Post-war bureaucracy was always the same, no matter the time. The Bureau of Colonial Affairs, having recently surrendered it's governmental and military control it had received to fight off the Kal'Haruum threat, was downsizing under pressure from the recently reinstated Terran Federal Government, commonly known as the TFG. Not that the TFG was disbanding the BCA, far from it, in fact. The TFG had wasted no time in turning the former EAF into a cratered waste, using the might of the returning BCA fleets on their way home from the Kal'Haruum campaign to crush the comparitively weaker EAF fleets around the Sol System. Kinetic bombardments resulted in the absolute devastation visible today, leaving what were once cities massive craters caused by magnetically-accelerated kinetic rods and projectiles. The TFG, now having asserted it's power, began a massive reconstruction of Terra's orbital and terrestrial infrastructure, rebuilding most of her fleets within the twenty-five years after the war by harnessing the might of the many manufacturies and mines around the system, and soon branching back out to the stars, settling worlds within former Kal'Haruum space with the help of the alien refugees who had flooded in after the empire had fallen at the end of the war. Colonies began to spring up faster and faster, and soon the Alpha, Beta, and Delta Rings were in place and growing. As for the many ships the EAF had controlled, not much is known about where they went. It was hypothesized they may have all simply random-jumped to different places across the galaxy to escape the wrath of the returning fleets, but it is more likely they are awaiting an order to return, especially as they have been reportedly spotted as recent as the winter of 2293. But, for now, Humanity and the TFG's few other member races are living in relative peace.
"I still don't understand why the higher-ups thought this world was a good idea," one of the local TFG colonial enforcement officers said with a sigh, looking down over the desert from the local colonial government office built into the cliff wall. The heat cast wavering shadows over the metal, the glass tinted to keep the occupants from literally being cooked. His partner, dressed in the angular armour of a Federal Marine, laughed. "Do we ever know?" He asked, his voice rather light for his appearance. "They just seem to plop these colony starters wherever they please. No rhyme or reason to it, we just come in after to make sure nobody kills each other."
This earned a chuckle from the officer, who sat back in his chair, glancing over at the calendar. September 17th, 2295. Thirty years after the war ended, and three years since he'd been assigned to this rock. "Y'know, I've heard reports one of the TFG's warships is stopping by up in orbit later this month," the marine remarked conversationally. "Might see if I can get transferred aboard. Sure beats cop detail. You'll be stuck with it, though, being your job and all." He grinned, grabbing his bag from the floor, a M26 rifle strapped securely to his back in the biolocks that kept others from removing it without his say-so. "At least you're as boring as the job."
"Oh, blow it out your ass, Tom."
"Ensign, set a course for New Lisbon tether station. Heading zero-one-zero. Keep her steady." Captain William Roberts sighed, punching a series of numbers into the display built into his chair, and allowed himself a small smile as the chair's small holopad flickered to life, the ship's AI construct, Antioch, resolving from the fragments of holographic light.
"You rang?" The Roman Legionnare asked, raising a holographic eyebrow at the Captain's many insomniatic lines that framed his face. "Neural activity scans show a massive gap in your sleep schedule, Captain. Something bothering you?"
"You could say that." Roberts said, glancing out at the spacescape beyond. The brown, dusty world was surrounded by ships of nearly every class, freighters cruising from here to there carrying myriad different cargos. Irivet's local space was always busy these days, being a hub along the Orion Run, the bottleneck of most interstellar trade in this region. Naturally, crime soon followed, and the Alexandria was to dock there and await further orders. Straightforward, really. And that's what worried the Captain the most. "Antioch, run a quick scan of the local area. Don't want to go the way of the Broken Chords."
"Always the nervous one," Antioch quipped, fading into the pad as it shut off.
Roberts allowed himself a chuckle, looking over a report from the Delta Ring, the belt of colonies settled the most recently, of which Irivet was a member. There had been recent reports of pirate activity throughout the Delta, although that wasn't that uncommon this far from the TFG central command, where they patrolled the Inner Colonies and the Alpha Ring diligently. Out here, it was the Wild West. Or at least, most of the time.
It was a rather standard report on the local pirates, and their possible hideouts, routes, etc. One thing in particular had caught the Captain's eye, however. The description of the pirate's vessel. A Aizaki-class light frigate. An EAF favorite.
"Antioch." Roberts said sternly, the holopad flashing as it sparked into life, the Legionnare resolving once more. "Already read it, sir." The AI said simply, a datapad resolving from the light in the figure's hands. "EAF ship in pirate hands, or EAF ship pretending to be a pirate. Either is a very bad thing."
The bridge was cast into darkness as the cruiser passed into the shadow of the tether station, slowing to a stop as the ship docked with the military regional docking boom, the tether filling with air as the airlock it connected to hissed open. "All hands," Roberts said with a sigh. "You have three days shore leave. Use it wisely. And, Lieutenant?" He gave the weapons officer a grin. "Let's not have a reenactment of Scorpio IX, shall we? I'd rather not have to pick another one of my crew up from the local constabulary because they'd had a few too many drinks." The Lieutenant gave him a sheepish grin, then hurried off of the bridge.
"Antioch, launch a probe to the coordinates specified." Roberts said with a frown. "I'm not sure these 'pirates' are really what they appear to be."
Roberts turned to the screen, the desert world of Irivet spreading out below the ship like a cosmic painting, the massive dune plains visible even from orbit. Shore leave doesn't sound too bad, actually...
"Gaulle, Thomas. Corporal, service number 011-2-1163."
The Marine snapped to attention, the Colonel in charge of the planetside military forces looking up from his datapad, frown lightening into a slight smirk. "At ease, marine. So," He said, raising an eyebrow. "You want to transfer to the Alexandria?"
Thomas sighed, slouching somewhat as he let his arms fall to his sides. "Yes, sir."
"Find guard duty too boring, son?" The Colonel asked, bringing up the soldier's CSV on the holodisplay. "Don't blame you. Irivet's a backwater. Nothing ever happens here." He closes the CSV, typing away on the keyboard to the little laptop it seemed every officer on this colony owned, before giving the Corporal a slight nod. "Consider it done, Corporal. Three years is a hell of a while to be stuck in this hellhole. Who knows, maybe you'll be useful somehow." He typed something into the datapad, then held it out to Gaulle, who quickly signed his name, an affirmative beep emitting from the device.
"Well then," The Colonel said, sitting back in his chair. "Pack your bags. You're going starside."
"Are you sure?"
"Within 98.003 percent, Captain. This was caused by directed energy weaponry, and no other TFG ships have reported being in this area. I severely doubt pirates have any in their possession, especially considering the risks involved to acquire one."
Projected in front of them floated the hull of a derelict freighter, long plasma scars running along her hull towards the hole blown in the cargo bay. "And, they only seem to attack Terran freighters for now. Alissids and Kal'Haruum report no losses in their territories as of yet."
Roberts sighed, running a hand through his greying hair as he poured over the data Antioch had collected earlier in the day for the second time. "Should we report this? I'm sure the TFG Naval Offices and the UAS would like to hear that the Exile Fleets may be back."
Antioch flickered, frowning. "Report has already been filed and sent, Captain. Response shows they're rather intrigued by this discovery. Should we request permission to inquire further?"
The Captain leaned back in his chair, glancing out at the stars, visible through the nearby nebula that cast a faint red light across everything. "Do it. We're getting to the bottom of this."