Letter V

July 9, 2434

Barren, Mitchell D., Staff Sergeant

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


Dear Mom,


I don’t know where to begin.  You and Dad always taught me to be honest and you all know that I would never lie to you, but there are plenty of things we experience that are better left unsaid.  Please understand that what you are about to read is because you were going to find out anyways and my hope is that this letter gets to you before the news coverage.  You know how the media can be.

The Galactic Freedom Initiative attempted a minor attack on the installation a few days ago.  I, and everyone else stationed here, are OK. The attack was brief and clearly not planned. There were no Fleet casualties and we captured the few troops that managed to escape their craft before it exploded.  We detected the enemy ship with plenty of time for our orbital defense system to do its thing.

A few troop carriers were able to get out before the ship exploded in orbit but either they didn’t know our orbital defenses were up and running, or they didn’t care.  I was conducting a secondary scouting mission on that cave system I told you about last week and had some of our engineers with me making some plans for an outpost when the enemy ship came out of orbit.

Fleet’s main concern was losing track of the troop carriers and them being able to establish any kind of foothold so my team and I were dispatched to keep an eye on them while Fleet Marines were assembling at our base.  We left the engineers at the cave system and were able to find the troop carriers a few miles further out. They were dangerously close to our base but there weren’t enough of them to warrant any kind of serious military threat.

I don’t know what the news will report, but there was about 500 of them.  We observed them unloading their transports and then scuttle them. They knew we would capture them within the hour and they wouldn’t be able to hide or defend them so all exploded with a thunderous boom.

We followed them for several miles while doing our best to avoid their scouting patrols and reporting their movements back to headquarters.  They were moving towards a large town that wasn’t much further when we came across one of their scouting patrols. They had a great tactical position and there was no cover for a large enough section along the route.  We were caught in short firefight.

We were able to put down most of them but not before they were able to communicate with the larger body that we were following them.  It was too late for them at that point anyways. They were still several miles away from the nearest town when a Marine battalion and air support arrived and were able to head them off.

They may have had more men but we controlled the air and all the Marines had to do was keep them from moving forward.  One of the craft gave a quick weapons demonstration and that was clearly enough for the GFI. They set their weapons down and surrendered to the Marines.  No one was injured or killed once the Marines got there. Whoever was in charge knew they had no tactical options.

I don’t know how the media found out about it but the short engagement was plastered all over the local news sources and the local population started to point fingers at us.  They claimed that the GFI had no interest in their planet until we came along so any incident from our arrival on would be our fault.

They act as if the GFI wasn’t planning on further expansion themselves.  I have to admit though, this attack concerns the higher ups a lot more than they are willing to publicly admit.  We know that they have spacecraft, but their supply of war vessels, according to our intelligence, is supposed to be pretty scarce.  If that is the case, I don’t know, and I doubt FleetCom does either, why they would waste a war vessel on such a doomed attack.

I am starting to wish that Dad was still working in Fleet Intelligence so that I could get some better information than I am getting now.  The biggest questions are the ones causing the most concern. What are we not seeing? What is it that we don’t know? Questions as old as war itself I guess.

I don’t want any of you worrying.  The men on my team were fantastic and we worked together well.  So well in fact that the award packages that I put in for them were all accepted.  They conducted themselves professionally and without hesitation or fear. FleetCom agreed and put in an award package for me as well.

We have also been designated as the base’s main recon team and have received a new call-sign, given to us by the Marines that responded.  Jokes were made about how me were able to follow their scent and it started to circulate that we acted like a pack of wolves. The Marine battalion commander and the FSF commander joked about it as well and officially designated us the “Wolf-pack.”

Things settled down quickly but we are still maintaining an alert posture.  Everything else is fine. I do have some bad news though. I am running low on Tootsie Rolls so I would really appreciate it if you could send out some more.  No one would complain if some more jerky was sent along with that as well.

I love and miss you all.  The first samples should be there by now right?  I haven’t been able to chat with good doctor since this incident took place so I have not verified whether or not the package was sent.  Tell Russell I’m sorry. If you are able, can you do me a favor and control how much of this incident he sees or hears? I know he gets a little rattled sometimes and I don’t want him getting worked up over this.  Talk to you again soon.






Letter IV

July 2, 2434

Barren, Mitchell D., Staff Sergeant

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


Dear Mom,


What an exciting week!  The cave system was more vast and dangerous than we anticipated but fortunately, we were prepared.  There was more uncatalogued wildlife than expected and most of them were harmless. Nothing was big enough to do any significant harm to a human but there were a few predatory species that did not handle their first human encounter well.

I took a team of four recon members and we had more than enough munitions to deal with everything we encountered.  The rifle was unnecessary but the older model 12 gauges came in handy.  The animal size was not an issue but their numbers certainly were higher than we were comfortable with.  

