2949-09-28 – Tales from the Service: Arrowhawk’s Raiders

Several weeks ago now, the light cruiser Arrowhawk limped into Maribel for a patch-up before heading back toward the Core Worlds. There seems little chance we see the ship on the front again – after the wear and tear put on it by the Lost Squadrons, it’s probably destined for demilitarization and scrapping. 

As far as I can tell, very few members of its skeleton crew were aboard during the Lost Squadrons, and those were only there because they were heading homeward or being reassigned to desk postings or academy rotations. While the ship was being worked on, I tried to get an interview with Lieutenant Commander Quinn Kensington, the ship’s head computer tech and a Lost Squadrons veteran, but he declined. He submitted a short on-the-record statement to the effect that he’s glad to have been a part of the Lost Squadrons but looks forward to his new and presumably less perilous posting in the Home Fleet headquarters. 

Given that the Home Fleet is considered something of a dead end posting by many, I wonder how much Kensington is really looking forward to it. There seems to be no indication he performed poorly under Captain Bosch – indeed, he was publicly commended for his ability to adapt to the situation – so I can only assume that the new posting was at his own request. Perhaps being so close to death for so long encouraged him to remember the merits of a desk posting in Earth orbit. 

Fortunately, one of the other Lost Squadrons veterans aboard, one Marine Sergeant Cornell Santiago, was far more willing to deal with us, and Naval Intelligence has finally cleared his story for publication. True, the events in question took place fourteen months ago, but the adventures of the Lost Squadrons still garner a good deal of interest.

Sergeant Santiago heard his squad already talking on the comms channel as he slipped his helmet on and engaged its seals. The topic of conversation seemed to be guesswork about the reason they were being sent planetside on yet another Sagittarian world, and as usual the men offered a curious mix of extreme pessimism and almost childlike optimism about what they’d see when their dropship ramp came down. 

Santiago had long since stopped guessing, but he let the men chatter away in the privacy of their helmets while they filed out of the ready room and out onto Arrowhawk’s flight deck. The dropship was already waiting, its flight crew already aboard preparing for launch, and he was more concerned with whether the craft would get them down and back again without any major problems. In the last three weeks, several of the cruiser’s launches had finally succumbed to the long list of overdue parts replacements and maintenance tasks credited against them, and he didn’t want to be aboard something that was about to hit its definitive end of service life. 

“What about you, Sarge?” Buckland, the closest thing to a rookie Marine aboard, drew Santiago’s attention back to the conversation. 

“Don’t matter to me what’s down there. Whatever it is Captain wants, we get it, and we leave. No sightseeing.” 

The squad hardly needed the pep talk, but Santiago thought it useful for their morale to keep a sense of continuity even though things were going from bad to worse. Their equipment were long past their maintenance need-by dates, and only a few of the big armor-suits they wriggled into before every deployment came online with more green lights than yellow on their status boards. It was only by the grace of a compassionate God and Vasilev overengineering that Santiago and his men could still jump out of their dropship protected by anything sturdier than a flexvest. 

As usual, the briefing data payload appeared in their suit computers only once the dropship had dusted off and was headed toward the pockmarked surface of the planet below. The place looked as inhospitable in the data payload as it did in the dropship’s bow camera feed, but apparently there was a tiny Nate outpost perched on the rim of a volcanic caldera down there which was about to be liberated of its supplies. Whatever guards the enemy had left over its scientists would need to be cleaned up, then the marines would load everything not nailed down back into their dropship. With any luck, they’d be orbital again in two hours. 

As the others read their briefing data and grumbled about once again being sent down to a place without any sunny beaches, cool green hills, or nubile alien females, Santiago focused on images of the facility itself. It squatted on one side of a rocky ridge, spreading white tendrils of prefabricated building along the ground like a parasite colonizing the hide of a huge beast. Whatever the Incarnation wanted out of this volcanic hellscape, their plans were about to experience a setback, Marine style. He made a mental note to “forget” at least one of the fist-sized smart grenades on his belt before he re-boarded as the first wisps of atmosphere began to rattle and groan against the hull. When one of the big Nate cruisers came to see what had happened, all he wanted them to find was a newly scorched crater on an already crater-pocked sphere.