A Story of the Starblade Battalion

"Hisashiburi desu ne"

Episode 30 (2180.10.15)
by Shawn Hagen (1998)


Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.

Opening Titles Guest Credit Writer - Angel Herreros

Music - "Serenade" by Dover
(music disponible on MP3 format at <http://rockmusic.org/dover/audio.htm>)
(Lyrics at bottom)

We see Emiko, standing outside of the Verees' farm, her gaze lost in the star-filled, darkening horizon. She looks melancholic and thoughtful. The camera turns slowly around her twice for the first four verses of the song, then the scene switches to Alice. She is in class, with the same sad expression on her face and paying little attention to her teacher; as the camera closes, for the next four song's lines, we see she's looking at a picture of Emiko that is hidden behind inside her textbook.

As the music changes suddenly on the bridge and chorus, we see several flashes of Emiko; fast, brief ones, each with about half the duration of one song's line, changing abruptly, of all the times Emiko had to do something she really didn't want to do.

We see Emi running scared from the slackers, at Old Tokyo.

She jumps out of an airlock without a space suit.

Match covers her with his cape and fires a large pistol.

Emi fires a gyro jet rifle under one of the floating cities of Waikiki.

She hits Ryu with a bar as he comes out of an alley.

She leaps forward, covering a small girl from a big explosion with her armored body.

Slams Ree away, dives to the side drawing a gun, bullets hits where they were before.

Walks along, wearing a janitors cap and uniform, hiding her computer just before someone is a SAC officers uniform can see it.

Rams her brother before he can draw his gun.

She is at John B's ECM station and, with a sudden maneuver, the ship breaks the tail of a fighter and then starts firing on it.

As the music calms down again, we see Emiko's back, over a starscape, the camera backs off slightly so we can see she's standing over a small-sized SCC Starblade (hey, it's Anime), looking at Earth; the face of Alice is overprinted, ghost-like, over Earth; she's smiling. Stars shine between the two.

Again, we see Emiko watching Frost, Ryuzaki, Shiva, Grey and Placide before a ship, Juan by her side. (Yes, it IS the Battalion's birth).

Both Juan and Emiko exit hastily from a small red car just stopped, then both runs towards Tern's ship.

Ryu slaps Emiko with a strong blow on Organon.

Marshall Sharp and Emiko runs on the Neo Tokyo streets, being fired at.

Emi, wearing a black dress, speaking to a camera, behind her a starmap.

Drives an ambulance truck while dodging some small explosion on the road.

Emi, armored, runs besides Diane and Sharp through dark corridors.

She is at the bridge of the John B., a Drakken with pirate markings on the main window raises its gun, suddenly it blows and Ree flies through the explosion, gun still blazing.

Fires her machine-gun at several ODF soldiers, pinning them down.

Diane hits hard Emi with a kick in zero-G, then looks at the fallen girl, arms on hips.

Emi leaps in zero-G, sword raised, attacking a man dressed on ODF gear.

She fires twice at Ryu, her face full of fear, but her shots hit him.

She opens fire at Grendel, over his fallen Harbinger, running at him.

During the instrumental part of the song, brief flashes of all mayor characters not appearing in the previous flashes and some that do appear. Lilith, Epiphany, (and Shingo!), and all the other ostensibly good guys appear doing his/hers usual business. The ostensibly bad guys appear most of them staring at Emiko's picture, looking very upset, each in his or her own style (Ryu snaps a pencil, Tauutus almost roars even with no sound!-, Knox and Auden simply look angry/upset).

Again, Diane forces open a door, takes down some fat man in a moment, then Emi runs to a computer and turns it on.

Ree's Manticore collapses before Emi's eyes.

Emi speaks to several worried-looking people, looks like a board meeting, we can see a mauve sky through the window.

She flies a Ruby through a tricky maneuver, taking it under the Perth.

As the singer repeats the chorus slowly, we can see Emi, wearing a pilot's suit and a clear-visored helmet, sitting on a suit cockpit. She looks as if she'd rather be in some other place, but as the singer shouts, 'SERENADE ME!', she's also shouting, a determined visage on her face, the camera backs very fast through the front armor on the torso and we see the Emiko's Arrow; we can see it firing ALL its missiles on several other mecha, entering scene as the camera keeps pulling back, hitting all them (this scene lasts only a second); we see the mecha of the rest of the people (Ree, Diane, Epiphany, and other Starbladers ) and the John B. behind Emi, the camera keeps backing, slower, until the battle is obscured by Earth, then Sun, then pulls back very fast so we can see the Pleiades, then all the galaxy by the end of the song.

The Hour Glass shook slightly but the barrage of fire did not slow the battleship. It plunged forward, flanked by its attendant ships. Ahead of it were the ships of the SAC battlegroup, pushing forward towards Sutter's Mill.

"Have the Cage move to shore up that hole," Chronus ordered, watching as the battle continued to unfold. An SAC cruiser broke through the line, and then another. It had been inevitable. The Chain Gang was an assault group, and Battlegroup Gunderson had been reinforced with four more cruisers.

"Sir, Captain Visin says the Manacle is in a bad way."

"Tell her to hold out, this won't go on much longer I suspect. Tell Sutter's Mill that they will have to abandon the station, we can't help them."

"Yes sir."

The battle continued and Chronus watched as the two cruisers approached Sutter's Mill. He also kept an eye on the rest of the battle, but things had become static. He could not do anything about the Spinner and he had arranged his ships to the best possible effect. For some reason the SAC had become much more aggressive. The attack was out of character from what he had seen from the SAC battlegroup. There were also the four extra cruisers. Something had happened, he just did not know what.

A few minutes later, as he expected, the ships of battlegroup Gunderson began to fall back, an orderly retreat. The ships that had broken through were too far away, there was no way any ship under his command could have caught them, and so few suits remained in the battle that he did not dare send them to stop what was about to happen.

"We hold here," Chronus ordered, his attention fixed on the screen.

The two SAC cruisers closed on the spinner and began to fire. Sutter's Mill had some defensive capability and a small force of Mektons. They were not enough. Chronus had known they would not be.

In a very short time there was nothing left of the spinner. He hoped that most of the personnel had been evacuated. He watched as the ships fired on the planet in passing, to add insult to injury he guessed. Then they were heading off, soon to be beyond his reach. The other SAC ships were still falling back, not presenting him with any openings, even if he could have used them. All the ships under his command were badly damaged. It would be several days before they were back up to full, combat readiness.

"Launch a courier ship," Chronus said. "Put all logs into its memory and send if off to base." For some time he remained where he was, staring at the screens, then he walked over to his command chair and settled into it.

Battlefleet Mars had dropped out of shunt as close as it could to Solingen. The Probability Anchors forced the fleet to shunt some distance farther out than they would have liked so the Solingen forces were aware of the enemy fleet and had plenty of time to react.

Admiral Mars was well aware of that, but he did not let that concern him. Her ordered his ships to push ahead, launching the battleriders and fighters. There were over thirty battleriders moving out with the fighters to form the picket lines. Khamul always felt a little bad about arranging things that way, the battleriders would take the greatest losses, but ultimately he had no choice. If a battelrider was destroyed, it was destroyed. If they lost a cruiser that was two battleriders left behind in enemy territory.

"Open fire on the probability anchors, launch first interceptor group," the Admiral ordered.

