Orphan Star Chapter 01

Chapter 1

It was a grim wharehouse with a nondescript exterior and a dark smoke filled interior. Except for the name on the small holosign hovering over the small entrance, proclaiming “Planet’s End”, it wasn’t any different than hundreds of other small dives surrounding Port Royal, First City’s main space port. You could get anything, legal or illegal, in the area around the port without worrying to much about the port patrol. If a normal citizen was foolish enough to wander into spacers row, he would be lucky if his possessions were all that he lost.

The people who sat in the Planets End were given a very wide berth by the inhabitants of that grim and dangerous area. There are four kinds of people that came to spacers row; those who think they’re tough, those who are tough, those who are just plain deadly, and those who are very foolish. The people who filled the dive qualified on the first three counts. Their mottled dark gray uniforms had led the empire’s forces to combat in space and on planet for eight long years. Every one of them had volunteered to fight and been in the thick of it for most of those eight years.

“Colonel ta’Kall. Colonel ta’Kall” Master sergeant Talos called out as she burst into the bar. “Is Colonel ta’Kall here?” she asked a trooper sitting by the door. With the hand not wrapped around the girl in his lap he motioned toward the back of the room where ta’Kall was sitting at a table playing cards with supply Sgt. O’hare and Major Estacon, the battalion intelligence officer.

Weaving through the tables between the door and the back of the room, Talos cut an impressive figure. Easily six feet tall with a powerful but understated musculature she still had a body that men could dream about. Any of the men that had served with her could tell the uninitiated just how big a mistake it would be to try anything past dreaming. Many men had made that mistake (once), much to the amusement of the rest of her battalion.Those who didn’t know her tended to judge her by her beautiful face, shoulder length red hair and relative youth of 29 years. Those who pushed her found out why she was entitled to wear the insignia of Sergeant Major in the Altairian guard and the decorations for many many combat drops.

She spoke as she approached the Colonel’s table “Hey, Sergeant O’hare, if you’re through finessing our valiant officers’ hard earned credits……”

Sergeant O’hare leaned back and grinned at her “I take offense at your use of the word “finessing” to describe my natural gift for playing cards. It implies that I’m less than honest, and everyone knows that I’m the soul of integrity.”

Every one at the table burst out laughing at this.

Suddenly serious, Colonel ta’Kall spoke “Did our orders come through?”

“Yes sir. The ships here in port start to lift off for orbital formation at local dusk tomorrow, 20:00 SGT (standard guard time).” Talos reported.

“Did they release our destination?” ta’Kall asked.

She paused a second before answering “Yes sir. Banners World in Beta Quadrant.”

There was a moment of shocked silence among the soldiers that were listening.

“They can’t do this to us” sergeant O’hare exclaimed angrily.” We lost our world and took more casualties during the war than any other people or unit. We deserve a planet in Alpha or Epsilon quadrants, not Beta. That’s smack in the middle of the contested borders between the Kj’arote dominion and what is left of the commonwealth. We’ll have to constantly be ready to defend against raiders and pirates”

“At ease sergeant” Colonel ta’Kall wearily spoke. “You didn’t think the emperor would really give us one of the new colony planets closer to the center of the empire? Did you?” Waving his hand to keep O’hare from responding, Colonel ta’Kall leaned forward “Think about it. We are the single most powerfull military force in this sector of the galaxy. We have better weapons than the empire’s elite forces, and we are better trained. If it actually came to a fight he would win out of sheer numbers but we would cut his military to shreds in the process.”

Pausing for a second he ran his hand tiredly over his face before he continued. “We have always had an uneasy relationship with the empire. Our people believe in a much more represetive method of government than the emperor is comfortable with. The war is over now, and the emperor is maneuvering to his best advantage given the current situation. He’s going to put us out in Beta Quadrant as a buffer between him and the Kj’arote along with what is left of the commonwealth. If the Kj’arote try to invade the empire they will hit us first, or if the commonwealth decides to renew hostilities who better to be first in battle. He probably figures that we would slow them down long enough to give him the advantage in a new war. It’s common sense to the emperor. He has always followed the maxim that to keep trouble out of your own back yard, put it in someone else’s. Preferably someone’s that he doesn’t like”

Leaning back he glanced around the table. “This is not unexpected. Our high Command put the probability at better than 90% that we would be offered Banners world, and they are not totally displeased. It puts us a long ways away from the emperor’s eyes and ears. It also leaves us much more freedom from the empire’s bureaucracy than if we were closer to the more populated sectors. It gives us the excuse we need to maintain our own space and ground forces” After pausing for a second he finished in a quite voice. “I wonder if the Emperor thought it all the way through when he made his decision. In the long run it would have been better for him if he had settled us in a safe sector where he could have legitimately demanded that we turn over our ships and made us disband our command structure.”

Suddenly rising he rapped out “Spread the word. All troops report on ship no later than 1300 SGT tomorrow.” Giving a stern look around he added “and I don’t want anyone landing in the local lockup between now and then. Anyone detained will most likely be left behind to find their own way to our new home.  Estacon, Talos I need the two of you back on ship now.”  as he walked toward the door.