Letter XLII

March 26, 2435

Barren, Mitchell D., 2nd Lieutenant

4th Fleet, 4th Fleet Security Forces (FSF)

Dear Dad,

FleetCom eventually gave in to authorizing an air strike on the GFI position.  They took their time coming to that conclusions and while they were waiting, there were several more casualties, including a member of my team.  He is going to live, but his time working recon and being on special assignment are over.

It infuriates me that he was wounded during an operation that I strongly opposed.  I followed orders, but I did not do so without first trying my best to convince my chain of command that it was unlikely that my team could get that close to the installation without being spotted.

They wanted us to spot for an artillery strike.  Given the location, I advised that an artillery strike would be wise, but then they informed me that they wanted to do pinpoint artillery strikes in an effort to preserve as much of the installation as possible.  It went beyond grasping at straws but the officer in command refused to listen.

The problem is the location of the installation.  It is in a valley and much of it was underground. There wasn’t much on the actual service to target with any kind of pinpoint accuracy and to approach it from any direction on foot in a way that would provide a good line of sight was basically suicide.

The reason none of our ground attacks have been successful is the position is very easily defended and doesn’t require much.  We made our approach as cautiously and carefully as possible but that wasn’t enough. Before we got within 600 meters of the GFI position, we came under heavy fire and my point man was struck.

We never made it closer than that.  The incoming fire that followed intensified and we had to pull him clear.  We managed to get him back to cover before we called for a medevac and they took over from there.  It was a complete waste of time and now my team is a man down.

After that incident, I pulled some of the commanders aside and was finally able to convince them that there wasn’t going to be any reasonable strategy for preserving this installation.  An air strike was called and our aircraft leveled everything within the valley. There was no further resistance after that.

My man was in critical condition for a few hours but they managed to stabilize him in time to ensure that he will likely make a full recovery.  It won’t be anytime soon, but he will eventually be able to return to active duty.

We are currently wrapping up on this world but things are going to be difficult from here on.  My team will continue operating but one member less. We are en route back to Outpost 86 for another refuel and refit.  I also demanded that my team get a little bit of downtime.

I am planning on spending some time with Russell but I would also like a chance to see my lady friend again.  We haven’t had much opportunity the last few times I was back there due to the current operational tempo but hopefully I will be able to see her this time around.

Command asked if I wanted to pull another member from the outpost to replace my down team member but I rejected the offer.  We had a good thing going and I feel like it would be smarter to not add new blood into the mix. We have trained and served together as a team for the last several months and I don’t want to jeopardize our cohesion by adding someone new into the mix.

Do you think I am making the right call with that one?  I could use some advice. I feel like it is the smart choice and I am concerned that adding someone new, regardless of how well trained or experienced, would alter the flow and connection that my team currently has.  I am trying to make the decision from a leadership standpoint but as a member of the team, I know how I would feel about adding a new member.

I will write again when we touch down at the Outpost.  Take care. I miss you all dearly.

Love,

Mitch

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Letter XLI

March 19, 2435

Barren, Mitchell D., 2nd Lieutenant

4th Fleet, 4th Fleet Security Forces (FSF)

Dear Dad,

I am going to have to keep this one brief.  We are currently engaged with GFI forces and it isn’t going so well.  My team is fine but the same can’t be said for the rest of the task force.  Casualty rates are much higher than anticipated.

Based on intelligence we were able to gather from the outpost we took last week, we were able to locate another GFI stronghold on the same planet, not too far from the outpost.  It looks like the reason the outpost was so easy to take was because most of their men and defensive systems were moved to this much more defensible position.

The standard defenses we have encountered before in this kind of situation were already pretty intense but now that they have doubled up, it is proving to be much more difficult and costly to overtake.  So far, we have barely managed to make a dent and FleetCom is getting impatient.

