It was the same dream, the one he'd always had after a long and arduous campaign.
The small pool and willow tree, shading the bench occupied by a young couple. She held his hand in hers, and watched the clouds from beneath the leaves.
He'd been here many times in his troubled and never-lengthy slumber, but she still seemed the same.
"Thanks, Andrew," she said with a sigh, sinking into the bench a bit. "Work's been hell now that the Hughes-Rembrandt Corporation decided to try and buy us out. They even took our weekends! Can you imagine?"
Andrew (or rather, his dream avatar) laughed, sitting back against the stained oakwood bench. "No, I don't believe I can." He grabbed a rock from his palm, and tossed it out over th water, watching the flat stone skip out into the early morning mist. "Sarah," He said, his face growing somewhat serious. "I got an offer the other day."
He nodded, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small datascreen, taking note of the date; August 20th, 2479. "The Terran Confederacy needs pilots. I used to fly transports back on Tyre, how different can it be?"
"You do know you can get killed, right? That your ship could be shot down, and you could be stranded! You could..." She paused, tears welling up in her eyes.
He put his arm around her, drawing her into a warm embrace, when suddenly a strange noise began to reverberate throughout the glade, accompanied by what sounded like muffled yelling. He paused, looking down at Sarah.
"You hear that?"
"Hear what?" Her voice sounded different, muffled.
"Major! Wake your ass up!"
Andrew sat up with a start, slamming his forehead into the bulkhead and earning a chuckle from his bunkmate. "Wake up, shithead. We're coming into dock around Saris." His bunkmate, Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Allen, grinned, rubbing his hands together. "Even the fucking Andromeda colonies know of this place, man! The bars are legend! Legend!"
"Go ahead, Chris. I'd rather not be hung over during the practice session tomorrow."
His wingman sighed, grabbing his hat and flight bag from the top bunk. "Suit yourself, mate. I'll be getting shitfaced."
With that, he left the room.
Andrew sighed, laying back on the bunk. I wonder where Sarah is now? She always did say she loved the spacescape.
He rolled over, glancing out of the cabin's window at the lush green marble beyond that was Saris, one of the biggest shitholes in the Assani Sector. Not that it was bad in itself, it was the people it attracted. Whores, outlaws, and pirates abounded on the jungle world and the surrounding moons, and shipments were often pillaged by opportunistic bastards on their way into the spaceports. If he had to guess, the Galileo's Respite was probably here to deal with pirates.
He grabbed his bag from under the bunk, filled it with the crap he'd need, and donned his ground op clothes, making sure to mess his hair up a bit to blend in better. Sliding his old Giles pistol into it's holster, he made his way to the docking bay, whistling an old tune.
So much for a calm shore leave.
Saris, for a lack of a better term, was a world of contradictions. The emerald green waters lapped against the ebony sands, but that was where the beauty stopped. Beyond the shores and spaceport lay the city of New Paris, a warren of low rise buildings and aging tenements against the bright blue sky, flecked with clouds. The streets and alleys were filled with crime, and most of the tourism was locked to the planet's largest moon, Hyne.
It's a shame, really. This world might once have been paradise. Too bad it's hell now.
Andrew hit the release on his HSI-011A personal fighter (lovingly dubbed 'Ironside') and climbed out of the cockpit, his helmet visor polarizing against the brilliant sunlight shining in through the hangar window. He turned around to face the open hangar doors, but to his surprise a man was standing in the way. He smiled upon noticing Andrew's gaze, and hurried over.
"So, you must be the Confederacy pilot the ship in orbit sent?"
"That'd be me," he said, removing the flight helmet and placing it in the cockpit. "Now, who are you?"
The man seemed taken aback, almost shocked at the question. "Who am I? Why, one of the most important people on this planet!" His face reddened somewhat, but then subsided somewhat when faced with the realization that the pilot had most likely never been this far from the Orion Arm colonies before. "The name's Adam. Adam Ithill, the governor of Saris."
"Governor, eh?" Andrew glanced past the governor upon noticing a few men standing around the entrance, holding what appeared to be rifles. "You usually have this much security?"
"Security?" His eyebrow shot up, a bad sign for Andrew. "I didn't bring any security..."
Andrew dove behind the fighter just as the first shot rang out, catching the governor just above his shoulderblade, and sending him to the ground in agony. The gunfire stopped, the only sound being the pained moaning of Ithill as he bled on the hangar floor, a substantial puddle already forming around him.
"Shit..." The pilot glanced around, seeing one of the nearby crates had been knocked over by a fleeing technician, and now provided the perfect cover for a shootout. If I can get to it, that is. What's to stop them from putting a round in my ass?
His question was answered as another round ricocheted off of his ship, accompanied by yelling in a language he didn't understand, seemingly German. The man in the front of the group, a tall, lanky man dressed in combat gear with a semi-thick brown beard and a hard-boiled look about his face, gestured to Andrew, keeping his rifle pointed at the pilot. "So," he said in heavily accented English. "The great Confederacy has finally decided to leave their part of the galaxy and visit? How nice." He turned to one of the others in his group, careful to keep his rifle set on him. "What do you think, Steffan?"
The black-clothed man slid his balaclava down, revealing a bearded and somewhat weathered face. "Nothing, sir. I'm surprised they tried it."
The other man nodded, lowering his rifle somewhat. "But what of the ship in orbit? We don't have the manpower to capture it, and certainly not the firepower to destroy it."
The leader raised his hand, and grunted. "Those are questions for the future, friends. But for now, we have a witness that needs... Convincing."
Andrew watched the three men approach him, and began to panic. He'd faced rebels before, but never this close...
With a characteristic plink, a pin was pulled and a cylindrical object fell from high in the rafters, the pilot instinctually covering his eyes and plugging his ears.
There was deafening explosion as the flashbang went off, blinding and overloading the three rebels' sensory systems and sending their battle dress -and bodies- into temporary lockdown. Three shots rang out, and soon the rebels lay in the same predicament as the now-deceased Governor Ithill.
With a silent whir, a black-suited figure rappelled down from the roof, landing beside the stunned pilot and removing it's helmet, revealing shoulder length auburn hair and a quick smile. "Lieutenant Samantha Hurley, Major. Sorry for the scare, but that was one of the local kingpins, Richard Müller. Went by the name of Blade, and looks like our friendly Governor here was the target."
Andrew finally overcame his surprise and blurted out, "What the hell? What happened?"
"We've been tracking Müller for some time. He was to be here today, so they sent me." The Lieutenant locked her rifle, a 2601 MPR, into place on her suit's back, and offered a hand, which Andrew readily took. "So, you were the bait, Major Eriksson? Good job."
"Thanks," He muttered, grabbing his belongings from the fighter's cockpit and throwing them into the flight bag. "Where's your SO, Lieutenant? I may need to speak with one of your superiors about this."
She grabbed one of his bags, throwing it over her shoulder. "In one of the New Paris slums. It's nice once you get used to the smell." She grinned, starting to jog over to the vehicle that had pulled up outside. "Come on, won't be too long a ride!"
Andrew sighed, walking out into the brilliant daylight. "Just my luck..."