we just wanted to be the first to get a few words in before someone else did.” He got told as he shrugged and agreed.”We hire more than pilots here, we own and operate our own stations and substations where our members can go to rest and get their ships repaired. One of the perks of working for us is you get a free Pilots License, if you can pass the test of course, but seeing your skills there isn’t much doubt about that.” He added as Stanley looked impressed.

      “There are openings right now for Head Mechanic on 2 stations we own, either one of those could be yours and our wages are quite good, I assure you.” He went on as Stan had to think about that seriously.

      “I’ll consider it, ty.” Stan returned and they shook hands on it and he returned to studying and by the end of the next day passed yet another test, making him a level 2 Maintenence person, easily a Head Mechanic anywhere he might be needed.

      “He’s very skilled...” The Commander of Sector Security heard as he saw how fast he was gaining skills...and respect.

      “Have him try a few other things too..just to make sure.” Got added and Stan got guided to try Command and Military Tactics, just on a ‘bet’ and he cleared Ensign the first day and Chief a day later.

      “Keep it up man we’re making big bucks...” His friend hinted, and slipped him a few hundred credits more for his last test result and Stan laughed about it...not seeing the obvious it seemed.

      Within a week...Lieutenant First Class... as well as Electrical Engineer, it seemed once he set his mind to something nothing stood in his way, and talks were going on between the local Commander of Sector Security and his Commander in the Capital about what they should do next.

      “We wont let him slip away, out bid everyone else... he might well become an Admiral someday.” He got told, and a shocked Captain Phillip Hastings just decided to become Stanley’s best friend.


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      Chapter 3: Officer Material

      Stanley felt like his head would explode and he was pretty sure he was outliving his right to study here, but he got told never to worry about it, thats what these machines were for, and so today he sat back in the big stuffed chair and watched videos again. Battle Strategies for Sector Deployment...pretty dry stuff... but the battle videos were nice to watch when his plans got tested after he laid them out.

      Acceptable losses for this test? 50%...his results...15%..and another Commendation...whatever that meant. And since his test scores were in the top 10% of all being tested, he got a 500 credit bonus, and that made it all worth while.

      “Not bad, great job...” The new operator mentioned, when Stan took the goggles off and Stanley laughed saying with scores like this he could make a good living taking tests alone, and they both laughed about it...as well as the Commander... who watched every test from his office and calculated again what Stanley’s worth would be to the military.

      “He passed the Rothschild Scenario with 15% losses??!!” The Admiral screamed, as Captain Hastings nodded agreement and the score came up on the screen. “That was one of my better tests...” He whispered as Hastings waited for him to speak again.

      “It’s time he learned who’s been paying his bills...” The Admiral added and the link went shut and Captain Hastings called Stanley into his office to congratulate him on his promotion...as Stan’s face looked blank.

      “You DID sign up for Military duty some time ago, and since you were still in training we withheld calling you in, but now you’re an officer, and we need a LOT of good officers.” He added all smiles while Stan tried to say he never joined the military, but his name and ID were on all the right forms and his acceptance date was weeks ago, and after that he did half a dozen tests that he slid through easily and now he held the rank of Lt. Commander...at the ripe old age of 19.

      “But...I thought they were just tests...and I was getting paid to take them.” Stan added looking shocked, as Captain Hastings got a good chuckle in there right now.

      “Oh but they were...Ranking tests.” he hinted, as Stan gave him a dirty look and the Captain paged someone out front and a young man walked in smartly and dropped a new uniform on Stan’s lap, saluted him, and left again.”Get used to being saluted and giving a return salute, its part of the job, and since you never asked, this is your salary and your new Government bank account.” He said handing Stan a plastic card with a flashing number on the top, as Stan’s eyes popped out and Captain Hastings saw he wasn’t going anywhere now.

      “Your first command will be the corvette Columbia, its sitting in dock 3 right now waiting, all info about your assignment is in the computer in the Captains quarters, so get changed and good luck.” He said and waved Stan away who was still sitting there looking a little shocked but he got up and gave the Captain a half assed salute and walked out as Hastings got a good laugh at that and announced to the crew a new Captain was on his way, and they got ready for departure.

      A corvette class wasn’t anything to brag about...usually...its the smallest thing in the Navy and they come in two designs. One, like the Columbia, was nothing but a fast scout ship, fast and maneuverable with just enough guns to keep fighters off them as they snuck around scouting enemy positions and occasionally dropping a few mines when no one was looking.

      The other design was a little tougher, with 20mm gun turrets fore and aft and a nice medium missile launcher. It was used a lot as an escort ship for bigger, slower vessels, the kind that cant get out of the way of a wave of fighters easily by themselves.

      So they did have their place in the Navy, even when that place was either far away and dangerous, or close by and easily seen, by friends as well as enemies. Not a bad place to teach a new hotshot officer what the real Universe is like...if he survives it that is.

      Stan went back to his apartment and after staring at himself in the bathroom mirror for a full minute decided that if he got conned into this he best do his best at it, since the salary was more than he would get for anything else.

      He showered and shaved and got on his new uniform, and he smiled to see it fit perfectly. It was clear they had been planning this for a while.But before he made that first appearance he needed to know something, so he went back to the testing room and gave his old friend a dirty look when he laughed at the new uniform, and Stan sat back and ran a program...Basic Training as a command officer... and when it started running he was surprised to see he had already done it, as part of those bets he was getting paid for.

      His original test result showed as 80% but after a high speed review it was now 92% and Stanley took the visor off and walked out better ready for his new assignment. And Command saw that... as always... when he set his mind to something good things happened.

      “He’s pushing the line towards full Commander the first day...he gained another 2 points today on his review.” The Admiral said and laughed out loud, “But we’ll keep that info to ourselves for a while, he needs practical experience before he climbs the ladder any further.” And with that Stanley’s new career got off to a running start, and with the good salary he was getting now he sent some cash back to his family to help them out, along with a portable education device he bought so the rest of his siblings might have a slightly better chance to survive.

      Chapter 4: First Patrol


      Stanley was dropped off not 6 steps from the stairs onto his ship. His Second was waiting and when Stan got out of the little bus eyes popped and the young Lieutenant looked like he was getting a prank pulled on him. But he went along with it, and soon they were on board, and Stanley got the 10 cent tour so he knew where his room was, and who everyone he would need to talk to was too.

      His Second was a young officer right out of the Military Academy, and had his eyes on Command too. But to suddenly be number 2 to a kid 3 years younger than him was quite the shock, and after the tour he went to his room and made that call...just to make sure. But in the next 5 minutes the Commanders appreciation of Stanley and his abilities was impressed upon him by the Sector Commander himself, and he was told that Stanley just needed to learn Military Protocols, and then just let him be. And after that call Stan got a lot of serious shocked looks from everyone for a day or two as he went about his duties, and they left port for their first trip around the outer solar system, looking for a gang of pirates that were raiding freight convoys in the area.