The fighters, given the task of destroying the probability anchors broke form their positions on the picket lines and began hunting the anchors, tracking them by their high energy signatures. Soon they were firing the first shots of the battle.

Edelweiss Force was the first line of defense for Solingen. After the destruction of the Saturn cities, an act that the Colonies were still denying, they had been sure that the USSA would react. They had not realized how great the reaction would be.

General Gorda had already made his plans, waited until Battlefleet Mars shunted in, then cloaked his ship and began to move out.

Malachi Force, with its newly christened carrier, the Malachi-forcing the renaming of the cruiser that had once borne that name-was in system giving the new carrier and their newly repaired cruisers a shakedown. General Gorda, in command of the Solingen defense, had given them their orders.

Allandra did not cloak right away. She had to move her ships to get in behind the SAC ships and needed to be sure where they were going. Her sensor op told her of the enemy's actions, firing on the probability anchors.

There were a number of reasons they could be doing that, petty vandalism was just one. Allandra doubted it was that simple.

"New orders," she said, looking at her map boards.

Millennium Force was in poor shape. Their carrier was still being repaired, they had lost much of their mekton force and they had no real commander. On the other hand all three of their cruisers had been repaired and they had eight battleriders.

Not much of a force, but enough of one for Gorda. He had given them the task of meeting the incoming fleet head on. They were the bait.

Admiral Mars watched as the small force approached him. He knew that they were not the only defenders in the system. There were more ODF ships out there, hidden by their cloaks. To deal with that he had spread his fleet out which, while decreasing his assault ability, ensured that a surprise attack would not take out his entire fleet.

Where would it come? That was the important question. The approaching ships would be in range of his carrier's gauss gun and soon after they would come into range of the ship's heavy starbolts. He could tear those cruisers apart before they could get into their weapons ranges.

Would the ODF be willing to sacrifice those ships? He doubted it.

"Stay sharp," he said. "Something is probably going to happen soon. Launch all suits. Do we have anything on sensors?" he asked his sensor operator.

"No sir," she told him. "I'm trying everything we have and the only ships out there are those in front of us."

Khamul nodded, a little disappointed. The Ares had been given a complete sensor upgrade in hopes that the new sensors, many of them very experimental, might allow them to spot the cloaked ships of the ODF.

"The ships ahead of us will be in range of the gauss cannon in eighty seven seconds."

Khamul nodded. He waited.

Fifty two seconds later the ships of Edelweiss dropped the cloaks and opened up on the SAC ships.

Khamul held to his command chair as the Ares shook from several hits, none of them serious enough to damage his ship.

He did not have to give any orders, his people knew what to do. The damage reports started coming in. Eight battleriders destroyed, four heavily damaged, and two of his cruisers damaged. It was much like he had expected, the battleriders took the brunt of the attack.

The ODF was in the open now, and he planned to make them pay.

General Gorda was a little disappointed by the initial volley in the battle. He had hoped to do much more damage to the SAC ships, he had especially hoped to destroy the carrier, but the arrangement of the fleet had denied him that. In the end he had only managed to destroy a number of battleriders.

It was a good start though, and Malachi Force was out there.

"Sir, the SAC has been destroying the anchors," the sensor operator told him.

"What," he said, taking his eyes away from the battle. Their mektons had just launched and the battle was getting much hotter. "Why?" He asked softly, then his ship shook, hit by a railgun blast and his attention was forced to other matters.

Even as he was giving his orders he was still considering why the attack on the anchors? There were a few possibilities, and one he did not like. He could only hope that General Malachi had realized it as well.

Admiral Mars watched as his ships began to push forward, towards the planet. The ODF did not have the numbers to stop them, not currently. His fleet was taking a beating, but so were the ODF ships. Their initial attack had been quite effective, but now things were in his favour.

"Send the message," he said to his communications tech.

A tight, powerful beam was sent to a cutter far behind them. A moment after the cutter received the message it shunted out of the area.

The battle took a new turn when Battlefleet Escher shunted in, not far behind Battlefleet Mars. Any advantage the SAC might have received from that was quickly dashed by the decloaking of Allandra's ships.

It was a huge battle, the biggest space battle ever. Mecha and fighters flew between the larger ships, chasing after each other. Interceptors destroyed the huge torpedoes to protect their ships, HAs tried to close on the larger ships in an attempt to destroy them. The soldier units were everywhere, taking the fight were it was needed.

Admiral Escher's people had begun boarding the ships of Malachi force. It looked like an insane maneuver, specially trained troops in PAFSs, leaping between their delivery vehicles and the enemy ships, then tearing their way in. Insane as it appeared, it was having a great effect.

The Ares pushed forward, moving though the hail of fire the enemy ships were putting out. The ODF suits could not get close to the ship, Leopards had swarmed across the ship's surface, their huge cannons tearing apart any suit that tried to close.

The ODF ships were doing their best, and more importantly, they were not taking the same kind of losses. Even so, they were still outgunned by the SAC ships.

Admiral Mars watched it all and realized he was not going to fully complete his mission. The city of New Plymouth was not going to be fired on. The planetary defenses were already beginning to be a problem. The huge, planet based guns were beginning to fire on them. New Plymouth was safe, but other targets were not so lucky.

"The Longrider is in range of the gauss cannon," the weapon's officer called out.

"Fire," Khamul said, his tone so calm.

The first shot from the Ares holed the Longrider straight through, south to north. It was all that was needed, but the Ares fired again, the second projectile ripping through the Longrider on a trajectory just below the first.

"As soon as we are in range open up on the orbital factories," Khamul said. "Tell Admiral Escher to star falling back."

The Ares continued on, the ships moving into a tighter formation as they approached the factories.

Redding looked at the people around him. Jesse sat close to him, a little farther down was his medical officer, Karyana, there because she had to be. Juan was there, as was Diane, he was going to need them, he was sure of that. Shiva sat at the other end of the table, that smug, quiet look about him. Liltih had taken a seat beside him, a clear indication where her loyalties ultimately lay. Caroline Mason sat close by, there as the people's eyes and ears. Placide had not been able to make, though she had sent someone in her place. The Same for Campbell and Grey. There were a few others, blade leaders and such, but they were only there to speed up later communication.

"The USSA is reacting rather poorly to the destruction of the Saturn cities. While I can understand their anger, I believe it is misdirected."

"This stinks of Midnight Sun," Jesse said.

"Agreed, but the sensor records show and ODF cruiser approached Tyche, fired on it, then circled around to destroy Bragi."

"Which is suspect in itself," Diane said. "Why leave one city relatively unharmed. It was left to be a witness. The records could be forgeries, it would not be impossible for the Midnight Sun to have people on that station."

"Again, agreed," Redding said.

"We still do not know what the Midnight Sun stole from Taplin Chemical," Shiva said.

"I know," Redding nodded. "The agent used in Brigit was a new one, a blood agent. Death was very fast, though probably still painful."

"All right," Juan said. "You've got something here, but it is not perfect. That ship, whether it was ODF or not, was gone when the defense boats reached the area. Where did it go? Everyone Earth side probably thinks it cloaked."

"If this is Midnight Sun, then there is an easy explanation. They crashed the ship into Bragi and then detonated the weapon. Their wreckage is scattered along with that of the spinner. Can you think of a better way to disappear?"

"It is possible," Redding nodded. "I don't think that they did an in depth examination of the wreckage."