My team has been probing for a way in but it is not looking good.  We have yet to find an approach that isn’t as heavily covered but so far, we have gotten pinned down on every attempt.  On our last try, we had to have our Marine contingent come to bail us out. My second in command nearly lost his head and my radioman’s communication gear took a shot that was meant for him.

With that close of a call, I had a chat with the officer in charge and she agreed that we needed to take a step back and re-evaluate our approach.  So far, there are only a few dozen casualties, but based on the way things have been going, that is lucky. The whole thing is unacceptable and to make matters worse, they have some kind of orbital cannon we can’t get to.

We had a destroyer come in for an attempt to bombard the position from orbit but during its approach, the cannon opened up and nearly destroyed our ship.  They lost almost a third of the crew and were barely able to limp back to the fleet position.

All of our forces are holding their positions or have fallen back to a safe enough position while also maintaining a perimeter to keep an eye on things while we regroup.  FleetCom is strategizing right now so I thought I would take a moment to get you up to date.

I am sure they will come up with something.  I just hope that something doesn’t risk massive casualties.  There is no point in taking the hill if there is no one left to stand on it and I won’t lead my men into a slaughter.  There are still plenty of options.

We haven’t used any of our combat aircraft yet because of the need to preserve potential intelligence gathering but at this point, that doesn’t matter.  It is unlikely that any useful intelligence hasn’t already been destroyed.

An air strike might be the only low casualty option (for us anyway) left at this point.  If FleetCom doesn’t come to the same conclusion, you better believe I will do all I can to persuade them.  My team and I have flirted with death a few too many times here and I have no interest in pushing our luck any further.

I miss you guys and am looking forward to our reunion.  I only have another 11-12 weeks left on this tour and then I am coming home.  I have every intention of taking some leave and taking a much-needed rest. I will keep you posted.

Love,

Mitch  

Letter XL

March 12, 2435

Barren, Mitchell D., 2nd Lieutenant

4th Fleet, 4th Fleet Security Forces (FSF)

Dear Dad,

We managed to locate the planet that was used by the GFI to stage their assault on Outpost 86 last week.  One of the major concerns was how they managed to attack at all, given that the orbital defensive systems we had were second to none.  Many of the different locations did their job, but not all. It took some investigating but we learned that this plan was in effect for a while.

There were very few GFI members left at the staging area so it was not difficult to take them out and gather some intelligence.  They were in the middle of cleaning up and abandoning the site so we got there just in time. There was more than enough information to put the pieces together and we got a much better picture of how long they were planning the attack and what they threw into it.

Most of their initial strike centered on an area of our defensive system that would make a hole large enough to allow for several troop ships to fly in without the threat of being shot down.  They smuggled in a few hundred troops to assault the sites where our defenses were located and they were able to overwhelm all of them.

We got lucky and two of the sites were able to get out a distress call before they were overrun.  One call would have been investigated before any further action was taken but the second site was enough to solidify that a coordinated strike was taking place and FleetCom immediately sent out an all hands on deck.  All our troops were immediately recalled and you pretty much know the rest.

Based on what we learned from the information we have now gathered, they had deployed some new kind of communication jammers on this assault.  It was untested and they were forced to learn the hard way, why it is good to field test things before deploying them in a major operation. All of our Outposts sent out a distress call and the jammers prevented almost all the messages from getting through.  That “almost” is what cost them the entire assault.

If it wouldn’t have been for those two malfunctions, they would have gotten all of their troops on the ground before we had a chance to recall everyone and counter the attack.  There is nothing amusing about how many people had to die during this sneak attack, but it is funny that their lack of patience is what cost them everything.

There were some concerns of espionage due to the efficiency of the assault in the beginning but the more information we gathered, the more we learn about how bad things actually turned out for them.  There was clearly no “inside man” or “inside woman” on this one. Now that we know more, their attack wasn’t just a failure for them, it was a complete disaster. They didn’t accomplish any of their objectives and they lost far more than they were ready to.