      The border belonged to the Haidar Empire, a group of 20 planets and satellites that they colonized ages ago. They traded with the Union often but they were never on what anyone would call good terms.Now even that was deteriorating since raiders started attacking freight convoys on this side of the border, but none ever seemed to be bothered on their side.

      So Command wanted proof one way or another , don’t start anything but keep a close eye and ear out for trouble, and thats the mission they were on... watch, wait and listen... and as they traveled along their patrol route they saw and heard a lot, but nothing of any importance.

      Then on the third day a message got intercepted and Stan heard a convoy commander saying they were going to make a killing on this load of weapons going to the Haidar military outpost just inside the border. And Stan sent that info back to Command and they weren’t too happy with it either.

      “Jackson Corporation will be questioned about this, believe you me...” Stanley got told as he agreed that was best.” stop that convoy and have it return home, at gun point if necessary.” He go ordered and they moved to intercept.

      But as they approached a full wing of attack fighters was escorting them towards their destination, and they werent from the Union Navy either.

      “Haidar fighters, what purpose do you have on this side of the border?”Stanley demanded, to be attacked instantly by missile fire which his automatic defenses got just as fast.” Jackson Corporation freighters, Sector Command demands you return home at once!” He said as the fighters came straight for them , guns blazing, and the freighters ran for the boarder.

      “This doesn’t look good...” The weapons officer said as lights came on on her console and Stanley agreed, and every second of the conversation and attack was recorded and sent straight back to Command instantly.

      “Withdraw!” Became the next order, and Stan ordered his ship to jump home and they turned and did, as their shields started down. They drifted in to dock and Stanley got escorted by security to the Commanders office where every second of the videos and conversation was seen and heard.

      “Why didn’t you attack with full force, thats what they were doing?” He got asked as he looked a little tired admitting it.

      “I think...” He started as several people in the room waited to hear,” that they were purposely trying to start a war, or a fight anyways. If we answered their attack with another then it would have started right there, but if we held back, then it shows clearly that they are the aggressor here.” he explained and a few eyebrows lifted hearing it, and the Commander totally agreed.

      “You did well...” Got mentioned, and he was left leave while the council there watched and listened some more and finally it became crystal clear that war was coming, they had only bought some time.


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      Chapter 5: Refuel and Resupply

      While Stan and his crew were getting more supplies their patrol suddenly changed, no real surprise there. The Command Council went on about how this looked and decided they had the high ground here, since they refused to engage the enemy ships, and so a message got sent with a copy of the videos and their report saying that if this ever happened again there would be Hell to pay, and a member of the Judicial Police was on her way to Jackson Corporation to ask some hard questions about why they were selling weapons to a rival nation, and to get a list of what... exactly... that freighter convoy was carrying.

      It took a few days and a lot of arm twisting but they got it and the Admiralty wasn’t very happy about it at all. Jackson claimed there were no regulations about who they could sell to, and trade between nations is the beginning of Peace...something the Admiralty laughed out loud about. But the list showed a few things that they screamed bloody murder about too...new and improved weapons that they themselves had barely gotten yet.

      “We used Lasers for almost a hundred years and torpedoes with high yield radioactive warheads. These new Particle Cannons and Magnetic mines are state of the art, and they have no right selling them before we get ours!” Got screamed, but their legal team assured them it was true no laws stopped any corporation from selling their wars, and so they got away with it...this time...as new laws got started almost immediately.

      “I’ll speak to the President myself.” Admiral Henley said as many nodded agreement.” If they have been getting state of the art weapons behind our backs then we are being shorted here by our own corporations, and he needs to know it.” And the meeting was adjourned as the Admiral went straight to the Capital and after a long wait got in to see the President, who didn’t really seem too worried, but he agreed that they needed more and newer weapons before selling to anyone else, and so a new order got sent out and many older ships came in for upgrades that very week, as the Union Navy moved towards a more equal footing with Haidar.

      Meanwhile, Stanley and his little boat were getting to see the system like never before. One week they ran emergency supplies to a few stations who demanded them, and got an ear full for not having more patrols in their areas, and after that two weeks doing convoy protection missions, as military conveys got ramped up just in case, while waiting to see what Haidar did next.

      But after his first month as Captain of a ship they got port time...a weekend off...and they pulled into dock at 9 pm Friday night and security took over the ship while the crew ran out in civilian cloths and disappeared for a few days, either into the station, or into a shuttle and quick run home to see family.

      Stan could have too but it was a day either way from here so that didnt make it worthwhile. But his mom sent him a message a while back asking for a picture of him in uniform, and so he got a nice one made and sent it to her and then went back to relaxing for the weekend.

      But that picture made the rounds really quickly in a small town like this and by the middle of the next week Stanley got a call from his mom, a extremely rare occasion itself, and so he thought something terrible had happened and if he only knew he might not have ran to the link so fast.

      ”Congratulations son!” She was screaming as other people were seen laughing and dancing around behind her.

      “Congratulations for what?” He asked as she dragged a pretty little brunette in front of the camera and said this was his finance..and Stan nearly died right there.

      “But...I dont want a fiance...” He answered as eyes all over the room went wide.

      “Am I not good enough?” The girl asked, as Stan tried to let her know she was really pretty, but he just wasn’t ready to settle down yet.

      “Then its settled...” He heard and he was wondering how they figured that.” when you ARE ready she’ll be here, so thats that.” He heard and before he could say a word the link went black and he sat down behind his desk looking lost and bewildered.

      “Damn old fashioned people, just because they got hitched this way doesn’t mean I want to.” He grumped, remembering the stories of how his mothers parents rushed her to marry Joe because he was a nice guy who worked hard, right beside her dad in the mines. Its the way things had been done for ages there and he should have known this was coming, after all he was beyond marrying age to them, and he was pretty sure his mom was in on this from the start. He’d let her have her day thinking it had worked, and then he’d call her back and they’d talk...and he sat there trying to remember who this girl was... because he just didnt know anyone that looked like that in this little one horse town. But then it didn’t matter, he had too much to do before settling down, and he went back to reading some more lessons on Computers, and tried to forget the call altogether.


      Chapter 6: Haidar’s Next Move Comes Calling


      Stanley and his crew did some clean up missions for another month, gathering supplies from wrecks after fights. Not everyone was being told the truth, to the normal citizen pirates were blamed a lot for their troubles, while in reality Haidar raiders were crossing the border nearly every day.

      Command had declared it a ‘skirmish war’, something not considered a serious full on war yet. But people were dieing, and ships getting lost and so Stans next mission shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when he got ordered to go to the battlefields and scan wrecks to see what could be repaired and saved.

