This is more engaging (and also well-written). Yey!
Just to be awkward right at the start, I liked the first person voice of the last piece (but then I like first person). I especially liked these lines:
I leaned back in my chair. Building unregistered ships was a capital offense, especially if they were capable of interstellar travel. It wasn't an assignment that I was particularly thrilled about.
"What am I commanding?"
The underlined bit made me like the character and feel I was going to enjoy his story more than 'Dang' does in the current version.
Originally Posted by Shane Enochs
Aboard the starcraft carrier Advent
Commander Gabriel Young walked around the small ship, touching the cold metal of the landing struts. Inky-black and windowless, it looked more like a drone than a vessel meant to be piloted by men. Its long, arrowhead-shaped body was very aerodynamic, obviously built with atmospheric flight in mind. "It's beautiful." [you could probably make it tighter by losing 'it looked' and 'obviously' -- e.g.: 'Inky-black and windowless, more like a drone ...']
"First of its kind," Fleet Commander Arnold Smith said proudly. "The SR-78. One deck; maximum crew of five. It's got four pulse detonation engines with a maximum air speed of Mach 8. It's also equipped with the latest stealth technology."
Gabriel nodded [with approval]. "It's a short-ranged scout ship."
The old man [old? really?] grinned. "Not quite." He let his words hang in the air for a moment. "It's actually capable of opening slipstreams." ['actually' feels a bit wordy -- how about 'It's slipstream capable.'?]
"This tiny thing?" Even the smallest vessels equipped with FTL drives were huge in comparison. It took an enormous amount of energy to create an aperture into slipstream.
"Yeah. Listen, Gabe," Smith's tone turned abruptly serious. "I wouldn't normally ask you to do this, but this is from way above me."
Gabriel's stomach started twisting. "Sir?"
"Two months ago we received intelligence that a colony on Cyprus has been building unregistered ships, so we sent drones in to investigate. They never returned." He suddenly avoided Gabriel's eyes. "I need you to take this ship and scout the planet. Purely a recon mission. If they are building ships, we need to know about it as soon as possible."
Damn, Gabriel thought. Building unregistered ships was a capital offense, especially if they were capable of interstellar travel. If the intelligence turned out to be true, Earth would send in dozens of battleships and bombard the planet. Nothing would be left alive.
"The plan is to drop out of slipstream in the nearest system, and then you and your crew will travel the rest of the way [what's 'travel' rather than 'slipstream'?]. It'll take the better part of a day to get there, but it should allow you to get in unnoticed," Smith said confidently.
Gabriel nodded. "When will I be launching?
"We'll be dropping out of slipstream in an hour. Be ready."