"Probably too busy bemoaning the fact that a big chunk of Saturn's ring was destroyed," Jesse said.

Karyana shot Jesse and angry look. "Do you think we don't care about the people?"

"Actually..." Jesse began.

"Enough," Redding said. He had seen the bickering of those two played out often enough, he did not need a repeat performance. "Can we prove this?"

"It's all conjecture," Diane said. "We prove that the Midnight Sun did steal the agent used on Brigit and the rest will fall into place. It's not perfect, and it would not hold up in a court, but it would be enough to sway public opinion."

Redding nodded. "This situation is reaching a boiling point, as it were. Admiral Dover has been removed from her office, replaced by Commodore Ysall, a dangerous man in this situation. He is the one who ordered the attacks we have been seeing."

"What's the news on that?" Jesse asked.

Redding looked over at the man Placide had sent. "Lieutenant," Redding said.

"Sir," he got to his feet. "As of three hours ago the SAC had launched two major operations. In the Loki system battlegroup Gunderson destroyed Sutter's mill, casualties were fairly light, though after that they fired on Ironsun, heavily damaging the city of Foothold. The atmosphere of the planet made the damage that much worse, casualties are still coming in.

"The second attack was on Solingen itself, led by Battlefleet Mars, with assistance from a second Battlefleet that we still have not identified. The SAC lost nineteen battleriders and two cruisers, as well as a large number of mecha. The ODF took about half those losses. The Longrider was destroyed," at that Jesse, Juan, Diane, and a few others from the Colonies showed some shock-the Longrider was a cultural icon to them. "A number of orbital factories were also hit, and the fleet then swung around and launched an attack on the factories on Falchion. Casualties from both sides are currently estimated to be close to twenty thousand."

Redding waited until the man took a seat then got back to his feet. "If this keeps up the Colonies will be forced to retaliate. Right now the two things stopping them are the suddenness of all this and the fact they are denying any involvement in the Saturn incident. That will last two, three days at the most, then they will hit back, they have no choice. Once that happens there will be no stopping this war."

"So what do you suggest Admiral?" Shiva asked.

"We attack Earth first."

"Wow," Jesse said.

"Is this a joke?" Karyana said at the same time.

"We will hit a number of military targets, keeping the casualties to a minimum. It should force the SAC to move resources back to Earth, which will break their advance, which will give Solingen the breathing space they require. Also," he looked at Diane and Juan. "You two will go and get evidence that links Midnight Sun to that chemical attack. Once we force the lull in the battle we have to maintain it. I don't care how you get it, just get it. Miss Mason, you will go with them. We'll need to get this out, and people trust your name."

"Understood," Juan said.

"I won't fake this," Caroline told him. "No matter how important it is."


"You can't seriously mean to attack Earth," Karyana said.

"Yes I can. There is no other option. We won't actually be attacking Earth, but into Earth space."

"You realize what this will do to your reputation," Caroline said.

"I know, but this is what we said we will do. The USSA, the SAC, they might come to hate us, but they were never that important." Redding paused and looked around the room. "We don't have much time and this is not up for debate," he looked at Karyana for a moment. "There are five targets we need to hit." He picked up a remote and above the table a representation of the Sol system formed.

"The first is just beyond Pluto, the Ring Observatory." A dashed red line formed around the system, similar to Pluto's orbit, but nearly ten thousand kilometers farther from the sun. "They are huge antenna arrays which, once completed, will form one of the most powerful sensor systems known to mankind. There are a number of military uses for this, including that it can be turned inwards and very few things that happen in system will be secret. The SAC exercises control over it. We will destroy the two control stations." Two flashing, red Xs appeared. Marking the position of the stations.

"Next, between Jupiter and Mars, part of Training Fleet Kendel. It is, in a way, a very advanced fleet, as expected in their training fleet. They have moved resources that were to guard Earth Space into this strike against the Colonies, leaving Kendel mostly on its own. They think it can do the job. We have to show them it can't."

"We cannot attack a training fleet," Karyana said, standing.

"We have to. On the other hand, I will have no one saying that we were killing young, inexperienced cadets. We will fight that battle to disable the ships and mecha. That will make it the hardest battle we will fight. Sit down Karyana," he said, sounding just a little tired.

She remained standing for a short time, then took her seat again.

"Next," Redding continued, "we will hit the SAC forces on Deimos. This will be another operation where we will have to be careful. I have no wish to drop that moon down onto Mars. The Ravagers will be handling this attack for the most part." I hope, he thought, but did not say. He had no idea if Grey would be able to raise her forces quickly enough.

The representative Grey had sent got to her feet. "I better leave now."

"Go, take this," he tossed her an EO pad. "Battle plans, the basics."

The woman nodded and shoved the EO pad into her pocket. "Good luck," she said, then left the room.

"Next, we will take out Darksyde, which alone should be enough to cause all kinds of upset in the SAC. "

"The last target is the Bahn/Zai orbital factory in L3. They are currently working on new designs so it is a good target.

"We will do all we can to keep casualties to a minimum." He looked around the table, no one said anything, though Karyana looked like she desperately wanted to. "This is how we are going to do this," Redding said, then he laid out his plans.

"Sure you want to leave me in charge of all this?" Jesse asked Redding as they walked towards the docking bay.

"No," Redding smiled, "but I have to be elsewhere if we are going to get this to work."

"I'll bring everyone back."

Redding wanted to tell him he wouldn't, but he said nothing. He had been that young once. "You'll have the hardest job, dealing with the Thoth group. Admiral Kendel is a crafty one, and he won't be handicapped like you."

"I got youth and looks, and personality," Jesse smiled broadly. "I think they will beat age and treachery every time."

"Good luck," Redding said as they came to the docking bay. Both their ships were there, waiting for them.

"You too."

They stood there for a moment, then Jesse snapped off a salute with a look on his face that was only a little cocky, then turned and ran towards his cutter.

Redding watched him go then turned towards the Starblade. Not too surprising, Karyana was waiting for him at the hatch.

"How can you order this?" she asked him.

"How can I not?" Redding said as he walked by her and entered his ship.

For a time she stood there, then, slowly, she turned and entered the ship.

Emiko stood by the John B., waiting for Tern. He came out of one of the corridors, surrounded by several young women, his new flight crew. People were calling them his harem. I'm not jealous, Emiko told herself as she watched them approach.

"Prep the ship," Tern told them as he broke away from the women and walked over to Emiko.

"I just wanted to see you before you left," Emiko told him.

"That makes two of us." Tern smiled, then leaned in and kissed her for a very long time.

When it was over Emiko was a little breathless. "Sugoi(wow)," she said softly.

"Be careful out there," Tern told her, taking on a serious tone that she could not remember ever hearing before.

"Shouldn't I be saying that?" Emiko asked him. "You're attacking Darksyde, by yourself."

"I'll have the John B.. Big old station, will never see me coming. We'll put a torp up its tailpipe an fly off. Simple as breathing."

"That's true," Emiko nodded, feeling a little better.

"I've got a good crew."

"So I noticed," Emiko said, her tone cooler than she had wanted it.

Tern smiled at her, then he kissed her again. "You need not worry about competition."

Emiko laughed. Feeling jealous now was so stupid of her. "I'll see you when I get back."

"I'll take you out to dinner. I know a little restaurant on Arcadia."

"We can't go to Arcadia."

"Emiko, 'can't go' is not in my vocabulary."

