A Story of the Starblade Battalion

"What's more important, the spirit or the word of an oath?"

Episode 31 (2180.10.19)
by Shawn Hagen (1998)


Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.

Opening Titles - As Before
Guest Credit Writer - Angel Herreros

Reporters filled the room, shoulder to shoulder, each of them sweating from the amassed body heat. The air conditioners were working hard, but could not quite deal with the warmth. None of them said anything though, the event was too important for them to be complaining about such a minor things.

The events of the last week had been rather intense and each one more intense than the last. Most of them expected the wild ride was soon to be over. Admiral Dover had been reinstated as the SACs Commander in Chief. She was familiar to the reporters and they expected her to put everything into place and wrap things up nicely.

Joanna stepped up to the podium. She was wearing her dress whites, and all her medals. That was a little surprising, she usually did not go for that just for press conferences.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm sure you have a number of questions, but I do not plan to answer them. I am here to make a few statements and will take no questions. That is polite for, 'shut up and listen,'."

That quieted the reporters fairly quickly. It odd for her to be so abrupt, and she was never rude.

"Battlefleets Dejinski and Escher as well as battlegroup Gunderson have returned to the system where they will be handling security. Training Fleet Kendel will not longer be doing so. Commodore Ysall is retiring due to the poor way things worked out. I would like to stress that from this point on Sol space security will considered to be paramount.

"The people who have attacked us have been identified as the Starblade Battalion. From this point on that group is considered to be an enemy. We will not shift any of our resources to deal with them as we do not consider them to be an immediate threat. Anyone discovered aiding them will be tried for treason though."

"How can you say that?" one of the reporters called out.

"If not for them you wouldn't know of the Midnight Sun's involvement," another called out.

"Our war with the Cluster will continue," Joanna continued, not answering the questions. "We will not mount any sort of large offensive until we can be sure that we can protect Earth. As I am sure you can appreciate I can't give you a date when that will be.

"I would like to say that the politics behind this war have reached a point where I can no longer in good conscience be involved. As of this moment I am retiring from the SAC and going into private life. I have recommended that Commodore Kent Hardale be given the position. He is not a puppet and will work to ensure the SACs victory as well as the safety of the Sol system.

"I would like to thank you for the courtesy you have shown me over the past few years and wish you all luck in your future. Good bye." Joanna turned and walked off the stage.

The room exploded in questions, but the reporters got no answers. Still, all of them knew they had a very interesting story to tell.

Auden shifted the pile of papers and EO pads in front of her, making sure everything was in the order she wanted. She got to her feet and looked at the other people there. On a split screen at the far end of the room they were getting feeds from Admiral Romanov, Dr. Melan, as well as a few others who could not be at the meeting I person. Auden had felt it important enough to have them present, electronically, rather than just dealing with their representatives.

"We have a number of problems," she said. "Of course it is not all that bad. The aggressive campaign that has just ended could have proven to be a mistake, it is quite possible several planets may have been damaged in the fighting. While that is to our favour, the way in which it came about it a problem.

"People are beginning to call this the 'Midnight Sun's War', thanks to the efforts of the Starblade Battalion. This is annoying. We will need to stop that way of thinking, it is important to remind all concerned that the people of the Pleiades will destroy those planets unless brought under our benevolent control. We wage this war not to kill people, but to protect them, and the planets they live on. We will need to launch a full scale propaganda campaign. Mr. Greenspoon, that will be your task."

"I'll get right on it."

"Good. Admiral Shive, give me your assessment on the effects of this recent attack."

"The losses on the surface are fairly minor, though they will cause a number of other problems. The Ring observatory is out of action and its final completion date is now three months later. Our hopes of using the station to track all Ravager movements will be on hold for a time.

"The attack on the training fleet was more damaging to morale than anything else. Losses to life were incredibly low. Unfortunately the press managed to talk to a number of cadets before we could crack down on information so the fact that the attackers were going out of their way to minimise loss of life is well known. The cadets who talked are being harshly punished."

"Perhaps you should rethink that policy," Takako said, her voice soft, but carrying.

"Why?" Shive demanded.

"Because it will get out, and people will begin to talk of how the Starblade Battalion treated children with more kindness than the SAC is."

"That's ridiculous," Shive said. "They are not children and this is well within military protocols."

"And the Battalion would have been well within military protocol to kill those young men and women," Auden said. "Go easy on them Admiral. We cannot afford to lose the support of the population. Continue."

"Yes," Shive sounded a little put off. "The damage to Deimos is possibly the most expensive loss. This is the second time that a force of Ravagers have attacked us there. I request that something be done about it."

"A good point Admiral," Auden nodded. "Miss Rose, would you like to tell us why the Ravagers continue to be such an annoyance?"

"Because Miss Dominica, the Ravagers are very good at what they do. Yesterday eight of my people who were working in this were killed. In all likelihood it was a Ravager hit team. They do not appreciate it when we work against them. I am trying though."

"Try harder," Shive snapped.

"Clean up your own house first," Fionia said, looking directly into one of the cameras.

"We don't have time for this," Auden said. "What else Admiral?"

"Darksyde's destruction is a problem. We have loss our long range recognisance post as well as several prototypes and other equipment that was being tested there. This is another blow to morale as well.

"The Bhan/Zai factory was partially damaged in the attack and we still are not sure what was lost. They have not been very co-operative."

"Well Mr. Closen," Auden said, looking over at their Bhan/Zai representative.

"We are still working on getting a full damage report," he smiled. "I would like to say that our newest suits all survived, well enough. The development will not be slowed too greatly."

"Good," Auden said. "On that note, Admiral, how will this effect the training schedule of the new cadets?"