None of us are complaining or shedding any tears for them.  A lot of noncombatants were killed during their attack and FleetCom is furious about it.  We had to exercise restraint with the GFI troops that we managed to capture and in some cases, we had to hold some of the Marines back.  They were less than pleased but they also know that the future isn’t looking bright for any of our new POW’s.

Everything is going well now.  We are on the move and it is starting to look like most of the GFI forces that have been roaming around throughout our sectors of space are mostly dead or have been pushed back to GFI controlled space.  I am still not a fan of the search and destroy method but it does seem to be working for the moment.

Some of the communication exchanges we managed to gather from the GFI outpost indicate that they are having trouble countering our assaults and a lot of their forces have been ordered to withdraw and regroup.  That will give us time to set up a more secure defensive line and we can go from there.

My team and I are doing OK and the Marines working with us are better now.  All the wounded are back now and their morale is much higher than it was before.  We are going to be having some friendly competition sometime this week. The Marine Lieutenant challenged us to a basketball game and we accepted.  Some friendly branch rivalry for the entertainment of others couldn’t hurt.

I love you both and will be coming home soon.  I only have three months left on this deployment and then will have to decide where I want to go from there.  Plenty of time to think but I know for a fact that I would like to come home for a couple of weeks and catch up.  I will keep you posted.

Love,

Mitch

Letter XXXIX

March 5, 2435

Barren, Mitchell D., 2nd Lieutenant

4th Fleet, 4th Fleet Security Forces (FSF)

Dear Dad,

I want to start this letter by letting you know that both Russell and I are safe.  My team and my girlfriend as well. The same cannot be said for a lot of the fleet personnel that are assigned to Outpost 86 but the situation could have been a whole lot worse.

It looks like the GFI attackers were not anticipating the fleet presence that they ended up facing.  Luckily for FleetCom and Outpost 86, we were not the only ship that just so happened to be present for a retrofit when GFI forces attempted their assault.  There was also a troop ship and two destroyers from 3rd Fleet.

That being said, the fight was anything but one way in the beginning.  The extra manpower and support on our side just made it an almost even fight, almost.  They still outnumbered us by a noticeable amount, but having an extra battalion of fleet Marines and two destroyers prevented this from being a massacre.  We were able to hold them off long enough for help to arrive.

There is still some fighting going on but we have managed to hold them back long enough for the rest of the 4th Fleet to be recalled and to tip the scales completely into our favor.  It is now a pretty one sided fight and we should have the problem eradicated within the next few days. The GFI ground troops made an attempt to evacuate but our 4th Fleet chased all their craft away and cut off all support.

All scientists and civilian personnel were able to be evacuated to the battle bunker that was set up for them in the case of this type of incident and all are present and accounted for.  I personally saw to it that Russell was there and safe. My team took charge of ensuring all noncombat personnel were safely out of the way and we were able to complete the task before the real attack began.

4th Fleet was a pretty long distance away but they were already heading back when the attack started.  Our call for help got them to speed up and skip a few stops they were intending to make so we only had yo hold the GFI off for about 30 hours.  We are all pretty exhausted and there were a lot of casualties, as I am sure you are aware of by now. Please let Mom know that everything is OKnow.

There still may be a minor fight going on out here but it is to the point where the scientists and civilians have all been able to safely resume their normal routines.  GFI forces dug in roughly 1,500 kilometers away from the nearest settlement in an effort to evacuate. They still have their shuttles but with their fleet on the run, they can’t go very far.

They could use the shuttles in an attempt to attack the town but now that we are in complete control of the high ground, it is doubtful they are going to use the shuttles to do anything other then make a run for it if their fleet is ever able to return.  Any attempt to go even within 500 kilometers of any inhabited area would result in one of our carriers dispatching a fighter wing to destroy them.

At this point, it looks as if whoever is running the show on their end plans on playing it safe and smart.  Not much can be said for the smarts, but it is a bit late for them now. We have a pretty accurate estimate as to how many of them are left and at this point, all they present is a nuisance.  I don’t even think FleetCom wants to initiate any engagement for now and I agree.

