Ronin combed his hair back, looking himself in the mirror in his quarters on the Pathfinder. He thought to himself how all these years, the old man never changes. Both physically and in spirit.
"Keep thinking that, Old Man", he thought. "Stubbornness is a quality in and of itself"
Slotting the comb back into its holder; he squinted at his reflection, shaking his head subtly before taking a deep breath and turning around to face another day in what this world had become.
The Pathfinder was a pretty lonely ship these days, half her original crew from the "Golden Days" were no longer alive; killed in service to the ship and her captain. Those that remained stood loyal as ever, ready to follow the Old Man into the gates of hell if needed. And well, that might indeed be needed. Today was a big today; the Eridonia Free Peoples' Fleet was preparing to make its first open move against the Imperial States, ATIS, officially leaving the shadows and revealing itself as an opponent to the new draconian government of Aquarius.
It had been two long cycles, hardships, suffering. But that was all part and parcel with the position they were in. The silver lining was the Peoples' Fleet had all but doubled in size; with more defectors joining up as veteran captains began to see through the lies that the ATIS Council had fed the remains of the Federation. Lies about protecting the People, lies about a united future... and lies about the Old Man himself.
The Fleet was now essentially ready to call itself just that, with half a dozen Cruisers; mostly Pre-Fall Vengeance-class vessels of series 1 or 2 - fairly common out in the wasteworlds these days, but also another capital ship: the old Federal Navy Endeavour-class, Series S2A, UTNS Eridonia's Hope, no less than the ship that started it all.
Eridonia's Hope had survived the Fall, upon returning the devastated Core Worlds, her then-Captain, Marcus Raiko ordered a Search and Rescue Operation, which would eventually lead the old warhorse into Loyalist service. Some time during the transition to the United Aquarian Systems, she was moth-balled and placed in reserve.
Fast forward 370 earth-cycles from the Fall, the old warship found herself once again fighting for the good of Aquarius, against the very government she once fought to protect. Captain Marcus Raiko had long sinced passed, but his legacy carried over by the Loyalist crew to take his place. When liberty began to crumble, eventually resulting in the newly formed Imperial States declaring control,Eridonia's Hope, under command of her current captain, one Sasha Grovikeh, defected to roam the outer systems - fighting for freedom among the dispersed outer systems.
When she heard the Rallying Call of the Peoples' Fleet, under command of the Legendary Ronin Kociero - it was an opportunity she couldn't refuse.
Smart as ever, dressed to Old Federal Navy standards; blazer bristling with myriad medals from countless tours of duty, Ronin straightened his collar and stepped onto the Pathfinder's Command deck. There wasn't any friendly exchange of banter, no small talk, as usual - the atmosphere was series and concerned with the task at hand. That said, the captain glanced around the Command deck, briefly nodding in acknowledgement at his crew, who responded in the same manner before resuming their duties. Those duties, being warming up and testing the 1000-year old Battlecruiser's systems for a very, busy day indeed.
"CoRE". Ronin spoke, his characteristically course voice echoing in the disciplined silence of the command deck.
The C-AI's holoform manifested beside the captain, who placed his hands on the back of the Command chair. "Good Morning, Ronin. I hope you took the opportunity to take some rest. Your biological systems may not b-"
"CoRE." Ronin interrupted again, lifting a hand to gesture at the observation window; where the Fleet was massing before the foredeck of the Pathfinder; extending beyond the bridge tower. Eridonia's Hope's mighty drives forcing kilometre-long plumes of helium-plasma into space as she adjusted her course to align with the fleet. Behind her, Imerivm and Winter Blossom followed in formation.
"Ah, yes. Of course, Captain." the AI replied. "The Hope reports she is combat ready, Captain Grovikeh is leading Group Bravo with the cruisers Cyclone Fury and Emboldened Soul. Imerivm and Blossom are in reserve, as you requested. We are awaiting the arrival of Rear Admiral Jasper's group from the Angel Reach; at which point we will be fully assembled."
Ronin simply nodded, as the Pathfinder's command chair rotated, the captain taking a seat as it rotated and locked back into position a the control station in the centre of the command deck.
"Ronin. I know a lot rests on the success of this operation in the following days. I know you are convicted to do what must be done. But you are driving your mind to breaking point." CoRE's holoform stood beside the captain; both gazing out of the observation window.
"We are making so much progress with healing your mind, I worry this will be its undoing. I worry that I will lose my brother". The AI's tone portrayed genuine emotion; sadness, anxiety, all of these emotions flowed through 'his' sub-routines.
Ronin glanced at the AI's holographic face; clearly a frown upon it. The Old Man smiled subtly and shook his head. "You're a good brother to me, CoRe." he said, looking back to the control station as he flicked a few switches to engage Neuro-link with the Pathfinder's systems.
"But you know I'm too stubborn to just sit on the side-lines. Besides, you've got my back, right?" He laughed.
"Always". CoRE Responded, with the AI-equivalent of a sigh.
"I'll be fine. Now if you'd like to spool up our gyros, so I can stretch my legs a bit..." Ronin requested, placing his hand gently on the flight-control column that retracted from the control station.