"It won't, not really. Those involved in the attack of course will lose a lot of training time, but then again, they have also received real combat experience. It will all balance out."

"Good. Now, perhaps you can tell me about Admiral Dover's recent actions."

"I had no idea that she was going to do that," Shive said.

"What do you plan to do?"

"What do you mean?"

"Will you be assigning Mr. Hardale as her successor?"

"We have no choice, not without opening ourselves up to some serious criticism. I would rather not put him in charge, he is a stubborn man."

"Is he competent?"

"Yes. He will perform the job admirably. He will not accept any political agenda though."

"We'll just have to work around that. Thank you Admiral Romanov." She got to her feet. "People, this does not really change our plans. Things get a little harder to deal with, but not impossible. We are still in a strong position, and we will win. We have to win. You all know what needs to be done. Do it."

"What do you mean I'm not to talk to the press?!" Yuki demanded.

"Miss Shizoku, you would do well to remember that you are a cadet. You are expected to treat your superior officers with some measure of respect. Do you understand me!" her commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Kimble snapped at her.

"Yes sir," Yuki said, pulling back slightly.

"You are not to tell anyone about what happened."

"Sir, may I ask why?" she made her tone very respectful.

"It all has to do with politics."

"Politics!?" Yuki was incredulous.

"Yes, politics. Don't be so surprised, part of the reason you have gone as far as you have are politics. The other part was natural talent, so don't look so upset. Now, you will say nothing of this to anyone. You are dismissed."

"Yes sir!" Yuki said, saluting. Then she turned and left.

She stood out in the hall of the ship, shaking slightly. I'll get you yet Emiko, she thought.

"Carly, you don't look well," Gairon Balemore said as Carly came out into the hallway.

"Gairon?" Carly looked over at him. "What are you doing here?"

"Working. Of course with the place shot up like it is, it is kind of tough to work."

"What? I thought Team Tsunami was set up on planet."

"It still is. I've been head hunted for some other work. Care to see it?"

"Of course, but I have work that I..."

"Not anymore. The transfer papers went through a few minutes ago."

"What? What transfer papers?"

"The ones that move you into the 'Kit Bashers'."

"Kit Bashers?"

"I'll explain later. Come on." He turned and started down the hall.

Carly stared after him for a moment then ran to catch up. She looked up at him as she fell in beside him. He had not changed much, his red hair was still a tangled mop, and his sun deprived skin as pale as ever.

"What's going on?"

"Later. So, did they pick your brains about those new suits?"

"Yes. Yes they did."

"Pull any in?"

"No. We got a few pieces, an arm, a broken plasma rifle. Nothing else."


"I don't know if I should tell you any of this."

"I've got the required security clearance."

"They are fast, tough, and they hit hard. The energy weapons seem to go forever, so they can spray as they please. There are a lot of little surprises, whips, battle axes, not at all conventional."

"What's the armour like?"

"Obscene. It takes a hell of a beating."

"So they are better than what we have?"

"Looks like it."

"Annoying. Wait, the section coming up is a bit of a mess still. They got it pressurised though, atmosphere is a bit thin still. Watch out for sharp edges."

"Oh my," Carly said as they came around a corner.

"Real mess isn't it?" He stepped over a fallen support beam. "They hit the place pretty hard, but I guess we were tougher than they expected."

"Bastards," Carly said.

"They certainly play hardball. Fortunately they did not destroy the place or we would have lost the 'Wyvern'."

"The Wyvern?"

"You'll see. First of all, ever heard of Tess Belin?"



"Yes. Why?"

"Tess worked for Team Buckaroo way back when, she was their secret weapon, not that they let that get out."


"She could figure things out, watch that wire, it's live."

"Thanks," Carly said, avoiding the wire. "What do you mean 'figure things out'."

"Hard to explain. Basically the Team members would go up to her and say things like, 'I got this great idea, but I'm stuck, though this is what I have done up to now.' She would look at it, then give them an answer. Neat trick really."

"Okay, connect this for me."

"Tess Belin officially went missing several months ago. Unofficially yet kind of officially she was kidnapped by the someone. Very unofficially, she went willingly because someone was trying to kill her."


"Don't know. Not really important to this discussion. The thing is, a while back a bunch of designers got to thinking how much they had told her, and what she might know. So they began to talk to each other, you know, trying to see just how bad it might be. As time went on they realised that things might have been very bad indeed.

"They eventually went to some higher ups in Bhan/Zai with their worries. At the time the big concern was that Tess might be working for the ODF. If that had been the case it might have come to pass that the ODF would start showing up in some really amazing suits. That worried a few people.

"To deal with this possibility the higher ups in Bhan/Zai head hunted some of the best of each team, and set them up here. They were given a fairly simple mission statement. Build a suit that will be able to deal with the potential problems that Miss Belin might unleash. Forget about things like being environmentally friendly and all that, just build an Ubermech. So that's what they did."

"The Wyvern," Carly said.

"That's it. As it turns out Carly did not go to the ODF, and neither is the Wyvern going to match up to what she had built, from what we have heard. Could some of those suits really transform?"


"That must be a good trick. Wouldn't you love to fly one of them? So, how did the Dueler hold up?"

"Well enough, but it is outclassed."

"Story of all our suits it seems."

"So the Wyvern won't make a difference?"

"It might. It is heavily armoured, has some big guns and is fast and agile. Don't ask what it costs. It will surprise the hell out of the ODF. We are hoping the SAC will buy a bunch as command units."

"So where does it fit?"

"Kind of like a cross between a Heavy Armour and a Soldier suit, but ultimately unique."

"So you want me to fly it into combat?"

"We need to have it tested," he smiled at her.

"Suicidal test pilot, yea for me."

