Author Topic: The Tyrean Chapter Reborn  (Read 2734 times)

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Offline Stormkeeper

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The Tyrean Chapter Reborn
   The fighter was ... unnatural. Shaped like a crescent, it seemed to be composed of pure crimson energy, contained within a black metal skeleton. The fighter, its skin glowing gently as though alive, banked left sharply. The space where it had been shortly ago came alive with a veritable light show, as emerald bolts seared by. Where its cockpit should be was a single silver diamond, which seemed to twinkle, regardless of the light. The fighter pulled around, and the edges of its wings pulsed; twin scythes of darkness tore free from its wings, and slashed at its quarry.

   The humanoid machine that it was hunting easily avoided the blasts, dropping below and then dashing forward. Grasping a short white stick from behind its waist, the machine thumbed the activation rune, and a sapphire blade of pure energy sprung to life. With a deft slash, the machine ran the blade down the length of the fighter, slicing the silver diamond in half. The instant the diamond was cleaved in half, the fighter shuddered, and the energy exploded in a furious blast, its slayer barely bringing up a shield in time to block the explosion.

   Its prey dead, the humanoid machine turned away to face the main battle. Massive gleaming ships, radiating equal parts elegance and equal parts lethality, blasted away with unimaginable power. Blindingly white beams tore through the darkness of space, chased after with volleys of violet beams and swarms of missiles. Orbital torpedoes, each as large as a skyscraper, detonated in globes of plasma fire. Now and then, a beam of seemingly pure fire lashed out across the battlefield. Yet for all their magnificence and destructive power, they were barely holding their own.

   Their opponents where ships of equal size, if not larger, and they seemed to be composed purely of furious ruby energy, bound by black metal frames. Their skins pulsed, and pores seemed to open. From these pores, black beams bound with red lightning came. Their caress shattered shields, and left behind molten scars. Sometimes, there would be volleys of red crystals, hammering and tearing into their target like so a swarm of insects. Other times, came simple black blasts. Regardless of their size, their weapons seemed identical. Or there was simply no way to categorize them clearly.

   Sixteen of these unholy ships faced the two dozen gleaming vessels. More of the crescent shaped fighters ducked and weaved amongst the point defence fire from the gleaming ships. Other fighters, ones that were distinctly mechanical, and shared the same look of grace and power as their larger counterparts, chased after them, but were often out-performed. The only reason the gleaming fleet was still in the battle was because of the humanoid machines.

   They were called Combat Frames. Humanoid machines that packed an incredible amount of fire, combined with unbelievable speed and agility, they easily outperformed the crescent shaped fighters in battle. They were seen as the key in the desperate conflict, and they did indeed live up to that expectation.

   The video paused, centered on the Combat Frame, the plasma blade still unsheathed, held in its shield hand, the other holding a rifle. “The Battle of Khyrisia became known for the first combat deployment of the TAF-001X Perseus, the very first Combat Frames. Powered by micro cold fusion reactors, their armament was pretty simple; twin head mounted 21mm autocannons, two plasma blades, and a single Mk 1 burst rifle.” The lecturer paused, and gestured at the Combat Frame behind him. “This particular Frame, nick-named Little Boy, was the very first of the Perseuses built, and employed in battle. Its pilot was but a First Lieutenant, who had been in on the testing and design phase. In that first battle, he shot down fifteen of the Enskeleon Crescent fighters, and saved many lives, pioneering the tactics and skills that present day Combat Frame Claws employ as standard procedures. He was only twenty three.”

   The lecturer paused again. “Little Boy would see combat until near the end of the Enskeleon War, where it was replaced by the first of the second-generation Frames, named the Vampire. With it, the 1st Combat Frame Assault Claw, better known as the Immortals, destroyed the Enskeleon mothership, and the rest is history.” He tapped his console, bringing up the schematics for both Frames side by side. “Now, we will proceed to identify the differences in the Frames. First, the head unit. Notice that ...”

   An hour later David Markinson bid the last of his students goodbye. He looked down at the schematics of the two suits as he adjusted his glasses. It had been a hundred years ago when he had first designed the Perseus, and somehow, between battles, the Vampire. Second-generation, he thought, chuckling quietly. They were now at the eleventh-generation, and the twelfth well on the way. He himself was involved with the tests and forays into the newest, the thirteenth generation of Combat Frames.
 
   A hundred years had passed since the Enskeleon War, and he still remembered its last moments with startling clarity. A last, desperate strike at the Enskeleon mothership itself. With the Vampire, the Immortals, supported by a scant six ships, including the legendary Nighthawk, had slipped past Enskeleon lines and assaulted the mothership. Of the six ships, only 3 barely survived, and a mere twenty of the hundred Immortals remained after the death of the mothership. And all of them found themselves ... Immortal. Little over six hundred of them, and they were immune of the ravages of time, their memories were perfect, and they could heal any injury short of decapitation. The end of the War meant that there no suicide missions to send them on, though the later Federation aggression meant there were plenty of uses for the Immortals, and then during the dark years of the Tyrean Civil War, as spies for the loyalists, ultimately bringing about the downfall of the corrupt Toa. These days though, they served as the Toa’s Royal Guard, himself an Immortal, and often described as a living legend. ‘Though technically, all of us are living legends,’ he mused to himself as the exited the lecture theatre.

   David had left the military to teach in the Tyrean Design and Research Institute, primarily specialising in Combat Frame sciences, design and technology, though no Immortal was truly free of their duties. As he walked across the small garden separating the lecture theatres from the staff block, he paused at the foot of a statue. It was a statue of Little Boy, and rather realistic one. The students never realised, however, that it was no statue, but the actual Perseus unit he himself had piloted. Of course, they had removed its weapons and reactor, but still ... He placed a hand on the leg, feeling a wave of nostalgia wash over him. He remembered doing this, a hundred years ago, shortly before launching in Little Boy. Shaking his mind clear, he patted the leg, and continued onto the staff block.

   As he entered his office, he paused, then tossed his keys at a seemingly clear corner of the room. They bounced off thin air, and a muffled grunt of pain came from mid-air. There was a shimmer, and a man appeared. He ran his hand through his silvery blond hair, and glared at David. “What was that for?”

   David shrugged. “For sneaking in and not thinking I couldn’t see you.”

   The man stared and him. “How’d you know?”

   “Chair out of place. Console’s not hibernating. Air has the taint of ozone. Plus you didn’t shield yourself well enough.” David raised an eyebrow. “Should I go on?”

   His companion sighed. “No, you were always better than me in tracking, and all this mental shielding stuff.” He moved around and plopped down into the sofa. “So, how’s the teaching?”

   “Amusing, sometimes. My students come up and ask, ‘Are you the David Markinson? The original designer of Combat Frames?’ And I go ‘Yep,’ and they almost have a heart attack. Mind you, when I first introduced myself to the dean, he had an actual heart attack,” David said, as he stashed his notes aside, and sat down at his desk. He steepled his fingers, and looked over them at the man, light glinting off his glasses and obscuring his eyes. “But you didn’t come here for that, Mikhail.”

   Mikhail Kerensky squirmed under the scrutiny of his former superior officer. ‘Damn that’s a scary look,’ he thought to himself. ‘Where did he learn that? From some magnificent bastard?’ “What, I can’t just drop by to visit?”

   “You and I both know that you have much more important things to do than that,” David said, unmoving.

   Mikhail squirmed some more, then sighed. “Fine. That inter-galactic we found? We’re gonna go through, and we want you to come along.”

   David frowned, leaning back in his chair. Unnoticed, Mikhail heaved a sigh of relief, though he didn’t really know why. “Why me?” he asked, staring at the ceiling.

   “Daniel reckons that with your ability to think on the larger picture, and not to mention your ability to make things up on the fly, will be useful. Plus, I insisted on someone competent watching my arse.”

   “Who’d want to watch your arse?”

   Mikhail glared at him, then continued. “Morgan will take over your teaching. Plus the thirteenth are still at design stage, so they won’t need your supernatural powers to solve problems for a while yet.”

   “Morgan Roete, eh? Well, that guy did help me on the Vampire, so I guess that my students will be safe in his hands. And you’re right about the thirteens. But still ...”

   Mikhail snorted. “Oh please. Don’t even bother pretending you’re not interested. You’ve been here for like what, thirty years? And you’re not bored teaching kids? Plus we’re not staying, we’re just popping over for a look and back.”

   David chuckled. “That’s true. It is getting a bit boring. I could use the break. Alright, I’m in.”

   Mikhail snorted again. “Like you would give me any answer. You’re already slated to leave tomorrow morning, 1000hrs.”

   “Who’s leading the expedition, and what are our resources?”

   “The esteemed Claw Admiral Lewis Dekker, on the Blade as flagship. The Firebreak and Warmonger, plus the Charity round out the fleet. We’re bringing two sticks of Combat Frames, excluding our own, of course, and about four wings of fighters.”

   David did the mental calculations. “So we got twelve Frames and twenty fighters, plus 3 caps and one support? Enough to be a significant threat, but small enough to go unnoticed. Good size.”

   Mikhail nodded in agreement. “Lewis is anything but incompetent, so we should be fine. We’re just there as the Toa’s official representative, and his word if anything goes FUBAR. But I seriously doubt anything can go wrong. Like I said, we’re just gonna see where the portal comes out, then see if we can establish any reference relative to Tyrea, plus conduct some easy recon.”

   David stood up. “Yep. Sounds like a cakewalk.” Then he paused, frowned. “Wait, you said two sticks, excluding our own.”

   Mikhail chuckled, and began fishing in his pockets. “Wondering when you’d notice. Yeah, our Combat Frames. My Anubis is already loaded up. I picked you a Frame already. I have its specs ... ah, there we go.” He tossed a data pad across to David, who, unprepared, nearly dropped it.

   David picked it up, spared his old friend a glare and looked at the screen. ‘TMFx-017N  Raijin,’ it said. ‘Experimental High-Speed Advanced Combat Frame.’ He thumbed through the document whistling in amazement. High-intensity thavir beams in its hands. Twin wrist-mounted plasma autocannons, which could be toggled to produce plasma blades. Elbow mounted shield generators. The entire suit was designed to fight up close and personal, leaving ranged combat to its wrist guns, and relying on the its speed. For that, it had a collection of eight wings, arranged four on each side. Each one mounted a powerful thavir thrusters, and initial tests showed that the eight thrusters could actually create afterimages, and it was possibly the fastest moving Combat Frame. “This ...” David picked up the data pad and waved it at Mikhail. “This ... looks like something I designed,” he said suspiciously.

   Mikhail coughed. “Well, perhaps I saw the design on the table, and perhaps I thought it was good, and perhaps I passed it along to the right people and perhaps I mentioned in passing you designed it and perhaps also mentioned it was meant for your personal use.”

   David stared at Mikhail, who looked him straight in the eye. He opened his mouth, and waved the data pad again, then put it down and closed his mouth. “Thanks,” he said finally.

   “Don’t mention it,” Mikhail said as he turned to go. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

   “Yeah,” David replied, attention turning back to the data pad.

   Mikhail paused at the door, then added. “It’ll be good to fly with you again, old friend.”

   David looked up from the data pad, and regarded Mikhail. They were both Immortals, and for Immortals, there was really no one else that could understand what they went through but another Immortal. How would you explain the sensation of outliving your wife and children to one who would never understand because they would never experience it?

   “Yes. It will be,” he replied simply.

   Mikhail nodded, then closed the door, leaving David to himself.

--------------------------------------------------------

So, I had a re-format, and lost most of the original story. I figured I might as well take the opportunity to re-write the story, and plug up most of the holes, and add more background. The general gist will be the same though, and you will see a few familiar characters from the old version.

... Yes, I will still destroy Delta Serpentis. 'Tis actually a major plot point.
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Offline Stormkeeper

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Re: The Tyrean Chapter Reborn
July 17th 2367 Delta Serpentis
Local Time: 0433hrs

     The bell was ringing. Or was that his head? He dimly heard noises in the background, but the incessant pounding in his head made it impossible to make them out. He forced his eyes open, wincing as twin spikes of light drove themselves into his eyes, making him squint. He pulled himself up and looked around. ‘Where am I?’ he wondered. He took in his spartan surroundings; the room he was in was little more than a bunk, a desk with a terminal and a small closet, plus a small personal shower. He glanced out the window, and saw stars twinkling against an unending blackness.

     There was a buzzing noise, and a voice issued from the comm unit near his bed. “Commander. You up, Commander, or you still wussing out from your hangover.”

     Commander Marcus Fletcher, wing commander of the 166th Guardbreakers winced at the overly loud voice, gathered himself and stabbed the talk button. “I wouldn’t have expected you up this earlier, James. Would’ve figured you’ll still be whining about this endless noise in your forehead.”

