Vice Admiral Grey Wing never quite understood why ship designers would put an observation deck on a warship. But, right now, he was just going to enjoy the view.
The compartment lights were low, and there was nopony on the deck, which was good. He wanted some solitude to think and reflect before the final mission briefing for Operation Gambit Spring, and an empty observation deck was perfect for him. He used his implants to lock the hatch behind him and trotted to a convenient open spot. His eyes were able to pick out more in the darkness, even without augmentation, and he looked over the faint lights of starships orbiting the nameless red dwarf star. Many starships indeed, enough that he could be sure that the lights were from starship running lights and not the background stars.
He knew how hard it was to have gotten where he was. In theory, every rank in the RESF was open on merit and blind testing. In practice, everypony knew that there were those little cliques, the little self-protection societies, the ones that traded influence and back-room deals to help out their friends and allies and the stallions and mares of those that could help you out. Grey Wing knew that he had some serious patrons, a few of which he didn’t know about and he would have been insulted if he felt like his rise to his current rank had been greased or lifted in some way. But, he also knew the realities.
It was said-quietly and with both a wry expression and a sneer-that you couldn’t rise past the rank of Captain (Senior Grade) in the RESF unless you were born a unicorn. There might have been some exaggeration in that-Grey Wing had served under just about every member of the races of Equestria at some point-but you did see a lot of unicorns in the higher ranks of the RESF. And, to be a thestral, a pony that even to this day was still associated with Nightmare Moon and the Night That Never Ended, was something that made it even harder to rise through the ranks.
Which was why, standing on this deck was something that Grey Wing knew was one of many messages being sent by the Diarchy. Not only the deck of his command ship, but the decks of the other ships in Task Force 0133. He was in command of three full squadrons of Princess Sunset Shimmer-class fast battleships, twenty-four of the newest and most capable warships in the Royal Equestrian Space Forces, with his flag flying on the name ship of the class. He personally would have preferred to have had three squadrons of Princess Luna-class fast battleships for the symbolism, but he knew why he had these ships. Four squadrons of Moon Dancer-class battle cruisers. Five squadrons of Big Macintosh-class heavy cruisers, backed up by five squadrons of Pinkie Pie-class light cruisers. Six squadrons of Fluttershy-class destroyers, enough to provide sufficient escorts for the whole fleet, with senior officers of all the races of Equestria that had records of being the very edge of the razor. A full fleet train of supply ships, colliers, repair ships, and enough transports and Bright Bulb-class GFSS to count as two full Royal Equestrian Ground Forces Brigade Combat Teams.
In total, he was in command of nearly half a billion tons of fleet assets, from the smallest courier to the fast battleships. Not a single ship was more than eight years old, and all of the ships were the newest and most capable in their class. And, to put this all in the command of a thestral admiral was the message that the Diarchy was sending to the cliques and mutual protection groups of the RESF-your games are no longer being tolerated, and they have grown too blatant. Merit and capability were the most important things to the Diarchy, and they were demonstrating what they wanted from their military.
The fleet’s mission was another message as well. Several messages. Officially, Operation Gambit Spring was an anti-piracy operation, going after pirates and Changeling Queens and Empresses that had been a threat in this sector, establishing contact with independent worlds, supporting the Royal Equestrian Scout Services in mapping the sector, all noble goals. But, his orders were to operate in force wherever possible, no less than division strength in any individual detachment.
To everyone observing, this message was clear-the Diarchy was more than willing to deploy their best and newest ships, in large numbers, to handle a relatively minor threat. And, they were willing to come ready and supported to continue the operations for a long period of time. And, their first destination was Raven Claw, the capital of a three-system pocket empire that had a reputation for being a place where pirates could quietly dispose of their captured ships.
And not a single soul knew that they were here. Or where they were going to arrive, or when.
Grey Wing almost felt sorry for the pirates.