"Relax. I've put it through its paces, it won't fail you, but we need some hard data concerning combat. You're one of our best bets."

"One of?"

"We've got a few other pilots seeing what it can do. You'll meet them soon enough. Through here," he pointed towards a guarded door. "That's where Kit Bash works."

"Show me."

He led her past the guards and then through the door. The condition of the area was much better than the halls they had just been in. Carly looked around an noted the area was heavily reinforced.

Gairon led her into an elevator that took them up the spoke and into the micro gravity of the central core. From there it was past another group of guards and then into a large, open bay.

"There," he said, pointing up.

Carly looked. There were two suits hanging up there, a group of technicians floating around them. They were easily the biggest suits she had ever seen. Then a number of things began to strike her.

"They have no legs. What are those?" She pointed at the tripod like arrangement.

"Two of them are thruster pods, the other is a fuel tank."

"Why no legs?"

"The most important battles in this war will be fought in space. We built a suit for that environment and only that environment. It does not have hands either, just these great talons that will rip through most armour like it was paper. On either shoulder, a gun that will make the Manticore jealous. Not energy, unfortunately, but we could not do everything."

"And you want me to fly it?"

"What do you say?"

"How does it handle?"

"About as well as your Dueler did. We put the same ACE deal in it, though we still haven't managed to improve upon it."

"And what will my duties be?"

"Go around, looking for fights and showing the SAC what a prize design this is."

"I'll do it," she said. I think next time I'll surprise you Ree Maxil, she thought at the same moment.

Tauutus stood before the altar of black stone. He was alone having sent everyone away to take care of the variety of tasks.

He stared at the hologram turning above the altar, slowly spinning as if nothing had changed. He growled deeply then slapped the projector off the stone, sending it skittering off into a corner. The hologram itself flickered several times, then came back, though it looked a little stilted.

He did not loose his temper that often, he considered it a weakness, but that day he had been pushed too far. All his work, all his planning, all the resources he had poured into it, and it was gone. He swept the altar clean with one mighty sweep of his hands.

He stared down at the stone surface. It was smooth, and beautiful, and had never been worked by human hands. It was completely natural. That was important.

"I will not be defied," he shouted, slamming his fist down onto the surface. "Humanity's time has come and gone." He slammed his other fist against the rock. When he pulled it away there were a few drops of blood on the stone. "This is my time. This is the end. No one will stand in the way of that. History will end." As he ranted he continued slamming his fists into the stone surface, his knuckles were scrapped raw and were bleeding. He did not notice.

After a time he finally managed to get control of himself. He stepped back from the altar, breathing heavily. For the first time he noticed the condition of his hands. He opened and closed them a few times, trying to work the pain out of them.

Humanity's natural urge is towards self destruction, Tauutus told himself as he walked over and retrieved the alter cloth. All I need to do is push them in a direction that they naturally wish to go. He wiped the alter clean with the cloth. This Starblade Battalion cannot stand against such an instinctual force.

He picked his way across the broken floor to where the holo projector had landed. The crystals must have been damaged causing tears across each of the planets. He stared at it for a moment, then smiled.

"If only I had the power to destroy those planets with such an easy gesture," he said softly.

Karl Richter did not care much for Albert Knox's office. It really had nothing to do with how it was furnished, or the view, or anything about the office itself. It had to do with the fact that as of late every time he had entered the office he had been told what to do. Grand Marshall of the ODF and he was nothing more than a lackey of the Solingen Board. A lackey who at any time might be destroyed if certain truths were to come out. And that was to the Boards advantage as well.

"We have discussed your reports Grand Marshall," Albert told him. "We agree with you that we should not press a retaliatory attack against Earth at this time."

"Thank you."

"What we would like you to do is make sure all of our forces know that the ODF fights to protect the colonies and guarantee our independence. We are not serving the desires of the Midnight Sun."

"I understand."

"Good," Albert said. A dismissal.

Karl turned and walked from the office.

Albert watched him go then turned his attention back to the reports. The attacks by the SAC had come as somewhat of a surprise. They had never expected that. Obviously the ODF's forces would have to be considerably increased. Also, the Starblade Battalion's attack on Earth showed that the group that he had written off as a minor player might be more of a threat than he had originally thought. Something would have to be done about it.

"How long until the ships have been repaired?" Redding asked Jesse.

"Well, the Despair is basically ready to go, the Blood and the Perth will be back up to spec in a few days. That puts the construction of the new ships back about three days, so the Alincourts tell me."

"How are their robots holding up?"


"I guess they have decided not to make it public. They are running the lines so fast they are loosing robots."

"Is that going to be a problem?"

"Doubtful. They tell me they have a large number of the things mothballed and can keep things going like this for a year. They are destroying themselves in a way."

"Well, odds are they will get lots of high paying contracts after this is all over."

Redding nodded. "Did you know Mr. Roarke that well?" Redding looked at the black armband on Jesse's shoulder.

"Not that well. Well enough I suppose."

"It seems that a lot of people are taking his death more seriously than others."

"Well, he was kind of larger than life. Maybe it is making people think."

"I have heard that a rumour is making its way around. This rumour suggests that anyone not showing the proper respect to Mr. Roarke's memory might run up against some of his friends."

"That would certainly explain it. I'd not want Marshall Sharp upset at me."

"Any idea who started it?"

"That would be me."

"I thought as much."

"I figured we owed it to him and his friends. No harm done and a lot of people need a chance to mourn. This will be a catalyst."

"It seems you are more sensitive than I would have though."

"Well, actually it was Akadi's idea."

Redding smiled. "Still, a good idea."

"What about you? You don't seem to go into the mourning thing. That can't be healthy."

Redding said nothing for a time. "I can't mourn them all. It would be wrong for me to get upset about one person and not another. I simply write a letter for everyone that has died. That's all I can do right now."

