It had taken the men less time to 'move in' then had been expected. The quarters were designed in such a fashion as to segregate each Squadron to its own module. From the main corridor, the entrance to a module would lead to a common area of which were branched four sets of quarters; each housing three berths for the members of the individual flights that comprised the squadrons.
A man stood at the entrance to the module. When Jonathan caught him in his periphery, his eyes instinctively drifted toward the rank on his chest. “Group!” Jon yelled, noticing the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Everyone in the common area of the module sprang to attention.
“At ease.” said the man, Glas in hand. “I see you're all settling in nicely.”
The module remained silent, but Jonathan noticed this man too was carrying a kit bag and a barrack box.
“My name is Thomas McKeen, I'm going to be your Squadron Commander. Where's Lieutenant Leger and Second Lieutenant Staffer?”
Both of the men sounded off. “Sir.”
“I'll be bunking with you two, as you are my wingmen.” He turned to the others. “If you haven't noticed already, there's a lot of fresh blood on the Scipio. Up until recently, I was Major Thomas McKeen and I was the second in command of the one hundred and fifteenth Dread Hounds down the hall.”
The room listened intently.
“Before you start asking questions to the wrong people or spool up the rumor mill, I've been instructed to tell you about the ambush. We'd been tracking a small group of Vanduul marauders, or rather we followed their trail of destruction through eight systems. On several occasions they left some of their fighters behind for us to stumble upon, and we took a few casualties during those skirmishes. Ultimately though, we caught up to them too late. They had the time to regroup and we found ourselves severely outnumbered. After the first few engagements, we became nearly combat ineffective. On the flight deck, you'll notice a lot of brand new flashy hornets, because we lost three quarters of our compliment. To make it worse, a flight of bombers made it past our thin defense nearing the end of the last engagement and struck the bridge and port side engines with torpedoes, killing the Captain and severely damaging the Scipio.
"With such a large number of personnel lost, there will be room for quick promotion for those of you who have talent. The quarters here are designed to promote camaraderie, if you don't like your roommates, you have two choices; get over it and stay in the same room, or don't get over it and stay in the same room. You're not changing bunk spaces and I won't hear anything about it. You're going to have to learn to trust the people in your flight, because out there, you aren't going to have the choice. Lastly, I don't like heroes. Heroes get dead or get other people dead. You are a team, you are not individuals because as individuals you are useless to me and the Scipio. If you think you can succeed on your own, you're an idiot and I will have you removed from my manifest and you'll spend the rest of this tour of duty on dispatch or maintenance.”
As he finished his last words, someone came up behind him in the doorway. “Good timing.” McKeen said. “This is your second in command, Captain Logan Arpei.”
Arpei stepped forward, and all could hear the labored breaths that sucked through the face mask that obscured nearly everything below his eyes.
“I heard your little -” His words were cut by the sucking of air as the mask breathed in harshly. “speech about individuality.”
McKeen grinned. “Arpei here is a great example of this. His callsign is Hotrod for a reason.”
Captain Arpei turned to the room, his breathing as audible as ever. “I broke off from my flight to engage one of the torpedoes launched at the Scipio.” His mask hissed. “I destroyed it before it reached the target, but I had to sacrifice my hornet to do so.”
“In the process of ejecting amidst the remnants of the torpedo, he got shrapnel through the abdomen.” McKeen interjected.
Arpei nodded. “It tore out my diaphragm, and so I had a choice to take a leave of absence to undergo surgery for implants planetside, or stay shipboard at the expense of wearing this thing indefinitely.”
“Lesson learned?” Asked McKeen.
The men saw the edges of Logan Arpei's cheeks wrinkle as he smiled beneath the mask.
“I think not.” He said with a chuckle.