FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BOLD #1

Cast of Characters — Part 1

LIEUTENANT NORICANUS, Ryck A., Signals Officer, 281 Assault Cohort, 3rd Imperial Legion.

LIEUTENANT DEX, Ezra F., Infantry Officer, 281 Assault Cohort, 3rd Imperial Legion.

CAPTAIN AVAROUQI, Ahmad A., Cohort Commander, 281 Assault Cohort, 3rd Imperial Legion.

LIEUTENANT PARR, Jacques M., Infantry Officer, 281 Assault Cohort, 3rd Imperial Legion.

SURGEON-LIEUTENANT KLINE, A.C., Field Medical Officer, 281 Assault Cohort, 3rd Imperial Legion.

LIEUTENANT HALMUS, Andriana R., Executive Officer, 281 Assault Cohort, 3rd Imperial Legion

[MESSAGE_LOG 2247218_MEF]

KARST HAD ALWAYS BEEN A NATION OF CITIZEN SOLDIERS, AND FOR THAT, A FREE, POWERFUL EMPIRE AMONG THE STARS. NONE DARE TOUCH US, AND THOSE WHO HAVE, HAS FACED INNUMERABLE CONSEQUENCES. THE RAIDER LEAGUE, THE CHURCH OF LIGHT, THE MARAUDING WEEDS OF THE CALPURNI DIRECTORATE, HAVE ALL FACED US AND LOST — GONE AND DROWNED, VANISHING IN THE GREAT VOIDS OF SPACE.

BRAVE SOLDIERS OF THE IMPERIUM! YOU HAVE TRAINED HARD FOR THIS MOMENT. THE ALFARIANS ARE COWARDS, HIDING BEHIND THEIR VAST ARMY OF SLAVES AND BACKWARDS PROFLIGATES. THE WORLD OF MARDONNA LAYS IN FRONT OF US, ONE OF THE MANY ENSLAVED WORLDS OF THE ALFAR. BRAVE SONS OF THE IMPERIAL LEGION! IT IS TIME TO STRIKE YOUR NAMES UPON THE TABLETS OF HISTORY. WE WILL LAND, WE WILL CONQUER, AND WE WILL MAKE MARDONNA OURS!

MARCUS HADRIANICUS

COMMANDING GENERAL

MARDONNA EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

22 JULY 2270

FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BOLD Part 1

H-38 Hours, Operation FORTUNE

Hyperspace Lane 224AC ‘Issvan-Mardonna Route’

The Invasion of Mardonna required the combined force of two naval battle groups, that of Strike Force Prometheus and Strike Force Chimera. The current Imperial administration at Karst had commissioned Admiral Andriana Thrax, the thirty four year-old daughter of Imperator Caesar Maximilian Thrax, to command the invasion force. Just weeks before, the massive force of twenty-three Imperial II-class destroyers, three Thesalon-class battle cruisers, and a denizen of assault ships carrying the hundreds of thousands of ground troops had been assembled from the hundreds of lightyears of imperial space to be concentrated, in order to exact the ultimate consequence of meddling with Imperial power.

The war with the Alfar began quickly, with the first major action fought at Thesalon Sol, one of the two core systems of the Imperium, when the Alfar Theocracy decided to bring themselves a massive battle group of forty destroyers and six battle cruisers, along with a large complement of ground troops, thinking that the Imperium had been defeated after a long six months of raids and minor actions against Imperial Frontier Stations at the border systems.

After consecutively losing territory and one too many resources, the Alfar decided that it would be best to act swiftly before the Karst Imperium could rebuild its forces and organize a counterattack. However, much to their surprise, Strike Force CHIMERA–the sectoral fleets that had been deployed to the Imperium’s southern colonies to fend off the separatists and pirates–was waiting alongside the orbital spaceport which, in the last six months, had been converted from a civilian dock into a giant of gargantuan orbital defence cannons. With the then-battered Thesalon Sectoral Fleet (Strike Force PROMETHEUS) the appearance of these ships at the edge of Thesalon Sol put the Alfarians in a fit of shock; the massive Alfarian fleet was easily destroyed by the combined forces of the orbital cannons and the two sectoral fleets.

It was not more than a few months afterwards that 281 Assault Cohort, III Imperial Legion, who were among the many legionary forces mounting defenses within the two weeks’ battle in Thesalon Sol, were embarked upon transport ships and sallied to bring the fight to the Alfarians.

Upon the INS Blue Dawn, the troop transport we had been assigned to on Thesalon, the officers of 281 Assault Cohort gathered in the drawing room of the officer’s mess, sharing a few shots of good whiskey to ease the conversation. The officer corps of 281 were used to long voyages in the void as they were part of the legion–the mobile force directly under the Imperial Authority on Karst–so they always had a bit of refreshments on the way. The Auxiliaries, planetary troops that could be transported off the planet in case of emergency, were somewhat stiff on void flight; sitting bored and spending the past week somewhat incapacitated, until our cohort offered them a drink or two. It was a lesson learnt.