"Tough job."

"It's why I get the big ulcers."

The bridge of the Sloop John B. was still a mess. Some of the blood had been cleaned and the shards of the fishbowl screens had been carted off, but no real repairs had been done on it yet. Josie was holding them up, wanting to do a complete check of everything. She wanted to know exactly what had happened.

She was sitting on the bridge floor, tools and scanners scattered about her. She was staring off at nothing.

"Josie," Daniel called from the outer corridor. "Are you here?"

Josie said nothing.

The door to the bridge opened and Daniel entered. "Josie, the service is in two hours. I figured you would want to get dressed."

Josie turned to look over at Daniel. He was wearing a dark grey suit, a black band around his upper arm. "I finally figured out what had happened."


"The lasers, they found a gap in the armour, damaged one of the secondary generators. It shorted out a number of breakers, and then blew a power conduit feeding the bridge. The power spike blew out the screens."

"Things like that happen in battle, I guess."

"I thought I had it all figured out. With triple redundancies on the breakers I saw no reason to ground everything a second time. I mean, everything should have worked."

"Come on Josie, stop torturing yourself like this. Maybe you made a mistake, maybe you didn't. No one is perfect."

"Tern told me that I did not know this ship well enough. Told me that I should not have been working on it, he actually said 'messing with it' if he was not around."

"How do you know he would have done anything better? I've looked this ship over as well, and its very good, but not perfect. He might have missed it as well," Daniel told her, putting conviction in his voice.


"Let's get everything together then you can go and clean up. You don't have a lot of time."

Josie nodded after a moment and began to gather up the tools. She did not sound nor look convinced.

"You ready Juan," Diane asked she came into Juan's office.

"As ready as I can be." Jaun looked up at her. Diane was in her dress uniform, her badge prominently displayed. "Tern would have liked that."

"I though so as well. You look like you slept in that suit."

"Do I?" Juan asked as he looked down at himself. "Well, I left the jacket hanging on the door, that will cover the shirt."

"What have you been doing?"

"Writing a letter to Andre Roarke."

"Ouch. How is it going?"

"Well, this is the first draft," he picked a sheet of flimsy off the desk. "Dear Mr. Roarke. I am writing to inform you, you arrogant bastard, that your son, who was a better man than you will ever be, is dead."

"Not a great way to tell a father his son is dead," Diane said.

"I know. Like I said, a first draft. I'll get it right eventually."

"So, ready to go?"

"About as ready as I can be," Juan sighed. "How are you holding up Marshall? You'll never be able to catch Tern now."

"Maybe that's the way it should be. And I still have you to put in jail."

"Always looking on the bright side aren't you?" Juan got to his feet and moved out from behind the desk. "God, I feel tired."

"Burying friends is always exhausting."

Emiko was surprised to find out how much she could cry. She had always thought that there was a time where you would run out of tears, when there would be nothing left. She was beginning to think that it might be possible for one to cry forever.

There was no where that she could go that was safe. Tern had been so much to her. Friend, lover, teacher, a little like an older brother at times, and more. Thoughts quickly linked together, leading her back to him, back to the fact he was dead. She would get control of herself for a short time, then suddenly be confronted with his loss once again.

She walked along beside Ree. Ree did not say anything, seemingly having given up on her earlier attempts to help Emiko. There were others around them, but Emiko did not pay much attention to any of them. She wiped at her red and swollen eyes with a handkerchief and tried to control herself.

Ree gently took her arm and led her into a doorway that she might have walked past had she not done so. It was a large room they entered, one of the storage bays that had been emptied by the mecha construction. A lot of people were already there and it was beginning to be crowded.

The service was not for Tern alone. A number of people had been killed during the last operation, and then there were all the people who had been killed before. It was time to properly say good bye to all of them.

Emiko had a hard time thinking about all the others, some who she had known. She felt bad about that, as if somehow she should mourn for them all. It was beyond her at that moment. Far beyond.

She let Ree direct her towards the front row and then into one of the seats. Someone, probably Juan, offered her some support but she was not really sure what he was saying and did not reply.

The service began, there was the sound of chairs scraping and people standing. Emiko was hardly aware of it, she sat where she was, pressing the handkerchief against her eyes. What followed was mostly a jumble to her. There was a prayer, and words, and something else that went by for a time before Emiko realised what it was. Names. A list of names. A list of the dead.

When she finally looked up she was not crying anymore. Perhaps there was a limit to the tears one could shed. She felt empty. Looking up at the young woman reading the names Emiko wondered how anyone could go on with so many deaths. It seemed easier just to lie down and give up. Tern would not have done that though. Giving up was like giving in, simply accepting everything as it was. Tern had refused to settle for something like that.

Emiko wiped the last of the tears from her face and listened to the list of the dead. There were so many names there, and so many they would never know. The woman on the podium talked of all the Ravagers who had died. They had never known their names. Did anyone know their names? Would anyone care?

Emiko folded up her damp handkerchief and put it into her suit jacket's pocket.

Tern's name was read last. Tern Roarke. Perhaps not really the last one to die, to date, but they would give him that honour. He had made a lot of friends, with his easy going personality and his teaching. There were a lot of young ship pilots out there who had idolised him. No one begrudged him the honour. In fact, his was the only casket there.

Emiko wanted to feel bad about that, but she could not.

When it was over the woman stepped off to podium and asked if anyone wanted to come up and say a few words for one of the dead.

After that people started coming up, talking about lost friends. It took a while but everyone listened, not saying anything. When the people stopped going up Emiko was about to raise, planning on saying something about Tern. She stopped when she saw Diane stride up and take the podium.