      “If this skirmish war lasts for too long the loss of ships will start being felt, and if it escalates then it’ll be even worse.” Stan got told, as he agreed.” You have one of the fastest and most stealthy ships in the Fleet use it to got out there and see what you can find. If large scale repairs are needed tag those ships and we’ll send out a repair vessel for them.” He heard as he agreed and the Columbia left the base that afternoon.

      They flew for a few hours then found the first battlefield, and there wasn’t much left to salvage. But they got some shrapnel missiles used for fighter defense and some fuel and put it all in storage and a message got sent back saying this area was a total loss and they moved on.

      The second area had 2 corvettes in it and wreckage from several fighters. It was obvious they didn’t go down without a fight, and they scanned and gathered more supplies and sent another report back saying nothing here was worth salvaging.

      A few more like that and they were sitting looking at a much larger field of wreckage, and Stanley sat there shaking his head as his weapons officer whispered ‘ and they call this a skirmish?’ and Stanley agreed. There were the wrecks of at least 6 major ships here, several fighters and 2 corvettes that were escorting the bigger ships. One corvette was down but didn’t seem to have a lot of damage until you flew around the other side, then there was a large hole near the back section, hitting and driving through into Engineering. So the generator and other important equipment went up in a second, but the rest of the ship looked pretty good.

      One larger vessel looked pretty good too but was also drifting there and after a serious scan it showed that targeting the turrets caused a short circuit that started a fire in Engineering, and like the major explosion had done, the electrical system went offline, crippling the ship.

      These larger ships had a lot of redundancy too so something should have kicked in but didn’t, so that meant there was a better than average chance a human engineer could get it restarted in a short time.

      “What do you think Chief?” Stan asked his head maintenence man and he agreed that if nothing penetrated the hull the damage was probably miner, but during a battle no one had time to check once the computer went down. “So we agree then, get a team ready.” Stan said and they moved and and docked to the nearest port, not far from engineering at all and a minute later his team left to check it out.

      “Smells bad in here, there was definitely a fire.” They heard as the team scanned and searched. “ here, right here...” The man said as a video feed showed a power station that was burned black.

      “Can you get it going?” Stanley asked but the man said no, this unit was beyond repair. “How about the backup then?” Stan asked and they walked across the room to a small room off the side and opened the door and went in and everything there looked like new.

      “We need to shut down the main system, you two get out there and shut down boxes 3 through 5..” He ordered as two men ran back out to do as they were told.” Once thats done we can start the emergency generator and get this beast moving again. How fast I cant say.” He said as Stanley agreed it was worth the effort.

      “Computer, can you gain control of the ship once power is restored?” Stan asked and was told it was highly unusual, but it could be done.” Good, do it the second power is back on.” He ordered and when the lights came back on in Engineering he ordered his crew back on board, and when they moved away from the cruiser it turned ever so slowly and started home, with the Columbia right along side.

      He made the call saying that they were bringing in a ship from the battlefield and got told where to deliver it to. In a few hours it docked and Stanley walked off his ship to a round of cheers from the station docks crew, and a Colonel standing there cheering right along.

      “Well done Lt. Commander...” He said as Stanley returned his salute.” This saves us months of construction time building a new one, and billions of credits from our War Fund. Just one like this makes a huge difference in any battle, so we in Command appreciate your going out of your way to save it.” H said and threw Stanley another salute followed by everyone on the dock.
      Stan returned it, and was told the Admiral wanted to see him in his office and Stanley left immediately for that meeting.

      He got another commendation for his files and a medal for bravery and fast thinking during war times, and his rank inched up a bit from Lieutenant Commander rank 1 to Lieutenant Commander rank 2, one step from a full Commander, and that,just below a full Captain.

      “Keep this up and you’ll have a real Command soon enough.” He got told and as he walked out Stanley smiled and shook his head wondering what he was doing now if he hadn’t gotten a ‘real command’ yet, but he just smiled and went back to give his crew the night off.


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      wow I'm getting slow in my old age.

      Chapter 7: Getting Noticed

      That damaged corvette got dragged back in too and another ship was saved, and other captains mentioned that they too thought something was worth fixing, and so what started as a cleanup order from Command turned into a new ‘Initiative for Salvage’...and everyone got the order to keep an eye out.

      6 months past and Stanley and his crew fell into a nice uneventful rut, and little jobs got done and weekends off once a month. But they knew it couldn’t last, and soon they found themselves in the shadow of a heavy cruiser, the Hades, and on their way out to see if the enemy was still operating along a certain stretch of the boarder near some iron ore mines.

      “Just keep us safe Columbia, and we’ll make sure those Haidar vessels don’t get away with anything on our watch.” He heard as he agreed and he and the Captain of the Hades exchanged salutes and the link went down again.

      “If that monster needs help we’re screwed.” The navigator said as even Stanley smiled wide at that one. Of course they weren’t totally alone, the cruiser had a wing of fighters too and they were out scouting the area ahead of them as they moved along. One word from them and a call for reinforcements would get sent, and Command had rapid response ships on call just for such an emergency.

      “Here’s hoping for a nice quiet patrol.” Stanley said and toasted that idea with his coffee cup.

      “So...when are we going to meet the new girl friend?” Got asked as Stan growled at the young man who was sitting there chuckling.

      “I’m not getting married yet, thats final.” He insisted but they had heard the story, and even saw a picture she sent him that is sitting on a stand next to his bed, and they all knew many people who had done worse.

      “Well, if you’re not interested can I give her a call when we get time off?” Got asked as Stan looked a little surprised by that one.” The girl my mom is pushing on me doesn’t look half that good.” Got added, as everyone on the bridge got a good laugh at Stan’s embarrassment.

      “I’ll admit shes not bad looking...but for me it’s just too soon.” Stanley admitted and one young lady mentioned that his mother wasn’t going to give up anytime soon, and his fiance might be getting tired waiting too...and doing a little looking around on her own.

      “I should be so lucky...” Stan whispered as many just smiled and looked away. Being old fashioned was stuck in their genes, since the Great War that nearly ended civilization 300 years ago, people fell back on what they knew, the Old Ways, and now it was normal to talk about things like this, and Stanley knew one person sitting right in front of him that was going for a Marriage Meeting when their patrol was over, by order of her mother and grandmother.

      “I’m dragging my feet as well..but its only a matter of time.” She whispered as Stan nodded silently and the others there just smiled knowing their time would come as well.


      But with the Haidar making trouble out here some things got put on hold, and some young people might not mind at all. But family is family, and when they stopped for a second their seniors would be right there, making sure the name went on.

      The patrol went on too and after four days nothing of importance was seen. One little fighter patrol ran in just looking around and half of those never left but a few did, and so they knew they had been seen, and waited for the other foot to fall.