We have a pretty solid net set up around them.  They can’t go anywhere without us knowing about it and we don’t need to risk anymore manpower or resources.  Eventually , they will run our of supplies and either have to attack or surrender. An attack would be suicide.  We have any ground approach covered with mobile ground defensive systems, and if they try the air, 4th Fleet will blast their shuttles out of the sky before they can get anywhere useful.

I have to get back to work but I wanted to let you all know that we are OK and Russell is safe.  I have no doubt the reports have reached home by now and I am also certain that Mom is freaking out to the next level.  Please tell her we are OK. I love you both. Russell asked me to say hello to you for him as well so there it is. Take care.

Love,

Mitch

Letter XXXVIII

February 26, 2435

Barren, Mitchell D., 2nd Lieutenant

4th Fleet, 4th Fleet Security Forces (FSF)

Dear Dad,

I still maintain what I told you in my last letter about being out here and seeing the universe but I need to make a slight amendment to my statement.  I still love it and I still consider myself lucky, but there is a slight catch. I do not like being aboard a vessel that is in the middle of a combat engagement with enemy ships.

I am sure that by now you have guessed, since the last time I wrote to you, we were involved in a combat engagement with GFI vessels.  You would be correct. It also ends up being one of the few times in the military where I don’t believe I could possibly be more useless and possess absolutely no control over the situation.

My team was assigned to assist in damage control, along with the Marines, while the Marine Lieutenant and I stood on the bridge to assist the Captain in any way needed.  She didn’t need it. While I hate the lack of involvement in the situation, I have to say, watching her thump those GFI ships was amusing for us, and quite shameful for them.

There is even a part of me that is convinced she was disappointed in the lack of challenge and when I discussed my theory on it with the Marine Lieutenant, he agreed.  We took a few hits but some of the more recent modifications made to the CSS Mako were meant for this kind of engagement. Much better armor and shielding, combined with the additional weapon systems, made this entire engagement a one-sided fight.

As a result of this engagement, FleetCom has ordered us to return to Outpost 86 for a debriefing.  While it is nice that the battle was so one-way and less than five minutes in we knew we were in complete control of the battlefield, the circumstances surrounding this engagement are somewhat troublesome.  

I can’t go too far into the details on that, but I can say that even though we crushed them, everything about the fight is being hushed, other than the fact that there was a fight.  Even though we completely dominated, there is no way we can hide the fact that our ship was in a fight due to the damage we sustained. Nothing major, but more than enough to be noticeable.  We will need some repairs and that is going to involve parts and paperwork.

I am looking forward to another break.  It has been a few weeks since our last nacho binge and I would love a chance to catch up with Russell and see what he and his fellow white coats are up to.  He is going to do such great things. I know that you and mom are proud of him. I am too. I am glad he is breaking the cycle and going the science route.

I love what I do but there are times when I wouldn’t wish some of these hardships on anyone.  It would break my heart thinking about Russell trying to get by in this kind of life. I promise you and I promise mom that I will do whatever it takes to keep encouraging and motivating him to stay on the path he is on.  It is a good one and it is perfect for him.

They are talking about potentially letting him accompany planetary reconnaissance vessels in the future.  He is catching the attention of some high ranking people. They like what they are seeing. His research into planetary biology and ecology is incredible and the fact that he is so young is making some pretty big waves.

If that comes to pass I will look into making sure that he has the best security team and vessel crew available.  I know that Fleet research and development teams could use help in their field of planetary exploration. There haven’t been any casualties in those departments yet but with all of the military escalation that has taken place, they are understandably much more nervous when it comes to setting foot on previously unexplored worlds.

Given the fact that there are so many of them out here, I am not surprised that FleetCom is looking into potentially contracting exploratory security out to private military contractors.  I am not a big fan of PMC’s looking out for Russell, but we will see how things go. It is still in the development stages.

