Defensive Preparations

31 April YC124
Sovereign Duchy of Beseth Dunijia Air Force (SDAF) hangar, Great Teeth mountain range

“Major Carolyne Doyle, call sign “Conan”,” the newly appointed wing commander said, pointing to the first in the line of twelve newly graduated fliers. The first in a hopefully long line of aviators qualified for atmospheric and potentially spaceflight in defense of the burgeoning duchy. “The major is our squadron leader, sir.”

“Thank you,” Duke Shasta said, shaking the major’s hand. “I hear you are an excellent aviator, ma’am.”

“Wouldn’t say that, sir. But I do have some experience up in the air, flying crop dusters. Sure as hell ain’t anything like the sims, but it’s still something. Can’t wait to get up there!” the young brunette said.

Duke Shasta nodded. He liked the enthusiasm the tall, slender woman was showing. If every one of my pilots is like this, this duchy is very, very safe.

“And the squadron XO?” Shasta asked, turning to the wing commander.

The officer smoothed his blue uniform blouse and nodded. He pointed down the line to the next flier, also clad in a blue flight suit, and said, “Captain Nassus Noto, executive officer, squadron NOS-01. Major Doyle’s wingman.”

Duke Shasta looked at the minister of defense standing next to him, his head tilted in a silent question.

“Near Orbit Superiority. It’s the abbreviation for the squadron, sir. They haven’t come up with a squadron name yet, but we set up an alphanumeric code - NOS for near orbit superiority, their mission, and 01 because they’re the first squadron to be assigned to that mission, sir,” the man said. He was a former Legionnaire, a company commander who had risen, albeit briefly, to the rank of battalion commander. Shasta had wanted his Legion commander, Praetor Najir Darim, to take the helm of the ministry, but the man had strenuously refused, instead recommending Major Tiken Okirva for the job. And so Major Okirva had become Minister Okirva. And while Shasta still wished that Najir was his minister, he had to admit that Okirva had been doing a fine job. And as a plus, Najir was still a valued advisor - almost an unofficial minister of defense, in fact. Shasta nodded and turned back to the aviator standing stiffly at attention.

“Congratulations on your graduation, Captain.”

“Thank you, SIR!” the aviator said loudly. Shasta turned to the wing commander.

“Former military, sir,” the wing commander said sheepishly. “I know you prefer to dispense with the formalities, but formality is almost baked into the soul. Honestly, can’t say it’s a bad thing.”

Shasta smiled slightly. True. But I don’t want to be a stranger. A nameless face. “And who is this?” he gestured to the next person in line.

“That would be Captain Teinns Grieski. He will command the second flight of four fighters, while Major Doyle commands the first, sir.” the wing commander said. “And he is essentially the third in command for the squadron.”

Shasta nodded, extending his hand.

Major Doyle ran her hand against the hull of her brand new fighter, built using titanium alloy and overlaid with tungsten carbide armor plating. The gold accents gleamed in the artificial lighting of the hangar.

“Admiring your fighter, Major?” Duke Shasta walked up behind the major.

“Yes, sir,” the major replied, hastily snapping to attention.

“At ease, major,” the duke replied. “I love this paint scheme. Don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.” Both admired the paint scheme that had been applied to the brand new AS-37 Airax. Like the other fighters, the fighter had been painted red with horizontal black stripes running along the fuselage. It also had the numbers 0 and 1 painted in big black characters near the cockpit on both sides of the craft, and it had more gold accents than its sister craft, as befitted the personal craft of the squadron commander.

“Fly it well, major,” the duke said.

“Of course, sir.”

“When’s your first patrol?”

“I’m going up with the first flight. 0700 hours tomorrow morning. Combat training. Legion engineers are setting up a range somewhere in the Great Teeth. We’re going to do the runs in pairs and alternate doing training runs and patrolling over the city.”

“Excellent. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to check on the rest of your squad.”

“Would you like me to accompany you?”

“No, thank you,” the duke said, heading towards the fighter of the squadron executive officer.

Minister Okirva and Praetor Darim found Duke Shasta in a neighboring hangar bay three hours later, after he had finished his rounds. He was standing in the doorway, staring at the dozen steel gray craft sitting in neat rows in the hangar bay.

“Milord?” the praetor asked.

