The sun reflected off the oceans of Terra. Andrew Snow watched the glitter from the cockpit of his M50 as it sliced through the thin atmosphere at low orbit. The M50 was a sleek and small single seat craft with an angular design built for stealth and speed. Many believed it to be one of the fastest ships available; with the right upgrades installed. Though the M50 was often used as a racer in the civilian world, the UEE Navy used them as couriers; or hit and run interceptors.
Andrew turned his head to the port wing and saw his Second in Command, or 2I/C , Captain Liam “Rogue” Kingsmen formed on his wing. He opened comms. “Bravo one to Alpha one, what's your take on the re-assignment? Over.”
Rogue shook his head, keying the mic. “Bravo one, I think the re-assignment has to do with your poor performance, over.”
Flash smiled beneath his oxygen mask. “Alpha one, or perhaps yours, over.”
“Bravo one, either way I suggest we don't discuss this on comms, over.”
“Alpha one, roger out.” Flash cut the chatter and banked left to get closer to Rogue's M50. Their wings nearly touched when he could see Rogue through the canopy. Rogue was giving him the finger.
“Crazy bastard.” Rogue said to himself, tapping a key on the board near his throttle to briefly activate the starboard thrusters and push him further away from Flash's M50. He looked down to his display and saw the Bengal carrier blip closer. He looked up, it should have been in visual range by now, but the sun cresting Terra made it difficult to see. Then, his eyes caught her. Rogue keyed his mic. “Bravo one to Alpha one, message over.”
“Alpha one, send over.”
“Bravo one, do you see it? Over.”
Flash grabbed hold of the dash and pulled himself up out of his seat slightly, leaning forward in the cockpit. He squinted, and soon the speck became visible. “Alpha one, roger over.”
Before them, the dark silhouette of the Bengal carrier loomed on the horizon, a tiny prick of a shadow that soon grew into a massive sword shaped craft, it's engines glistening dimly as it maintained orbit.
“Jesus.” Flash whispered.
Rogue looked down to his radio and his fingers went to work. They danced across the keys as the display flashed numbers until they fixed on one frequency. He keyed the mic. “Scipio control, this is Greyhound Bravo one, requesting permission to land over.” He waited in silence for a reply. “Fuckers always take their goddamn time.”
His radio squacked, “Greyhound Bravo one, this is Scipio control, request granted for two times M50 on Flight deck zero one. On final approach contact Flight Deck control for further direction to hangar bay, over and out.”
Rogue frowned, he switched channels again and keyed his mic. “Did you hear that shit Andrew? He outed me. I started the damn conversation, He doesn't out me, I out him!”
Flash laughed, and keyed his mic. “Bravo one, this is Alpha one, watch your means, carry out proper voice procedure, over and out.”
“You fucker.” Rogue growled between clenched teeth.
The pair of M50's whisked by the bow of the Scipio and passed beyond the wash of its engines and banked around to come in for a final approach. The giant flight deck doors slowly opened, and the two small craft slid silently into the belly of the carrier.
Squadron eighteen was formed up on the flight deck, all sixteen of them. Their new Squadron Commander Lieutenant Colonel Adam “Gryphon” Chase was inspecting them and their eight Gladiator bombers when the two M50's began landing in the open bays nearby.
Adam glared at them as their thrusters picked up dust and blew it through the formed up men and women of the bomber squadron. “You can call me Gryphon.” He said, yelling over the M50's engines. “We'll be using our callsigns most of the time so I don't see a point in learning your first and last names unless I have to, which mostly means you're on the radar and got in shit somehow.”
One of the men in ranks laughed.
Gryphon's brow furrowed, “Did you find that funny?” he said, walking toward the young officer. “Songbird?” Gryphon said, reading the callsign off the decals painted on the Gladiator parked behind them.
“Don't call me sir, that's for bridge crew or council Admiralty. I'm just another pilot who has the unfortunate task of keeping you all out of shit. Call me Gryphon, Songbird.”
“Yes sir.” Songbird said, a slight grin on his face.
The Squadron Leader turned away. “I'm not going to treat you like children. I think common sense is enough to keep most people out of shit, but if you fuck up you'll know it. You'll know not because I came and yelled at you like your bitch of a mother, but because you'll have duties coming out your ass. Keep an eye on the duty list, if your name is on there, it's either because your straw was drawn, or because you pissed me off.” He glared back at Songbird. “You'd best go take a look at that duty list this afternoon Songbird.”
Gryphon shook his head. “I'm sensing most of you wont' have that many duties this month.”
Songbird smiled. He didn't care much about doing duties, it gave him time to think, sitting there at the admin desk, answering calls and logging members in and out. He was fine with it. There wasn't much to do on the ship anyway, and duties made the time pass quickly. Besides, you had access to a SysBook on duty and that meant net access when the ship was near a relay or in orbit, which they were.
Gryphon looked over to the two M50 pilots who were dismounting and walking toward him.
Flash looked him over, then looked at the formed up unit. “Lieutenant Colonel, can we have a word please?”
Gryphon nodded, and made his way toward them. Once they were out of earshot, he smiled. “Andrew, you bastard, what are you doing here?”
Flash kept a straight face, “You're fucking with them aren't you.”
Gryphon tried not to make his laughter audible. “Of course, they're fresh as fish eggs, I have to have a bit of fun before letting them loose.”
“Just don't be too much of a prick, I know what you're capable of.”
“Who's your 2I/C?” Gryphon asked, watching the other pilot drop down from the M50's cockpit.
“This is Rogue, he's a good pilot. We were posted to the Bengal carrier Beschermer, but got re-assigned to the Scipio after you guys took that beating in Sector Seven. How bad was it?”
Gryphon's face went white. “Bad.” he said, the words barely making it past his lips.
Flash took in a deep breath. “That bad.” he said, putting his hand on Gryphon's shoulder. “Let me know if you need someone to talk to. I'll catch you later.” He turned to Rogue and motioned toward the control office. “Take care Gryphon, and remember, not too much.”
“Don't worry Flash, they'll get just what they need.” Gryphon said, waiving to his old friend.
Gryphon turned back to his troops, still standing at attention. “Squadron eighteen, stand at ease.” he barked, and their feet clattered against the flight deck in unison as they followed the command. “Stand easy.”
They relaxed, and slouched, bent over or knelt down to stretch their thighs.
Gryphon stood before them. “There'll be a fleet wide sortie today. The captain wants to see that we're all logged into the network, all signed in to the Quarter Master's files and that the Hornets, Gladiators and the M50's are space worthy and ready to begin training. Many of you have never seen combat. I hope to God that I can somehow ready you all enough so that when you do see it, it won't be your one and only dogfight.” He looked them over one last time.
“Squadron eighteen.” He said, and they all snapped back at ease.
Their feet came up and down in unison and the clatter echoed through the flight deck as one single sound.
The formation made a sharp right turn and marched smartly for a few steps before they all relaxed and mingled amongst each other, waiting for further orders.