     There was a snort, and his 2IC and wingman James Dekker replied, “Yeah, I’m not a weakling like you.” There was a pause, then, “By the way, how’d we get back on board the Flurry?”

     Marcus paused too, midway from pulling off his uniform. The last thing he could remember was taking the bet to drink 4 of the Eternal Pit’s legendary 6 litre steins. After that ... well. “I don’t know,” he admitted.

     Both of them considered the implications. Before they could get further then thinking, the screen of the comms unit, which until then had just been displaying “Voice Only”, activated, revealing a grizzled man of Asian descent, with a stern jaw, salt and pepper hair, and eyes that seemed to pierce into your soul. “Commander Fletcher,” the man said sternly.

     Marcus snapped to attention instantly, ripping off a textbook salute, then realised his shirt was unbuttoned and hastily fixed it. “Sir.”

     “Mr Fletcher, I do not appreciate my wing commanders coming in drunk. I especially dislike having to send out men to bring them in.” Captain Yamoto Takahashi was the flight commander for the entire 166th, and was known for being a brilliant pilot as well as tactician.

     “Sir.”

     “I was told that you were at the Eternal Pit, taking on their beer steins. Is that true?”

     “... Yes, sir.”
    
     “So that’s why you nearly missed the departure timing for the Flurry?”

     “... Yes, sir.”

     Captain Takahashi regarded his wing commander, as a discipline master might an especially troublesome student. “There is a flight briefing in 2 hours. I believe that should be sufficient time to gather yourself. I expect you to be there promptly, and not smelling of alcohol. Is that clear, Commander?”

     “Crystal clear, sir.”

     “Good,” Takahashi paused. “And congratulations. You didn’t spill a drop. I was there the whole time.” With that, the screen winked off, changing back to ‘Voice Only’.

     Marcus heaved a sigh of relief. “Guess I win,” he told James.

     “I don’t believe it. He was there the whole time, and we didn’t notice?” James sounded understandably disturbed.

     “He IS ex-SOC. I suppose hiding yourself amongst all the people at the Pit isn’t too difficult after having to infiltrate rebels and survive,” Marcus said, unbuttoning his shirt and tossing it into the laundry basket. “Anyway, shoo. You heard the man. Briefing in two hours, so giving you one to do your hair and makeup, we can still scout out something to eat before the briefing.”

*****

     Takahashi Souta was a literal living legend. He had joined the GTA during the end days of the First Shivan Incursion, and had quickly made a name for himself during the tumultuous years after that against the Hammer of Light, and then the Neo-Terran Front. During the Second Shivan Incursion, he had been transferred to SOC, accomplishing suicide missions that would never be made public. At the end of the Second Incursion, and with the collapse of the Capellan node, Takahashi was given an honourable discharge from SOC service, and given a choice of retirement or serving in the regular forces. Ever a man of action, he chose the latter choice, which resulted in him assigned to the newly formed 166th Integrated Terran Assault/Interception Flight, an experiment in marrying cruisers permanently with fighter wings.

     In its first action, the 166th smashed aside the mercenaries and defences guarding the Marvolo cartel’s asteroid bases, breaking their defensive line so easily that someone on the supporting corvette called them guard breakers. The appellation stuck, and ten years later, the Guardbreakers were considered the first choice for breaking entrenched enemies with their patented shock and awe tactics.
Thus it was that the 166th’s current assignment to the Reverend confused and made Takahashi somewhat suspicious. The Reverend was the second of a new line of destroyers, meant to live up to their name; destroy. It packed impressive firepower for its size, and equally impressive armour, and had a respectable speed and numerous thrusters all over its hull meant it was highly manoeuvrable. To extend its longevity, it also had multiple redundant back-up systems. In a way, it was the living personification of the Guardbreaker’s motto of Shock and Awe.

     Unfortunately, this meant it had little to no space for fighters. So it had to be escorted by fighters from elsewhere, usually one of the new medium carriers, like the one assigned to the 166th. So when Takahashi received orders that the 166th’s new mission was to escort the Reverend as it went on long patrol, it raised his suspicions. A shiny new destroyer, fresh out of the shipyards on Altair, and crewed by crewmen who all had extensive combat experience, and its first mission was long patrol? And it was to be escorted by a dedicated assault squadron? Not a chance. Of course, officially, they were on patrol, so that would be how he would brief his men.

     “Sir,” came a soft voice, interrupting his thoughts. It was his adjutant, First Lieutenant J.G William King. “The flight commanders are all assembled, sir.”

     Takahashi nodded, then stood up and made his way to the briefing pulpit. As he reached, the murmur of the room faded away almost instantly. He nodded in approval, pleased at the professionalism his men showed, which was mostly why he gave them quite a bit of leeway when off duty. “Good morning, gentlemen. Now as you know, we have been assigned to the Reverend, one of the new Normandy-class assault destroyers. The assault destroyers are a bit like us; an experiment. They don’t carry fighters at all, but have the biggest guns and the most guns around, and are meant to shatter an enemy’s line, making them cower under their tables and pee in their pants.” He paused. “Much like us, don’t you agree?”

     A chorus of cheers and assents rounded the room.

     “Now, since Command has this new, fantastic ship designed by someone with an eye for artistic machines of death and destruction, they obviously have no idea what to do with it. So its current mission is to patrol the outermost fringes of the Delta Serpentis system, looking for God-knows what out here. And ‘cause they don’t want us stealing all the glory and kills from our less-than-able brothers and sisters in the GTVA, we’ve got the job of baby-sitting it.”

     Another round of cheers greeted his last comment, at least until the last few words sank in.

     A hand raised up. Commander Darius Meril of Gamma Wing.

     “Yes, Mr Markinson?”

     “Sir, by baby-sit you mean ...” his face said the rest of the question.

     “Escort it, what else? We’ll be watching her shiny arse as she goes around probing the system for any baddies that might be around.”

     A few groans, quickly silenced, were heard.

     Another hand. This time Commander Marcus Fletcher, of Beta Wing. He rather liked the man, even if he had a tendency to flaunt the rules. But the man was sharp and could out fly anyone in the squadron, if not the whole GTVA.
    
     “Yes, Mr Fletcher?”

     “Sir, I don’t get it. We’re an assault unit. And this is, like you said, an assault destroyer. Makes no sense for us to be out here patrolling. It ain’t what we or this fine ship is meant to do.”

     “What we are meant to do, Mr Fletcher, is to follow orders. And our orders clearly state that we are to escort and protect this ship. And that is precisely what we will do. Clear?”

     Takahashi could see that Marcus was not satisfied, but nodded his assent anyway, and Takahashi felt a sudden surge of pride. Say what you would, Marcus Fletcher was a sharp person, and knew when to follow or disregard an order.

     “And the rest of you. Are we clear on this? We are here to escort, and that is what we will do, whether we like it or not.”

     “Yes, sir!” the room barked in response.

     Takahashi nodded in approval. “I’ll have schematics of the Reverend sent to each of your consoles. Study it, and learn what you can of the ship. Also, command gave us a few new toys to play with. Not enough to outfit the whole squadron, of course, but they are there if you need them. Their schematics will be sent too. As always, requests to use them must be approved by me. Any further questions?”
The room was silent, as the various wing commanders shook their heads.

     “Then you are dismissed.”

*****

     “This stinks,” Fletcher said, as he sat at the cafeteria with Dekker. Dekker, mouth full of mashed potatoes, couldn’t answer but shrugged in reply. “I mean, we’re an elite assault squadron. We’re used to break enemy lines and send them scurrying for their mummies.”
 
     Dekker swallowed, and said, “Maybe they’re really concerned with the ship’s safety. It is new, and it is a prototype. I can’t imagine it’d look good to lose a prototype, and it was joint-built by the Vasudans.”

     Fletcher opened his mouth to reply, but just then, another person slipped into the seat beside Fletcher. “Hey Commander,” he said in greeting. “Guess what I found out?”

     Fletcher turned to the newcomer. “Yes, Lysander? What did the birdies tell you this time?” Lysander Telomere was number 3 on the wing, and was well known for hearing things that ‘little birdies told’ me.’

     Lysander grinned. “’Know who’s coming out to join us once we hit the Delta Serpentis node?” He didn’t wait for an answer and replied, “ The GTCa Damocles, the GTL Agincourt and the Cossack squadron.”

     Fletcher and Dekker exchanged views, digesting the new information. The Agincourt was a logistics ship; nothing special about it joining the Reverend, since they were ostensibly on a long haul mission, the supplies it carried would be vital.

     The Cossack squadron was a trio of cruisers, each one a Crethus-class escort designed exclusively to shoot down incoming ordnance and strike craft. They carried no heavy beams of their own, armed only with flak cannons, anti-fighter beams and swarm missile launchers. The Cossacks were famous for their rescue of several Vasudan transports as they were attacked by pirates, driving off the pirates and escorting them the rest of the way. All their captains were highly-decorated and were very experienced at working together. Though sending them to guard a new ship seemed like overkill, they were the very best, and they were escort cruisers, so it was part of their job.

     The Damocles, however, was something else altogether. It was a Warlock carrier, bristling with weapons and able to launch an entire squadron instantly from its twelve high-velocity catapults. It carried fourteen squadrons during peacetime, and had more than enough space for many more during wartime. The Damocles in particular had made a name for itself during the extensive and exhausting hunt for Shivan and NTF remnants. Assigning a top-of-the-line combat ship to patrol duty was just suspicious.

     “This isn’t a normal patrol, is it?” Fletcher mentioned to no one in particular.

     “It isn’t,” said a new voice, a female one. Dekker slid in to make space for Christine Terra, the only female member of Beta wing. “I checked the squadron listing on the Damocles. There are sixteen squadrons, and some of the names I think you’ll recognize. The 107th Ravens,  the 50th Blue Lions, the 117th Jokers, the 14th Revenants.” She paused. “Should I go on?” she asked.

     Fletcher shook his head. “No need. Those are all crack assault squadrons. This isn’t just ‘a patrol’. Command found something out there, and they’re sending us in to secure and neutralize any threat that might be there.”

     “Wonder what they found,” Dekker wondered. “Maybe another Knossos?”

     The four members of Beta wing paused, remembering the last time the GTVA had encountered one of those ancient subspace portals. “I hope not,” Lysander said at last. “I wouldn’t fancy facing Shivans. I mean, I would match our fine squadron against any Terran or Vasudan squadron but Shivans ...”

     The other three nodded in silent agreement. They had each gone through the Second Shivan Incursion, and each had their own demons from facing the nightmarish black and red fighters.

     Fletcher was the first to break from the reverie. “Well, no point worrying about it now. We know that Command has something up, no matter how hard they try to hide it, and the only way to deal with it is to prepare for it.” He glanced up at the clock. “It’s 1100. Change up and meet in the sim room at 1130. Captain’s not allowed live flights because we might be jumping anytime, but he’s given us the green light to the sim room.” The other wing members nodded their consent, and the impromptu meeting broke up, each heading back to their own quarters.

     From the corner of the room, Captain Takahashi nodded in satisfaction. The man was sharp, no doubt about it. Though Command wasn’t really trying very hard to hide the fact they were up to something. He chuckled quietly, thinking back to the briefing he and the other squadron leaders and captains had received via vid from Admiral Snipes. The GTVA actually had found another Knossos, and they weren’t taking any chances this time. Hence the heavy fleet.
    
     But there wasn’t anything they could do, at least not yet, so Takahashi headed back to his quarters to catch some sleep before all hell broke loose.

------------------------------------------
I blame the army for my lack of progress. And my writer's block.
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Re: The Tyrean Chapter Reborn
July 10th 2367 Delta Serpentis

Local Time: 1433hrs

     Captain Drew Shanker leaned back in his chair and yawned. Patrol out here was pointless and boring. His command, a newly commissioned Fenris II named the Bismarck, was a powerhouse cruiser, able to take down ships of equal class easily, and pose a significant threat to fighters yet here he was, patrolling an asteroid field in the ass end of nowhere. He wasn’t gonna get any recognition and fame like this, which was the whole reason for opting for ship command instead of fighter school.

     The console in front of him beeped and activated, revealing the face of Captain Edward Ming, his fellow victim who got saddled with this patrol. Edward’s command was the Carris-class light carrier Visigoth, out here to provide him with fighter support with her three squadrons. “There’s nothing out here but rocks and dust, Drew.”

     “Yeah, I noticed. It’s hard to miss after six days,” he replied.

     “There’s no point patrolling this dust belt anyway. No major trade routes so no pirates would be out here, and I haven’t seen any asteroids big enough that might house a base,” Edward continued.

     “Yeah, I noticed,” Drew answered, a tinge of irritation colouring his words. Edward was a major whiner. Drew couldn’t see for the life of him how he ever got the command.