      But in the end nothing happened and after another week they drifted back into dock and their first combat patrol was officially over.

      Stanley got thanked for his help by the cruiser captain and as soon as his crew got shore leave Stanley was sitting in the Admirals office ,having been called in for a meeting over something he knew nothing about.

      “Look at these ships designs and tell me what you think..” He got told by one officer, while the Admiral waited. They were all frigate class so pretty nice looking s Stan said but after looking at specs and sizes and other details he chose one called a Athena Class, a gunboat with turrets and missile launchers so it had a nice 1-2 punch in a fight.

      “You’ve been working well for some time now and with your test results now qualify for the rank of Full Commander.” He got told as he thanked them for saying so.” So these are all vessels coming off the ship yard’s line this month, and your new Athena class will alow you to do more and stay out on patrol longer. Do you have any questions or comments?” he got asked and after thinking for a minute he asked that his crew from the corvette be transfered to his new ship too...and the Admiral agreed.

      “No reason to break up a working set.” He said, and Stanley got a flyer with all the info and a link to follow to see the blue prints so he could familiarize himself with the layout. The transfer would take place in a few days and then he would get new orders, and somehow he knew that with a better ship came more responsibilities, and that they would probably see more action to.

      “I’ll have you’re old ship reassigned and the new one waiting when your weekend is over, good luck Commander.” He got told and everyone there saluted him and he returned it and went to see about new uniforms with the new rank and the call went out and within a few hours all his belongings and those of his crew where sitting on the dock when the bigger ship moved into its position.

      New quarters were assigned and when their time off was over they were surprised to see the new ship when they returned.

      “Now thats what I’mm talking about!” The navigator screamed, as he checked out the newest in hardware and computer assisted navigation. Weapons had more to do to, with 4 medium turrets and 2 light machine guns for missile defense, they didn’t need to worry about a few fighters, or a corvette. Hell even a corvette patrol might not be a real threat now as she said and Stan agreed.


      Chapter 8: Convoys and More Convoys


      The words ‘convoy protection’ became their new catch phrase, but then there were enemy convoys not too far away either, and any seen on this side of the boarder were fair game too.

      In a month they had escorted 6 convoys, and destroyed twice that many fighters that wanted what was in them. Stanley also found out that there were bounties on enemy ships, and it became a nice bonus at the end of the month, some of which he sent back to help his mom get along, now that she took her children and moved out on her own officially.

      There were no such things as divorces now, if you live with someone long enough they become yours, if you leave and stay away your single, its a pretty simple way of doing things that does help the poor who wouldn’t be able to afford the massive legal fees anyways. But after a few months she was considered free, and Joe learned the hard way that no one needed him around as badly as he thought.

      And Emily’s birthday came around again and Stanley sent her a nice dress that she would never get at home, and she asked to come visit him, again, and after a minute to consider he finally agreed, and her face lit up like a million fireflies.

      The exact day was set, and she met them on the docks wearing the new dress when his ship pulled in, just like a good wife should, and she got introduced to his crew and friends and she never seemed any happier than that day and Stan got elbowed once or twice for being such a worrywart, since everyone who met her liked her immediately.

      They went out to eat and then back to her apartment, since Stanley lived on his ship, and after a long serious talk they both agreed to give it a try, and Stan stayed the night for the first time, and bought her breakfast the next day. They spent the weekend together, and he was smiling pretty wide when the work week started again, and she told him she’d be there any time he wanted, and a deal was made.

      The crew saw it too and they weren’t going to let him forget that they were pushing him to try at least once, and he admitted they did and he thanked them for the help, and more smiles were seen after that as everyone seemed happy for him for days to come.

      And it didn’t take long for his mom to send him her message too, and Emily’s mom next, and as far as the town was concerned he was a married man, and right now he wasn’t fighting it too loudly.

      While all this was going on a man not far away was having some serious troubles. Major General George Hastings was trying to get through a meeting and when it was finally over, he was laughed at for trying to force his son into the military, which he succeeded in doing, but now that he was in he hid from everyone and everything, too frightened to even act as his fathers personal guard, a candy cake mission invented just for him.

      “And where is James today? Tell him we missed him at the meeting.” George heard as he tried to keep a straight face but he wanted to punch this guy, if he wouldn’t have been arrested for it.

      “He’s in training...for a special assignment.”George lied but they knew it was, as he quickly walked away. But he needed to do something, James was his own flesh and blood and he had to be a successful military officer. His father was, and his grandfather had been and by God he wasn’t going to let the family name and reputation end here, not like this!

      If only James had been better at things, more assertive and sturdier. But he was a mommy’s boy and always had been, and when he got forced to join she demanded that his father take good care of him, no matter the cost, and he had up until now, but things had to change or James was on his way out, and George wouldn’t be able to stop it no matter what she demanded, and the family name would never be the same again.

      He needed something done, something new that said he wasn’t the terrible wus that he really was. Some mission done successfully would help, but then even George knew if given that chance he’d trip over a minefield, or dive screaming into a battleship, and not survive.Thats just the way he was, and had always been. Show him even a tiny bit of aggressiveness and he threw his hands over his face screaming like a little girl.

      “ Too bad he’s not like this Commander Stanley everyone talks about, young and brave and getting things done daily that many would be afraid to try...” And as he thought that...an idea came to mind. It wasn’t one anyone would approve of,but it just might work. The next day Chief Petty Officer James Hastings reported for duty on Stanley’s ship as an aid while he wondered how he managed this, they were getting resupplied, and Stanley didn’t begin to know the trouble that just walked on board.


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      TXU Sr. Member kevin398's Avatar
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      Ya, I've slowed down considerably in the last few years but I'm still at it just not as fast as before..lol

      Chapter 9: The Inquisition

      They were almost ready for another patrol when Stanley got a message he was forced to take in private. The General made it perfectly clear, that James was his until he could show his face as a respectable officer, and Stanley did everything he could to get out of it, but failed.

      “If he’s got to change so badly you know...as an experienced officer...that only a life threatening action could cause a permanent change like this.” Stan hinted, as the General looked sad and slowly agreed.

      “I know it sad of me to drop this one you, but you’re a fine young officer, very possibly on your way to the Admiralty someday, and if anyone can save him I’m hoping you can. He’s been babied his whole life, make sure he knows that, and see to it he isn’t anymore, not until he improves greatly.” he declared and the link went shut and Stanley was left with a terrible job, make a man out of a baby and do it without killing him....hopefully.

      And he went back to the ship and introduced the new junior officer, and after the ship pulled out of port James came walking into his ready room all smiles, and said he knew his father set this up to give him a new place to hide and he appreciated it...as Stanley looked up from his desk with daggers in his eyes and a serious look on his face and demanded to know who James thought he was, barging in here while he was working! And James’s face dropped and he started to apologize as Stanley ordered him to do maintenence on the ships floors for a week because of it, and James’s training started all over again. The way it should have been the first time.