Upon a pair of cushioned sofas–the Navy seemed to be much less Spartan than the Ground Forces were–the lieutenants, who led companies, gathered around the cohort commander, a certain captain. Surely, cohort commanders hadn’t been captains before the interstellar age, however, due to the large masses of men involved, every rank was notched up a bit; lieutenants led companies, captains or majors led cohorts, and the old rank of colonel had been removed completely–creating a new, more practical rank: legatus, and his staff officers transformed into the tribunes (read: tri-bu-nes). The legatus was in command of a whole legion, consisting of eight thousand men each. The legatus was nor his staff officers were present upon the table; they never were. The privileged few who were born into the aristocracy shared a different lodging upon the ship than the usual man. The legati and the tribunes were of the patrician class and were privileged certain high-ranking positions upon joining the military; the equestrian class,those who either had undergone Strata-1 education, or of family that owned lands or businesses, could enter from the position of optio, the most junior officer rank, and climb their way up. The plebians–the most common within the Imperium–were poised to serve as ‘foot soldiers’; enlisted men. Although it was not forbidden for the upper-classes to join positions of the lower-privileged, it was extremely rare. Neither was it socially acceptable; both from their original ‘class’ or in the ‘class’ they were attempting to join. However, upon joining the military, an enlisted man could rise to even general command; however, that too, was extremely rare, or in other words impossible.

The Imperium exercised a hardline measure of citizen soldiery. Even in hard times like these, in the Imperium, the term ‘conscription’ was something archaic and unknown. Who dares wins; those who would want to become something in the Imperium had to serve at least five years in the Imperial Armed Forces, whether it was in the corridors and hulls of the Navy or in the grueling dirt of the Ground Forces. Of course, it was a sort of voluntarism; but a voluntarism under circumstances and that way we were never lacking in men. It seemed to be a philosophy we copied from the Romans so long ago in our history as an ever-fighting species; and they lasted over two-thousand years that way. It was a system I didn’t really agree with, but it worked.

Most of the junior officers and enlisted men in 281 weren’t planning on a career. We were, as they called, ‘five-and-out’ers. I studied law in Thesalon Central, graduating after four years, and signed up the next day. It was just the norm for anyone with a Strata-1 education to either join the planetary forces, the Auxiliaries, rather than the Mobile Army, which was formed into Legions. I didn’t really enjoy the stagnant life of planetary auxiliaries.

There were twenty legions spread across Imperial Space, eight of them, including mine, were in the depths of hyperspace, heading towards Mardonna Sol, as part of Task Force Gladius.

The captain, dressed in an olive drab jumpsuit with the insignia of his rank pinned on his shoulders, under it a green shirt and tie, paired with shining boots and hair cut to military standard, had a piece of paper in his hand. Sitting quite slouchingly on the sofa, he briefed us.

“Alright, boys. Let’s get started; we’re approximately 38 hours away out of hyperspace, so the General’s got something for us all. I’ve sent them all to your devices, so take a look at them right now. It’s quite inspiring.” He said, sarcastically. Captain Ahmed Avarouqi has been on at least four surface assaults; three against space raiders, one against the Church, so he was quite stoic of it. He’d seen these encouragements slightly too much, paired with one too many dead good men that he was too tired of remembering. We all opened our datapads and read the short electronic pamphlet.

Avarouqi was the beloved commander of 281 Cohort. Each cohort consisted of four companies with 200 men each; three to four combat companies and another one being Headquartes & Headquarters, which consisted of whatever complementary services a cohort needed; intelligence, operations, logistics, plans, signals, medical, among others. Each sections were headed either by officers or senior enlisted, and served directly subordinate to the executive officer, Lieutenant Andriana Halmus, who sat next to the captain. Not all of HHC company was present, however; they always had something to do, somewhere. Attending were myself, who was in charge of signals, along with Surgeon-Lieutenant Kline. Frontline infantry companies were less heterogenic; consisting of three rifle and one mortar troops each.

“Quite inspiring, sir.” Said the surgeon, stoically.

“It’s a good thing that we didn’t lose in Thesalon so that the men are quite pumped up to land in Mardonna. It’s been quite the wait that the Legion could finally have a piece of those bastards.” Said Lieutenant Ezra Dex, one of the company commanders. Then the final addition came, “sir.”

I was rather baffled by the fact that this piece of paper was the reason we were gathered here. The Captain opened up two quality bottles for nothing?

However, my expectations were met when Avarouqi closed his datapad and hunkered down, his elbows meeting his knees. It always meant he was going to say something serious. “Listen up. I don’t know if we’ve been given the lucky strike, but something’s going on for 281. I’m sure you all still remember the station boarding techniques?” a wide grin came over his stoic face. The cohort officers halted their drinking. It was time to sit down and put a big ear over the captain’s mouth. “So here’s the catch. Our forward recon teams have–about time–found out that the Alfars have constructed a sizeable network of orbital defences. Now, that would rip our fleet to shreds even upon entering the system’s asteroid field.”

“Wait,” said Lieutenant Jacques Parr, commander of Company 3. “So they want us to land on it and blow it up? Doesn’t sound too bad.” Jacques Parr was stubborn, full of bravado, and loved talking big. He was on pretty great terms with the tribunes and the legatus; his uncle was some hot shot somewhere somehow in the Imperial administration. Physically, he wasn’t small either; his parents had nurtured him to grow tall and big and handsome but nothing else other than absolute idiot, at least, to me.

Of course not, lieutenant.” Said Avarouqi. “This shit is straight from Expeditionary Command. So listen, because I won’t say it again. There’s a mining station out by Avalon IV, one of the gas giants’ sattelites. 281 will land there, take it, and hand it over to the Navy Engineers to construct a big-motherfucking-gun to counter the orbital weapons. We’re expected to be on standby tomorrow at 1200 Hours. The quartermaster’s been alerted of the operation, so get some sleep, some good food, and brief your troops immediately. I want all 600 men and complementary equipment battle-ready at Bay Six at 1100. Any questions?”

No questions came from the other officers.

“Good. Now get-fucking-moving.”

***