     “Nothing’s gonna happen out here,” Edward whined.

     “Yes, I noticed Edward, but there’s kinda nothing we can do but finish it. There’s only two more days of wandering around here before we’re done.” And I’m rid of you, Drew thought to himself.

     Scarcely had the though formed in his mind and the words left his mouth, then a klaxon sounded. Drew sat up straight. “What’s that?”

     “Energy reading, sir. It’s a big one, about twenty klicks off to port,” reported his sensor officer.

     Drew mentally placed it, noting with some trepidation that it was right in the middle of the asteroid field they were skirting.

     “Sir, warbook has a positive match ... but ... it’s not possible ...” the officer trailed off.

     “What is it?” Drew asked, looking at the man, whose face had turned pale.

     “Sir, warbook identifies the energy signature as a Knossos subspace portal.”

     Silence fell on the bridge as the crewmen remembered the last time such a portal was found. “Alert High Command now,” Drew ordered. He stabbed his communications button. “Well, Edward you got your wish.”

     “Yeah. More than I wanted,” Edward replied, face serious. “I’m plotting a micro jump to the portal, and placing my fighters on stand-by. Powering up my weapons too.”

     Drew was surprised by this side of Edward. Perhaps there was a reason he commanded the Visigoth after all. “We’ll follow you in,” he said to Edward. Edward nodded and closed the line. “Helmsman, plot micro jump to the portal. Weapons, power up all photon beams. Sound General Quarters and prepare to engage Shivan hostiles. Comms, is that message away?”

     “Yes sir. But interference means we won’t get a reply for an hour,” replied the comms officer.

     “Sir, long range scans read the area clean,” the sensor officer added.

     “Course set, sir,” the helmsman called out.

     “Weapons are on stand-by, sir,” said the weapons officer.

     Drew nodded. “Jump.”

     Moments after his command, the Bismarck accelerated, and entered subspace, with the Visigoth scant minutes behind it.
   
     Ten minutes later, the two ships slid from subspace in front of the Knossos portal. Drew whistled at the sheer size of the portal, noting that the smallest piece easily dwarfed his cruiser. He glanced down at his tac display and saw fighters launching from the Visigoth. A dozen took flight, and readouts told him a second squadron was on the catapults, with the last one on ready-5.
    
     He opened a channel to Edward. “Edward, I think we should regard anything that comes through as hostile. If it’s not GTVA we blast it.”

     Edward frowned. “I don’t know. I think Command would rather we not start a war with anything that comes through.”
“Remember the last thing that came through a Knossos portal, Edward? Even if we don’t destroy it, we should at least capture it,” Drew argued.

     Edward frowned again. “I still think we shouldn’t blast it straight away, and we don’t have marines to capture any ship that comes through.”

     Drew sighed inwardly. “We can just disable it and wait for reinforcements.”

     “How ‘bought we confirm that it’s hostile before we shoot?”

     “Fine,” Drew said. ‘Yeah right,’ he thought. ‘This is my chance for a little fame and glory. No way I’m giving this up.’ He clicked the ship-wide PA system. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Drew speaking. It is my duty to inform you that the jump we just performed was to bring us in range of a Knossos portal. All indications state that the portal has just gone live, and as such we will be expecting contact soon. A message has been sent to Command requesting reinforcements, but until they arrive, it is up to us to keep any hostiles contained. Considering what came through the last Knossos portal, I am of the opinion, and Captain Edward concurs, that all contacts exiting from that portal are to be regarded as hostile. I have absolute confidence in you, and this new ship, that we will be able to triumph over anything, even a Shivan cruiser.”

     Closing the PA system he leaned back, satisfied. He would deal with any threat long before reinforcements arrived. He would deal with them, and be hailed as a hero. And he would be able to command one of the big daddies of the GTVA fleet. All he had to do was pull this off.

     Five minutes later, a warning klaxon sounded. “Incoming jump signature!” cried the sensor officer. Drew could scarcely hold in his excitement. “GTVA?” he queried, keeping his fingers crossed.

     “Negative, sir, it’s not like anything we’ve encountered. Warbook has a negative,” replied the officer.

     “Then it’s hostile. Judge exit point and blast it,” he said, almost able to taste the fame that would be his.

     “Yes, sir,” the weapons officer said before turning to his console. “Target exit point confirmed. Powering up photon beams 1 and 2. Firing in 3, 2, 1. Fire!”

     Two green beams stabbed forward, crossing in front a subspace portal that was just opening. As the ship slide out into the beams, it shuddered as the two beams of unimaginable energy caressed its surface, leaving black scorch marks over slagged metal.

     “Positive hit!” the officer cried in victory.

     There was no response from the crew, because their attention was solely on what was emerging from the portal. The beams had struck, true, but the sword-like tip that the beams had hit were literally the tip of the iceberg. Like a monster emerging from the mist, the sword like profile gently widened into a shape that resembled a dagger. Numerous engine nacelles adorned it’s rear end, and though they could only see its underside, they were aware that each of the eight turrets on the underside were easily larger than the Bismarck herself. The ship, easily two kilometres long, exuded an aura of elegance ... and unmistakable lethality.

     Drew’s terminal sounded, and he pushed the button, only half-aware of what he was doing. “What the hell are you doing!?” Edward roared.

     “I ... I just ... it wasn’t GTVA so I ordered them to ... to ...” Drew stammered.

     “Goddamn you, Drew Shanker! You agreed to confirm that it was hostile first!” Edward raged.

     Drew swallowed and opened his mouth to reply, when the sensor officer interrupted.

     “Incoming jump signatures! Three more exiting the portal!”

     They watched with trepidation was a trio of subspace portals opened, and three more ships slide from subspace. Two were similar in size to the Bismarck, and the last similar to a Deimos though they all exuded the same aura of grace and power as the monster that no GTVA vessel could even if they tried.

     “Sir! The first enemy ship is targeting us!” the sensor officer shouted.

     “Should we fire back, sir?” the weapons officer asked.

     “I ... You ...” Drew was at a loss, aware of just how large of a blunder he had made in his quest for glory.

     “Goddamn you, Drew Shanker! Fallback! We’ve got to fallback!” Edward shouted to his crew as he shut the link.

     “Sir! Orders, sir!” the helmsman called out, a slight note of panic in his voice.

     The sensor officer looked at Drew, a look of disgust crossing his face. “Fallback! Initiate jump procedures, and get us-“

     “Weapons fire from the enemy destroyer! They’re firing on the Visigoth!” shouted the weapons officer.

     All heads snapped to the main screen. For an instant, two of the turrets were linked to the Visigoth by four blue beams. Then, something sped down the beams, faster than the eye could follow, and four gaping holes were punched into the fleeing carrier, with such force that the carrier was knocked off course. Moments later, four snow white beams speared through carrier’s battered husk, detonating the reactor in a globe of nuclear fire.

     The deck crew was stunned at the sight. In less than a minute, the enemy destroyer had devastated the Visigoth. So stunned and horrified were they, that they never saw the port side turrets firing. Four massive shells punched through the Bismarck’s midsection, almost severing the stricken cruiser in two. One struck the Bismarck’s fusion launcher magazine, and the secondary explosions gutted the cruiser’s remains almost instantly.

     Above the two mangled ruins, the Blade, Warmonger, Firebreak and Charity, assumed holding positions. The Tyrean Republic had arrived in GTVA space.

---------------------------
Was gonna go sleep, but decided to tag this bit up first.
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Re: The Tyrean Chapter Reborn
“Sensors read all clear, Admiral,” reported the executive officer. “Barring a few faint residual energy readings, there’s no one else out there anymore.”

The admiral nodded. “All hands stand down. Assume level 3 alert status. Let’s get a wing out there, and keep all pilots on standby.” He sighed, and addressed the two Paladins. “I will assume full responsibility for what has happened here.”

Mikhail shook his head. “There will be no question to your course of action, Admiral. They attacked first. Self-defence was the obvious and necessary reaction, and my report to the Toa will reflect as much.”

David turned to the damage control officer. “What was the extent of the damage to our hull?”

“Respectable enough, but no threat to us. She had no chance of breaching our hull what so ever. The nanites have already started regeneration of the damaged armour plates, and the Charity will not be needed for repairs. ” the officer replied.

David nodded his thanks, then turned to the weapons officer. “Did you recognize that weapon?”

“Not really. I mean, I’ve seen the theory for that sort of weapon, but it’s not been perfected enough for use in the battlefield,” the weapons officer replied. “It’s a photon beam, firing a stream of accelerated particles, and is capable of immense and precise damage, though it creates incredible amounts of heat. The closest thing in our arsenal are the firestorm and ion beams. But the ion beam is considerably different in its workings from a full-fledged photon beam.”

“But these people have obviously solved the heating issues. And have mass produced it, or we wouldn’t find a small ship like that mounting it,” Admiral Lewis pointed out.

“Yes sir. I should add that the projected plans for such a weapon that I saw meant that only a of destroyer and above would have sufficient space to mount that weapon,” the weapons officer added.

“So there is the possibility that they’re more advanced then we are?” Mikhail asked.

“No. Well. Maybe in certain areas. They, for example, do not display any shield technology on their capital ships. It’s possible they don’t have shields at all,” David replied. “I won’t be able to know more without investigating the wreckage.” He looked up at the admiral. “Permission to do so?”

Admiral Lewis nodded. “Go ahead. Do you need an escort?”

David shook his head. “No. My Raijin should be sufficient.”

The admiral nodded again. “True. Then get to it.”

***

Twenty minutes later, David was strapped into the Raijin’s open cockpit, typing commands on the keyboard as a technician waited for his signal. Satisfied, he pushed the keyboard aside, and activated the main reactor. The familiar hum of the reactor filled the cockpit, as his HUD added more details as more systems came on. “Alright, good to go,” he said.

The tech nodded, and pushed himself away from the Raijin as the cockpit folded shut. There was a moment of darkness before the panoramic view came online. “Transferring Raijin to launch deck,” came the launch officer. David felt the Raijin began to rise to the catapult, as he watched the catapult gradually enter his vision. “Raijin now on launch deck. Synchronizing to catapult and increasing linear voltage. Catapult deck opening.”

Before him, the Blade’s catapult doors opened, revealing the unending darkness of space. The lights on the signal above turned from red to green, and the launch officer said, “Linear voltage at max. Launch timing transferred to Raijin. Launch at your discretion, Immortal Markinson. Godspeed.”

“David Markinson, Raijin, taking off,” he replied, and rammed the throttles open. David was pushed back into his seat as the catapult flung the Raijin out of the Blade. Once clear of the Blade, he set his bearings, and headed towards the wreckage of the two destroyed ships.
Unnoticed by anyone in the Tyrean fleet, almost eight kilometres distant, a small blue portal disgorged a shape. After a few moments, the shape, with a razor thin profile and covered engines, began inching closer to the three Tyrean ships.

*****

The assembled senior officers of the taskforce sat quietly in the Reverend’s briefing auditorium. The display before them was real-time, if somewhat out of date, transmitted from a quietly inserted Pegasus II from the location of the Knossos portal. The fleet was assembled, and once the briefing was over, they would be going in.

All eyes were on the small collection of ships before them, each unlike anything ever seen before. They weren’t Shivan, that much was obvious. They also weren’t Vasudan, or Terran. Of the four ships, it was the central ship that drew their attention. Shaped like a dagger, it easily dwarfed the other ships, and estimations had placed it as larger even then an Orion or Raynor, though failing to reach Juggernaught class.

A wing of four fighters was patrolling around the fleet, each one sharing the same forward swept wings and forward canards, making them look distinctly similar to some Old Earth atmospheric fighters. What stood out where their engines. Unlike Terran or Vasudan strike craft, they trailed lines of silvery black, again, nothing they had ever seen before.

“The key is obviously that ... destroyer of theirs,” said Senior Captain Dylandy, commanding officer of the Cossack squadron, finally breaking the silence in the room. “I suspect it’s handling logistics for their fighters, and it’s the logical flagship of the operation.”

“I concur,” added Rear Admiral McAllen. “The Warlock carries sufficient bombers and fighters to easily overpower any anti-fighter defences they might have, and with support from her and the Reverend, it should be quite easy for our strike craft to break through.”

“The problem, gentlemen, is whether or not they are hostile,” Admiral Vincent Kunkka said. “True, they did come in through a Knossos, but there is no evidence to suggest they are hostile.”

“They did destroy the Visigoth and Bismarck, sir,” Takahashi pointed out.

“That’s true, but the records we got indicate that the Bismarck fired first, and if that were so, they would be well within their rights to return fire. And judging from what we can see from this distance, and hit by weapons of that calibre would be instantly fatal for a cruiser,” Rear Admiral Sergei replied.