      James was seen on his hands and knees scrubbing the floors every day until they shone like glass. Then he went back to his make believe job of being Stanley’s aid..or so he thought. Stanley made it abundantly clear that he had heard of him from MANY sources who thought him the families fool, a laughing stock, and a drag on his fathers name...as James all but cried right in front of him.

      Stanley left him know that he owned him for now and that he would get no special treatment here, and James declared he wanted none, as Stan finally got a small smile. It was a start at least, hearing the truth James stood up for himself and his family, and if this continued then the General might at least be pleased with the result.

      James was sleeping in the common quarters with the rest of the men, and Stan set it up for him to get harassed a bit, until one day a fight broke out and both men got time in the brig for it. It was James’s first black mark on his record, a brawl with another soldier, but he won, or so they said and he didn’t feel as bad about that after hearing it.
      The next big step was dirt work, not floor cleaning this time but running errands every time they stopped somewhere, some clearly just harassment, but he bucked up and did them. And after a month Stanley reported his results, as the General looked shocked beyond belief.

      “Yesterday I sent him on an errand...” Stan mentioned as the General waited to hear.” down to the Red Light district, just to ask if a certain young lady was working...he almost died of embarrassment, but got hit on several times while he was there.” Stan mentioned as the General turned his head to keep from laughing. “Every soldier needs hit on once by a prostitute I beleive.”

      “He knows now no one gets special treatment on my ship...and after a month of hard work and harassment, he’s fine with that.” Stan added as the General nodded and agreed he was doing well.

      “This is the first time in his life he’s being treated like a real soldier,” Stan heard as he agreed, but reminded him that James had not run away or called for help. “Actually he did, but I told him I wasn’t his commanding officer there, you were.” he mentioned as Stan looked upset he missed it.

      “Don’t feel bad, he’s snuck past many other officers in his time in uniform and got messages out, you’re not the first. Call it one of his few gifts.” General hastings added as Stanley nodded he understood. “ Keep up the good work.” he said and the link went black.

      “So out of all the things James could have for skills sneaking around behind peoples backs was his best skill.” Stanley thought and shook his head sadly. This man needed more help then even he could give him but at least he was doing his best to get along...after asking his father for help and getting turned down.

      They got resupplied and returned to patrol and James found other things for James to do saying he didn’t need an aid when he wasn’t going to meetings or walking around on stations, and so James helped the maintenence crews. If only handing them things or carrying parts that the ship really didn’t need replaced yet. But he learned new things and talked to other crew members like a real man for once, and when they docked after their patrol he went out with the crew and got drunk...and came back laughing and singing like the rest... and he learned another thing about being a soldier...working with a hangover, and Stanley and half the crew got a chuckle as he forced himself along for the next day.

      In just over a month James learned the real way to be a soldier, and after many embarrassing things happening and a fight or two Stanley told his father he felt he had really changed.

      “Another month and we’ll see.” he said as Stan looked tired already.” This is all well and good but its not quite what I need from him. Its just normal soldiering, he needs to get thrown into a serious mission and survive, or serve on a combat ship and do something heroic, something outstanding, then he’ll be a real member of MY family and people will respect him for it.”

      Stanley heard and even he didn’t want involved with that, but the General insisted and so Stanley had to think of some way to keep James alive, and please his fathers need for him to seem ‘special’ enough to go home.
      Chapter 10: The Con

      Stanley called the head of maintenence to his office and they had a nice talk about James and Stanley saw he earned some respect working with him.

      “He’s a good kid and has learned a lot being here, even he admits that.” Stan heard as he nodded agreement.

      “But his father wants something special , some heroic act to prove he’s a true Hastings.” Stanley hinted as the Lieutenant looked sad for him.

      “His dads a real piece of work...sir..” Stan heard softly as he laughed and agreed that he also thought so. “What, does he want the kid to single handedly capture a cruiser or something?”

      “Oh that would do it but even we haven’t done that so he’ll have to wait for that one.” Stan said and they both got a chuckle in there.” But I do have a plan, it might be a little painful for a few minutes for someone, but then there’s a man on your shift getting ready to retire soon isn’t there?” Stan asked as the officer looked seriously at him wondering what he had in mind but he agreed, and an older man a Chief like James came up and they talked, and he agreed to help in this little play to make James into a hero for his father.

      They had done a lot of convoy duties and during one Stanley mentioned that sabotage was running rampant in the fleet and they needed to be careful, as James agreed. He was on the bridge today standing by the Command chair when they left with their convoy, and well into the run, two hours out, there was a loud explosion and the ship shook and Stanley ordered ‘whats going on, report an damages’ and a second later a choking coughing voice came on the pa screaming for help as Stan got the security feed up and there was an older man laying on the floor with blood running down his leg and smoke and fire in the distance, as James nearly screamed that he knew that man and Stan agreed they had worked together in maintenance.

      “There’s been an explosion, everyone is busy fighting the fires but if I don’t get to medical right away I think I’ll bleed to death!” The man said as Stan turned immediately to James and screamed to get down there and help, and he nodded and ran from the bridge, as security cameras all over clearly caught it all.

      Without hesitation he ran in and saw small fires and people trying to put them out, and he grabbed the older man and got him to his feet with his arm over James’s shoulder and James smiled and reassured him he was alright now, and ran him up the hall and into the medical center ‘just in time’ as the doctor said, and just like that James was a hero, and Stanley declared him so and sent in a request for him to get a medal, and another for the wounded sailor that got cut by flying debre.

      There was a hearing of course and the video ran several times. The first time eyes popped everywhere but no one said anything then questions got asked about the explosion, and Stan said his investigation showed either a faulty part that blew under pressure, or sabotage, but he couldn’t prove it either way.

      The Admiralty decided that they needed to keep a closer eye on ships when in the station, and intelligence agreed that during a war odd things happen. And James returned to his father’s side as his Aid again, with a medal for bravery under fire, and the older man got his medal, the Purple Star for getting wounded in action, and when you’re getting ready to retire getting an extra 500 a month for getting wounded on a combat vessel looks pretty good.

      While they were in port a few other things needed done. Stan’s ship needed a few upgrades that...he was told...were overdue. And when they pulled back out for their next patrol Stanley was a full Captain, and no one said a word about it, either in Command or on the ship.


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      Chapter 11: Back to Normal

      After what became known on board as ‘The Circus’ they finally got back to normal operations.

      Stan got told that someday he would have a huge favor coming, and he just laughed about it saying that James had it tough, being a Generals son, and he was glad he could help...and get him back to his regular job and off the ship so they could return to regular duties.