I just got word from FleetCom.  They want us in a briefing via ansible on Tuesday, time to be determined, so I will be at Outpost 86 for at least 48 hours.  That is good to know. Plenty of time for some nachos. Might even try taking my girl out on another date. Long distance relationships are difficult, but given how busy we both are, it isn’t proving to be impossible yet.

We write to each other often enough and knowing that we are both more than capable of taking care of ourselves makes things a whole lot easier.  In fact, as soon as I am done with this, I will be writing to her to let her know we are en route now and should be touching down at Outpost 86 within the next few hours.

I will keep you posted on things.  Please give mom and everyone else my best.  Miss you all.

Love,

Mitch

Letter XXXVII

February 19, 2435

Barren, Mitchell D., 2nd Lieutenant

4th Fleet, 4th Fleet Security Forces (FSF)

Dear Dad,

I love being out here and seeing the universe.  I have been on so many different planets that it is getting difficult to keep count without going through my mission reports.  Never in my life did I think I would get so lucky. It is truly magnificent.

I remember when you used to tell us stories about a time in history when people considered themselves fortunate to see other continents on Earth.  And now, here I am, flying around the galaxy in an intergalactic spacecraft, hopping from planet to planet.

You know the most important thing I am realizing is the amount of time my team and I spend staring at the interior of various spacecraft.  We have a lot more time on our hands than people might think. The travel is pretty fantastic, but we get sick of being so confined for long enough periods of time.

This may be the most bipolar letter I will ever write to you.  I love flying around out here but the confinement sometimes has the ability to drive me to my breaking point.  The same thing goes for my team. We love what we do but at the same time, the time between missions can get maddening.

I don’t even remember what this planet is called.  We are currently in orbit over yet another GFI Stronghold.  This one is by far the most massive one we have come across yet.  We touched down a few days ago and scoped out the place but once our main force hit the ground we were pulled.  The fighting was expected to get pretty nasty this time.

There must have been at least three or four thousand GFI troops on the ground and they had a fairly impressive and extensive system of defense in place.  They also had some kind of shielding on the part of the installation that was above ground and as far as we could tell, the majority of their installation is below ground.

An orbital bombardment was attempted but based on initial contact reports, it isn’t looking like much damage was done.  Everything above ground was softened up pretty good, but I am thinking they put that stuff above ground on purpose. Our casualties are already mounting much faster than Fleet leadership out here anticipated.

We have managed to take and question a few prisoners but they are all providing conflicting information.  It is starting to look doubtful that we will get any good information until we manage to get our hands on one of the GIF leaders or their computer systems.

So far, we have managed to irradicate about a third (according to our best estimates) of the GFI forces planetside, but it is starting to look like we are not going to know for sure until we have control of their installation.  

They actually dug out a tunnel network Dad.  I remember those stories you used to tell us about the Japanese during World War II or the Vietnamese and Viet Cong during America’s attempt to keep the North out of the South to prevent the spread of communism.  It is absolutely blowing my mind seeing it firsthand.

Even with the technology we currently possess, as far as we have come, the only way to completely destroy the enemy is to dig them out with manpower.  They have managed to counter our most advanced technologies by using shovels. It is actually quite impressive when you stop to consider it for more than a few seconds.

By going backward, they have managed to render our technologies useless and put us on a much more even fighting situation.  In a way. Not really though. We are still going to smoke them out. There might be a few more casualties on our side than our usual engagements, but that won’t matter much to FleetCom.  They have already determined acceptable casualty numbers and it is doubtful, though not impossible, that tunnels will make that much of a difference.

How are things back at home?  I am hoping that everything is a little closer to normal now that we have managed to push all GFI forces back away from our home system.  It isn’t looking like they will be able to recover from this mess they have made but I am not making any assumptions. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Please give my best to everyone and know that I am always thinking about you all and I look forward to the day where we can reunite and all go to dinner and a show together.