“Something’s happening,” Dylandy cut in, forestalling any reply Kunkka or Takahashi had. They could make out two doors opening, and a few moments later something launched out. It was unlike anything any of the GTVA officers had seen before. It was a humanoid machine, holding some weapon in one hand, and a shield strapped to the other, and even as they continued to watch, two ... wings spread open, and it sped up significantly, trailing glittering prismatic particles and it sped away from the destroyer.
 
“What is that?” Kunkka asked, as the pilot of the Pegasus followed the path of the machine with his camera. The machine accelerated and braked rapidly, and did some acrobatics, as though its pilot was getting the feel of the machine. After a few loop the loops, the machine stopped moving, and remained motionless for a while, then its wings aligned themselves, four to a side, and it moved on again. It seemed to be moving even faster before, and a mild glow surrounded the wings, and for a split second there, it seemed to be teleporting forward every few seconds.

“I have no idea,” Sergei replied finally. He glanced around the room, and all the senior officers present were equally mystified or horrified at the capabilities the machine had shown.

Kunkka turned to glance at the comms officer behind him. “Are we in contact with the Pegasus?”

“No sir. In order to keep him safe, we’re on radio silence. We can contact him with radio bursts, though that might compromise him,” the officer replied.

Kunkka considered his options. “Never mind then.  We want to get much as we can now, though I would like if he focused on the ships again.”

The Pegasus pilot seemed to be thinking the same thing, for the camera panned back to the collection of ships.

“Look. More of the robots, there,” Dylandy pointed out.

Sure enough, four more of the humanoid machines were launching from the destroyer, though they seemed to be launching from vertical tubes near the base of the ship’s towering superstructure. They were distinctly different from the first machine. The first one carried similar armament, but seemed to lack the elaborate wing system, instead having a pair of large thrusters that gave off the same silvery black trail as the fighters. The second resembled the first machine, but had no shield, only a long-barreled rifle, and instead of the two large thrusters, had a single smaller one and two extensions flanking it the thrusters. They could barely notice that four objects seemed docked to the two extensions, before the third machine blocked their view. It was much bulkier, obviously heavily armored and carrying what looked like a large-bore cannon in each hand, and two more cannons were folded at its waist. The fourth and final seemed identical to the first, save what looked like the hilt of a sword extending from between its rear thrusters.

The four machines aligned themselves in a different direction, and moved off in formation, leaving silvery black trails.

“Where are they headed? Can anyone tell me?” Kunkka asked the room.

“They seem to be headed towards the asteroid field, sir,” the comms officer replied almost immediately, tapping the display to bring up the charts alongside the image. He fiddled with the controls a bit more, and the approximate position of Kunkka’s battlegroup appeared on screen, and so did the position of the unidentified ships. “Based on their position and alignment of their ships, I expect their heading in this direction. Into the asteroid field.” A red arrow extended from the unknown’s positions and sure enough, headed right towards the heart of the asteroid field.

Kunkka scratched his chin as he tossed over this new information in his mind. “We have nothing in that direction, do we?”

“No, sir,” replied the comms officer.

The admiral nodded, and turned his attention back to the viewscreen. A few more moments passed as they continued watched the wing of fighters making another turn around the fleet.

Takahashi suddenly frowned. Something was wrong. Then it hit him. “Where’s one of the fighters?”

“It’s right there, isn’t it? All four ... of ... them,” Sergei trailed off as he realised there were only three fighters making the pass round the bridge.

Kunkka leapt to his feet. “Get that fighter out of there!” he roared.

Before the comms officer could reply, the viewscreen shuddered violently, then began flickering with static. Just as the screen winked out, they could all glimpse the other three fighters beginning to close in.

“Well, I guess they know we’re coming for them now,” Takahashi said to the silent room.

*****

“Unknown fighter disabled sir. Salvage ship now inbound,” reported Fang Admiral Ashley.  Claw Admiral Lewis nodded. “And the Combat Frames?”

“En route to the sensor anomaly, sir.”

“Good, good. Are we in contact with the Pride yet?”

“Negative, sir. The comms tech report that they do have sporadic contact, but it’ll be a while before we have a reliable communications link. I took the liberty of squealing a message through indicating our safe arrival, sir.”

Lewis nodded his approval. Ashley was sharp, and quick on the uptake. Five years of service together had showed him as such, and he had already sent in his recommendation for Ashley’s promotion. Once this was over, Ashley would be able to take command of his own battlegroup, having completed all the necessary tours required to reach that esteemed position. Reaching that position at the age of thirty two was unheard of, though he was fully of the mind that Ashley deserved it.

“Well done, Ashley. Well done. I want you to squeal another message with a request for suitable reinforcements, but nothing too intimidating. Also, ready the marines in one of the Griffons, and get ready to launch them once the Frames call in.”

“Yes sir,” he replied, then turned back to the bridge and started calling out orders.

Lewis leaned back in his command console, watching the bridge bustle around with quiet efficiency.

*****

Duran Lowell leaned back in the cockpit, as the autopilot easily navigated the 70-ton Nightingale through the asteroids.  “So gentlemen, in short, they pinged something interesting, and are sending us to investigate, and clear the way for a possible follow-up insertion by the groundpounders. Got it?”

“And lady,” piped up Katherine Estellise from her 65-ton Cyclone.

“What?”

“You said ‘gentlemen’. I’m no man. And I don’t think there’s a single gentleman among you savages, anyway. Except maybe Duke.”

A deep chuckle filled the airways. “Now, now, miss. There’s no need to be calling people rude names now,” Duke Harrison said. “I’m many, many things, but a gentleman, I ain’t. Just look at my buddy here.” Duke piloted the 120-ton Marauder heavy support frame, and it suited the large, heavily-built man just fine.

“Duke might be offended you called him a gentleman, but I’m offended you said I ain’t one, Kat,” Arthur “Raven” Preacher, pilot of the other Nightingale, cut in. “Why, I’m the soul of manly gentleness, kindness, chivalry, and all those fancy terms that you might use to describe gentlemen that I don’t know about.”

“I agree with Kat. None of you are gentlemen except for Duke,” added Lieutenant Emma Trillyson, the Blade's flight controller. She was back on board the Blade, but maintained full contact at all times, as was the norm for flight controllers. “Especially you, Raven. You might be named after a knightly king, but you are a far cry from him. I still remember you failed attempts to chat me up after you had a couple of drinks.”

“She’s got you there, Raven,” Duran said, laughing.

“Bah. Teaming up on me as always. I don’t know why I bother with this bunch of disbelievers,” Raven said in mock exasperation.

“I remember this one time, in training camp, yo—“ Duke started.

“No need to, uh, bore people with that story, eh Duke old buddy?” Raven interrupted suddenly.

“I really wanna know what was it at training camp that happened. You always stop him from telling the story. How can you be so selfish?” Kat said in mild indignation.

“Well, miss, if you really wanna know, I can always tell you if you ask nicely,” Duke offered.

“Really?” Kat asked, surprised.

“Really. Shoot, if you’d just asked me before I would’ve told ya. But you never bothered to ask, so I never bothered to tell,” Duke said matter-of-factly.

“That’s ... true,” Kat admitted.

“Duke! How could you? You promised not to tell!” Raven objected.

“No, I didn’t. You didn’t ask me to promise not to tell. You never said anything like that back in the day,” Duke pointed out.

“Duke can you tell me too?” Emma asked sweetly

“O’course, Miss Emma.”

“Alright!”

“Duke!” Raven yelled in desperation.

Duran listened to the chatter with no small amount of amusement. Like all the Combat Frame sticks, they were formed during their initial basic training days, and had a very strong rapport as a result. They were normally attached to the 57th Combat Frame Claw’s Third Fang, but as they were the only convenient stick on planet when the Blade was due to leave, they had been transferred on along with their machines. So far this stint had been interesting, and they were the first Combat Frames to sortie in this unknown space. Well ... first after Immortal David, of course.

“Alright, alright. Ladies, 60 seconds to combat zone,” Emma said, interrupting a verbal exchange, to put it mildly, between Raven and Duke about Raven’s mysterious misadventures during training camp. “Handing command over to the stick commander. Duran, you have the conn,” she said, using the traditional words always used when transferring control of a Combat Frame stick.

“Roger that Emma. Alright ladies, form up behind me, weapons free, fingers on the triggers,” Duran said, flicking off the autopilot and suiting his actions to match his words. In his command consoles, he could pick up the minor activity on the Frames that meant they were combat ready. The Cyclone’s scope slid out of the way, and though he couldn’t see it, he knew the Dreads’ safety lock was released, allowing them to launch instantly. The Marauder’s hand-held beam cannons slid down the arm rack, the firing grips and triggers sliding down into its waiting hands, as the waist cannons unlocked from their safety position, and on its back, the two double-barreled plasma cannons slid up and onto its shoulders. Raven’s Nightingale, like his, had no outside motion to display its battle readiness, though Raven’s large anti-ship sword rose somewhat higher, to be more easily grasped if the need arose.

“Arrival to combat zone in 30 seconds,” he announced over the comms.

“Taking point,” Raven replied, as his Nightingale slipped around Kat’s Cyclone and Duke’s Marauder.

“I’m guessing that’s the reason we’re here,” Kat mused.

Up ahead, a large asteroid, far larger than anything else in the field loomed. Various metal structures jutted out from it, and the asteroid had obviously been converted to a base. Or the base converted to an asteroid.

“Kat?”

“Nothing, Duran. Radar is all clear, though the asteroids are giving some interference. Plenty of metallic returns, nothing that’s giving off a notable power signal.”

“This is Duke. I’m holding off and establishing a firing position.”

“Roger. Alright, Raven, Kat, let’s go in a little closer.”

The Marauder split off, heading for a convenient asteroid. Duke flipped a switch and the feet on the Marauder closed up into massive spikes, and Duke drove the spiked feet into the surface of the asteroids, then hit another switch. Smaller spikes shot out into the rock, firmly anchoring the Marauder to the surface of the asteroid.  Position established, Duke began monitoring the area carefully, keeping his cannons all at full charge.

As they closed in on the asteroid base, it was clear something had happened here. “Asteroids around the base have been cleared, or consistently removed. We’re looking at a perimeter that’s somewhere between 1.5 to 2 klicks in width. Plenty of space for a small fleet. Multiple wreckages, some with size that could be consistent with a frigate-sized vessel. Smaller ones are probably fighters, or other similarly sized objects,” Emma reported. She was monitoring their overall sensor net, collating information from four separate sensor nets of differing sensitivity and range, and pick out the important information. “Based on the wreckage positions, I’d say they were attacked without warning, and had no time to mount a proper defense.”

“How can you tell?” Duran asked.
“If it were a proper defense the larger wrecks would be closer together. They’d have formed a solid line to anchor any reasonable defense. This one, the wrecks are all over the place. Same with the fighters.  If you ask me, I think they were ambushed.”

“Alright. Split up and examine for more data, but keep in radio contact. I don’t like this,” Duran ordered.

The three Frames spilt apart, Kat closing in on the base, Duran moving up to investigate the metallic structures, and Raven headed towards the wrecks. “Plenty of damage to the exterior,” Kat observed. “Nothing resembling weaponry we’re familiar with. Explosive marks consistent with chemical explosives, and numerous scorch marks similar to impacts from energy blasts. Not sure what caused those though.”
‘Those’ referred to various large, deep gouges in the surface of the asteroid, slashing across the surface with no discernible pattern. There were large holes also punched into the hull of the base, though they didn’t know what caused them.

Duran clicked his mic in acknowledgement. “Raven?”

“Negative on life signs. Look at this, bossman,” he called.

Duran turned to see Raven nonchalantly pointing at one of the wreckages. It was a crescent-shaped fighter that mildy resembled a bat. He saw at once what Raven was pointing at. A neat hole was blasted right through the cockpit.

“Poor bastard,” Duran said.

“Yeah, I thought so too. Very accurate and very high powered, whatever did this. Watch.” Raven angled his head down on the fighter and triggered a burst from his head plasma cannons. The short rain of blue bolts was stopped short by a flickering blue field that sprang to life moments before the bolts hit the fighter. “Shield’s still on. And she still has power, even if it’s dying out. “

“Which means this was still recent,” Duran concluded.

“The bridge ... or well, it looks like the bridge ... has been ... blasted open,” Kat said, and only those who had worked with her for as long as her stick had, could pick up on the thread of revulsion and horror in her voice.

“It’s the bridge alright, but ... “ Emma’s voice trailed off.

Duran flew up to her side, and saw the scene before them. It was indeed most likely to be a bridge, with an obvious command deck, and consoles in lower trenches. But the consoles were covered in bits of flesh and had a deep red tinge. Various body parts were strewn around, and it looked like a storm of blades had hit the console crew.  He glanced at the edge of the metal, noting that it was scorched, much like the gouges.

