Kentin is a man on a planet under siege and his country doesn't care.
He is an advocate of tea.
Hallard is the Captain of a Corona Coalition Navy frigate, come to liberate the planet from the oppression of Totalitarian states.
He is quite fond of nuclear torpedoes.
Things rapidly become much more complicated for both men, in a race against time to finish the fight and do so without dying.
This story is inspired by books such as Leviathan Wakes and The Forever War.
A white line powered across the sky at an obscene height. The torpedo at it's head was a shining speck in the sun. All across the blue expanse, the old, blurry vapour scars of missiles passing through atmosphere criss-crossed each other, forming a spacious, weaving pattern. Blinking points of reflected light winked like stars in little clusters; The fragmented remains of defence vessels in orbit.
The clear day offered a great view of the scoreboard written in the sky.
The score didn't look too good from the ground.
Kentin walked at a brisk pace, like a man who had to be somewhere, but didn't care much about when he arrived. The sun-baked neighbourhood was full of residents lounging in their gardens, complacent by the summer laziness that accompanied sunshine.
The scene practically yawned at him.
Kentin yawned too.
The projectile high above abruptly lost it's vapour trail as it passed back into the vacuum. Far in the distance, a pair of thin trails travelled at a different vector, perhaps as far away as above the ocean. Kentin wore a slight frown to shield his eyes from the sharp light bathing the city. Nearby, someone's radio spouted a dogmatic rant from the government, condemning the invaders and asking the nation to stand firm.
A smile tugged at the corner of Kentin's mouth. What did this country care about the outcome of the battle above?
they were as close to the bottom of the economic food chain as it was permissable to be for a modernised totalitarian state.
None of the ships fighting above belonged to them.
No blood was being shed on their account.
Kentin turned onto the busy main roadway as the bulky form of a main battle tank lumbered past at fifty miles an hour. It was soon followed by another. Then another. Then three more.
A respectable distance behind the convoy, normal traffic resumed. Kentin's smile deepened as he considered the military patrol. There was no threat they could be responding to. The military was acting like a secretary that bustled around an office doing no actual work. They were putting on a show. Baring their teeth in the subtlest way possible to show anyone who felt like defecting who was still the boss around here. Dictators had a tendency to behave like bullies.
Kentin drank in the image of the quaint yet modern cafe on the street corner as he strolled towards it.
If he was lucky, he could finish breakfast before the world came under new leadership.
* * *
The soft polyfeather filling of the chair, wrapped by an equally soft layer of nylon fabric, was suddenly uncomfortable at Captain Hallard's back.
"One third thrust achieved, Sir", reported Navigator Dermont.
Hallard nodded, a light throbbing emanating from his sinuses. The sense of discomfort passed as thrust ended and inertia caught up with their new speed. the Smooth, transparent Adamantiplast viewport was like the iris of the ship, showing the scene ahead of them in all it's terrible glory.
Spots of brilliant white light that expanded in the blink of an eye and cooled to orange seconds later popped all across the scene at irregular intervals.
The Corona Coalition Navy's battlegroups operated in two layers; combat vessel formations in low orbit supported by Disruption & Distraction Drones shadowing them in high orbit. It was a relatively close quarters fight. The farthest enemy vessel Hallard had engaged was a thousand clicks away.
The DDD's above were also responsible for area awareness for the fleet. With new hostiles breaking atmosphere every quarter hour, The CCN forces had to stay on their toes. All currently active enemy ships were accounted for, leaving Hallard's task force on Airstrike duty.
The ship's targeting laser was pointed planetward, at a sizeable continent that practically glowed in the exquisite sunlight. Friendly fast movers dunked into the atmosphere on looping attack runs that left fuel complexes and vessel launch sites glowing lumps of slag and ragged mountains of rubble.
"Klapton, open a comms link to Dragonfly Squadron," ordered Hallard.
"Aye, sir," came the communications officer's gruff reply.
A green light winked into existance on a screen to Hallards left. The link was established. "Dragonfly Actual, this is Overwatch 13-1. target is painted, you are cleared for your attack run. Out."
"Roger that Overwatch, We are two mikes out," came the muffled reply, harsh against the whine of thrusters in the background.
On the keel guncam, Hallard watched the three green diamonds that encircled Dragonfly Squadron. Thermal hotspots flared off the nose of each craft as they dived through atmosphere at a thousand miles an hour.
There was a lot of air traffic over the continent. Friendly, hostile and civilian. Operations this large, encompassing all theaters, were always messy. they could be facing a serious disaster if they weren't careful.
The CCN was careful to only target countries that were offering active resistance, as they didn't want the planet to hate them too much once they took control.
A hard chime emanated from the Threat Detection Console, and a red square popped onto the keel Guncam, tracking a massive thermal flare accelerating up towards orbit.
Right below Hallard's ship.
"Shit," he enunciated.
* * *
Kentin dragged the little plastic chair under him as he sat, settling at the circular table in front of the cafe. A pleasant breeze swept through the street. People conversed, ate and drank all around him.
One table was deep indiscussion about the invasion. Their gestures suggested they were speaking with conviction.
"Can I help you, sir?," said a honeyed voice.
Kentin looked up. The waitress stood with pen to notepad, with a look of pleasant impatience on her face.
"Some banyu essence tea, please," Smiled kentin, "two sugars."
The waitress's hand moved like the needle of a richter scale. Or a lie detector. She nodded, "anything else?"
"No, thank you."
She nodded again and bustled away. Kentin let out a breath, shifting his weight in an attempt to squeeze every ounce of comfort out of the chair. The whoosh of traffic rose and fell, sounding not unlike a hyperventilating giant. On the wall of the cafe, a monitor was tuned to the local news network.
Text scrolled by on a red banner at the bottom of the screen, underneath a list of sunk vessels belonging to the overseas Vynerian State.
Nouveria - FF
Ampari - FF
Elcidine - CL
New Gharganiv - DD
Borostenti - CC
Several dozen others.
To Kentin, they were just names and class designations. A man watching the monitor shook his head before downing a bubbling beverage in one gulp. The waitress returned with Kentins tea. She set it down gently, along with a checking book.
"Thank you," he said as she walked away.
Kentin took a sip from the curved metal cup, the soothingly sweet liquid spreading it's warmth as he swallowed.
Several people around him made short sounds of mild interest or surprise. Looking up, Kentin saw what they were reacting to.
Another sun had appeared.
Much smaller, much whiter.
With every passing second it's glow faded, and soon it was an opaque orange smear. A wound in the sky. Kentin wondered how many lives he'd just witnessed ending. He estimated at least three dozen. More for a large ship. He dug into his pocket, clutching and withdrawing a five credit block. He set it down on the interior of the checking book and closed it over.
It was then that he noticed the quiet rattle of his cup on it's saucer, watching the liquid within it quivering with vibration. The noise of thick static mixed with rapidly popping bubble wrap washed over him.
Turning around, he saw a thick pillar of smoke trailing from a bright orange exhaust light as it soared straight up.
It was a ship.
Kentin's jaw fell slack.
The country may very well have just joined the fight.
His heartbeat quickened.
"Shit," he pronounced.
* * *