== 2064: Nevada, US, Earth
General Restivo stood on the bluff. The cool night-time desert wind whipped around him, grabbing at the hem of his field uniform jacket. The wind chilled him – as did the sight below.
The arc-lit construction yard was sheltered from the nearest highway by the hill he stood on, multiple layers of razor-wire fences and armed patrols, and – beyond that – miles of Nevada desert. Radio jammers kept transmissions at bay, pat-downs and EMP booths made sure that no one smuggled cameras in, and vast foil canopies made sure that expat satellites – if there were any – would see nothing.
Which meant that aside from the contractors scurrying below, he was the only one on the planet who could see the twelve massive ships that sat on the concrete apron, dwarfing the cranes and scaffolding that climbed their sides. Blue flashes of arc welding, nearly invisible pinpricks at this distance, danced here and there as the cranes lifted the last of the armor plates into position and robotic welders secured them.
The desert wind slowed.
The schedule had been insanely tight. The fact that the prefab components had been built and delivered in time was a miracle. Jesus, the fights he’d had with the Bureau of Industrial Planning over exemptions from training programs, job set asides, and all that shit. Compared to that, the military operation was going to be a cakewalk.
Even more amazing was the fact that somehow the secrecy had held. At least until recently. Now, though, his own search filters were picking up rumors. Hopefully they’d be able to launch before the rumors grew too loud. The sooner he launched, the less he had to worry about classified details leaking – and getting to the expats.
Motion below caught Restivo’s eye. He turned and watched as three trucks approached the nearest raptor. They slowed and stopped, then one of the automated cranes reached down and lifted a container of ammunition off flatbed. A moment later the container was lowered into the ship through a gaping cargo hatch.
He pulled out his phone and checked the time. Less than 24 hours. At this point the battery banks had been charged – even the maneuvering rocket systems had been fueled. The troops – quartered incommunicado for the last month – were as ready as he could hope, given their quality and necessary constraints on training.
Tomorrow morning they were going to make history. History. He rolled the word around and thought about the idea. Would the books and videos of the future push all of this into a footnote – or would it be remembered as the first interplanetary invasion? He was shocked to realize that he hadn’t spent even a moment thinking about the question before now. All this time his actions had been leading up to this one moment, and he’d bizarrely never thought about how it would be remembered. For months now he’d – almost literally – not had a single moment to concentrate on anything other than the task at hand.
And now, with just hours before launch, he had a free hour. He could think about the future.
Would society think of him as another Patton? An Eisenhower?
He looked up at the moon, searching in vain for any pinpricks of light from city at Aristillus.
Or maybe he’d be remembered as Montgomery.
He looked down at the raptors on the desert floor below. Or, perhaps, he’d be remembered as a Cortez.
The wind picked up again and Restivo shifted, uncomfortably cold now. His stomach felt cramped and acidic, the same way it had for much of the last few months.
He’d done the impossible getting this mission ready – and yet, the pride felt hollow. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a tube of antacid pills and swallowed two. The burning sensation in his stomach hadn’t gone away for more than a few hours since he’d accepted this task.