      But ‘regular duties’ weren’t going to be that easy to get back to. During the time of James’s training things got increasingly hard along the boarder, and after months dragging their feet Command had a press conference and officially declared war on the Haidar Alliance, and patrols intensified and the new order was...attack on sight...and that meant no ignoring ships at maximum sensor range , like had been done for weeks.

      So now fights got rolling on a daily basis, and Haidar answered their order with new patrols and bigger ships.And even attacks on stations along the boarder, and several times these attacks build up until small fleets were there from both sides.

      During one such battle Stanley and his frigate fought alongside several heavier ships, and when it looked like one Battle Cruiser would be gone, Stanley ran in and shot down a wave of heavy missiles coming their way, and got a big pat on the back for covering for them to get away.

      Commendations all around on that one and Stanley was told...quite under the table of course...that his file was looking very impressive, and he remembered that he had been told an Admiralty might be in his future...but not at 24 he knew for sure.

      But after commanding the Python frigate for over two years Stanley wasn’t too surprised when he got ordered in for repairs after taking a few hits himself, and when his weekend was over he and his favorite crew shipped out in a nice new Light Cruiser, the Hells Fire, with a little more room for crew inside and heavier, more long range weapons.

      And their long term job of escorting convoys fell to another, smaller vessel, and their orders included fast attacks on any enemy ship attempting to cross the boarder, as well as emergency aid to any ship that demanded it while under attack. And Stan and his crew saw serious Naval work coming their way more often and a lot better chance for bad days ahead.

      The first month in the new vessel was just training for heavy combat. Stanley took it in stride and after a few troubles the crew were up to the task as well.Their targeting and firing times were slow at first, but that was because they used small guns and missiles on the frigate and this new ship was all about bigger, heavier turrets that took a minute to get brought around and aimed. Thank the Gods for smaller fighter guns that whipped around in a flash, or fighters could have eaten them alive in this.

      But that was the way it was designed and with 4 major turrets for heavy fighting and 4 smaller fighter/missile defense weapons, they were a ‘well balanced combat vessel’ as the manual said, and Stanley felt it might take a little time to get used to this, and he hoped they didn’t see any heavy fighting before that.

      It did have something his frigate didn’t... a torpedo tube...no fighter missiles here, this thing was a monster. The missiles to fired weighted half a ton, with radiation and plasma on impact and everything within 50 meters of that spot would be dead, or wish it was. Stan had seen them used in battles already and one corvette got hit trying to protect a heavy cruiser, and it got ripped in half by the compression of the shaped charge and shrapnel alone.Nukes are no joke, even in space, and add half a ton or shrapnel and you got a very dangerous heavy weapon.

      And with all this being new to them, Stanley and his crew returned to patrolling the boarder, just half an hours travel time from their old patrol route, so it didn’t seem so far away or hostile...but in reality it was.

      This area was smack dab on the main trading lane between the Empires. Any legal, or illegal ships coming between them would pass here...and any fighters or enemy ships raiding the trade lanes would pass right under their nose. Stanley got told that in no uncertain terms, and he agreed they were ready for more responsibilities...as if they got the choice.

      And Command left him know, straight out, that enemy ships passing his location was his job now...none should escape...and Stan had to swallow hard thinking that every enemy vessel coming into the area was now his job to destroy, and he didn’t like the sound of that one bit.

      Of course they could call for help...standard procedure...but if you weren’t knee deep in death and destruction then calling every time for assistance would not look good on your record, and Stan knew that just from talking to Captains that had bad reputations, even though they never lost a ship or crew. But thats the way Command saw things, its your job to stay alive and protect your ship...while doing massive damage to the enemy and saving the lives of your crew. If all those things were possible at once.

      It seemed that it was a tradeoff...and Stanley knew that it was a test to see how you would Command. Would you protect your men and women at the expense of the Union itself, or let them die and save the government from their enemies? Stan knew what he would do...both...when the time came he would not turn and run, but he wouldn’t kill his crew unless there was no other way around it. Hell in a big battle he might fall himself, so once you see that as reality, then you know the truth, that people above you have this responsibility too, and they have already decided.

      And after making up his mind for sure, Stans new ship turned and made another pass down the boarder, and his crew knew that sooner rather than later they would see death up close and personal.


      Chapter 12: A Nemesis Appears


      After a month patrolling they pulled in for resupply and time off. Everyone was glad to take a break and ran into the station with big smiles on their faces.

      Stanley went in for his monthly Command meeting and then went out to see Emily,who always came to visit now when he came in for a break. They went for a nice meal and saw a show and he bought her a few things she saw she liked. It seemed that the entire town was cheering for him. His leaving and then becoming a successful Military man gave some of the kids there hope for the future... and a few had joined too... to get away from that place if nothing else.

      But things change regularly during a war, as everyone knows, and as this was going on a new threat appeared on the boarder, a fast attack force that ran in and hit targets then ran back to the safety of Haidar space.It was never in the same area twice and what they stole made them quite wealthy, Command was sure, as weapons shipments and medical supplies needed for the war went missing and they started demanding to know how they knew what to hit and where.

      Their force was made up of a frigate class, two corvettes and several wings of fighters. It was a surprise to see this many fighters so far from a base, but not impossible with the smaller capital ships with them they did get support. So after the first talk about them they got ignored, knowing any good frigate class could do away with them easily, and their thoughts focused on the larger ships and how to find and stop them from raiding convoys along their northern boarder.

      The decision seemed to be that they bought their info, since the people that saw them didn’t see the usual military icons on their ships, it might be possible they were a paramilitary unit that joined the war just to make money, and that upset Command even more, because that just helped Haidar without even losing any of their military ships doing it.

      “The private sector has joined the war now...” The Admiral added sadly,” How do they get so much help over there? We just got permission to declare war officially and they already have pirates working for them!” He declared as sad eyes filling the Command center.

      “It is a way to get rich quick, if you catch my drift. It might be that some of our problems were always pirates from the start, and after the war became official they just keep on doing what they always have.” Got mentioned as many agreed it was possible.”If thats true then it is THEY that now have military support.”

      “And the military must know of their existence too, maybe even help supply them.” Another added as many there just nodded seriously.

      “It makes no difference to me...” One Captain remarked,” in war we kill the enemy, and so whether they are Haidar military or pirates makes no real difference, does it?” He asked as many agreed with him.” So we treat these new ships like any other, we kill them all!” He declared and finally a cheer went up within the room and they all decided that private or not they were the enemy, and the thought of negotiations with them failed immediately.

      But military men do things by a certain code, they have rules they follow and thus can be planned for. But this new unit didn’t act that way. They ran in demanding supplies and if they didn’t get them they captured or destroyed ships in minutes and then ran home, many times taking the entire ship with them. They had skilled Marines working with them and boarded when possible, and so their profits for each mission went up again and Command saw they might have a chance, if they got a message quickly enough.