“Guess the residual radiation of the weapon caused their bodies to burst,” Duran mused. “Now these are poor bastards.”

He glanced at Kat’s Cyclone which remained motionless. “You alright, Kat?”

“Yeah ... Yeah, I’m fine,” came the shaky reply.

“Right, then can you get your Dreads to poke around and map the insides as far as possible? Don’t want the groundpounders going in blind.”

“Got it.” The Cyclone turned away, paused, and took one last look at the scene, before moving away.

“Well, at least we got one good piece of information,” Emma said.

 “What’s that?” Duran asked.

“We probably know what the locals look like now. Or some of them, anyway,” Emma answered.

Lewis glanced up at the vidscreen, which showed Emma’s face. "You noticed it too, eh?"

"Yeah. Those are human body parts."

*****

“Sir. Admiral Lewis, sir,”

Lewis woke instantly to the voice outside his quarters.  “Yes?”

“Sir, we have established reliable contact,” reported the voice. Lewis recognized it as his adjutant, a Lieutenant Danny Wilson.

“Alright. I’m on my way.”

“Yes, sir.”

Twenty minutes later, Admiral Lewis strode onto the command deck. He had a split-second to notice the entire bridge were on their knees, whilst the two Immortals were standing at attention. Mildly he wondered when Immortal David had returned before his attention was drawn to the vidscreen looming over the bridge, and the face in it. Instantly, he too fell to one knee. “My Lord Toa,” he uttered in surprise, “This is a pleasant surprise.”

“Hardly, Lewis. I did send you across what, I’m told, is half the universe. And apparently into hostile territory too,” replied Toa David Keller, supreme ruler of the Toa Republic.

“Sir, the native ships did indeed fire upon us without prior provocation, but I have classified that as an isolated incident, and that hopefully the native government will be more open to negotiations of a peaceful sort,” Lewis replied, looking up at the youthful face of the Toa.

“Which is why you requested reinforcements, Lewis?” The Toa asked, tilting his head as he considered the still kneeling Lewis.

“Sir, while peaceful contact is still the ideal case, the amount of firepower leaves me to believe that our initial fleet strength will be insufficient should push comes to shove. Hence my request for more ships,” Lewis answered.

The Toa nodded. “You may all rise. And at ease you two, and do try to keep the grins off your faces.”

The crew rose to their feet, and the two Immortals snapped off textbook salutes a bit more theatrically then necessary.
“I have considered you request, and noted the part where the reinforcements shouldn’t be too intimidating. A good addition, considering the tense conditions in which any negotiations will take place,” the Toa continued.

“As such, I am dispatching the Daedalus squadron, the Arrestor, the Divinity and the Pride of the East to your location, along with their attendant crew, Combat Frame Claws and fighter squadrons. If it becomes full-blown war, then more forces will be dispatched as necessary. Is that sufficient, Lewis?”

Lewis had a split second to realise the amount of firepower now in his hands, and saluted at once. “Yes, sir! More then enough.”

“Good. Then that's it then.” The Toa looked at the assembled crew, then added, “Conduct yourselves appropriately in this new world, and know that my desire is first and foremost for peace and not for war; remember this in all your duties. Do this, and much honor will be rendered unto me,” he said ritually.

“It is our honor to do as the Toa demands. Honor unto us is honor unto you,” Admiral Lewis replied, completing the ritual.

The Toa nodded, and the screen winked out.

Admiral Lewis looked round at the assembled crew. “Well. Since you were so kind as to let an old man like me sleep in, someone want to bring me up to date?”

Before anyone could reply, the comms officer called out, “Reinforcements arriving through the portal, sir. I read seven Dirk escorts, one Arbalest missile corvette, one Longbow missile corvette and a Swarm-class assault carrier.”

The bridge looked out at the portal, where multiple blue openings were appearing, and the three large ships exited, surrounded by the Dirk escorts. “Claw Admiral Lewis, this is Fang Admiral Yen Lo-Wang on board the Pride of the East, leading the reinforcements as ordered by his Lord Toa.”

Lewis stood up, a grin on his face. “Welcome, Yen. So the Toa sent me the legendary ‘Farseer of Akapolis’, eh?”

Yen’s face appeared on the display, in a grimace. “Not you too.”

Lewis laughed. “It’s good to see you, Yen. Join up with the fleet and assume holding position. We’re expecting contact anytime soon.” He turned back to his crew. "Now. An update if you will ..."

*****

“Exiting subspace, Admiral Kunkka. Reading multiple signatures present, more than we initially expected,” reported Rear Admiral Sergei.

“So, the Knossos is functioning properly, and they are able to reinforce,” Kunkka muttered. “Not what I would have liked.” He stood up.

“Have all fighters standing by for launch, and transmit on all available channels.”

“Yes, sir. Commlink standing by.”

“This is Admiral Kunkka Blackthorn, of the Galactic Terran Vasudan Alliance 7th Fleet, 10th Battlegroup. I request a meeting to parley, and negotiate for the return of my pilot,” he broadcast.

Minutes past in tense silence.

“Sir, that destroyer is moving forward. All other unknowns are holding,” Sergei said.

“Reading a total of twenty fighters in a tight pattern around their fleet, and eight of those robotic machines holding position in a rough line,” reported the sensor officer.

“All ships hold your position, and do not fire unless fired upon,” Kunkka ordered.

“Sir, some of those machines and fighters are moving forward, and more fighters are launching,” warned Sergei.

Indeed, four of the man-like machines were moving forward, along with a dozen of the fighters, even as more fighters exited one of the newcomers. “So that must be a carrier of some sort,” Kunkka mused.

“Sir, they are still closing the distance,” Sergei warned more urgently now.

Kunkka could sense the tension among the crew, and noticed the gunnery officer glancing nervously at his console. “Hold your fire, hold your fire,” Kunkka ordered again.

“She’s slowing,” the sensor officer announced, with a palpable sense of relief.

“Incoming comms, sir. Patching it through.”

The viewscreen turned grey with static, then flickered once, before displaying the picture of a refined looking man with salt and pepper hair and eyes of cold steel.  ‘A Terran?’ Kunkka thought, concealing his surprise with some difficulty.

“Greetings, Admiral Kunkka. I am Claw Admiral Lewis Dekker, commanding officer of the TRD Blade, and admiral of this expedition fleet you see before you. I hail from the Tyrean Republic, on the other side of this portal. Do you come in peace?”

“That depends on your purpose for crossing over into GTVA space, Admiral,” Kunkka replied. “As it is, you destroyed two of our ships the instant you crossed over into your territory, and captured my fighter, taking my pilot hostage. You will excuse me if I am less then inclined to believe that you are here to talk.”

“My ship was fired upon. I merely acted in self defense. The same for your stealth fighter,” Admiral Lewis answered.  “As for our purpose, we merely wished to see what was on the other side. It seems your own government did the same thing, with rather disastrous results, it seems.”

 ‘How does he know about the Second Shivan Incursion?’ Kunkka wondered. “Then you will understand if we too wish to know for ourselves if you do not have an entire invasion fleet waiting on the other side.”

“I can assure you we most certainly do not, since we have better things to do then wait around a ... Knossos portal, was it? We have better things to do then wait around a Knossos and come rampaging through like a horde of barbarians, destroying a once thriving planet of yours by making its sun go supernova,” Lewis replied blandly.

Once again Kunkka was caught off guard. ‘He even knows about Capella! How ... ‘ Then it hit him. The pilot! They must have interrogated him. “I guess interrogating my pilot seems to be one of those ‘better things’.”

“Hardly. He hasn’t left his ship. Not by choice, I assure you. We were nice enough to give him some food and water though. Far be it from us to starve a prisoner,” the Tyrean admiral replied. He turned and looked off screen for a moment and said something Kunkka couldn’t make out. He exchanged a few more words with someone off screen and then nodded, before turning back to the console. “Regardless, are you allowed to speak for your government, Admiral Kunkka?”

“Yes. I am permitted to do so in this matter,” Kunkka replied.

“Good. I enjoyed talking with you, Admiral Kunkka. But I shall let wiser, and above all else, cooler heads take over negotiations now. I hope to see you soon. And in person,” Admiral Lewis said before getting up and moving away. Moments later another person sat down. He was very different from the Admiral, however. His hair was silvery blonde and his eyes were a bright electric blue, and Kunkka felt they were peering into his very soul.

“Greetings, Admiral Kunkka,” he began, “I am Paladin Mikhail Kerensky, and I have been empowered by our Toa to speak on his behalf. We regret the loss of your two ships, though their captains left us no choice in this matter. And we will release your pilot and ship to you immediately. Like the good Admiral Lewis has said, he has not been harmed in anyway.”
 
“That is good to hear, Paladin Mikhail,” Kunkka said, glancing up at his Sergei.

Sergei nodded, and looked over at the sensor officer, who answered, “Two of their fighters are launching, and the Pegasus is with them.”

“I have contact with my pilot. Let me talk to him first,” Kunkka said.

“Of course, Admiral. Take as much time as you need,” Paladin Mikhail replied.

“Patch me through to the Pegasus,” he ordered. A few minutes later, the helmeted face of the Pegasus pilot appeared on the viewscreen.

“Sir,” the pilot greeted.

“What did they do to you, pilot?” Kunkka asked.

“Nothing, sir. They somehow shut down my fighter, then took me back to that big carrier of theirs, and then locked my whole fighter up in some hangar. I didn’t get to see much, except a few glimpses when they came to give me some food,” the pilot answered.

“I see ... well done, pilot. Dock with the Damocles for debriefing.” He paused, then added. “Welcome back.”

“Thank you, sir,” the pilot replied, and the comm channel closed.

Kunkka turned to the view screen displaying the Tyrean Paladin. “It seems you did treat my pilot well. My thanks for that.” The Paladin inclined his head in silent acknowledgment. “If you truly come in peace, then be welcome, though you will understand that if we are less than welcoming at first.”

“Of course. It is only natural. I would be more inclined to order an invasion had you welcomed us with open arms instead of questioning our presence here,” Paladin Mikhail replied. “As it is, we –“

Whatever he was about to say was interrupted as Sergei suddenly cried out, “Sir, I’m reading a distress signal coming off the port side of the fleet. It’s a Hermes pod, sir! They’re hailing us, I’m patching them through!”

A panicked and bloodied face appeared on his viewscreen. “Don’t trust them, Admiral! They come preaching peace, but they bring bloody war! My home ... my family ... all gone! Glassed by them! They—“

Before the man could finish, emerald bolts lashed out in rapid succession, tearing through the escape pod’s hull with ease and causing it to explode.

Shocked silence filled the bridge. Kunkka looked at Paladin Mikhail, cold fury rising in his veins. “So. You come preaching peace, but destroy an entire planet in cold blood!?” he roared. “There can be no peace with people as brutal as yours! Consider this an official warning, Tyrean, to get the hell out of GTVA space if you value your misbegotten, worthless lives!”

Mikhail’s face was blank of emotion as he replied. “I know you will not believe me when I say that I do not know why the escape pod was destroyed. But know that we will not back down, especially when we are not in the wrong. The Tyrean Republic is here to stay. We will not attack ... but we will defend ourselves if you choose to do so. This concludes our negotiations, Admiral.”

**********

The screen turned blank as Mikhail cut the commlink. Silence, too, filled the Tyrean bridge, as the GTVA fleet warped out through their portals “Which turret was that?” Mikhail asked no one in particular.

“C-compression turret sixty, on the portside, sir. A report here says it was taken off the battery grid because it failed to boot during initial tests after the jump,” replied the weapons officer nervously.

“And yet now it mysteriously activates, destroying an escape pod, which sent god-knows-what message to the GTVA. And now they believe we destroyed a planet. Wonderful,” Mikhail muttered, getting up from the command console. He glanced at David and Lewis. “I think you two need to tell the Toa what happened.”

David blinked. “’You two’? What about you?”

“That is obviously a set-up. Someone’s setting us up for war with the GTVA. And they knew we were crossing the portal. Or had crossed the portal. We need to know more,” Mikhail pointed out.

“So you’re going deep cover?” Lewis asked.

“Yes. David can serve as royal liaison in my stead. And don’t forget Combat Frame strategy is his forte. Mine is sniffing stuff out. So that’s what I’m gonna do,” Mikhail answered.

“Well. I don’t see an alternative. We do need more intel than what we got from that base. Go ahead then. I’ll hold down the fort here,” David said.

“Right. I’ll send you updates the usual way. Expect to hear from me soon,” Mikhail said as he strode out of the bridge.

“’The usual way’?” Lewis asked.

“Usual for us Immortals, Admiral. You probably don’t want to know more than that,” David replied.

“True,” Lewis admitted. He thought awhile, then asked, “So am I to assume I am the supreme commander for this theatre?”