"I guess not," Emiko felt better. She went up on her toes and kissed him, and this time it was Tern who was left breathless.

Lilith walked beside Commander Collins, waiting until they were close to the shuttle bay. She came to a stop, Dawn continued for a few steps before she realized that Lilith was no longer moving forward.

She turned and looked back, "Captain?"

"How do you feel about attacking Earth?" Lilith asked her.

Dawn did not answer.

"You can sty behind if you want, all of your crew, even the Perth."

"You'll need it though," Dawn said, a little thrown by what Lilith had just said.

"Perhaps, but only if you are a hundred percent. If you, or any of your crew is feeling any doubts, it is best that you do not come."

Dawn said nothing for a time, then looked at Lilith. "We, my crew and I, we knew what we would be getting into. We always knew that this was possible, but we accepted it. You will have one hundred percent from us, you'll have more!"

Lilith nodded, a slight smile on her face. "I'm glad to hear it. Let's go."

"Watch out for yourself," Dom told Epiphany.

"You too," Epiphany said. She smiled, but there was something sad in it.

He said nothing for a time. "I guess I'll see you after this is all over."

Epiphany nodded. He was trying so hard to keep everything under control, but his agitation showed. After a moment he turned and walked away.

Epiphany sighed and shook her head.

"What is his problem," Ree said from a shadowy area of the cargo bay.

"Ree?" Epiphany turned around to face her.

Ree stepped out of the shadow, the dark blue of her skin suit had helped hide her. "I was looking for you, and when I saw the perfect set up for a clandestine assignation I decided to spy."

"Clandestine assignation?"

"I bought a thesaurus."

"Are those native to Telluria?"

"Could be, but that's neither here nor there. What I would like to talk about is Mr. Gentry. That man wanted to kiss you, at least."

"I know," Epiphany said softly.

"I can't believe he is getting hung up on such a little thing," Ree shook her head, then looked over at Epiphany. "No offense."

"None taken."

"Drop him. I'll have sex with you."

"And that would put me into a group of select individuals wouldn't it," Epiphany said cattily, though she smiled to take any sting from it.

"You spend a lousy year working in a brothel and everyone thinks your a prostitute or something," Ree shook her head.

"Actually, I wasn't counting that year."

"Ouch. Is this pick on Ree day or something?"

"As if you didn't deserve it."

"The beautiful are always subject to such petty jealousy from the unwashed masses," Ree said theatrically, bending backwards slightly and placing the back of her hand on her forehead.

"How is it so many people like you?" Epiphany asked.

"I'm only a bitch to my friends," Ree straightened. "Now come along. Jesse put me in charge of the mech side of this battle and you're my second in command so I need you to come up with a battle plan." She walked over to Epiphany.

"How about fly fast, shoot anything that moves, as long as its IFF is unfriendly." Epiphany fell in beside Ree as they walked from the cargo bay.

"Sounds overly complex."

"Forget about the IFF signal, if they can't get out of the way they deserved to be shot anyway?"

"That I could live with."

"Sure, and you'll probably take full credit for it."

"Only if it works."

Normally getting to the Tellurian spinner was no big deal, but that was before the USSA declared a full scale war in the Cluster. As it was Diane, Juan, Caroline and Conaly had had to used a cloaked cutter and other slick methods. Still, they got there, and with the two Marshals, no one bothered them.

"How long till the meeting?" Diane asked, taking a drink of her tea.

"Three hours," Juan told her. "Mr. Taplin is a busy man."

"I guess illegally making chemical weapons is a full time job."

"When the time comes, let me do the talking, you just sit there and look pretty."

"How about I 'pretty' you."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Juan asked, a little puzzled. "Is it a threat of physical violence or are you planning on taking me to a beauty parlour?"

"What do you think," Diane smiled at him with all the warmth of a shark.

"I'm glad my medical insurance is paid up."

"You two are good at this," Conaly said, not looking up from his news sheet. "One would think that you are in love."

"We are not in love," Diane said calmly. "We just fight like we are."

"All the problems, none of the benefits of a relationship," Juan said. "Terribly dysfunctional of us."

"Where are they now?" Diane asked.

"Well," Juan looked at his watch. "Probably just arriving. It will be a few hours before it all starts."

"Think it will be all right?"

"I suspect it will."

"I'd rather know."

"How are we going to get Mr. Taplin to cooperate?" Conaly put his news sheet aside.

"We could get heavy on him," Diane suggested.

"That won't look good in a story," Caroline said, engrossed in some bit of story editing.

"Appeal to his morals," Diane said.

"Taplin is a successful businessman, he doesn't have any," Juan told her.

"You're a successful businessman," Diane pointed out.

"Factors are often a special case, but in my case, I have no morals."

"Then what are you doing here?" Conaly asked.

"Scoring points with Marshal Vichy."

"At least he is honest about it," Diane said.

"Hit him where he lives," Caroline looked up from her Newsbox. "Make it a matter of money."

"I can do that," Juan said. "Of course I'm also going to appeal to his sense of self preservation."

"Sounds like you had a plan all along," Diane said.

"I lack morals, not brains."

With a large number of ships being sent to the cluster of the assault, Training Fleet Kendel's responsibilities had increased. Now they were part of the system's defence, as well as training the new recruits.

Admiral Kendel had accepted that though. His fleet was the largest in the SAC, three carriers, fifteen cruisers and a number of smaller ships. Of course his carriers were all 'Tiger' Class, built a year before the USSA was given the shunt drive. The Tigers were very well armed, though not quite as agile at the new Legend class carriers.

The fleet was broken into three training groups, each based around a carrier. It allowed them to patrol a greater area and the groups could go up against each other in war games.

Kendel was commanding the group patrolling an area of space between Jupiter and Mars. The other two groups were patrolling the space around Earth and Mars. That was where he thought an attack, if one would come, would be directed. He was not completely complacent though and had spread the ships of his group out as well as having the fighters and interceptors flying picket duties.

It was a good set up, but it did not help him when the three ships dropped their cloaks and attacked him.

The carrier-the Thoth--was the lynch pin, as it were, Jesse knew that. Once it was out of the battle the rest of it would be easy. Of course they had to cripple it, not destroy it. That made things a bit more of a challenge.

In the end the plan had been simple enough. The two Ruby cruisers would drop their cloaks as they approached the carrier from its stern. They would then fire on the port and starboard engine sections as each ship passed on either side. The Perth would come in from the bow, flying right along the carrier's length, its ultimate target the carrier's communication antennas.

After that, well, after that things could not be planned out.

The Despair opened fire on the carrier, the ship's cloak dropping. The three cannons ripped into the starboard engine section, tearing through armour and engine alike. As she moved beside the carrier the Despair was limited to its dorsal and port guns, but that was enough to finish the job. The Starboard gun was spun about to fire on one of the cruisers.

Dom's ship, the 'Blood' came out of cloak on the Thoth's port side, holding its position behind it as the ship fired into the carriers port engine block. It gave the Blood a good position to fire from, and the engine was soon destroyed, but it also made it an easy target.

Even as She was pulling away, the first part of her job done, the Blood came under fire. Fortunately none of the hits it took were particularly solid and it moved clear of the area.

Dawn brought the Perth in as had been planned, skimming the top of the carrier, firing on it. It was a dangerous move, she was basically flying her ship directly into the fire of the two Ruby Cruisers. If anyone made a mistake the Perth might very well be destroyed by friendly fire.

