Chapter 1: Showdown at Lo-Lorane
Ensign Prallan Tigrole stared out the viewport at the white-blue marble of a planet that they orbited. It had been a rare find, a breathable atmosphere outside the core sectors. Designated Lo-Lorane, it had been charted only a year earlier, but now there was a fledgling colony established, with four million brave souls trying to carve out a new life for themselves far away from the overcrowded streets of the Core Worlds of the Empire. Many would sign up for the missions on barren wastelands, doomed to live under glass domes that held out the deadly and poisonous air of very foreign worlds. Colonies like those had been the only solution when hospitable planets were in short supply. They had allowed the Empire to expand, providing fuel stops for exploration vessels and tapping vital mineral resources for the construction of new vessels. The Core World had been mined out years ago, and most of the asteroid belts in the core sectors were meeting the same fate. Massive mining goliaths roamed those belts, consuming the asteroids and shipping out refined materials for use in the manufacturing centers of the Empire.
Prallan looked up, and noticed the chronometer on the wall. If he did not leave the mess now he would be late for his shift on the bridge. Handing the mug of tea he had been drinking over to one of the mess workers, he headed up to the bridge. The only perk of being an ensign was that he was allowed to use the officer’s mess, which meant he only had to walk a short distance to the bridge. It would matter more on a larger vessel, but even on the Imperial Defense Frigate Jinar, it meant being on the same deck as the bridge, and not needing to take a lift up or down. As he closed to the bridge, a group of other officers joined up with him, the entire second shift had arrived, and they approached the door to the bridge together. As they filed into the bridge, Commander Potole, highest ranking officer of their shift, was talking with Captain Braton. Prallan caught the conversation as he relived the Ensign at the weapons station.
“Ma’am, the readings of the Jirus jump point have always fluctuated a little, I don’t think we need to worry ourselves about these minor fluctuations” Commander Potole said to the Captain. Potole was much older than Braton, but fate and luck had placed Potole on a medical discharge for treatment of a rare condition while Braton was fighting in the Preezar incursion a year before. That battle that had left her, a young lieutenant, as the only officer left alive on a light cruiser, in command. She had taken the initiative and driven the cruiser deep into the flank of the enemy formation. The surprise maneuver, and the thought on the part of the Preezar that the ship had been too badly damaged to fight at all, turned the tide of the battle, and while the cruiser was too badly damaged and too far behind enemy lines to be salvaged, Braton had earned her new commission, even if by the time she was able to take command after her injuries had healed, the incursion was over, and the only ship needing a pilot was the IDF Jinar.
“Commander, I respect your opinion, but I would like the jump point monitored. Our scout ships have not finished mapping the Jirus sector, and there are many unknown factors out there.” Braton, despite being six inches shorter than Potole, and a woman on top of it, was still able to stare down the older officer.
“Yes, ma’am. I will let you know the moment we find anything.” Braton picked up a infotab off of her chair, and walked through the door that led to her private quarters. Prallan could only imagine the luxury the Captain enjoyed in there. It was a suite of rooms, one of which was a private mess, and the outermost that linked directly to the bridge was a study that doubled as a conference room. He hoped one day to be a Captain and have such nice accommodations, or at least be a Lieutenant and share his quarters with only one other person instead of three. As Potole called each station in turn to report, that dream dissolved in Prallan’s mind. He would be stuck as an Ensign for years unless another war started. The peace-time attrition rate among officers was almost nothing, which meant unless the Senate approved a massive fleet buildup, promotions would be few and far between. He wished a war would start, so he could earn some glory and move up the ranks…
“Commander, I have some strange readings coming from the Jirus jump point.” The sensor officer reported. “There is a massive power surge. I think a ship is jumping in.”