      Destroying ships doesn’t take a lot of time, but boarding is different, so maybe if they got greedy enough some Union ships could catch them off guard, and so a force of 5 ships was chosen, and Stanley and his crew were on that list, and they took up position close to the boarder and waited for any sign, and every convoy going out was ordered to send an SOS the second they see anything, and help would come.

      A week went by and suddenly Stanley got a call from one of the other Captains on patrol nearby. After one raid they found an unknown satellite sitting there and when they called over to check on it it became active, and the man on the other end asked for Stanley by name.

      “Why me?” Stan asked as the other Captain just shrugged but the young man wouldn’t talk to anyone else so Command ordered him there is see what was happening. They jumped in a few minutes later and Stanley paged the satellite and when it came on a young man with a big smile was sitting on a ship somewhere looking very pleased with himself.

      “Ah Captain Hudson I presume?” He asked as Stanley nodded it was true. “It took me long enough to find you, your a hard man to pin down.” He heard as Stanley just smiled back saying they could say the same for him as they both gave a fake little chuckle.

      “I dont know many people on that side of the boarder...not yet anyways...but I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.” Stan heard as he looked surprised.” They say you’ll be someone of great importance in the near future, and we both know this little war wont last forever. So making the right contacts is very important to a up and coming young businessman like me.” He heard as Stan almost laughed out loud.

      “I doubt the Union Military will do much trading with a pirate, now or in the future.” Stanley added as the young man looked sad to hear that.

      “But..we aren’t pirates at all..” he heard as Stanley looked less than convinced. “Pirates kill people and steal things for profit, we are paid mercenaries,we take orders, many times from the military, but we kill no one if at all possible.” he said as Stan quickly mentioned all those ships they stole and the poor crews, all now dead.

      “Oh but they aren’t...” he heard as Stans mouth dropped open. “ I have all those people back here at my base, want to speak to someone?” he asked as Stan agreed and every word they both said was recorded and being sent back to Command who was watching it live.

      A minute later an older man came on and waved as Stan asked who he was.

      “James Boding, of the freighter Caraway, serial number 2145600...I want you to know that Captain Hines has been nothing but hospitable since we got here, my ship is even in fine condition now,but with the war going no we cant safely come home in it.” he admitted as Stan did admit it might be hard. “Please listen to what he has to say, he’s a good man.” The man added and walked away as Hines took his place again.

      “So..what do you want from me?” Stan asked as Captain Hines got a huge grin.

      “I’m willing to release everyone we took to return home, and our Navy say they wont interfere, but your orders are to shoot everyone leaving our space isn’t that true?” he asked as Stan admitted it was. “ I want your word... personally.. that these refugees get safe passage back into Union space. Its getting a bit expensive feeding so many for free.” he added and laughed as Stan laughed right along.

      “I’ll escort them to the boarder, you meet me there and take them on home hows that? A prisoner release program so many can return home, and I want nothing but good will in return.” Hines said as Stan got a big grin.

      “You release all those people unharmed and we’ll guarantee you get some good publicity, hows that?” Stanley asked as the young man nodded it was a deal, and two hours later two nice new ships sat on the boarder looking across at each other.

      “Nice ship...” Captain Samuel Hines said, looking the cruiser over as Stan thanked him saying his was pretty nice as well. “ I cant afford a cruiser right now, and being a businessman I have to pay for everything myself... you understand right?” he asked as Stanley just laughed, his’nice ship’ belonged to the Union Navy, but Hines owned his own, so he might even have an advantage.

      “And the prisoners?” Stanley asked as two ships ran by and scans showed them full of civilians.

      “I’m a man of my word, and after the war I might be looking to do some trading over there, so things like this should count for something right?” He asked as Stan smiled and agreed he was trying at least.

      “Keep acting like this and we’ll see.” Stanley mentioned as they waved at each other and both ships turned and disappeared a minute later.

      “Our Captain all but gave him open rights to pirate on our side of the boarder..” One grumpy General said loudly, but the rest of the Council didnt agree.

      “He’s a mercenary just like ours..we send them to destroy convoys...how many of their crews have we taken prisoner, if any?” Got mentioned, as many agreed even though silently.” He’s not a special problem like we first thought , just a man making a living. Of course if we catch him and he fires on us he gets what every enemy gets, a fast ride to Hell. But if he treats his prisoners well and sees they get home....we cant even say we do that much for them.” He mentioned as the room got quiet and everyone knew this was going to be a discussion that would last a while... Civility in War...something many didn’t think existed.


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      Chapter 13: Business as Usual

      Stanley got a big pat on the back for his part in the release effort, and after some talks back and forth several Haidar civilians got sent home as well. Things were looking up, if even slightly, and Stan sat back in his command chair hoping it was the start of something better for them all.

      The next few weeks went by uneventfully and soon Stanley was sitting in Command listening to the usual griping about wins and losses during the war. But he just sat there listening and smiled, nothing new was mentioned and sometimes even the Chairman of the meeting stopped whiners to say just that. Everyone had their own agendas, and everyone at the table knew it well in advance.

      More ships, more supplies more of everything was needed, even though this wasn’t a very large war every region had civilians they needed to support as Stan nearly laughed hearing them going on about needs that were mostly imaginary.

      “You put off building the new cruiser class for 2 years now, and now we’re in a war! What does it take to get you people off your asses?” Got demanded as the Chairman asked the Union Rep to please talk more civilly, as the man looked tired hearing it.

      “Our ships list is holding very well thank you..” he heard as the man looked disgusted.”If you dont want them to last as long maybe you shouldn’t build them as well.” He heard as several people laughed at the look on his face.

      “Dont temp us..” He said harshly as the Chairman quickly mentioned that contracts weren’t up for bid at the moment, and if they thought that they were getting cheated there was a law to protect them too...and the threats died right there.

      “Captain Hudson, how is that cruiser holding out we gave you?” He asked as Stanley almost choked getting singled out so suddenly as a few saw and smiled.

      “It’s a fine ship, I have no problems with it at all.” he declared and even the Union Rep seemed pleased to hear that.

      “We have 4 more older light cruisers that need upgrading, maybe we can agree on that...to keep civilians working for a while?” The Chairman asked as many agreed, and the Representative looked happy he gained something.

      “We can start immediately, shipyard 2 is on standby just in case.” The Rep added as many chucked as he tried not to notice. They talked costs and after some haggling the deal was done, and the Rep walked out on his phone already getting people to work to reopen the closed yard and get ready for some new work.