"I've said good bye to friends before this war. I'll be saying good bye to friends when it is over," Diane began. "It never gets easier. Perhaps it gets harder. When I first heard of Tern Roarke he was a scoundrel, a man playing little games for his own amusement, no matter who might get hurt. I quickly learned that he was more than that, a breaker of laws certainly, but a gentleman, in a way. There was something noble about him. Of course I was going to catch him and toss him into jail, there was no doubt about that, but I respected him.

"When the battalion was formed and I found myself working with him, my opinion changed again. There was more to him that I had know, he had in him the capacity for self sacrifice for the greater good. I suddenly realised that we were more alike in some ways than I had ever given credit for. Of course after the war was over I still planned on catching him and tossing him into jail."

There was some laughter at that, even Emiko could not help but to smile. There was a moment of cleansing in that.

"Everyone who joined the Battalion found something more to themselves than they, or anyone else had expected. They had to. We should remember that in the coming times, no matter how dark they might be. Good bye Tern." Diane stood up their a moment more, then turned and walked away from the podium.

People began to file out of the room then, though more stayed then went. It was time to pay last respects.

At the head of the line was Josephine Alincourt. She held a paper wrapped bundle in her arms. As she approached the coffin she unwrapped it, revealing a model of the Sloop John B.. "It's fully complete," she said, putting it into the coffin, arranging it so Tern was holding it to his chest. "I'm sorry." She walked away.

The line moved on, some people placing things in the coffin, some just saying a few words, some did nothing more than look then move on.

When Emiko reached him she took something from in her jacket. It was key/control for her Arrow. She was going to have a new one made if she wanted to fly it again but she remembered Tern telling her he would fly the Arrows if he did not have his ship. She noted the model he held and smiled. "Buzz the angels for me," she said, putting the control in beside him. Then she leaned over and kissed him gently on his lips.

They were so soft, if it were not for the coldness she might have thought him still alive. He was not though, it was just the mortician nanites. Emiko straightened, looked at him for a moment. "Good bye," she said, then turned and walked away. She felt the tears coming again, but did not mind so much.

In the end there were only a handful of people to say the last goodbye to Tern. His coffin had been loaded into a still not completely repaired Sloop John B., and the ship headed towards the sun. There had been some talk of a Vikings funeral for him, but in the end that was decided against. The John B. was too valuable a piece of equipment to consign to the heart of a star, and Tern would have hated it.

The ship was piloted by Veronica Vale and Susan Trine, the only members of the flight crew to survive. Juan, Diane, Conaly, Emiko, Ree and Epiphany occupied the lounge, not saying much, not trying to share memories. That would be too painful at that time.

After an hour Veronica informed them that they had reached the launch point. The remaining members of what had been Team 6 moved into bridge to watch. Three coffins were launched from the ship. Tern's, Haley Jen's and Rinzi Fale's. It seemed fitting some how.

Each of the coffins were encased in a set of clamps to which a powerful set of chemical boosters were attached. The three coffins sped away from the John B., the boosters were as bright as stars.

"I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space
put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Emiko said softly, watching as the lights burned away from them.

Then the boosters went out. The clamps would be releasing, allowing the coffins to float on by themselves until they were burnt up in the sun. A spacers funeral.

The John B. came around and headed back the way it had come.

Tess walked into the bay that had housed the Arrow project up to a few weeks ago. She pulled her lab coat on as she walked, looking around the bay which was busier than she had expected. In the middle of the room was a rather big dragon that her team was working on. She had heard a little about what they had been up to from Akira, in between his ranting at her.

She took the black armband she had taken off her jacket and slid it onto the arm of her coat. "Jeremy!" she called out.

Jeremy's head popped out from within the dragon. He looked around then at Tess. "Hey, boss, you're back." He pulled himself out of the mech, slid down its side and almost fell on his face when he landed.

"So what is this all about?"

"Dr. Mako told us to stay out of trouble so we tracked down some of the Alincourt's early designs and decided to bang one back into shape. You get in trouble?"

"Not much. Dr. Ryuzaki just snapped on me, going on and on about this and that." Tess shook her head. "You would think he would realise my forced exile on a long haul cargo ship was more than punishment enough. Three showers and I still feel grungy."

"But other than that?"

"Nothing. So, what's new?"

"Dr. Roberts built a new cannon for the Myrmidon."



"So she really did not need my help."

"Guess not."

"I hate her."

"Join the club."

"So, what's it like?"

"The cannon? Pretty impressive from what I have heard. The most powerful weapon to ever be mounted on a suit. It takes a bit of time to charge up, but it can blanket a large area of space and rip most suits apart with one blast."

"Sounds like a fun toy. I didn't see you at the service."

"We figured it would be pretty crowded and still have a lot of work to do," he told her a bit sheepishly.

"So, this thing is that interesting?" Tess walked up closer to the dragon. "Tell me about it."

"Well, it's big, and powerful. They've got this powerplant that just puts out a huge amount of energy and is the most unstable thing I've ever seen in suit. Quadruped motive system, wings that work, mostly, big teeth in the head. We've put a fishbowl in it, used your armour and put a set of Arrow engines in it. It's going to be nasty."

"What's it cost?"

"Do you really have the right to ask that question?"

"Ouch. Mr. Lyons, you are beginning to sound like Dr. Mako."

"That was uncalled for," he laughed. "As for the cost, it's not that bad. If we were building it from the ground up, yea, it would be pretty expensive, but what we're doing is relatively cheap."

"Well, as long as you are keeping busy. Give me a walk around, tell me about your hobby."

The Clear Floor was rather crowded, but Ree managed to clear a space at the bar by giving a group a sitting there her angry stare.

Once she, Emiko, and Epiphany were seated she waved the bartender over. "My good man, give me six, count em, six double gin martinis."