“You may and you are. We don’t have anyone else qualified on hand at the moment. It’s all you, Admiral. A defensive war should be sufficient till Mikhail gives us a solution,” David said. “Sending a message to the Toa about this new development is the thing to do now.” He glanced over at the comms officer, who nodded and turned to the console.

‘Anubis, launching. Anubis, launching.’

David and Lewis looked up at the ship wide PA announcement, then glanced out the window. They caught but a glimpse of its shape as it melted away. “There he goes. Let’s hope he can find something,” Lewis said. David nodded.

“Sir, communications link establish,” the comms officer reported. “Star Admiral Harrington on screen.”

Harrington’s face loomed over the bridge. David instantly noticed the lines of worry that were all but invisible to those not close to him.

“What’s wrong, Harrington?” David asked.

“Hnnh. You beat me to the question, David. Well, you asked first, so fair enough. The Feds somehow learnt about Operation Fencer, and they were waiting for us. Orbital sats, prepared depots, the works.”

David shrugged. “Still, with the assets we had, pushing into the Karos Fields shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Even if they were prepared for us.” He considered his words again. “There’s something else, isn’t there.”

“Yeah. Ian Fielding and Edward Parklane are the overseers for Fencer. And Ian was in the southern sector when he said he ...” Harrington paused, then continued with a carefully neutral expression. “Smelt something in the wind.”

“Something in the ... “David stiffened, then glared straight into Harrington’s eyes, and saw the confirmation in the depths of his eyes. Immortals had a strange connection with the beings responsible for who they were. And the event that had made the Immortals who they were was the very war that had nearly resulted in their people’s annihilation; the Enskeleon Conflict. They could always ‘smell’ the Enskeleons, no matter where they or the Enskeleons were.

And the Immortals were very certain the Enskeleons could do the same.

It was for this reason that every major conflict had Immortals overseeing it in the field, though the public did not know this. It was but one of the Immortals’ mysteries that was kept from the public for their own safety.

“Does the Toa –“

“Way ahead of you. Even before Ian could report back to him, he had already sent the Shadowhunter and the Wraithborne his way, and the Nighthawk is in transit to the Karos Fields as we speak, and more of the First Fleet’s battlegroups are on standby to be dispatched to the Karos Fields.

David whistled. The Shadowhunter and Wraithborne were the most dangerous destroyers in the Tyrean fleet, with service records and kill banners unmatched in the battlegroup, and the Nighthawk itself was legend for surviving the final strike with the Enskeleons.

“Yeah, I know. Well, it is something one of us sniffed so ... Anyway, did you need something?” Harrington asked.

“Oh yes. I nearly forgot myself. Open hostilities have commenced with the GTVA. Mikhail has gone to gather intelligence from deep cover. A transcript of events leading up to open hostilities will be squealed out soon,” David reported.

Harrington put his hand on his forehead and rubbed it for a few moments. “Alright. I’ll relay your message. Will you require reinforcements?”

Lewis stepped up into the view. “Yes sir. I would request my battlegroup be deployed to reinforce this location.”

Harrington squinted at Lewis. “You are ... Lewis Dekker, correct? Commander of the 8th Fleet’s Seventh Battlegroup? Hmmm. Deploying an entire battlegroup might be seen as an act of aggression by us.”

“The extra ships will be necessary for us to maintain an effective defensive line, since it will allow us to rotate ships out as necessary. If not that we will need more supplies to assist in restoring the asteroid base.” Lewis replied.

“True. But I do not want more ships than necessary deployed in GTVA space. Though I am not against reinforcing your position ...” Harrington tapped the desk as he thought. “You are sure the GTVA does not know about the base?”

Lewis nodded slowly as he answered. “Yes, we are. It was where we obtained our initial cache of intelligence on the GTVA, and seems to be a pirate outpost of some kind. But it is in a sad state, and restoring it is hard with the limited supplies at hand.”

Harrington nodded. “I will authorize the additional deployment of the force equivalent of four heavy capital ships and attendant fighters and Combat Frames. In addition, I am deploying the logistics ships Edinburgh and Avencourt as well as the constructor ship Contingency to your location. Use the Contingency to repair the base and fortify it and establish repair facilities. You can use it as a forward base. With three logistics ships, you should be able to keep both the base and frontline supplied while using the last to ferry supplies. The additional deployment should give you enough firepower to hold off the GTVA and rotate units to keep them fresh.” He paused, and looked at Lewis. “Is that sufficient?”

“Yes sir. More than enough,” Lewis replied.

“Good,” Harrington replied. He turned to David. “David, I need to speak to you personally, if you please. Kindly have the communications routed to your quarters, and provide them with your key to have it encrypted.”

David blinked in surprise. “Alright.”

Harrington nodded, and the screen flickered off, as David made his way forward and took out his crystal key that would encrypt the transmission with his personal key. He handed it to the officer and watched as the officer inserted the translucent crystal into the encryption slot. A few minutes later, the officer took it out and handed it wordlessly back to David.

“Well, I’d better go see what he wants,” David commented as he walked towards the bridge exit.

“Yes. I have a defense to organize,” Lewis said half-distractedly, mind already on the upcoming battle at hand.

---------------------------------

Took a long time for this portion. To be totally honest, the fic has gone way, way, way past this part. I just keep adding, but not posting.
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Re: The Tyrean Chapter Reborn
July 17th 2367 Delta Serpentis
Local Time: 1533hrs

Five days from the commencement of open hostilities between the Royal Tyrean Republic and the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance.

The missile lock warning screamed into Duran’s ears, and he rammed open the throttle and thumbed the trigger. In response, the Nightingale twisted aside from the volley of missiles, and as they turned back, the head-mounted plasma vulcans blazed away, scoring a clean hit on the lead missile and destroying the rest in a chain reaction. The Combat Frame raised its rifle, and silver beams chased after the fleeing Perseus.
Duran cursed as two of his shots went wide. The GTVA might not have Combat Frames, but their agile fighters more than made up for it. The problem was that only the fastest fighters could hope to tie down the Combat Frames, but they lacked the firepower to destroy them. A lock warning sounded, and Duran cursed again. Eight spiralling missiles exploded harmlessly on the Nightingale’s combat shield, which already bore numerous scorch marks from similar wounds. “Wolf, what’s our status?” he asked as he angled the Nightingale after the Perseus.

“Wolf Claw One, Wolf advises that we have multiple additional contacts on fast approach, with at least one cruiser sized contact in support. Wolf advises that Fury Fang has been scrambled and is on fast intercept, ETA 2 minutes,” Emma answered, her reply clipped and professional.

“Wolf, Wolf Claw One acknowledges,” Duran replied, as he pulled the trigger again. This time, his shots were true, and the silvery beams sliced into the Perseus, but its shield held. An instant later, a white beam seared across space and speared the Perseus through the cockpit. “Nice shot, Wolf Claw Two.”

“Thank you,” Kat replied over the comms.

“Wolf Claw One, this is Wolf Claw Four. I have multiple additional contacts incoming. I make at least two dozen fighters, and one of them Aeolus cruisers,” Duke reported.

“Wolf Claw Three concurs, and notes the presence of some Thors. Wolf Claw One might also want to note that Three believes that it’s an Aeolus II, not a normal Aeolus,” Raven added.

“Three, Four, One acknowledges,” Duran replied, before patching into the channel their charge, the heavy cruiser Inviolable, was using.

“Inviolable, this is Wolf Claw. Confirming contact with two dozen fighters and a single assault cruiser, Aeolus II-class”

“Wolf Claw, roger. We’ll handle the cruiser, you handle the small fry,” replied the Inviolable.

“Roger that Inviolable.” Duran switched back to the squad comm.. “Alright, ladies. Four, scatter that fighter screen. Three, with me. Two on over watch.”

No acknowledgements came back, but Duran didn’t need them. Before him, the dark void of space was suddenly filled with a literal storm of silver flashes, as the Marauder laid down a volley of plasma beams. Two fighters exploded before the survivors scattered to avoid the beams. As they scattered, a white beam speared one through the cockpit. It didn’t explode, but it eerily flew onwards, never deviating from the course its former dead pilot had set.  The cruiser proceeded on undaunted, its shield flaring green as the Inviolable’s opening statement crashed into it. “So Raven was right. It is an Aeolus II,” Duran muttered to himself, as he closed in on the scattering fighters.

“Wolf Claw, this is Fury Fang. On station and engaging GTVA fighters.” His reinforcements had arrived; six Chevalier interceptors.

“Roger, Fury Fang. Glad you could join us today,” Duran said.

“Pleasure’s all ours, Wolf Claw,” replied the flight leader.

Silver beams leapt from his rifle, punching holes into a Hercules as it desperately tried to evade the Nightingale on its tail. Smoke began trailing, and Duran raised his combat shield, firing the plasma chaingun to finish off in a hail of silver beams.

Suddenly, orange beams streaked past him. Duran pulled back on the throttle, and the Nightingale fell back, as emerald bolts began joining the orange beams. The line of fire shifted, and Duran rammed open the throttle, dodging the Thor’s constant barrage of weapons fire.
Duran eyed the GTVA fighter in his secondary display, its gun mounts twinkling. Someone in the GTVA had reasoned that a powerful shield generator weighs less than ten tons of armour, and designed accordingly. The result was classified by the GTVA as a heavy assault interceptor. And the Thor fit the name, blending respectable speed with a good payload and solid protection, thanks to its multiple shield generators and near impenetrable EMP shielding.

The missile lock warning blared in his ears, and Duran pushed aside all thoughts as he pulled up and suddenly reversed the thrust. He grunted as he was slammed back into his command couch. Missile tracks crossed in the space he had been in, and the Thor, its pilot not expecting the manoeuvre, shot forward. It began to bank, but four triangular-shaped objects pulled up beside it and blasted it at close range. The Dreads did little other than collapse its outermost shield, but the pilot reacted on reflex and pulled up, and the Thor shot upwards. As it did, a silver shaft blasted into his path. Even the powerful shields of the Thor were nothing to the full fury of a Marauder and the fighter disintegrated under the punishing blast of energy.

“Thanks, Two, Four.”

“Not a problem,” Duke replied, Kat echoing his reply an instant later.

A proximity warning sounded, and Duran instinctively dropped his Nightingale. Three silvery-blue beams blasted into the space he’d been in a split second before. ‘Damn, that was close,’ he thought. “Kat, I need an ID on that cruiser,” he ordered, as he watched the titanic battle between the two cruisers. The Aeolus II was circling the Inviolable, and he saw numerous glittering trails of crystallised air streaming from the side facing the Tyrean cruiser, and winced as the Inviolable, itself showing similar signs of damage, was hit by a glowing green shaft of energy.

“Wait one.”  A few moments later, she replied, “Got it. That’s the Nebuchadnezzar, attached to the GTVA 13th Fleet, 2nd Battlegroup. Looks like they called in support,” she mused.

Just then, Kat’s transmission was interrupted as a higher priority message cut in. “Wolf Claw One, Fury Fang One, Inviolable, this is Viper Actual. The Nebuchadnezzar is now designated a capture target. We need to know if she has different intel from the 7th Fleet ships. Boarding vessel enroute, eta 5 minutes. Inviolable, RTB, the Awakened will replace you. Viper Actual out.” Duran was somewhat startled that Claw Admiral Dekker had contacted him directly. He had always assumed that the Admiral would have more important things on hand.

“This is the Inviolable. We are breaking off as ordered. Good luck, kids. Try not to die till our relief gets here,” the cruiser transmitted, as it pulled clear of the Aeolus. As the W-space portal opened, Duran caught the tell-tale red flash of Broadside cannons from its rear. Obviously a farewall shot, he mused as he patched back into the squad network.  “Alright ladies,” “The Nebuchadnezzar is now designated a capture target. Blow those fighters out of the sky, now!”

As if in response, a Perseus crossed his vision, glittering contrails of crystallizing air trailing behind it. Then Raven flew past, reaching out with his anti-ship sword to slice the dying Perseus into two. “Don’t need to tell us twice, boss,” Raven replied, turning the Nightingale to face him. As always, Raven was holding his rifle in one hand and Laevateinin other, the shield attached to his sword arm. “Still seem to be quite a few of them out there, bossman,” Raven observed.

“Ever the master of the obvious, Raven,” Duran answered. “Why not go reduce the odds instead of just standing here, then?”

“Your wish, is my command, boss,” he replied, the Nightingale bowing theatrically.

“Heads up two of you. Incoming Ares fighters,” Emma warned.

Duran turned the Frame to face the incoming wave, raising his shield and rifle. Silver darts spewed forth from the shield’s plasma chaingun, as the rifle added its own larger beams to the volley. Duran kept up his fire even as he moved to dodged the answering blasts from the Ares fighters. The leftmost fighter suddenly wavered, then exploded, and the survivors pulled up, but still keeping in tight formation. “They’re good,” Duran mused.

