Birth of a Leader: Into the Grinder

December 2919
Tiber System 'The Grinder'

A military man through and through, Matthius was a part of the UEE juggernaut for 15 years before the events on Tiber II...

A decorated soldier, Matthius was a Captain within the UEE military. He had served loyally throughout including campaigns against the Xi'an and Vanduul. His last tour of duty saw him escorting a heavily modified retaliator from the jump point to Tiber II. Several ships had crash landed upon the planet's surface as the onslaught continued in space. The Vanduul were far too entrenched in this system but the UEE had strict orders to overtake it. This rescue mission was to be pretty straight forward. Escort the retaliator to the surface with his squadron of hornets, provide cover while the wounded were loaded and burn it back to the jump point.

Surprisingly, the first two stages went better than expected. Matthius commanded his hornets to sweep the perimeter around 'The Ajax'. The retaliator had take some damage in the approach but was in great shape. Soldiers, medical staff and various other UEE personnel made their way into it's massive cargo chamber. Scattered across the planet's surface 100s of fighters ranging from Hornets to Gladiators and even an idris or two. It was extremely hard to tell given the sheer amount of metal jagging out of the planet surface.

Then the call came. The UEE MADRIGAL a Destroyer class vessel had taken catastrophic damage in the fight above. Now it made sense why the trip had been so easy. The Vanduul ignored them as their main spear was pushing on the MADRIGAL.

"Command Omega to Victoria One..." a voice broke in over the comms channel.

"Captain Savage come in." It broke in again after a lengthy pause.

"Victoria One, Omega. Package is 90% loaded." Matthius responded as the second message finally broke his trance. The sight of seeing the MADRIGAL decimated shook even his experience.

"Captain, it's too late. UEE is pulling out. Antimatter bombs are inbound." Command respond.

"Command, Repeat. ETA 5 Mikes." Matthias shouted into the channel more than he meant. Meanwhile, he hurried some numbers into his flight computer. Half of his squadron was flying on the other side of the Ajax, parallel to his position and closer to the jump point.

"Captain. Impact in 2 Mikes." There was an uncomfortable pause. "Sir, I recommend you get the hell out of there."

Matthius punched numbers frantically. "Dammit command. You've killed us!" Then he switched his comms to the squadron channel. "Victoria One to Victoria Squadron. Bug out. I repeat Bug out. New coordinates transmitting." He knew half of them wouldn't make it but the only shot any of them had to survive was to fly to the opposite side of the planet. He hoped the planet would shield them from the blast.

"Sir!", "Repeat" comms chatter picked up and encroached on SOP.

"BREAK! BREAK!" Matthius bellowed. "Omega is bugging out and Antimatter bombs are inbound, ETA one Mike, thirty sierra. Get the fuck to the coordinates ASAP!" He broke SOP as well.

Now everyone was adjusting vectors and attempting to reach the coordinates. Matthius's cockpit rocked as 2 of his wingmen collided. He couldn't tell what happened but he assumed someone panicked. Everyone was now in full panic mode. Something Matthius had never seen from his crew. This was real death he thought. With no way out. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the Ajax lifting off. Approximately 100 feet off the ground with a trail of bodies falling from it. The bay doors were being closed but the pilot didn't wait.

Matthius broke away from the rescue zone and kicked in his afterburners. Bleeding them dry, he sored to the coordinates on his nav computer barely hitting the spot when the impact radius thrust his hornet further into space. His head rocked and slammed into the seat. For a few seconds, he thought he was dead then everything went black.

A few hours later, groggy and with his head ringing, Matthius awoke to some radio chatter. Private Johnson and Lt. Ayers were arguing over their options.

"Sit-rep Lieutenant." Matthius managed to say. His head was spinning, likely the effects of a concussion. He listened as Ayers informed him of the destruction of everyone else. In the distance he could make out the remains of the Ajax, bay doors still open. Toggling the panels on his own hornet, options were scarce. No friendlies in sight, no jump drive, no afterburner fuel. For all intensive purposes they were stranded.

15 minutes passed as the trio discussed their options. Matthius didn't like it but he had no real choice. His only option was to attempt to board one of the several Vanduul capital ships.