"Gin and tonic," Epiphany said.

"Nothing for me," Emiko told him.

The bartender nodded and went to get the drinks.

"Well, it seems everyone started without us," Ree said.

"What?" Emiko asked.

"The wake."


"A wake my dear Emi-chan. It's this old Irish, or maybe Scottish tradition where you get blasted out of respect for the dead. Standard policy in the ODF."

"Were there that many Irish, or Scottish, people in the ODF?"

"No," Epiphany said. "But pilots will look for any excuse to drink themselves stupid."

"Blasphemy," Ree slapped her hand against the bar.

Emiko looked around, a band was setting up in the far corner and people were pushing tables around to form a dance floor.

The bartender returned and put the drinks on the bar top. Emiko turned to look at the six glasses in front of Ree. "Are you going to drink all those?"

"No," Ree said. "You are going to drink at least two." Ree pushed two glasses over to Emiko. "Don't choke on the olives. Once you finish those we'll switch to margaritas."

"I think I'm going to die," Emiko said, picking up the first glass.

"On that note," Ree stood, climbing onto her stool and then onto the bar. "Listen up!" she shouted. After a few moments the bar quieted down. "To the dead, and to those who have yet to die." Ree made the toast, then drained her glass. The rest of the bar echoed her toast and drank from their own glasses. Ree stood there for a moment, fished the olives from her glass, then hurled the glass across the room where it shattered against the wall.

She popped the two olives into her mouth and then returned to her stool, ignoring the dirty look the bartender was giving her.

"Do you always have to do that?" Epiphany asked.

"Yes," Ree said around the olives. "I do."

"This tastes terrible," Emiko said, holding the half empty martini glass up. "And my teeth are numb."

"It will taste better once your tastebuds have been properly anestitised and your teeth are supposed to be numb. It's a sign of a good martini. Now drink up."

Emiko lay in her bed, her face buried in one of the stuffed animals that Ree had given her. Her head hurt, but just a little and she no longer felt sick. The room had stopped spinning some time before, which was a good thing. Still Emiko could not sleep.

The chiming of the com was a welcome thing, She no longer had to try to go to sleep. She shifted about on her bed, stood up, then walked to the wall unit. The caller's name was displayed on the bottom of the screen. Admiral Redding. Emiko quickly accepted the call. "Sir, what is it?"

"Miss Miya, please, could you come to my office in about an hour. I'm sorry to be waking you, but this is important."

"Of course sir," she said.

"Good. In an hour then." He cut the connection.

Emiko stood there for a moment then shut the com off. A moment later she turned and walked towards the bathroom. She wondered what was happening.

"Thank you for coming so quickly," Redding said to Emiko.

Emiko only nodded, wondering what this was all about.

"Recent events have altered the way we have had to deal with certain things, I'm sure you can appreciate that."

"Yes sir."

"Please, no rank, or sir, not right now."

Emiko was a little taken aback by that. "Yes, Frost-san."

He nodded. "There is something we have been aware of for a few weeks now, but we, I, hoped we might be able to ignore it. The way things have gone though, something has to be done." He picked a display pad up of his desk. "This message went out in small numbers, only a few people have picked them up to date, but it won't be long before the media and the general public see it." He handed it to her.

Emiko took it, staring down at the screen. She wondered what it might be, how it might involve her. She pressed the play button. When her mother's face appeared she almost dropped it.

"My name is Takako Miya," her mother's recording said. "My daughter is Emiko Miya. I want her to know that she can come home now. The false charges levelled against her have been dropped, and the real ones, well, the authorities think she has suffered enough. She can return home safely. Please," he mother paused, as if getting control of herself. "Please, let my little girl come home. I just want her to the safe. Please, just let her go."

The recording ended. Emiko placed the unit on Redding's desk. "You want me to leave, to go back to Earth," Emiko said.

"I need you to go back."

"It makes it sound like the Battalion has kidnapped me. I guess that is not the sort of image you want to present."

Redding nodded.

"The sooner I leave the better, right?"


"Can I have two hours?"

"You'll need more than that."

"No, that's all."

"All right, we'll leave in two hours then. I'm sorry, you deserve better than this."

Emiko smiled. "It's all right. It has to be done."

"Thank you."

Emiko turned and walked out of his office.

Packing did not take Emiko long. She had a lot of stuff but she would not be bringing it with her. The skinsuit, the armour, various weapons, a lot of clothing, she would leave it all behind. In the end she just packed up her school bag with everything she had started out with. She folded up her school uniform and put it in the bag as well.

A nylon carry all held several changes of clothing, mostly things she had been given on Organon. It was too nice to just leave. She picked up her flight jacket and looked at it. She had planned on leaving it but she stuffed it into the bag as well.

Of the weapons she picked up the two swords that Marshall Sharp had given her. Those she packed into a tube carrier filled with impact gel.

Three pieces of luggage and she was finished.

Most of her time was taken in writing several letters. When she finished those she went into the bathroom and left them in a place where Ree would find them.

That was it.

She went back into her room and gathered up her bags.

Stopping on the doorway of the room she turned and looked back. "Sayonara," she said, then left.

Redding met her in the docking bay, behind him the Starblade was waiting.

"Let me give you a hand," he said, taking the tube with the swords in it and the carry all.

"Where are we going?" Emiko asked.

"To find your brother, he'll be able to get you home."


"He is commanding a Warden cruiser."

"Oh," Emiko said as she followed Redding into the Starblade.

The 'Hachiman' was a Master class cruiser. It had Warden markings and colours as well as being battle scarred. It was Makoto Miya's ship. The Hachiman and its two attendant battle riders had been patrolling the cluster. With the SAC busy fighting the ODF protection of planets had been given over to special, elite crews of Gaian Wardens.