Raven’s Nightingale dashed forward, and its pilot carefully placed a shot between the rightmost fighters, causing them to shy away from each other. That was all he needed, as he hit the boosters, sending his Nightingale hurtling past the rightmost fighter. As Raven passed him, Laevatein reached out almost lazily, its fusion edge easily parting the Ares’ depleted shields and thick armor.

The two remaining fighters actually came around for another attack, their pulsating bolts of blue and green this time preceded by waves of missiles. “They’re also insane,” Raven added.

Duran shrugged in his cockpit. “’Sanity is for the weak’, I was told,” he replied. He ditched his rifle and closed the distance, triggering his own boosters. Though his weren’t as powerful as Raven’s, they still added a substantial speed boost. He tapped a button on his control stick, the Nightingale’s left beam saber slipping out from under its wrist and into the waiting hand. As he drew closer to the Ares fighters, they began to scatter, but were too late. The beam saber removed the cockpit from the rest of the left fighter, while Duran rammed the shield into the side of the right fighter and triggered chaingun, filling the wound with silver fire. It exploded instantly, momentarily blinding Duran as debris and the short lived fireball engulfed his Combat Frame.

As it subsided, Raven commented, “That was nice.”

“Thank you. I thought it was too,” Duran replied as he picked out his drifting rifle and went over to fetch it. As he retrieved his rifle, a blue portal opened up, disgorging a new ship. This one, had a distinctly narrow tip, and bore Tyrean markings. Moments later, another portal opened, and another Tyrean vessel exited W-space. This one resembled the Inviolable greatly, and was obviously the replacement. “All friendlies, this is the TRN Awakened and the TRN Libra. Point us towards our newest convert.”

“Libra, this is Wolf Claw One. Your target is that Aeolus over there. The Inviolable gave it a pretty good beating before RTB-ing. Its port side is quite banged up, so I advise going in through the starboard side,” Duran replied.

“Roger that, Wolf Claw One. Pull back, Wolf Claw, Fang Fury. Awakened, stand by to disable engines,” the Libra ordered. The cruisers’ engines flared as they closed in, and the Aeolus began coming about to bring its heavy beams to bear.

“Al l ships, all ships, priority warning. Incoming fighters; another six full wings, repeat, six full wings. Also reading one more cruiser sized signals and another large, signal further behind the cruiser. Unable to confirm size. Contact in 20. Libra, you have 15 to secure the target,” Emma warned over the comms.

“This changes things. Awakened take point. We’re going in now. Escorts stay back,” the Libra ordered.

“Wow. I guess they’re pissed,” Raven commented.

“Why would they be? We only trashed about eight of their fighters, and badly banged up a cruiser,” Kat said without a hint of sarcasm.

“And our own cruiser pulled back, so now they’re probably thinkin’ ‘bout pushing through,” Duke added.

“Well. I’m glad I have such tactical geniuses in my stick,” Duran said dryly, as he cleanly picked off a fleeing Perseus with a single well placed shot.

“Strategic,” Emma said suddenly.

“What?”

“Should be strategic geniuses, not tactical. Tactical is small scale, strategic is large scale,” Emma replied.

“I ... What ...” Duran was at a loss for words. “Is this really the time to be discussing subtleties in language?”

“No, it isn’t,” Emma agreed. “Anyway, I just thought I’d let you know that Viper Actual has put the Lancer and Steed on standby.”

“Thank the admiral for me. We just might need them,” Duran said.

“No, you think?” Raven added. Duran didn’t reply; the Nebuchadnezzar had fired its main beams at the rapidly closing Tyrean cruisers. As it did, the remaining fighters, which had pulled back to the Nebuchadnezzar, began to close in on the Tyrean escorts.

The twin emerald beams slashed across space, only to be stopped flat on the Awakened’s shields. The Typhon cruiser had placed itself in front of the Diamondback as per standard formation, and its answering reply was hidden by the blaze of light that were its shields. Their effect on the Terran cruiser, however, was very obvious. Shells the size of building blocks smashed into the Nebuchadnezzar’s front hull. The cruiser’s sheath shields were of no use here; there was no energy to dissipate, and the metal crumpled under the impact as the shells sent large chunks of metal spinning away. A wave of missiles followed soon after, blanketing the area in a wave of destructive fire. Barely had the fire cleared before silver beams slammed into the cruiser.

A green flare could be seen as the sheath shields absorbed the energy and dissipated it away, minimizing the damage from the laser cannons, but crystalised smoke still streamed from its bloody nose. As the two cruisers closed the distance, the Nebuchadnezzar’s secondary weapons began firing, amber bolts and flak shells causing its opponent’s shields to shimmer. Missiles covered the shields in volleys of furious explosions and slowly, laser bolts began punching through the weakened shields.

The exchange of fire reached a fever pitch as both ships came alongside each other, laser bolts, missiles and shells filling the space between the two with lethal ordnance. Four thinner, blue beams carved their presence into the side of the Awakened, as the Tyrean cruiser’s main cannons continued to pummel the sheath shield with devastating blasts of energy. Then the Awakened was past, and the Nebuchadnezzar began firing on the Libra.

The Libra’s response was probably nothing the Nebuchadnezzar expected.

Along with the Libra’s starboard weapons, several large torpedoes were fired. Two were hit by the Nebuchadezzar, and detonated in brilliant displays of sapphire sparks. The other two hit the Aeolus full on, and the two EMP charges quickly shutdown the entire ship’s systems. The flare of its engines died instantly, and the volume of fire also abruptly stopped. The Libra fired its retro boosters, the Diamondback cruiser beginning to turn and bringing its narrow tip to bear, and closed in like a hunter towards its dying prey.

“They figured it out. They’re trying to disengage to stop the Diamondback,” reported Kat.

‘They’ being the remaining GTVA fighters, and they were indeed. Duran’s own target, a very capable Perseus, had broken off its run to try and was turning back to the stricken cruiser. “Well, let them. It’s not that they can do anything.”

And they couldn’t. The Awakened had turned back and was now imposing itself between the Diamondback and its would-be attackers. Point defense lasers filled the emptiness of space with ruby beams, and missile batteries added their own say to the interdicting fire. The last fighter barely made it past the Awakened, only to be speared through the cockpit by Kat.

“That’s that,” Duran muttered, then turned his attention down to the Libra and its prey. The Libra had already ‘inserted’ its tip into the Aeolus, though ‘inserted’ was a very mild description of being rammed by a Diamondback. “Now to wait for the groundpounders to capture it.”

*****

“Go! Go! Go! Go!”

The order was bawled out over the squad comm moments after the tearing of metal stopped.

PFC Lionel Kazansky ran for the boarding entrance, as the seal hissed and opened, revealing an interior quite like a normal Tyrean ship. He kicked the sealed door open, and it crashed to the floor as he exited the room and swung to the left, rifle at the ready. Dazed and injured personnel were stirring on the floor, but he saw no signs of weapons. “No armed hostiles in sight. Helluva lot of injured,” he reported over the squad comm. “Same, Kazaya,” PTE George Yeager replied from behind him, where he was watching the left corridor.

“Alright. Advance and secure the corridor,” came the reply from behind them as CFC Kazaya Temjin stepped out, along with the rest of the squad. “We’re in, LT,” he commsed. 

“Roger. Find a terminal and get us patched in. We need some kind of schematics to know where we’re going,” Lieutenant Ferris. “Just a sit-rep on the outside. Seems like the GTVA is scrambling reinforcements, so we may have to settle for an intel run.”

Temjin cursed. An intel run meant sucking the databanks of the cruiser dry from any terminal, then weeks of data-sifting for anything useful. It was cost-ineffective in terms of time spent with information gained in comparison with capturing the entire cruiser and crew. “Roger,” he replied. He pointed at Lionel, then Ian and Uriel, gesturing down the hall. “We’ll find a terminal,” he added, as he watched the trio proceed down the corridor, Uriel in the lead.

*****

The subspace portal opened, disgorging Delta and Gamma wings high above the crippled Nebuchadnezzar. With them was the experimental Shadewalker. The cruiser-sized ship sat in the middle of the formation, is twin bulbous pods that extended to its size generating a magnetic field that bent the light rays around them, effectively cloaking them, as well as a ECM field. Massive power-requirements had been met with hybrid Shivan-Vasudan reactors, and it stored its heat away in heat cells to be purged when the field was dropped. In exchange, it had precious few defensive turrets, a scant ten to cover the entirety of its large, flat body, and lacked beam cannons.

It was a purely support ship, but it had its uses. Like now, keeping the eight fighters safely hidden from enemy sight and sensor, as they watched the scene unfolding below.

“What are they doing to that cruiser?” Christine whispered.

“Looks like they’re boarding it,” Dekker mused.

“Quite the ... direct ... method,” Lysander commented dryly, eyeing the Tyrean ship sticking out from its side. “Why isn’t the Nebuchadnezzar firing back, though?”

“EMP,” Fletcher answered. “Residual traces of an EMP field around it.”

“Must be a hell of a field,” Commander Darius Selwin, leader of Gamma Wing, added. Flying the GTFh Hecatonchires, they were the hammer to Delta’s anvil, combining devastating firepower with surprising speed and agility. Darius was an accomplished pilot, and though Marcus respected him.

He looked down ... or up, rather, as he rotated his fighter. The four humanoid machines that had so handily dispatched the four wings of the 667th Hellions with the help of their own fighters were spread in a loose defensive perimeter, with one slightly higher than the others. This one had a few extra wires and extensions from its back, and was wielding a sniper rifle. “That one,” he said, highlighting it on the shared target link. “That must be the commander unit. Looks like extra comm gear on its back, and it’s using a sniper rifle; perfect for keeping a good watch on the battlefield.”

“Roger,” Shadewalker replied. “Tagging that as Aquarius 1.”

The targeting reticule blinked, then updated itself, marking the sniper unit as Aquarius 1.

“That one looks like a heavy support version,” Dekker noted, indicating the bulkiest unit. It resembled an old-Terra football player, with large hulking shoulders and bulky legs. Its head looked tiny by comparison. In each of its hands it wielded a large bore cannon. “The other two looked like mass-produced versions, if you ask me,” he added.

“I concur,” Darius added. “They are nearly identical, except that one has a large sword on its back, and it seems to have enlarged thrusters. I guess that makes the last unit the standard variant, and its pilot must be the newest.”

“How do you figure that,” Christine asked sarcastically. “Because it’s the plainest looking?” She didn’t like Darius much, though Marcus could never figure out why, and never missed a chance to take a swipe at him.

“Pretty much,” Darius answered, either not noticing or ignoring the implied insult.

“No, wait,” Lysander said. “Its shield its different. Looks like it has a gun attached to it.”

Marcus hit the magnification, and there was indeed, what looked like a chaingun peeking out from its edge. “Nice one, Ly,” he complimented. “We all missed that.”

“Delta, Gamma, the Hellions are committing their next wave, and the GTC Bhakat Nasar is in support,” the Shadewalker said suddenly, forestalling any other conversation.

“Roger, Shadewalker. Beginning target acquisition,” Marcus replied. He angled his fighter at the large cruiser lodged in the Nebuchadnezzar’s side, and then flicked a switch on his console. On its hull, a small laser appeared, and fired a thin, near invisible beam of light, hitting the cruiser square on its topside. “Shadewalker, Delta reports target is lit up.”

A moment later, came the reply. “Delta, Hammer reports package is on the way; signalling Hellions to began attack in 5.”

“They’re re-organizing their defense,” Christine warned. Marcus looked up, and sure enough, the bulky unit was pulling further back, ominous silver glows building in its hand cannons. To his horror, the large objects they had mistaken for its shoulders swivelled forward, revealing to be another pair of cannons, and two more swung up from their inactive position at its waist.  “Damn, that’s a lot of guns,” Dekker whispered.
The sniper unit was also pulling back slightly, but didn’t go as far as the artillery unit. The last two took positions forward of the sniper, while the six fighters split into two wings of three, and pulled a tighter pattern around the cruiser, which was manoeuvring into a twelve o-clock high position.

Spread out as they were, they failed to see the attack coming.

Numerous subspace portals appeared around the lodged Tyrean cruiser, but instead of fighters, torpedoes appeared, their internal systems switching over to home in on the laser signal. To their credit, the Tyreans were quick to react, the two frontliners turning back to fire their rifles, silver beams catching three of the torpedoes as they closed in; another six were detonated by the artillery unit. What they had underestimated, however, was the sniper unit. What they had taken to be communications devices, four spikes hanging from its back, detached themselves, and chased down the remaining torpedoes with strobing blasts of silver light. The small, agile objects easily caught up to the comparatively sluggish torpedoes, leaving the Tyrean cruiser unscathed. The closest one exploded close enough to rock the Nebuchadnezzar and its intruder with its shockwave, but little else was done.