      “Even Military jobs programs are all politics...” Stan heard as he turned to see the Chairman, Admiral Harding walking up to him. “Is the cruiser really doing well in battle?” He asked as Stan agreed they had been in several fights and it held out well under pressure, as the man nodded and smiled. Making so called ‘light’ ships was a fairly new thing, in the past every ship got bigger and bigger until they reached sizes that were astronomical to build and Command, and the prices went out of sight, so things had to change.

      “Still taking tests for fun?” he asked as Stan said he didn’t have much time for that type of thing now that he had Command and the Admiral just laughed, knowing most of the work he got was on purpose. “Well keep doing what you’re doing it looks good for all of us.” He said and walked away and Stanley wondered what he meant by that, but just left it go and went back to his ship, while waiting for Emily to call.

      When the call came it wasnt the one he thought he’d get, but his mom was on the line saying that Emily wasnt coming this week because she was under the weather and sick in bed.

      “Will she be OK?” he asked as she agreed she would but not to expect her this month for sure.

      “I’ll send her some flowers or something then.” he said and hung up and went and did just that, and his mom went back to watching over Emily while trying to see what was causing her sour stomach and dizzy spells.

      So that was it for Stan’s nice weekend off, so he went back to the ship and got some work done, and after a day went and studied some more and passed a test he had seen before but never had time for.

      “You had to mention it didn’t you?” One Admiral asked as the Chairman got a big grin,” now he’s passed another test, with a rather high score too. Two and a half years in and we’re holding back every rank he’s already earned until he get some more experience.” He said as the Chairman smiled and agreed.

      “Well it’s not right...” They heard, as the President’s personal Representative spoke up. “ If the man is that skilled give him his rank, experience will come with them too I’m sure.” He declared as some disagreed.

      “Just because none of you could get these ranks this young doesn’t mean he cant, or others like him coming up wont...let the tests and his previous experience teach you what he can or cant do. He has a good mission success rate.. yes?” he asked as many silently agreed. “ Then let him have his rank, having a man so young in High Command will show we aren’t holding back good men for our own egos.” he said loudly and sat back to see what happened next, and after some angry talk from a few, Stanley got a new rank...Commodore...not Admiral, not yet, but certainly a big step up for a man who just turned 25 years old.

      And with the new rank came a choice, stay with his old ship or get another of his choice, and after thinking about it for a few days he decided to stay with his old ship...for now...and many nodded agreement to hear it because with his new rank he could, and will, Command a small Fleet and having him flying out to meet them in a battle ship or carrier would be just too big a shock to the older Captains those ships had in Command. Like that wasn’t going to be one anyways, just not as badly this way. And the word got sent out and many smiled that the golden boy of the Union Navy was moving again, and many weren’t too sure they liked it either, as the Fourth Attack Group came into being and the Commander was a young man many knew by reputation alone, but they would watch him until they decided if they could trust him or not.


      Chapter 14: The Little War that Was...Gets Serious


      The enemy wasn’t unaware of Stanley either, the Empire had some really good spies, and when they reported new officers that rose like comets in the ranks, then the Empire Navy started getting worried, and maybe a bit jealous too.

      They knew of his recent promotion maybe 2 weeks after it happened and with that knew that a new Fleet or in this case Task Force was patrolling the boarder and helping convoys avoid them. It made it look like they were using the War to train new people, a thought that got mentioned in their Command briefings as well. But to be reduced to trainers instead of enemies made a few angry, and so plans got started to show them they were truly serious and not just messing around for fun.

      Polk Station was right along the boarder, a major trading place where high level traders from both sides met to divide up the economy now and after the war. Not the type of people that the Navy liked, but were forced to deal with regardless, and so a Imperial Admiral at that meeting decided that a message needed sent, and his Second Fleet moved in to show them that money wasn’t the only reason the war was being fought.

      It struck 2 days later, and when the Fleet came out of warp the station went into panic mode and started screaming for help...as 20 fighters and several medium sized enemy ships quickly surrounded it and cut off every route of escape for the 4000 people on board.

      But the message got out, first to a freighter that had just left then to the local patrol guarding the trade lanes and finally to Command who ordered everyone not previously engaged in a fight to respond. 20 ships jumped in and opened fire, and when that happened the Command ship joined the Imperial Fleet and launched their fighter squads too and the area around the station was thick with weapons fire.

      Stanley and his Team got there mid battle and after looking the mess over for a second he ordered them in. He attacked the nearest cruiser himself and they exchanged heavy fire before it exploded not 2 miles away and Stanley turned to check the rest of his men, and found a corvette class was already gone.

      “Don’t go running in wildly, help each other.” He ordered and a few pulled back a bit to get help before pushing their advantage any more. The idea was heard by others to and even with no reason to follow his orders as members of other groups, they too saw the advantage and two cruisers called for escorts and some fighters and a corvette from a different group joined them as they ran back into battle after getting their shields back up.

      The enemy brought 4 squadrons of fighters and 6 medium class ships, and the union answered with 20 ships of different sizes, from 3 different groups. And they lost some too as nutty people just screamed ‘Attack!’ and nothing else, and fighters got caught alone by capital ship turrets and missiles and smaller ships got hit hard by bigger enemy vessels as they rushed in to get some glory for themselves.

      But Stanley took time to look and see and since his Force was only 6 ships, two cruisers, 2 corvettes and some fighters that launched from the cruisers. That wasn’t a big force in such a large battle but he didn’t like losing people, so he ordered them every few minutes and when one enemy ship went down that little group or ship was ordered back for shield repair and this way he slowly made a difference as ship after ship on both sides were destroyed or disabled too badly to continue.

      The battle lasted for hours, and the station took multiple hits from heavy missiles and torpedos but it remained intact, mainly because of the quick response of the Navy getting there. After half a day what was left of the enemy withdrew, and ships of all typed floated nearby as rescue ships rushed in to look for survivors.

      And they found some too, from both sides, and one Empire cruiser was still intact, more or less, and several Union ships that would need a lot of repairs, including Stanley’s cruiser, the Hostile, now barely hanging on but still moving as it docked to the station for emergency repairs itself.

      He lost half his Attack Force, one cruiser one corvette and a couple fighters, but even at that a few got picked up as survivors and he welcomed them back as he walked down the line of emergency beds set up in the halls of the station Infirmary.

      “I’m fine..” The one young lieutenant said as Stanley agreed. “but now you owe me a new ship.” he joked and laughed until the doctor came by and sedated him for getting rowdy when so badly hurt.

      “Consider it done...” Stan mentioned as the doctor asked if HE had been checked over yet and after a short argument Stan got slapped down for a check up and not surprising , he had 2 cracked ribs and many good bruises.

      But the Union was now really upset. This was the biggest battle of the war, a war that many thought was a joke until now. But over 500 dead, and 9 ships destroyed and four others disabled and in for repair, was no joke for half a day, and many saw that the war was just getting started, and that didn’t please anyone at all.


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