We were able to get a few samples of the different species but one, in particular, was more difficult to collect alive.  It was some kind of lizard and gopher mix but with six legs. They were only about half a meter long but they had pretty sharp claws about three centimeters long and teeth that looked almost shark-like.  Their skin was also problematic. They blended in very well with their surroundings and had a very similar temperature with lizards back on Earth.

With the exception of the wildlife issue, the cave system and the surrounding terrain actually looked like a good location to put an annex for quick reaction forces.  QRF would be able to respond either to the base or the capital in a matter of minutes and the geographic features make it easily defendable. All we would need is one defensive turret about a quarter mile into the system and nothing larger than an Earth mouse would be able to get in from behind.  I will probably make this recommendation during our debriefing.

My first stop was the science tent we finished setting up earlier this week to drop off all our samples of dirt, rock, and wildlife.  Our geologist and biologist were thrilled. They actually started to argue when I mentioned setting up an Annex there over who would get priority over being posted out there.  No fists thrown but watching the nerds go at it was amusing for my team.

On that subject, I interrupted them to discuss Russell’s request and they confirmed that the Commander signed off on it so as of your receipt of this letter, Russell can correspond with the assigned geologist.  All samples that are cleared as safe will be shared with Russell so that he can also do whatever research he wishes with them.

It was funny because most scientists here tend to be more of the lone wolf type but Dr. Valencia was thrilled once she found out he was interested in geology.  Thrilled to the point where I thought I might have to detain her when the argument started to get more heated. None of the scientists were authorized to bring an assistant so she views Russell as a sort of loophole to that.

I explained that he was well ahead of his age but she will want to exchange some correspondence with him as some kind of interview to see where he is at and how he can help.  This was more than I thought I could get for him so please advise him that he owes me a bag of Tootsie Rolls and a good size letter.

We got our first supply ship and some more reinforcements so the real build-up has begun.  Starport construction is about to commence so it might get a little busy around here. I will continue to write at least once a week but please don’t be upset if I have to miss it.  This is a crucial part of why we are out here so safety and security of the construction site and equipment are the top priority.

Rumors have begun to spread that GFI is working on getting some of their people out here to disrupt construction.  They know they don’t have the tools or manpower to stop us but they can sure slow things down. We are determined not to let that happen.

One of our security teams managed to catch a few GFI supporters and got some good intel on local operations so hopefully, we are able to stay ahead of them.  Don’t any of you worry. Those GFI crybabies are a joke and nothing more than an irritation. Everything is going to go just fine out here and if they try anything we will deal with them quickly and harshly.  You know us Mom, we won’t allow them to harm the Fleet or any of the locals without severe consequences.

I miss you all very much and look forward to hearing from you again.  Tell Russell that the only reason I am unable to send him some of those samples now is that Dr. Valencia wants to correspond with him first but they are coming.  It is just a formality. She wants to know a little more about his interests than I am able to share. I will write again soon. Please take care and be safe.





Letter III

June 25, 2434

Barren, Mitchell D., Staff Sergeant

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


Dear Mom,


So there is some good news and some bad news.  Like you always said Mom, veggies before desert is the best way to go so I will start with the bad.  Ansible communication is being left to last. While long-range instant communication is important, it was determined that until the star port has been completed, there is no need of instant communication.  

There aren’t yet any assets out here that are worthy of an ansible device. The technology is too rare and valuable. Once the port is established and a permanent air power contingent is established, ansible is the next step.  The good news is we were told why we are way out here. It is the most they are going to tell us but I feel like it is pretty exciting. We are going to be the jump off point for further exploration, meaning this won’t be some minor installation or a hardship post. This will be a complete Fleet installation with all the perks of any other major base.

Most of the security systems are set up now so there will be much more time to write home and also work on my promise to Russell.  Now that we have received some reinforcements and most of the security systems are up and running, a more accommodating work schedule will soon be established and I will be able to get his present finished.  Though I am still not sure what my specifically assigned duties will be, I can venture a guess.

I am among the very few Fleet Security Personnel on location who also happens to have attended the Fleet’s recon training school so there is a pretty good chance I won’t be spending a whole lot of my time on the installation.  It is more along the lines of intelligence instead of special forces. There have been rumors that once the GFI found out about our being here and what we were up to they were angry. Still, I don’t want any of you worrying. We are too far away from anything even remotely useful or significant (strategically) so there is no reason to believe they would bother coming out here.  Besides, GFI can’t afford to waste resources on anything less than an absolute military or political necessity. We should be just fine.

Back to the land of the positive.  Since all security has been set up and a work schedule is now in effect, we are able to do some exploring around the immediate vicinity of the base.  I wish words could express how beautiful this planet is. You won’t hear that from most Earth born people, nor anyone with a closed mind, but if you can look past what you pre-determine a planet should look like and have an open mind, it is really something else.  