“Well. At least we know their capabilities now,” Marcus mused out loud to no one in particular. The subspace strike had succeeded in one regard at least; their defensive line was in chaos now.

Something the waiting Hellions were quick to exploit.

*****

The ship heaved suddenly, forcing Kazaya to steady himself with a hand. The rest of the squad looked at him uneasily. He motioned for them to take a moment’s break, as he patched into the command channel. “LT?” he asked.

“The GTVA tried a subspace missile strike,” Ferris answered. “Obviously it failed. But their reinforcements used the strike to get the upper hand on our escorts.  They’re re-organizing the line now, but it’s not going to well. Proceed with the mission for now, Corporal, but be ready to fall back just in case.” There was a pause, as he checked their stolen schematics. “The lift to the bridge should be just around the corner. The cameras’ last reading was at least fifteen Marines in defensive positions, and they’ve already destroyed the automated guns, so I can’t give you cover.”

About five minutes ago, Corporal Lewinsky had found a suitable terminal, and the Libra had used the powerful supercomputer onboard to smash through the encryption and take control of the system. Unfortunately, whether from paranoia or a safety precaution, the main systems for the ship were on a separate, closed loop, and so were the primary databank and security systems. This had forced Ferris to send Lewinsky further in to locate the primary databank, and Sergeant William Chan to capture the ship’s reactor, leaving Hanson to guard the entry point and the terminal, and Kazaya to capture the bridge.

The first combat between the Marines and the Castigators had shown that they were well trained, sending disciplined banks of laser fire out to keep them pinned even as another squad attempted to flank them. That was when Lewinsky had found and capture the security center, and Lieutenant Ferris had turned the sentry guns on them, slaughtering those suppressing the Castigators, and allowing Kazaya to catch the flankers in a pincer.

They had learned fast though, the GTVA Marines, and they had destroyed all the sentry guns as a precaution, even though Ferris hadn’t subverted all of them yet. All they had now were the cameras, but the Marines were destroying them too. “Better pick up the pace, Kazaya. Lewinsky just called in; he found the databank, but it’s too heavily defended for him to break through, so I’m getting him to fall back. Chan will be falling back once he places the charges too.”

“Affirmative, sir,” Kazaya replied, then closed the commlink. He motioned for them to get up, and they continued down the corridor, Uriel on point. A few metres later, he saw a junction up ahead, and Uriel looked back. Kazaya gestured to the right, and the tech nodded, pressing himself up against the wall, and peeking carefully around.

A burst of blue bolts chased his head back, followed belatedly by the sound of a score or more laser rifles opening up. “Sounds like twenty of them out there,” Lionel muttered. “Probably. Lionel, George, up and under,” Kazaya ordered.

The two Castigators stood up, and detached grenades from their belts. Lionel put three fingers up, and counted down. As the last one dropped, he rolled his grenade along the ground, as George put his high, bouncing off the opposite wall and into the blockade. The Marines opened fire instinctively, but one of them at least kept his head on long enough to scramble for the grenade and throwing it back out, where it detonated harmlessly in a globe of emerald fire. But they didn’t notice the other one, which rolled to a halt just before the hastily erected barricade, and exploded, vaporizing the barrier, and sending the nearest Marines flying.

Quickly Uriel and Niel slid out, holding up their defensive shields as Soran followed a second behind, levelling his gattling cannon. Lethal shards of metal tore down the hallway, encouraging the surviving Marines to seek cover in whatever doorway they could find. As Uriel and Niel closed in, the rest of the squad stormed through, Kazaya bringing up the rear. The Castigators made short work of the survivors, Uriel decapitating the last one with a single slash. “Injuries?” he asked Jin, their medic.

“None”, he answered, sparing a single glance at the squad readouts in his display.

A loud crack signalled the discharge of a laser pistol, and Kazaya’s head snapped round. Niel looked up, crouched beside a Marine. His smoking pistol was aimed at the Marine’s head, and his other hand held onto a bloodied envelope. The Marine himself must have been caught in the initial grenade blast, the front of his armour scorched, and a massive chunk of his stomach missing, his guts littering the floor. “He was gonna die anyway,” Niel said, reaching out and closing the Marine’s glassy eyes. Kazaya turned back, saying nothing, motioning for them to move on.

*****

“Damnit! Reform the line,” Duran ordered, as he fought to regain control of his Nightingale as the shockwave from the last torpedo shook her like a leaf in a gale. “Reform the line, or-“

“Too late,” Kat chimed, somehow sounding supremely unconcerned about the multitudes of subspace portals opening before them. “I read two dozen fighters, and another cruiser.”

True enough, the largest portal was disgorging yet another Aeolus cruiser. No sooner had its turrets cleared the portal then they began firing, hurling yellow bolts of energy and flak shells at the Combat Frames. “Damnit!” he cursed, avoiding the bolts. “Fury Fang, cover the Libra! Wolf Claw, on the cruiser! Awakened, a little assistance if you please?”

“My pleasure,” the cruiser replied. The engines flared to life, as the Awakened brought its railguns to bear. “Fire coming,” Duke warned. A moment later, a thick spear of silver light slashed across the dark space, catching four of the Vampires as they exited from subspace. It dragged itself ponderously to the left, but the remaining fighters scattered, maintaining their formation as they did so. The beam began to move towards the enemy cruiser, but waned and winked out before it could reach it.

“Nice shot, Four,” Duran said.

“A pleasure, boss.”

Silver flashes streaked across the blackness of space, and the shells crumpled into the Aeolus cruiser, sending massive shards of metal flying. The Aeolus, the Bakhat Nasar, according to the nameplate on its hull, replied moments later with its forward beam cannons, twin spears of emerald light causing the Awakened’s shield to flare to life in response. Laser beams and torpedoes brought the Tyrean cruiser’s answer, the Aeolus’s skin flaring green as the beams touched it.

“So it’s another Aeolus II,” Duran muttered. He dragged his eyes away from the clash, and turned his attention back to the GTVA fighters. A Vampire exploded under the gunfire of one of the Chevaliers, silver darts slashing through the wreckage; another Vampire tracked another of the Chevaliers with dogged determination, carefully placing his shots, wearing down its shields, but was forced to peel off as the first Chevalier came to the rescue, a blizzard of pulse cannon shots narrowly missing it.

Duran kicked his Nightingale into the action, firing his plasma vulcans at the offending Vampire. Its shielded flickered under the impacts, and it dove hard, causing Duran to overshoot it. But the two Chevaliers waited below, tearing apart the fighter in a devastating crossfire. “My thanks,” he said.

“Not a problem, Wolf Claw One,” came the reply.

A thin silver beam streaked across the space, smashing into an Alves fighter’s cockpit. Its shield deflected the energy of the blast, but the pilot shied away from his attack run on the Libra, and he and his wing mates pulled away. Raven shot in after them, rifle spitting argent beams after the fighters. They scattered in four different directions, and Raven hesitated for a moment before darting after the nearest one, Laeventein rising in its back holster in anticipation. As soon as he turned for their compatriot, however, the other three fighters turned, and blasted away at his back. “Raven!” Duran shouted in warning, as he kicked in his boosters.

The other Nightingale barely brought its shield up in time, but the unrelenting volley of the three Alves fighters was too much for the shield, and the salvo of missiles was the final blow. The shield shattered, and the punishing torrent of fire chewed through the Nightingale’s forearm, a curse coming from its pilot. But one of the Alves fighters wavered suddenly, then exploded, four white drones falling back from the wreckage, as a spear of white light slashed across space in front of the surviving two. They pulled up in time, but barely, trails of molten metal showing how close they had come to the ravening blast of energy. Badly wounded, they turned back for the safety of the cruiser, the last undamaged Alves following them.

Duran arrived at Raven’s side, encouraging the GTVA fighter’s retreat with his plasma rifle. “Raven. You alright?”

“Yeah. They got my sword hand, though,” Raven said. Duran could hear the anger in his voice. “I got careless. Guess they’re not as weak as we though.”

Duran nodded. “They learn fast.” His next words died in his throat as his commlink crackled to life. “Wolf Claw One, Wolf advises we are seeing additional contacts closing in on your location, including at least one destroyer-sized contact. We believe the GTVA are attempting to force a push at your position.”

“Beautiful,” he muttered. To Emma he said, “Wolf Claw One, roger. Wolf, any chance of heavier reinforcements? We’re getting overwhelmed out here.”

“Affirmative, Wolf Claw One. Wolf will dispatch the Black Knight and the Vengeance to reinforce your position. Also be advised that the Revenants are inbound as well. The Lance and Steed are already enroute and will be arriving in three minutes.”

“Roger,” Duran said, then paused for a moment, as he twisted aside from a line of laser bolts. He fired a few shots in response, and the Vampire twisted aside. It turned back to resume its run, but two more Chevaliers fire on it, forcing it to turn away. “Wolf Claw reads. We’ll hold until they get here.” He shut the commlink, and turned his attention back to the battle. Raven was providing what fire support he could with his rifle, though, being a melee specialist, his accuracy was somewhat lacking. Kat and Duke provide more accurate fire, and more devastating. The Chevaliers were down by one, and another was limping to Duke’s side, bleeding glittering trails of fuel. The Bakhat Nasar’s dance with the Awakened had left it broken and burning, but in its battle, the Awakened had been drawn off by the Aeolus, and was a good fifteen klicks away, and it wasn’t undamaged.

“Tyreans! Regroup!” Duran ordered, moving closer to the Libra. “Libra, I’m gonna advise you to hurry up, because-“ He never finished his sentence, as there were a ring of explosions around the Libra’s entry point, and it freed the ship from any wreckage that might be trapping it. The Diamonhead cruiser began reversing from the Aeolus, and as more power, freed from maintaining the EMP on its victim, began flowing to the turrets, more came alive, filling the space with defensive fire. A pair of Surts who were on their attack run were torn to shreds as four of the newly activated turrets hammered hundreds of bolts into and then through their shields and hulls. “We’re clear, Wolf Claw, Fury Fang. Thanks for the cover,” Libra said. Its retro thrusters fired, pushing it straight down from the wreckage. Seconds later, there was a blue flash, and the Libra translated into W-Space.

The surviving GTVA fighters too pulled back, seven Vampires and three Alves fighters still in the fight. A quick glance told him that the Tyreans had only accounted for seven kills, a far cry from their earlier stellar performance. It seemed the GTVA commanders were allowing their pilots to pullback rather than die. Duran glanced at his console, a small timer counting down to their reinforcements arrival. Still three minutes more.

“Orders, One?” Kat asked.

Duran mulled it over in his mind. “Alright. We have reinforcements coming in three minutes, and all we need is to-“A warning tone screamed in his ear suddenly. Multiple portals opened at close range, and a wave of torpedoes exited the portals. The Tyreans scattered instantly, and not one torpedo hit. Before he could issue new orders, however, the Combat Frames found themselves being hammered from above by repeated blasts of laser and cannon fire. Duran cursed again, and looked up.

Four Hecatonchires fighters were spiralling down on them,  gun mounts blazing. Beside him, one of the Chevaliers shivered, and an explosion tore its wing aside, sending it flying. Without thinking, Duran reached out and stopped the fighter from flying away into space. “Get out and get in,” Duran ordered. The cockpit snapped open, the pilot deftly extracting himself, and pushed himself towards the Combat Frame. Idly, Duran noticed the volume of fire in his direction drop away suddenly. Dismissing it, he opened his cockpit, and helped the pilot in. “It’s a bit cramped, and you’re gonna have to hold tight,” he warned.

“Not a problem sir. Warrant Dave Bernal,” the pilot said, introducing himself. “Thanks for the rescue.”

“Duran Lowell,” he replied, pushing away from the wrecked fighter. “Thank me when we get out of trouble.”

And as though to highlight just how much trouble they were in, three subspace portals opened, disgorging three GTVA cruisers in tight formation. Small for their class, the three cruisers spread out somewhat, and the surviving fighters formed up in their wake. Duran eyed the cruisers, noting their numerous turrets, but seemingly lacking any primary beam cannons.

“Wolf One, that’s the Cossack squadron,” Kat warned, pulling up beside him.

Duran noticed that two of her Dreads were missing, and that the paint on the Cyclone was scorched. He also noticed one of her beam sabers was gone.

“What happened to your saber?” he asked despite the situation.

“Oh. Surt. Was too close to the Libra for comfort,” she explained.

“One, this is Four, I am under heavy assault from four Thors” Duke interupted, voice wreathed in static, probably from his own cannon fire.

“Damn,” Duran cursed. “All Tyreans, fall back to Wolf Claw Four’s position, now!” He glanced at the timer. One minute. It was one minute too long, in his opinion.

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