That did not happen though and the Perth passed over the carrier's stern, heeling over, moving off quickly and getting ready for the new part of the battle.

Tern had shunted the John B. in close to the moon, well within the fields of the Probability Anchors. All thanks to Nebula Works super shunt. Then he had waited, watching as the time of the attack approached.

With twenty minutes left before the time came Tern fired up the John B.'s engines and began moving towards Darksyde. He wondered where Redding had gotten the co-ordinates for the elusive station. The man had a lot of friends it seemed, friends who were willing to betray their own side. Well, that was not to hard to believe, Tern was doing it himself.

"Moving around the dark side," Haley Jen said.

"Good. Weapons?"

"Ready to go," Veronica Vale told him.


"All in the green," Susan Trine said.

"How about you?" he looked over at his co-pilot.

"Looking forward to it," Rinzi Fale smiled and gave him a thumbs up.

"Hold tight then," he said. "Time to fly."

Grey had needed to pull a lot of strings, call in some favours, in order to get a team together for the attack on Deimos. Black Flag and a smaller clan called the 'Green Dragons' would be hitting the station, more or less at the time Redding had wanted. Grey would have liked to be there, but the time constraints made it impossible. It was going to be a good fight.

"Grey," one of her lieutenants called. "he's here, he wants it."

"His choice," Grey said as she shut down the electronics on her desk then she got to her feet. "How's he look?"

"Strung out."

"Figures," she shook her head and pulled on her jacket.

Stepping out of the subway car that was her office she saw the station was full. A lot of people there, wanting to see what happened.

"So Gerard, hear you want to talk to me," she called out to the tall man standing at the far side of the station.

"I don't like the way you're leading us," he told her, his booming voice echoing off the tunnel walls.

"And you think you could do it better?"

"I could."

"Why? Because you sucked up to the Gaians, offered them the Ravagers up on a plate if they would give you all you wanted? You are an idiot."

"A transparent lie," he said, his voice calm.

"Gerard, I don't lie. My ghosts saw you."

A moment of doubt flashed on his face, but it was gone instantly. "If you have such evidence why don't you show it?"

"That would be too easy. You have a challenge I take it? Make it."

"I challenge you for the leadership of the clan."

"Fine. Knives or guns, I'll give you your choice."

"Knives," he said.

"Okay," she said, not moving. "Let's do it."

Gerard pulled a knife from a sheath in side his jacket. It was actually more of a short sword than a knife. He let out a war cry of some sort and charged across the floor. He was halfway to Grey when she pulled a pistol from her jacket and fired three shots around his feet. Gerard skidded to a stop and fell over.

"I gave you 'your choice', I didn't say it would be my choice." She smiled and squeezed the trigger ever so gently, activating the laser sight. She played the dot up his chest, then flashed it into his eyes, making him blink. "You're too stupid to be the leader. Goodbye." She held the pistol for a moment longer, then released the trigger and tossed it to one of her men. "Just joking."

Gerard stared at her from a few seconds, then screamed as he surged to his feet. He ran across the floor, knife extended. Grey stood there, waiting, not moving until suddenly, she seemed to explode into motion. Her left hand blocked the attack, forcing Gerard's attack up. From a wrist sheath on her right arm a knife popped out into her waiting hand. She twisted in close and drove the Spawnblade up through his ribs and into his heart.

Gerard stood there for a moment, looking down at her, looking at the knife sticking out of his ribs. He had felt incredible pain when the memory metal in the blade had 'fanned out'.

"And they say the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach," Grey said.

Gerard collapsed to his knees, then fell face first onto the ground.

"Anyone else have any problems with my management style?" Grey asked the assembled members of her clan.

The crowd began to disperse, none of them willing to risk catching the attention of their leader at that moment.

One of her lieutenants handed her back her pistol. Another was working the Spawnblade from Gerard's chest.

"Find out who in the USSA put him up to his," Grey said. "Then kill her, him, or them. I don't have time for this stupidity." She turned around and walked back into the subway car.

Try not to kill any of them. That had been the gist of Ree's orders. Oh, she had provided schematics of the SAC suits, pointed out possible weak points, and had also told them that blowing off a leg or two was a good way to go, but not much other than that.

Emiko would have preferred a more thought out battle plan, even if it would have fallen apart once combat had started. It would have made her feel much better.

The Arrows, mixed with the new fighters, which looked like the Arrows, had made initial attacks on the cruisers, and had done some dog fighting with the SAC Cavaliers. After they had caused trouble all over the place, introducing the SAC to the transforming abilities of the Arrow.

Emiko followed closely after Ree, watching as she fired on the suits, shifting the Arrow between its forms to maximise its combat effectiveness. A Galliard's thruster pack was blown off, both of a Zephyr's legs, then Ree peppered the torso section of a Manticore. Emiko had noticed that while she told everyone else to aim for suit extremities, she herself had no problem with firing into the suits. Of course none of her targets ever exploded.

Carly brought her Zephyr through a hail of fire, twisting it around so she could fire on one of the enemy suits. The damn thin--it had the lines of an interceptor--put up its shield, and fired back. At first the plasma cannons had been a surprise to Carly. Who was using suit based, energy weapons? The plasma burnt some shallow gouges in her suit's armour, but did no real damage.

She fired another burst at the other suit to keep it busy, then drew her Zephyr's knife-she had returned it to the suit's weapons--and flung it at her target. The other suit produced a steel whip from its arm housing and sent her knife spinning off into space.

"I don't believe this," Carly said as she spun her suit feet over head and fired at an opening she had spotted. The other suit shook slightly as it took the hits, but it did not look too badly damaged.

Before they could continue the space between them was filled with the spill off from another battle and Carly lost sight of her opponent.

She dodged around one of the big enemy suits, avoiding an axe slash, then went off to see how everything was going.

When the battle had first started she had been worried that many of the students were going to be killed. It had soon become apparent that the enemy was going out of its way to keep casualties to a minimum. What really annoyed Carly was even with such a huge, self induced, handicap they were still winning.

Something caught her attention. A suit, one of those impossible ones that could become a fighter, was spiralling in on a Manticore, firing at it, chipping away at its armour as it came in, avoiding the return fire. The new suit was dark blue, with silver highlights. Carly knew who the pilot had to be.

She set her communications for a tight beam and sped towards the other suit. "I'll have you this time."

Ree should have been surprised by the familiar voice and its threat, and perhaps she was, just a little, but it hardly showed. She cut away from the Manticore so fast that the pilot had no idea what had just happened. "Emi-chan, take care of my former playmate," she ordered, leaving Emiko behind.

She had already found the source of the transmission, the familiar Zephyr speeding towards her.

"Aren't you getting tired of this?" Ree asked, avoiding the Zephyr's fire.

"This will end it," Carly said.

"Not yet."

The Zephyr came in fast, and much like Ree expected, it led with the sword, flipping around and attacking in a way that would have been very bad had she been in the Manticore. She was not though.

She twisted her Arrow around the Zephyr's attack and reached out, capturing the suit's wrist with her heat hand. She began to squeeze.

Carly was not entirely sure what had just happened. The other suit had moved so fast she cold almost believe that it had teleported. Now it had a grip on her suit's sword arm and damage indicators were beginning to light up.

She punched out with her other hand, at the same time firing her thrusters. She did not have the position or leverage to do any damage to the other suit, but she did break its hold. Free, she flew away from it, and fired both her swarm missiles racks at it.