I found a system of caves not too far away during a patrol and I managed to convince my Flight Commander that they needed to be cataloged and explored in detail to assess whether or not they could provide any kind of strategic advantage or disadvantage to the base. It is a pretty good reason when you think about it and I must admit, I was quite impressed with myself.  It is located about two kilometers away from the base so we are going on our little spelunking mission tomorrow during duty hours. I will tell you as much as I can about it the next chance I get.

In other news, I got your letters and care package.  Thank you so much for the Tootsie rolls. I almost cried when I saw that you added some beef jerky in there as well (not really though….but kinda).  I can’t even remember the last time I had red meat and it was every bit as delicious as I remember. I shared some with my element as well they wanted me to extend their gratitude.  We do our best to share what we get from home but that doesn’t always work out. It is pretty hard to split things like an individual candy bar or any personal items among 10 people.  It will be better once the port is set up and there are less weight restrictions on what can be mailed. Plus some things are not meant to be shared and everyone is pretty good about respecting that.  

Things were a little rough to start with the workload but between all the care packages, letters, and now being finished with base set up, conditions are starting to look much better. They even continue to improve every day.  The chow hall has been set up and they started bringing in fresh food for us so we have moved up from packaged food. No new incidents to report other than injuries from training or the typical work related mishaps that accompany building anything big.  A lot of broken fingers, pulled muscles, and damaged egos, but beyond that, We are doing great.

I hope that this letter finds you well.  Please give my love to everyone. Also, if it isn’t too much trouble, could you please start sending newspapers out my way.  Since there is no ansible yet, it will be the only way to get news from back home, even if it is a week or two late. It would be nice to read something other than the books I brought or military manuals and report.  If you are unable or Fleet won’t let you, don’t worry about it. It is a simple request and whether or not you are able, I will get by. I miss you all and look forward to hearing back from you.





Letter II

June 18, 2434

Barren, Mitchell D., Staff Sergeant

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


Dear Mom,


Things are progressing well.  I have been put in command of Charlie Flight’s Second Element (currently 11 members including myself).  Unfortunately, it does not look like ansible communication is going to be as high up on the construction list as I thought it would be.  Fleet Command wants all of our initial focus to be on the establishment of ground and air defense while simultaneously setting up the ground based orbital defense systems.  I know it sucks but look on the bright side, they want us to be as safe and as well secured as possible before we commit to other endeavors that are not of immediate importance.  Communication, while important, won’t do much good this far out anyways.

I wish you all could see what I see out here.  I promise that I will do my best to send some pictures soon.  We truly are on the frontier of human space and I must admit that it is difficult to contain my excitement.  In fact, that could be why they have us setting up an installation here. A way-point for future exploration even further out.  Once you get over the inconveniences involved in setting up a base on a planet that was not exactly meant for human habitation, the landscape is quite beautiful and perfect for anyone who loves an outdoor challenge.  

There are mountain ranges galore; so many that some even blend in together to look like one massive collection of mountains. There is little to no snow and very small amounts of water, but the fact that there is water at all will allow the Whitecoats to play with the atmosphere and create a more long-term situation.  I hope. I don’t exactly buy into all this terraforming magical handwavium. Fleet intelligence and the Planetary Habitation Department like to keep secrets. Pompous jerks. Look at the acronym for crying out loud. PHD? Really?

We chose a cluster of mountains where there was some flat ground at a low enough elevation to where breathing won’t be affected.  It was difficult finding a spot like this where there weren’t any other ranges within close enough proximity to where anyone could sneak up on us and/or have the high ground.  Until we are able to finish the orbital defense system, a small carrier group is staying in orbit, just in case, which is another reason they want defensive focus first. It is weird really.  Committing a carrier group, even a small one, to this planet, makes little sense, but I am sure fleet has its reasons and I am quite sure that information is unlikely to trickle its way down to our level.  

The base is located between the main PHD facility and the planet’s equivalent of a capital/main hub. We have enough defensive positions to where we are now able to focus on perimeter security while anti air and counter-battery platforms are nearly established.  Funny how we have the capability to travel between solar systems now, yet we have yet to come up with a better tool than a shovel for digging ditches and latrines.

Fleet duties aside for a moment, how are things back home?  How is William doing? Has he been keeping in touch with Russell as well?  I am thrilled that he decided to take a mechanical job for Fleet closer to home where he can be relatively safe and periodically check in on you all and Russell from time to time.  I may only be a few years older than him but the Fleet is definitely aging me quickly. Although it could just be the specific career field I chose.

Security is a pretty thankless job but then when you add enforcing Fleet rules and regulations you become almost as hated as anyone in charge.  Did you know a lot of the other fleet personnel refer to us as fashion police? Of course, that is mostly just the members of the fleet that have never served outside of Sol so they have never encountered any of the revolutionaries or insurgents. Though there is a treaty in place between systems, tensions are still there.    

