Remember the stories that father used to tell, young Milo? The stories of brave warriors clad in armour, aboard mighty starships that sailed the skies above... You don't remember your father, do you my boy?
But it's okay, because he remembers you. And one day those brave warriors will return, the skies will once again be filled with mighty starships. You will grow up to see it, young Milo. I know you will.
You just have to have faith.
Hold on to it... Even in the darkest days. Even when there is no light, no hope. You have your faith.
My son. I will return one day.
Aleksandr pressed his index finger upon the photograph of his son, Milo, one more time before placing the crumpled holo-imprint in his satchel. Clutching it as he pulled himself together, grabbing his rifle and slinging it over his shoulder.
A new day dawned. The Lorentian Sun was beautiful, casting her rays upon the atmosphere of the last remnant of humanity in the Aquarius system. For a moment, Aleksandr almost forgot about the turmoil of the system, the war and suffering. Just embrace the warmth he thought to himself, before being pulled back to reality by the sound of strike-craft roaring overhead.
He gazed to the sky, a delta of FE-86 Hornets - proud in Lorentian Navy colours - circled overhead, their charge a steadily descending Kite Dropship; her vertical thrusters throwing brilliant blue plasma streams down below her as she slowed to a halt over the landing dock's access bay. Beyond that, a mighty silohette that Aleksandr knew well, a symbol of his duty - and his home away from home. A Terran cruiser, the Blackheart Spacerunner. A light warship of the Farlease-class, but fast and sturdy.
It was time to return to duty.
Leave had been difficult for Aleksandr this cycle. Moreso than usual, in addition to the ever present regret of losing his son, he knew that as times pressed on - the chances of finding little Milo diminshed every day. But he wouldn't give up hope.
He's out there.
Gotta keep focused on the war, on duty. Can't let emotions cloud the mind. These were the thoughts the veteran had in his mind as he joined two dozen other marines boarding the Kite, which had come to a rest on the landing dock. He put on a smile, shaking hands and exchanging banter. These were his brothers in arms, they looked up to him, they needed him. Of course, everyone had their own loss. No one out here in this age hadn't lost something, but it is what makes us human - to have hope - even in the darkest times.
As the dropship accelerated into the atmopshere, flanked by her escort, Aleksandr gazed through an observation port as the orange-tinted cloud layers came and went, the air thinning as ice crystals began to form on the exterior of the porthole. The escorting Hornet fighters weaving from side to side as they followed their charge. It was almost graceful, yet he could only thing about one thing.
Don't think about it. Put your mind elsewhere, old man.
He clutched his rifle. An MX-12, model B. An older weapon, heavy, but had almost become a brother to the veteran. This was his rifle, almost the only constant he had... except for the last remaining picture of little Milo.
The dropship would soon dock with the Blackheart Spacerunner; mechanical clamps attaching around the hull of the corvette-sized troop transport as she entered the dorsal loading bay of the UTN-era warship. Her plating pock-marked with impacts and burns, the history of a thousand battles engraved into her hull.
He had done this so many times. It became a blur, falling in line with his comrades as he bunked down in the marine quarters of the old warship. He was here, he was ready, but his mind and soul were elsewhere - some place distant. With his son. The old man thought about the end as he closed his eyes to slumber. The mighty roar of the Spacerunner's drives flaring echoed around him as the cruiser left orbit. Leaving the beautiful world of Lorentis behind, into the darkness.
Most people suffered jump sickness at least once during a term on a space-faring warship. Even the most hardy officers and crew. Aleksander didn't even flinch as the Spacerunner engaged its Jump-Drive. External portholes darkened as blast-shields closed and the red-tinted running lights flicked on, replacing the warm orange glow of the standard lighting.
Open your eyes. Clutch your weapon. War is upon you.
Spacerunner's exit from Jump Space was hard, some distance between Lorentian Orbit and her destination in the Eridonia System, the vessel had tumbled out of subspace abruptly. Aleksandr knew the captain, a man named Ovrikt. A veteran of the Fall, like him. Something was wrong.
Red running lights pulsed as the ship-board alarm sounded. Battlestations. A tone Aleksandr knew all too well.
Shake it off, this is real. He thought, hurling himself from the bunk, gripping his rifle and grabbing what gear he could. Other marines did the same, looking to the veteran for leadership.
Keep it together.
He gave a firm nod and gestured to the bulkhead. Moments after, the ship-board computer sounded again. Marines to action-stations - prepare for boarding action. He was the brave warrior now.
Donning his tactical helmet, he flipped down the visor as the marines assembled in the boarding pod staging area. Data from the Combat Information Centre began to flood in. Read outs. Schematics.
Spacerunner was about to initiate boarding action on another vessel. Civilian in design, a starliner. A passenger ship. The deck shuddered with the sound of kinetic impacts. The marines grabbed the handlebars on the loading ramp as they waited for the pod to open. He had done this many times. Sweep and clear, hostage rescue. Pirates. Tigersharks.
They didn't always keep prisoners. The veteran had seen too many innocents executed at thier hands, often suffering until the very end. He took great pleasure in ending the lives of any pirate unfortunate enough to find himself between his crosshair.
The pod's pressure door engaged with a metalic hiss, opening in the process. The red light above the loading ramp flicked into a steady green as Aleksandr shouted to board, clipping each marine on the back as they rushed into the pod and took positions.
With the last of the 12-man team secure, the veteran pulled the ready lever as the bulkhead sealed behind them. Mechanical whirring and a thunderous roar shook the boarding pod as the kinetic projector loaded. Standby for launch.
Five seconds. The data on the marines' tactical visors counted down. 4 seconds.
Aleksandr's mind could only think of one thing. One thing that had been dawning on him. 3 seconds. Time slowed around him as the harness clicked into place, forcing the veteran and his marines into their seats. He clutched his rifle. Its cold metal was comforting.