The diverse perspective of this work truly illustrates the complexity and detail of the CoM universe.
As noted by the rating, originality and vision are principles that you surely do not lack. The methods used to illustrate the characters and the underlying uneasiness of a coming conflict [Stress relief via Jessica's exercise, shore leave of an Admiral soon to take charge of an Alliance fleet headed into an escalating conflict, suspicion of Spencer's moral integrity by Cpt. Hale] captures a unique perspective of Alliance officers preparing to depart to that of which they may not return.
Another point of interest was the chemistry between characters. I found it quite interesting, that in every case and in every story there was no point in which a character was left completely to their own thoughts. I can only speculate as to whether or not this was intentional, but it enables a personal connection. We see these characters and the interaction between them as a way or means of subduing the grunt mentality often associated with military-esque literature. The fact that this whole story (segment?) is written of a military entity, and yet of no definite conflict or battle proves the sheer dedication to captivating the audience with detail and vision.
I have always been a fan of utilizing multiple perspectives to tell a story. The linking perspectives here are unusually pleasant. Although the connection is not definite here, the connection is foreshadowed. A coming conflict is viewed from multiple officers whom will fight alongside in the name of an enveloping entity (the Alliance).
In this story, I see several distinct personalities. I see characters of whom I can connect to. I see unquestionable loyalty, [Although I wish that was a little more evident after Hall questioned Spencer's morality] pride, dedication, but also hints of fear, the necessity of bravery, and an air of nervousness.
In praise, I have to commend the firebird observation, I very much enjoyed and was sucked in by the captivating and lavish detail and unique technique used to show that detail. It adds yet another level of complexity to the environment/universe you have forged from creativity.
This installment has the earmarks of a truly fantastic novel. Whether intentional or not, the reader is left in the dark in regards to an orientation into the CoM universe (although this is assuming that 'Installment 1' is the first stepping-stone in a reader's journey through the CoM universe [If it isn't, you can probably just skip to the next paragraph]). This can serve to be both beneficial or detrimental, but it is risky nonetheless. By theoretically cutting off a reader's understanding, (s)he is left in the dark. The fact that these characters are in a position where most readers CANNOT empathize with or understand from a personal level already adds a barrier to entry for non-scifi readers. Though, in my opinion, the integrity of the story and its plot are far more important than catering to reader mentality, but a stepping stone elevated six feet high can be hard to reach if there isn't a ladder or something to latch onto.
If I was blatantly wrong about this Installment serving as the first literature in the structured CoM universe, I apologize. I enjoy the perspectives and various attributes of this work. I think it would be interesting to add a perspective of an enlist, or lower ranking soldier or pilot to add a bit more diversity and lower a feel of upper-class prestige to the situation. This will certainly add an opportunity to provide an inner look at the military's infrastructure, and perhaps even that of the entire Alliance.
I am not very much concerned with not having the enemy's perspective. The bias in favor of the Alliance is so obvious there is no doubt that this particular Installment would have to be doubled in detail to accurately portray the enemy, which might as well justify a second installment should you will it.
In summary, I enjoyed Installment 1, I believe your ability as an author is superb and you have been successful in getting me 'hooked.' I look forward to seeing what's next, and to see what sort of detail you'll be adding into the combat soon to come. Please, keep it up