Anvils Should Be Warm (2/2)

The recruits shivered in the cold wind and ankle-deep slush, a ragged sextet of double lines stretching across the Agoge landing field, gazing around them in puzzlement at the empty, frozen wastes stretching to the moon’s horizon in every direction in the dim and ruddy light of distant Arvael and the stormy face of Bastion overhead.

The crack of an activated address system drew their attention, as one, to a single legionary standing by the gate.

”Good day, recruits. I am Marshal mor-Issek Kalvanek, commandant of this facility. Welcome to Agoge, our little training moon.”

”I do not, however, welcome you to the Imperial Legions. Yes, you have been accepted as recruits to the Legions. I’m sure you have all bragged to your friends and families about your new status. That stops now. Disabuse yourself of any such notions that you might have. Legionary is a title that comes at a steep price.”

”Those legionaries in front of you are the Sergeant-Instructors in charge of each section. Their job is to smelt, refine and hammer you, our civilian raw material, into something worthy of the Legions. This training will not be easy. It will, indeed, be the most strenuous period of your lives, however long they extend, and however many wars we send you to. It was designed that way.”

”Those of you who survive to the halfway point of the training you are about to enter into will have earned the right to call yourselves legionary-apprentices. I use the term ’survive’ advisedly; while it is rare for any recruit to graduate without having died at least once, over half of you will wash out or walk out – and I remind you, you are free to leave at any time – before that point is reached. Until then, consider the term ’legionary’ a forbidden word.”

”I have seen some of you looking around you at the landscape. Fort Petrae is 64 miles from here. Before you graduate, you will be required to circumnavigate this moon under full combat conditions to return here, but for today, a nice easy run to your quarters. I will be running with you, and as would be my custom had it ever happened, anyone who beats my time to the Fort will receive a three-day pass for their first weekend off duty.”

”Sergeant-Instructors, take charge of your sections. Begin the Anvil!”

Anvils Should Be Warm (1/2)

Welcome to Palaxias System, home port for the Capital Fleet and the Home Fleet, and indeed for the Imperial Navy in general.

Astrographically, Palaxias is not a significant system; its sun, Arvael – named after Eliéra’s largest raptor – is a minor red dwarf star, its sole asset is its proximity to both the Empire’s throneworld and the seat of the Conclave, but this has been enough to raise it to galactic prominence, or at least notoriety among those who have no business there, and so are not permitted within the system.

Its six gas-giant planets are given over entirely to the business of the Empire’s fleet.  Local patrols and the system’s extensive grid of defense platforms are controlled from the moons of the outermost gas giant, Fortress.  The fleet is built, for the most part, in the shipyards and forges of Armory and its moons, and semi-autonomous swarm squadrons breed in the depths of its well.  Endless skydiver flights skim the atmosphere of Bunker for deuterium, helium-3, and metastable metallic hydrogen, and orbiting cryocels the size of moonlets stockpile antimatter shipped up from downwell or in from Esílmur.  And thousands upon thousands of pods, packages, containers, warehouses, and powered-down vessels of the Reserve surround the logistics base at Depot with a set of metallic rings.

(Officially, of course, nothing at all happens around epistellar Battlefield with its perpetual storms, sun-stoked, huge and fierce even by gas giant standards.)

But the heart of the system is its second world, Bastion, a bloated giant that had just missed fusion ignition, or rather its four moons.  Palaxias itself – Prime Base – a rocky moon hollowed out into the endless docks, autofacs, offices, barracks, laboratories, and other necessities of hosting the two largest IN fleets.  The nameless tiny moon-turned-habitat, bristling with communications arrays, which housed Core Command, seat of the Admiralty.  Frozen, ammoniac Quarters, offering places to take short leaves and quarters for families and contractors, a tiny domed outpost of civilian civility in an otherwise militarized system.

And Agoge, the fourth moon, whose close-in orbit to Bastion warmed it barely enough to allow open water and breathable air; a garden world but certainly not a garden spot.  Agoge was not a primarily Naval world.  Agoge was Legion territory…