In addition to contributing to Roka’s backstory, the pilots are also a backdoor device into the Unified military side of the bigger story. The idea was to introduce them here, tied into the main characters, and then follow them into a totally different area of storytelling, instead of jumping directly into that other area with all new characters that the readers had no prior relationship with.

Regarding the rotations they mention, the USP is structured so that the first step out of academy is patrol duty. The work is similar to police duty, focusing on keeping the peace, supporting and assisting civilians, and checking low-level criminal activity throughout the system. From there, some advance on to military combat duty. The idea is that they gain experience in keeping the peace before learning to shatter it, and they learn to value life before being asked to potentially take it.

I know it’s in no way like a traditional real world police or military system, where the two are very distinct entities. But I thought it would be a different way to go as far as creating an alien system very different from what we are accustomed to. And for me, it made some sense that they would choose to instill some sense of public assistance and aid before putting them into the situation where they must potentially take lives in warfare.