The cloud of missiles rocketed towards the other suit, and she was sure that she had her. And then, impossibly so, the other suit avoided most of the missiles, they seemed to fall away from it, and the few that got close were taken out by some sort of anti-missile system.

Ree came through the cloud of missiles unscathed. She smiled, the Arrow's plasma weapons snapping up into its hands. She went after the Zephyr, firing rapidly.

When Ree suddenly left her Emiko had to deal with a Manticore on her own. It was not that hard though, she knew how they moved and Ree had already hurt it. After one pass the Manticore was missing one of its legs and the shoulder mount for the cannon had been blown off. Emiko thought that was enough. She left the damaged suit behind, looking for some place where she might be of more help.

The battle was close to being over. The Despair, the Blood and the Perth were moving into an escape pattern. Most of the suits were now involved in covering their ships while they got ready to run. A number had held back too keep as many of the SAC suits busy as possible and help any damaged suits get back home.

Emiko was flying around the battle sight in fighter form, helping where she could. She spotted three Galliards chasing after a slightly battered Draken Mark 2. Emiko swung her Arrow around, coming in behind the ODF suits. A long burst took the legs off one of the Galliards, leaving it spinning in space. She shifted the Arrow into suit form, putting herself on course with another Galliard. The Mark 2 would be able to deal with the remaining Galliard easily enough.

She hit the suit as she planned, though the pilot almost managed to slip out of her grasp. She grabbed it from behind, pinning one arm. She had hoped to lash out with the heat hand, ripping through the thruster vane. She would have, but for the fact her skin to skin com was on, and so was the com in the other suit.

"Shine!(Die)" she heard the other pilot yelling as she tried to lash around with the free arm, attempting to hit the Arrow. It was a voice that, impossibly, Emiko recognised.

"Yuki-san?" Emiko said, unable to keep the surprise out of her tone.

"Emiko-san?" Yuki said, her suit stopped flailing around.

"Hisashiburi desu ne(it's been a while)," Emiko said. "Kore wa bikkurishimasu(this is surprising)."

For a moment Yuki was quiet, then, "Hisashiburi ja nai wa yo!(Don't give me that)" she yelled, firing her suit's thrusters and breaking free of Emiko's hold. She thrusted away and then spun her suit on Emiko. "Anata wa muhonnin!(you're a traitor)" She opened up on Emiko with her suit's rifle.

"Sonna wa uso!(That's a lie)" Emiko yelled, dodging around Yuki's fire.

"Muhonnin!" She fired the remaining missiles in her suit.

"Urusai!(shut up)" Emiko yelled as she fired off her counter missiles and the Arrows laser pod. She knew that the suit's computer was taking care of jamming any missiles she was missing.

"Emiko wa hitona taipu ga watashitachi wa daikirai(Emiko is the kind of person we all hate)," Yuki said as she rocketed towards Emiko's suit, her rifle's bayonet extended.

"Urusai," Emiko shouted again, bringing both her plasma guns up. Her body was running through all the necessary manoeuvres but her mind was elsewhere. She was thinking of all the times Yuki had told her that she would fail, the attempts at bullying, the times Yuki had called her a slacker. She suddenly realised that she did not like Yuki very much. She probably should have stood up to her a long time ago.

As she was avoiding Yuki's fire, targeting the Galliard's torso section, she also realised that killing her was overacting in a very large way.

She spun about the bayonet attack that Yuki launched and opened fire on the back of the Galliard, destroying the thruster vanes, following that by taking the left leg off.

That was all she did, she spun her Arrow about, shifted it into fighter form, and left Yuki behind.

"Okubyoumono yo!(Coward)" Yuki called after her.

"Baka onna," Emiko said softly. Yuki never heard her though, Emiko had shut off her com.

Ree had to admit that her self appointed nemesis had become better since their last meeting. And she was willing to play a lot harder. She had tried to put Ree's back up against the fire from one of the ships, tried to set her up to be attacked by other suits. Ree had avoided the little traps easily enough. The Arrow was more than flexible enough to deal with all of that. It was rather fun.

Her Arrow had taken a few hits though. Her port arm shield was nothing more than a tangled mess of armour, and there were a few deep gouges in the suit's armour. All of it was relatively minor so Ree was not worried.

The Zephyr she faced was in pretty good condition, but that was only because Ree did not want to finish it quite yet.

Then her com sounded. "All units, fall back to the ships, repeat, fall back to ships." The voice of one of the flight controllers said.

Play times over, Ree thought.

Carly had thought that she had finally managed to get a one up on the other pilot. Miss Kareen Maxil. She had hit her several times and had not taken a major hit herself. That woman and her damn suit, as amazing as it was, were quite good, but not good enough. Not anymore.

She had been chasing after that suit, keeping on its tail, setting up a killing shot, when suddenly it disappeared. It took her a moment to realise that the other suit had stopped so suddenly that she had in fact over shot it.

"Impossible," Carly said, trying to bring her suit about.

She never got the chance.

A hail of plasma fire hit her from behind, taking her suit's legs, and then arms off. Everything went down, leaving her dead in space. "Impossible," she said again, trying to convince herself that what had just happened had not happened. That she had not just been ripped apart, then left alive, all for the enjoyment of a woman who was, maddeningly, the best pilot Carly had ever seen. It was simply impossible. Yet it had just happened.

John Taplin was a busy man, but Juan Varris was a well know Factor, one with a reputation for making money. He had made the time to see him. He had not expected Juan to bring an entourage with him.

They were an odd group. A tall, older man who moved like a predator. Two women, both looked familiar, one of them had a mini-cam clipped to her jacket over her shoulder.

"Mr. Varris, what is this about?"

"The events that occurred on Deon," Juan told him, taking a seat without being invited. Caroline took the other seat. Diane moved around the desk, leaning over it slightly. Conaly took a post by the door.

"I think you better leave," John said.

"This is not official," Diane said, holding her badge out. "It could become so."

John stared at the badge, then up at the woman. He knew who she was now. "What is this about?" He kept his tone calm.

"Something was stolen from your instillation on Deon. We would like to know what it was," Juan told him.

"How do you know something was stolen?" His tone was calm and controlled.

Juan took an EO pad from his pocket and handed it over to John. "Does this look familiar."

John took the pad and looked it over. It contained a chemical formula as well as some notes about the chemical's properties. He maintained his calm and looked back at Juan. "How is this significant?"

"That agent was released throughout the Saturn ring city Brigit. Everyone died. The USSA has thrown itself into this war full force for revenge. Have anything to say?"

"No." He could not keep the tremor out of his voice.

"Mr. Taplin, we will find out the truth, it will just take us some time. In the end Miss Mason will present a story about it that will start off with you denying what happened. That never looks good. Bad for business."

"I can't help you Mr. Varris."

"Damn it," Juan said, but with no real anger in his voice. "A lot of people are going to die in the next little while, which will make the Midnight Sun happy, the same Midnight Sun that attacked your instillation on Deon. Do you want to help the Midnight Sun? Do you want to be a known collaborator with terrorists?"

"No!" John shook his head. "This could ruin me." His voice had become strained.

"Or it might save you," Caroline said, taking over. "Tell me your story."

John looked at her for several moments, then he seemed to collapse on himself. "What do you want to know?" he asked her.