Makoto was sleeping when he got the call. A ship had appeared and he was being asked for by name.

"Have a name for me?" he asked when he came onto the bridge.

"It's a cutter, the Starblade," his first officer told him.


"That's what we've tagged it as."

"I see." Makoto had still not received the orders that outlawed the Battalion, though he knew of their attack on Earth and expected something like it to happen. "Put the message through."

A moment later Redding appeared on screen. "Commander Makoto, I need to ask a favour of you."

"A favour?" Makoto asked. He had met Redding Frost a few times, but he did not know him very well. "I don't think I can help you. I suspect that we are enemies."

"Perhaps, but I think you would be willing to help with this. I need you to transport Emiko Miya back to Earth."


Emiko moved into the camera's field. "Konichiwa Oniisan," she said.

"Shinjirarenai(I can't believe this)," Makoto said.

"Your mother asked that she be returned to Earth. We were not holding her against her will, but it is for the best that she go home."

Makoto was not to sure what to say. He heard a few members of his crew stifle laughter when his mother had been mentioned. Well, there was not much choice.

"I'll be happy to make sure she gets back to Earth," he said.


"I'll arrange for docking..."

"No," Redding said. "I hope you'll forgive me, but I cannot put my ship in that sort of position."

"You know, I could just fire on you if I had to."

"You could, but do you know how many ships might be cloaked around here?"

"A good point. I suppose we'll have to do a line transfer then."

"That's probably for the best."

"Match my ship's speed then, on the starboard side. We'll open an airlock and light it up," Makoto paused. "Oh, please give my sister a vac-suit, one exposure to vacuum is more than enough for anyone."

Redding laughed. "Of course." He nodded to Emiko who left the bridge.

"Oh, captain. According to our records your Medical officer Karyana is your Warden. I'd like to know if she is still safe."

"Are you suggesting that foul play may have befallen her."

"I would just like to know that she is safe."

"Then by all means, speak with her. I'll arrange a private channel if you wish."

"Thank you."

"How does it feel," Dyson asked as Emiko checked the last seals of the suit.


"Okay, we'll be firing the lines across to the Hachiman, we're about a kilometre from the cruiser. Three lines, they look thin, but they are very strong. They'll hold."

Emiko nodded.

"Keep your eyes focused on the cruiser. Remember you aren't falling towards it, there is no danger. Don't look around. The vertigo you can get in open space can be crippling."

"Wakatta," Emiko said, reaching for the helmet.

"Good luck," Dyson told her as he put on his own helmet and then cycled the airlock.

"Well, it is good to see you are well," Makoto said to Karyana.

"I was never in any danger," she told him.

"So," he stared at her picture on the screen. "Why?"

"You have to ask?"

"I do."

"I do not agree completely with what has been done, but there is a middle path that is best for everyone. It's not easy, but the right things seldom are."

"You swore an oath."

"What's more important, the spirit or the word of an oath?"

"There is no difference."

"You're wrong commander. I am fine and will continue to be so. Good bye," she said, then cut the connection.

Makoto stared at the blank screen for a moment. He was not sure what to make of her decision. All he knew was that he was certain that it was wrong.

The three lines had been launched from the Starblade to the Hachiman. The crew on the Hachiman had fixed them to the hull of the ship, forming a thin bridge between the two ships. Emiko had hooked up the harness and moved out into space. She reached up and grasped one of the lines, giving a pull. A few more and she was moving fairly quickly, crossing the space between the ships.

She ignored Dyson's advice fairly soon into the trip. She looked around. It was a little frightening, but it was not really so bad. She had become use to such sights while flying her Arrow.

The laser range finder in the suit warned her as she closed on the other ship. She grasped the line gently, letting her hand act like a brake. She stopped short a few meters from the other ship. She gave herself another gentle pull, propelling herself the rest of the way. A waiting member of the crew grabbed her and helped her aboard the ship.

"Welcome aboard the Hachiman," the woman said through the skin to skin com.

"Thank you," Emiko said.

Makoto waited until the Starblade had left the area before going to the quarters that Emiko had been given. He knocked on the door.

"Come in," he heard her say.

He opened the door and entered the small cabin. Emiko was sitting on the bed. She smiled when he came in. "Welcome aboard the Hachiman," he said, for lack of anything else. "I hope this cabin will be comfortable."

"I missed you," Emiko said, cutting through any small talk that might have kept the circling around the issue.

Makoto took a close look at her for a time. She looked different, some of it was obvious, the weight she had lost, the small alterations to her face, and other things were subtle, the air of confidence about her. He noted that she wore a black armband. For a moment he thought to ask about it but he decided not to. He crossed the room and sat down beside her on the bunk. "I missed you as well."

"Sorry about the last time we met."

Makoto laughed. "Don't worry about it. I guess you did not have much of a choice." His laughter ended abruptly. "Funny that we ended up on the opposite sides."

"We're not really on opposite sides," Emiko told him.

"Your Battalion attacked targets in the system."

"We had to." Emiko tone carried something in it. A pleading for Makoto to understand.

"I'm not sure of that."

Emiko shook her head. "I wish you could understand."

"I thought I should be saying that."

"Let's not talk about this. How is everyone?"

"Fine. I'm not sure where Tousan is right now, but last I heard Kaasan was in Sydney."

"So she's is fine?"

"Yes," he told her, wondering why she had asked.

"Good," Emiko nodded, looking relieved. "Makoto, why are you involved in this?"

"It's my duty. I thought you didn't want to talk about this?"

"Maybe a little. Do you think that this war is the most effective thing to do? Isn't the cost too high?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, for the cost of this cruiser, couldn't more than half the farmers you are going after be given the technology they need to work the land and protect the environment?"