“Ah, Praetor, Minister.” The duke turned around. “I was just admiring these gunships we ordered. I see they have all arrived.”

“Indeed, milord,” the minister replied. “The crews are scheduled to begin applying the paint jobs later this afternoon.”

“Excellent,” the duke said, walking towards the nearest gunship. “Have the pilots been selected?”

“Yes, milord. Twelve pilots, and twelve gunners. They’ve finished the lectures and paper courses and are in the simulator phase of the basic training, sir. They should be combat ready in mid July, in fact.”

“Excellent.” The duke stopped in front of the LO-11 Albat Support Gunship. Like the interceptors flown by the pilots of NOS-01, the Albat was also rated for both low orbit and atmospheric flight, and built using some of the same materials. The Albat was much larger than the interceptors, straddling the line between a heavy fighter and a light transport. It was also much more heavily armed, with a triple barreled 30mm Gatling gun under the nose and rocket pods hanging off the wings compared to the Airax’ single laser cannon in the nose. It was also not nearly as sleek as the Airax. While the Airax was shaped like a long dagger with a round pommel for the cockpit, the Albat was short and squat, with two stubby wings and a pair of cockpit bubbles over the nose. “Excellent. I look forward to the ceremony.”

Later, at Duke Shasta's manor house on the outskirts of Dam Vishen

Duke Shasta walked down the path, which was lined with Zakura Bazei cherry trees. He spotted a man wearing a gray business suit walking quickly down the path towards him. As the man came closer, he recognized his Director of Intelligence, Ty West. He stopped and surveyed his yard as he waited for the director to reach him. The massive yard was bordered by hedges and tall fencing. A number of brick paths crisscrossed the field, each lined with lampposts and cherry trees or, in some cases, hedges. Shasta noticed that the grass was growing a bit long. Gotta get the landscaping crew back out here. Today, or tomorrow at latest. A decent sized swimming pool was located near the northeast corner, with a number of floodlights situated around the pool to provide illumination.

“Milord, sir,” Director West said as he walked up.

“Director. What is it?”

“Erm … we have news from Eugales, sir.”

“Oh? What news?” the duke asked, his interest piqued.

“Erm … ,” Director West stammered. He inclined his head towards the house. “Erm … .”

“Ah, yes, of course. I’m sorry. Come. We can talk in my study,” the duke said, belatedly realizing why his director of intelligence was so uncomfortable. The two began walking briskly back down the path towards the large manor house.

“Thank you, Sergeant,” Duke Shasta said, nodding to the uniformed Brutor sergeant who had opened the double doors to his study as he and Director West entered. As the sergeant silently closed the door, Shasta pointed to one of the two chairs set in front of his desk. “Please, Director. Have a seat.”

As Director West sat down, Duke Shasta walked around his desk to sit at his black judge chair. He swept the room with his eyes, appreciating once more the excellent craftsmanship that had gone into constructing the room, and the rest of the manor house. Only the wall behind his desk was all but bare, with his ornate Scapula VI Hunter Penetration Excel rifle hanging from a pair of brackets as the only decoration- the other three were lined with bookshelves, save a small section of the wall directly before the desk where the double doors had been built. I still haven’t really decorated this wall yet. Gotta get around to that. Shasta mused before shaking his head. But now I gotta work. “So, Director, what do you have?” Shasta asked as he sat down.

“As you know, we have deployed agents to Eugales and the surrounding area to find actionable intelligence against the pirates raiding our trade vessels.”

“And? You get anything?”

“Yes. Well … maybe. We’ve found that the identified Tristan and two of the identified Incursus frigates commonly stop at a deadspace complex,” the Director said, handing over a datapad. “It’s in the Oicx system. Appears to be two pockets in the complex - one has four asteroid colonies, the other has three.”

“Any idea why these pirates have such an interest in the location?”

“Unknown, sir,” the Director replied. “Best guess: it’s trading with the pirates.”


“I’m not … .”

“You have the intelligence, you know what I need. Suggestions?”

“We COULD raid the place, see what the people know. They have to know something.”


“It’s a civilian town, not a pirate base.”

Shasta sighed as he weighed the options. “Okay, thank you. Tell Sergeant Volurki to get the Defence Council into the Council Room in … thirty minutes. We’ll hit the complex.”


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