Caroline took a moment to make sure her mini-cam and her opti-cams were working well, then she began. "That EO pad holds the results of an SAC NBCD team's analysis of the agent that killed every person aboard the Saturn city Brigit. Do you recognise it?"



"It was a blood agent developed by Taplin Chemicals."

"I see. Did you sell it?"

"No!" John snapped. "It was stolen from a secure vault from our Deon instillation. It was stolen by the Midnight Sun."

"Why did you make such an agent? Does Taplin Chemical deal with bio/chem weapons?"

"No, not really." He shook his head. "We produce a small amount in case the ODF ever makes a request for such a weapons." He was quiet for a moment. "Solingen GmbH asked that we do that. We also produce the weapons to test the defence measures we build.

"We have a small team working to produce the best stuff they can, then another team comes up with a way to stop it. We sell the defences."

"You said Solingen asked you to produce the chemical weapons. Will you provide proof of that?"

"I don't have proof. It was off the record, and we really did not need them to ask us to do so, we still needed to test defences."

"How do you know that the Midnight Sun stole that chemical? How long did it take you to know?"

"After the attack at Deon it took nearly two weeks to clean up the mess the Midnight Sun left. It is kind of funny," he shook his head. "a lot of the techniques we came up with working with the weapons we produced helped us get it cleaned up safely. Then we had to look through the vault to find out what was missing."

"How did you do that?"

"What the Midnight Sun did not know, or maybe they knew and did not care, is that we mark each container with a chemical tag. It took another two weeks to go through the remains and find out what was missing."

"And once you knew what was gone, what did you do?"

"Nothing. We didn't come clean, if that is what you mean. We, I, hired some people to try to retrieve the Agent. A number of those operatives are still looking, I guess I should call them off now. Others have died."

Caroline nodded, she had all she needed. "Will you give me the data to back all this up?"


Caroline looked at Juan. He nodded.

"Thank you Mr. Taplin."

He said nothing.

Tern had not quite expected the security around Darksyde to be as tough as it was. Kind of stupid of him he admitted to himself, but somehow he had felt that there was nothing out there that the Sloop John B. could not handle.

A web of drones surrounded the station, each of them projecting a low powered laser--light trip wires. There was no way to get around them, so Tern simply flew through it, setting off the alarms. It was then that things got rough.

Tern was up to it though. The John B. was like a living thing under his hands. He avoided the suits that came after him, the few that found him, throwing his craft through manoeuvres that denied the pursuing ships a chance to lock onto him.

Veronica sat at her station, the linked dorsal and ventral turrets-a new feature the Alincourts had added-tracking all the incoming threats and firing on them.

Susan jammed the missiles, jammed the sensors and tried to crack the ECM field that Darksyde was generating.

Haley called out ranges, warned of incoming threats and kept an eye out for log range dangers.

Rinzi watched for Darksyde's navigation lights. They were set to only one frequency, easily lost in even the tiny amount of background light behind the moon. They knew the frequency though and all they needed was the time to find those lights.

Tern spun the John B. around, passing between two suits. He saw them explode behind him, caught by Veronica's shooting. The fishbowl that had been put into his ship was only one of the modifications that the Alincourts, primarily Josephine, had made to his ship. Most, well, all, had been made when he was not around. They had thought he would not let them touch his ship, which was of course right.

While the improvements were obvious, he was a little worried about potential problems. The ship had been built to some very tight specifications. He still was not entirely sure what Josie had done.

Bad time to be thinking about that, he decided, slipping out of a tail and reversing it, giving Veronica a clear shot at the fighter.

"Got them," Rinzi called out. "Sixty degrees port, twenty degrees dorsal."

"Right," Tern swung the ship about, setting in on the course. The computer picked up the faint, navigation lights and then put a computer generated model of the station on screen.

"Rinzi, take over the guns, Veronica, get the torps ready."

"Aye aye," Rinzi said, patching the gun controls into her station.

The John B. leapt forward, its engines flaring bright in space. Darksyde loomed larger in the screens as the ship closed. Huge guns on the station began to fire, but they were not able to get a lock on the ship.

"Susan, do something about their jamming, I can't get the torpedo to lock on," Veronica called out.

"I'm trying," Susan said between clenched teeth.

Tern watched as they got closer. A cloud of tiny lights appeared, heading towards him. Small missiles, probably set up for a saturation effect, but they could be visually tracking. He'd have to hope that Susan could deal with them.

"Got a lock," Veronica said. "Torpedo away. Let's get out of here, it's Miller(tm) time."

"What?" Tern said as he pulled out of the collision course.

"It's over, we can get a beer," Veronica told him.


"Hold off on those beers," Haley said.


"Some sort of anti-missile system, looks like low powered lasers, blew up the torpedo."

"Damn. What about those missiles they launched?" Tern asked Susan as he avoided the fire from another suit.

"Didn't follow us."

"How low powered were those lasers?"

"I don't know. About as powerful as the plasma rifle on the Mark 2s."

"Hold on, we're going in again."

"Going to get in close?" Veronica asked.

"Real close."

"We'll take hits," Rinzi said, firing at the same time.

"We'll probably be all right. The armour is pretty good. Hold on."

The John B. swung around and lined up with Darksyde.

"How close do you plan to get?" Veronica asked.

"Inside of it."


Tern smiled. "We blast in through the docking doors, fire the torps, spin about, and run like hell."

"Oh my," Haley said.

"We'll be fine," Tern told them. "Hold on tight. Rinzi, keep those guns pointed at those doors and keep firing. This is going to be a little rough."

Tern was not exaggerating. As he had thought, the station opened up on the incoming ship with the myriad of lasers that covered its surface. Tern began spinning the John B. about, making sure no single surface was presented towards the lasers for more then a moment.

With the John B. tumbling through space Rinzi had a very hard time keeping the guns on target, but with the computer's help she managed it, if barely.

Alarms began to sound, the lasers beginning to do damage, finding all the tiny little gaps that the stealth coating necessitated. Tern was not worried though, the John B. would be hurt after this, but it would survive.

Then a power surge blew a number of the screens that made up the fishbowl that enclosed the bridge and its occupants.

As the tiny shards of high impact, scratch proof plastic ripped through the bridge and the crew Tern was struck by the thought that a mistake had been made somewhere, a power conduit not properly grounded. Then pain exploded in him.

Screams, the acrid scent of burnt electronics and blood filled the bridge. Tern knew that his own screams were part of them, as was his blood. He forced it all down, his ship was flying out of control and he would not allow that. Somewhere he found the strength, he turned his attention back to the controls, putting the John B. back under his hand. The ship performed flawlessly. I love this wonderful girl, Tern thought.

"We still have a mission people!" Tern screamed out, keeping on the course he had set. He was not going to let that big, ugly station win.

"Torpedoes are ready," he heard Veronica sob.

Rinzi did not say anything, but the guns still continued to fire so that was fine.

Tern watched as the docking doors began to fill the remaining screens, a patchwork view of what was happening outside. It was enough. The doors were looking ratty, the guns had ripped apart the outer armour and the inner doors were starting to go.

The John B. hit the doors, the strengthened hull cut through them. There were a number of small breeches in the ship's hull, but Tern knew they would be sealed. He slowed his ship rapidly. There was a bulkhead in front of him and he did not think he would go through that one.

"Firing all torpedoes," Veronica cried out.