We usually get treated like outsiders but people never hesitate to call us for help when they have a problem.  It is always amusing. We had to break up a minor dispute between a C-RAM (Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar) crew and a ground battery crew over a slight peak that both wanted to use to set up one of their weapon systems.  Apparently there was a miscommunication and they both showed up on site with all their equipment and neither wanted to turn around and set up elsewhere. No one was able to use their words and the highest ranking member from either side was a 1st Lieutenant.  

It was a petty fight, pathetic actually. It took minimal force to subdue both sides and we forced them to work it out right there in front of us in the hope that it would prevent any further issues. It did. Being forced to communicate and with us standing over them while they did, negotiations went quickly and one of the groups moved to a new location.  You were right Mom, communication is key.

Once we are finished setting up I promise that I will write more often.  For the moment, we only get enough time for one letter per week but that will change once more personnel are brought in.  There is no intention of this being a hardship post. This will eventually become a full star-port with all the capabilities of any other standard fleet run star-port.  Travel to and from this planet will become common place eventually and when it does I will take a HOP home and come visit. I miss you all very much and though things are rough for now, I don’t want any of you to worry.  I love you all very much and will write again soon.





P.S.  Tell Russell that I will be able to send him those samples as soon as the Fleet mailing unit is established.  I got permission from the base commander. Also……still waiting on the candy.



Letter I

11 June 2434

Barren, Mitchell D., SSgt, ESF

4th Fleet, 4th FSFS, Charlie Flight


Dear Mom,

I know I only put dear Mom, but this is for everyone else as well.  I sure as heck am not taking the time, every time I write home, to write out everyone’s name in an effort to include everyone in a letter that you all know is for everyone anyways…..please tell Russell I will be back before he knows it and we can do another tour of any of the Mars Museums he wants.  Just make sure he picks one out a few months in advance so I can make the reservations. Let him know all the museums in the capital are worth a look.

I finally made it to my new assignment.  Sorry that it took so long. Transit was crazy, unexpected issues arose that caused problems.  Although the issues were against the odds, it was still nothing bad enough to warrant any worries.  Travel delays that never cease. In the end, things happen. As we were departing and the pilots did their standard system checks before leaving Mars orbit, the systems responsible for air filtration began to short circuit due to defective wiring.  Sounds horrible but it is really no big deal. There are enough backup systems on these vessels but you know the military way. 100% or its a no go until its brought back to %100. A maintenance shuttle was dispatched and they fixed the issue in a matter of hours while we stayed in Mars orbit. Threw off the jump timing though.  More time to hit the shipboard dining facility and score some nachos. That one delay cost us nearly a week in transit time. Oh well. Made it.

Where do I even begin?  There really is nothing much out here.  The people who have spent the last decade colonizing have done an incredible job creating a livable situation but were less than pleased when they discovered that Fleet Command wanted to establish a military presence.  Being that those of us arriving today are the first from fleet, we get the pleasure of building up the installation and preparing for the follow on forces and construction crews. First order of business is to establish a defensible security perimeter.  I must admit this makes me nervous, being my first assignment as a non-commissioned officer. Still, I think I will do well. I have the experience and I know I can handle the pressure. Fingers crossed that things stay calm and the population receives us well.  There hasn’t been any reported insurgent activity so hopefully that remains the case. There hasn’t exactly been a consistent fleet presence though either and given that the population is still so small it isn’t like there has been any reason for them to operate out here.  

The planet is like a mixture between Mars, Earth, and the moon.  There are three massive continents and the rest is mostly water. There isn’t much vegetation or wildlife though so planetary engineers had to come in to conduct minor planetary modifications in order to make it livable for humans.  The only good part about the modifications is that the air is breathable. Sucks that it doesn’t make the planet much more useful other than a place to put humans and conduct trade. I honestly don’t even know why these people wanted to come here but who am I to judge right?  There is some kind of science station near where we are supposed to be establishing our perimeter but we have been instructed that all research being conducted is none of our business so we are ordered to steer clear of the facility and its personnel.

I am sorry that I have to keep this letter short.  I am exhausted after the trek and there is still so much more to do. Please extend my love to the rest of the family and let them all know that I will write again soon.  I promise that I will write to you as often as I am able but times may come when it gets busy, especially for the next couple weeks. Once the ansible is set up they will allow us to video call with the standard time allotments so we won’t be restricted to just letters.  Know that you will all be in my thoughts. Take care of yourselves.



P.S. Tell Russell I am working on his request.  Should know by the next letter whether or not it will work.  Also, There isn’t a place where I can get good candy. No base exchange or commissary yet.  Please send some Tootsie rolls if or when you can.