Love,

Mitch    

Letter XXXVI

February 12, 2435

Barren, Mitchell D., 2nd Lieutenant

4th Fleet, 4th Fleet Security Forces (FSF)

Dear Dad,

This has been quite a week.  My team ended up doing something we didn’t think we would ever be doing again.  We were actually called upon to arrest some of our own. Fortunately for us, none of the Fleet members had much combat training so it was a fairly peaceful affair, all things considered.

FleetCom dispatched us to investigate a situation.  We had no complaints. It was actually nice to be back on a law enforcement mission.  We are getting a little rusty, but the recon training definitely came in handy. Given how much action we have been seeing, this was almost like a vacation.

Intelligence picked up on a specific unit that kept order large quantities of combat equipment after each engagement.  Normally, that would not be cause for concern. You know how war can be. Equipment gets damaged or destroyed and needs to be replaced.  Unfortunately for these guys and girls, they were consistently over ordering.

An investigation was conducted discretely and it was discovered from combat logs and reports that they were consistently ordering the same quantities over what was needed.  After further inquiry, it was also learned that a few of the logistics officers had bank accounts that were inconsistent with their grade and time in service.

My team was dispatched to follow them on their leave.  They didn’t want anyone in uniform or overly obvious to see what they were up to.  They moved the extra weapons and equipment off base at the beginning of their leave and I have to admit, they definitely have a brass pair between their legs.  They loaded it all up into a truck and drove it right off the base and directly to where they were storing it.

We decided to follow FleetCom’s advice and we posted our Marine team at the storage location while my team followed the officers.  They had no tact whatsoever. It was almost embarrassing but it was also nice to have things so easy for a change.

The two idiots went straight to the buy location and we were able to observe and record the entire transaction.  We were able to identify the buyers, who we later learned were operatives working for GFI units nearby, and once the transaction was completed and the buyers left, we took the two officers into custody.

The buyers were a slightly different story.  There were four of them and they decided that coming quietly was not an option.  We wanted to take them all into custody as well but ended up with only two, one if you don’t count the guy that is now in a coma.

I instructed the Marines to take them if possible but I don’t play that “at all costs” bull shit.  I told them to do what they had to do but I don’t want any casualties on our side. I am glad that there were no Fleet casualties.

Given the situation, the Fleet logistics officers and everyone involved in this ring is being charged with treason and be treated as such.  Aggressive interrogations are being conducted and my team will be following up on all of the information gathered so, at this point, my team and our Marines are standing by for information and a mission update.

I can’t believe that.  Fleet officers selling weapons.  It isn’t like they are underpaid, to begin with.  They are officers. Greedy bastards. All in all, we recovered enough weapons and equipment to arm about a company of GFI soldiers so we really need to find where they are operating.

The installation on this planet has more than enough Marines and defensive systems to deal with any kind of attack, but we would rather not wait for them to come to us.  FleetCom wants to always be the one to throw the first punch and I am inclined to agree. They sucker punched us a few months back and now, we don’t want to give any of them enough time to wind up and do it again.

There is no telling when I am going to be able to return to Outpost 86.  Things are starting to really pick up out here. The new direction FleetCom is taking is starting to be felt on a massive scale.  Unit activity is on the rise and so are the casualty numbers. Orders are orders but it is still a pretty tough pill to swallow.

Once we are done here, we are loading back up on the CSS Mako and heading towards another GFI outpost roughly 36 hours travel from Outpost 27.  I believe we will be doing a quick re-arm and ship re-fit at Outpost 27 before we join the 3rd Fleet Battle Group that has been tasked with destroying all GFI forces on the planet.

Time for me to go.  The officers and our GFI prisoner broke a lot faster than was expected.  Not entirely surprising. The logistics people are nothing more than a bunch of overtrained bean and bullet counters.  I will write again soon. Please give my best to everyone and let Mom know I love her and am always thinking about her.

Love,

Mitch