Tern spun the John B. around and flew out the way he had come. Behind him the torpedoes began to explode, the powerful warheads tore Darksyde's docking section apart, the rest of the station would soon follow.

"How long till we can shunt?" Tern called out. He looked over his shoulder at Haley. She was holding a bloody mess that had been her lower left arm not so long before, staring at it in horror. "How long till we can shunt Haley!"

"My arm," she cried softly.

"Can be fixed. How long!"

Haley looked over at the controls, it took her a moment to find what she needed. "Fully charged, we can go anytime."

"Good," Tern said softly as he pushed the ship's speed to the maximum, leaving the remains of Darksyde and any pursuit far behind. He was beginning to feel light headed and the far off pain was getting closer. All he had to do was get the John B. back to the Shoal, then he could rest. Until then he had to deal with all the pain. He had to get his ship back home.

His hands passed over the controls, leaving blood in their wake.

Jesse occupied the small room on board the Despair that he had claimed as his command post. The operation had gone over very well. While reports concerning Deimos and Darksyde were still sketchy he was fairly certain that both operations had gone off well.

It had all gone much like Redding had planned. Now all they had to do was wait and see if the rest of it followed suit.

<Jesse,> Lilith sent. <We're getting ready to shunt out of here.>

<Any problems?>

<None. We should be home soon.>

<Good work Captain.>

Battlefleet Naguma had avoided the war for a long time, all things considered. That was changing, its mission ending. They would move back to the Sol system before being sent out into the war. It was hoped that the sensor operators, the best in the SAC, might be able to find a way to detect the cloaked ships of the ODF.

Boris Naguma had seen a lot of odd things over the past few days, with his new orders and a large number of transfer orders that would remove some of his crew and give him new people. There were a lot of goodbyes to say. Then there was today's visitor. Captain Redding Frost, both a renegade and an old friend of Boris'.

"Interesting story, well put together," Boris said, tapping his finger on the display pad Redding had given him.

"The reporter who put it together spent a lot of time bemoaning the fact it was so rushed," Redding told him.

"I didn't notice."

"It needs to get out."

"I know. Why me?"

"We're friends, you've got the equipment and the know how in your fleet to get this out. You're going back to Earth soon. You are the only one."

"This is basically treason."

"Do you want the Midnight Sun to win?"

"That's not particularly fair Redding."

"True, but that's the way it is."

"I'll do it, because you are right, and it is right, and I don't like the way things are going."

"It will cause you trouble."

"Now you mention that?" Boris laughed. "I'll plant it in my computers, make it look like it was hidden there. I'll just look stupid and not treasonous. Don't worry about me."

"Thank you Boris."

"You better go now. I'll be leaving soon."

Redding got to his feet. "When this is all over, I'll buy you a drink."

"I'll hold you to that."

The Sloop John B. had shunted in extremely close to the Starblade Shoal. As soon as it entered the system it began to transmit a distress signal. Several Alincourt drones had quickly reached in and began to tow it towards the Shoal. Half way there a rescue ship met up with the group and boarded the John B.

When the med team opened the door to the bridge, globules of blood floated out into the corridor.

They moved in, pushing through the mess, moving to check the crew.

Josephine Alincourt moved quickly to Tern, remembering when he had told her that she did not understand his ship. They had fought over it for a long time, she had finally gone up the chain of command to get her way. She had felt a little bad about that.

When she got to Tern's side she turned away. Most of his abdomen had been ripped open by the shards that had exploded up from beneath him. She turned back towards him, laying her fingers against his neck. No pulse. His skin was so pale, and cool.

One of the med techs moved up to them and looked Tern over. He then looked up at Josie and shook his head.

Josie nodded and turned away from the body. How was she going to tell everyone?

Ending Credits--As before.

Yuki Shizoku (Cadet Mekton Pilot)

Description: 160cm, 59kg, 17 years old, medium length black hair, currently worn in a severe bun, brown eyes. Quote: "We have to defend Earth from the enemy and traitors."

Notes: While still a Cadet, Yuki is a driven young woman and that had allowed her to make great strides in a short time. She tries to be professional, or at least what she thinks professional is, but she is a young woman, far from everything she knew. She shows the signs of being a very good pilot.

Her one real weakness is her dislike, recently grown to hatred, of Emiko Miya. It may very well get her in trouble in the future.

Important Stats and Skills: INT 7, REF 7, Mekton Piloting 4, Mecha Gunnery 3, Mecha Fighting 5, Awareness 6, Datalink.

Ravager Clan - The Green Dragons

The Green Dragons are a small clan, not very well known, composed mostly of Asian members. They began as a Tong group formed in the early part of the 21st century, and have never moved to far from their beginnings. Before the war began they dealt in a number of soft drugs and smuggling operations. They moved out into space early and currently have a formidable presence in the Belt.

Realising the danger the USSA might present, they Joined with Grey and the other Clans. The Green Dragons just want things to change as little as possible when the war is over and they feel the Battalion offers the greatest chance of that.

Music Notes

Several people sent me suggestions for a song for the opening credits.

Keko suggested 'We Got The Right' by Helloween.

Michael Gilson suggested War Pigs by Black Sabbath, Eve of Destruction by Barry Mcquire, Bad Moon Rising and Who'll Stop the Rain both by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Danger Zone by Air supply. I really like Danger Zone but feel after Top Gun it would be a bit cliche. He also suggested 'Bullet Hits the Bone' as BGM for the battle of Deon. He also gave me a suggestion for the mecha recovery system for the Ruby Cruisers which I think I will use.

Angel provided me with the words for Serenade, so here they are, since I'm using the opening title. By the way, he wrote this a few weeks before I made the request. I think it is kind of interesting seeing the different visions of the story my readers are having. Nice to know the story has depth.


And I relate to my best friend, she would advise me
she broke our code and she put on her jacket
now it scares me because she's really gone

And I related to my best friend, do you remember?
she was so young and now that we're burning
they're scared because she's really gone

Bridge: And if it's going to be my destiny
I don't want to wait till it comes to me
I will work so hard my hands will hurt
I will pay my sins, if so in hell

Chorus: Serenade, serenade me
they say I'm dry but I'm just sick
serenade me,
they say I'm cold but I'm just sick
serenade me

And I relate to my best friend, she would advise me
she broke our code and she put on her jacket
now it scares me because she's really gone

Bridge: And if it's going to be my destiny
I don't want to wait till it comes to me
I will work so hard my hands will hurt
I will pay my sins, if so in hell

Chorus: Serenade, serenade me
they say and dry but I'm just sick
serenade me
they say I'm cold but I'm just sick
serenade me

(brief instrumental)

Bridge: And if it's going to be my destiny
I don't want to wait till it comes to me
I will work so hard my hands will hurt
I will pay my sins, if so in hell

(Slowly and without music): Serenade, serenade me
they say and dry but I'm just sick...


Chorus: they say I'm cold but I'm just sick
serenade me
Serenade me t
hey say and dry but I'm just sick
serenade me

Wow. Thirty Episodes. It's almost like a real anime series, but for the fact it is written instead of drawn, and in English. Well, not so much like a real anime series.

Now, I'd like to announce the last ten or so episodes will only be available to those who send money to....

No, I'm just joking. The rest will be posted as the previous episodes have. I couldn't take it when no one was interested in reading the last episodes.

I figure we have about ten more episodes to go.

"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <hagen@brant.net>

On to Chapter 31