Makoto looked at her. "That is too simple. You don't understand all the points."

"Maybe I do."

"Let's not talk about this Emiko. We're just going to fight and I don't want to do that."

Emiko nodded. "Okay."

Makoto nodded as well then turned the conversation safer areas. Emiko tried to appear cheerful but she did not feel good. She would have thought that Makoto could see the truth.

In the end Emiko was not able to spend much time with Makoto. They had soon shunted to Gamma Base and Emiko was taken down to the terrestrial base on Gamma 4. Emiko was glad about that, she would not have wanted to visit the cylinder again.

Makoto had left her then, telling her he had his duties to get back to. Emiko had said good bye to him. She wondered if they might be able to come to an understanding again.

Once he had left there was not much for her to do. She was told that transport back to Earth would be arranged in a few days and until then all the facilities of the base were hers. Of course she had an escort where ever she went.

For the most part Emiko was happy to sit in the quarters she had been assigned. They were large and comfortable, though a little bland. She guessed that they were meant for VIPs. She took advantage of the entertainment centre and took the time to catch up on the news and the new trends that had arisen. It passed the time.

She was sitting on her bed, looking through her textbooks-somehow she thought that she better catch up-when she heard some voices from outside her door. She looked up, wondering what was going on. She had been there almost three days and had heard that she might be leaving soon. Perhaps that was what was about to happen.

One of the voices rose in volume, though it was still muffled and she could not really understand what was being said. The tone sounded angry. Then it was quiet. Emiko turned her attention back to her book but looked up when she heard the door open. Always before people had knocked and waited until she said 'come in' before they had entered.

She was thinking how rude that was when she saw who it was.

Ryu Abe entered her room, staring at her. He pushed the door closed then took a key card from his pocket and used it to lock the door.

Emiko stared at him for a moment, unable to believe that he was there. But out of all the places he had come after her, perhaps Gamma base made the most sense.

As he was placing the key card back in his pocket Emiko realised that she had better do something.

She leapt off the bed, diving towards the cylinder that held the swords she had brought. She grasped it, then twisted to the side. She felt a blow from Ryu glance across her shoulders, pushing her forward.

Emiko opened the tube, grasped the hilt of the katana and released the tube, pulling the sword free.

Ryu snapped a kick at her. Emiko used the sword, still in its sheath, to partially block the attack, but it still forced her back, and she thought one of her ribs might have just cracked. The force of it drove her back, but Emiko leaned into the force and did not fall over, though she did slide back.

She stood there, facing him, a hand on the hilt of the weapon, the other wrapped around the sheath. "Get back," she told him, happy that her voice was steady.

"You're not that good," he told her.

"I'll scream."

"I sent the guard away. No one will hear."

Emiko gritted her teeth and drew the blade from its sheath.

Ryu exploded forward, driving his left fist at her, twisting at the hips to add force to it. He had to abort the attack as Emiko snapped the blade up, lining it up with his neck.

Emiko thought that she might have him there. She shifted her grip, sliding into position for a slash that would have opened his left thigh up had he not avoided it.

Ryu slid around the attack like he was made of water. From behind Emiko he fired off a kick that slammed into the small of her back, driving her forward.

Emiko bounced hard off the wall, the sword slipping from the grasp. She scrabbled for it, but they Ryu slammed into her, driving her against the wall again. She was sure that a rib or two snapped that time.

"Well, this was a pleasant surprise," Ryu whispered into her ear. His voice was harsh as his breath tickled the small hairs on the back of her neck. "I've been trying to find you all over the cluster and you turn up here, where I can get you and have as much time as I want to do as I wish. Funny, right?"

"Leave me alone," Emiko said. "You're twisted."

"Twisted? At least I am not a traitor." He slammed her hard again. "Now, I want you to tell me all you can about this Battalion. Start of where their base is, then start giving me numbers of people and equipment."

"I'll never tell you anything."

"Do you think so?" He grasped the hair at the back of her head, pulling it back. He dragged her away from the wall, pulling harder at her hair, forcing her to stare straight up at the ceiling. "Ask me how many ways I know to hurt you? Ask me how many things I can do to you that will make you wish you had died. Ask me how many people I have broken. You will tell me everything you know and in the end you will thank me for what I have done."

Emiko said nothing. He had her left arm pushed up behind her back. He was also pulling her hair. It hurt a lot but her right arm was free. Ignoring the pain she snapped her right arm up, thumb extended, driving it into his face.

Ryu twisted his head, Emiko's thumb hit him in the temple. She pulled her fist back ever so slightly, folded her thumb in, and snapped it forward again, hitting him harder. Ryu gave her left arm a hard shove and Emiko screamed as the action dislocated her shoulder.

Still, somehow she managed to slip out of his hold. Her chest hurt and her left shoulder hurt so much that she could hardly think. That paled to the fact she was angry.

Ryu was taken aback by Emiko's sudden attack. She drove him back with a series of kicks, snap, thrust, roundhouse, an attempted sweep, a reverse kick, all of them pushing him back, some even hurting him.

Emiko had learned a lot, she had been taught by some of the best, but in the end, Ryu had much more experience. He blocked then caught a thrust kick, twisted it up, then drove Emiko down onto her back, directing her slightly so she took the brunt of the fall on her left side.

Emiko screamed for a moment but Ryu dropped down, driving his knee into her chest, the air in her lungs exploding out.

"You can't win," he told her harshly. "I'll have everything I want from you." He reached forward, grasping her blouse, then he tore it open. Buttons snapped off and rolled away. He was breathing harshly, Emiko could hardly breathe at all. Her right hand flailed around, hitting him and searching the floor from something to use as a weapon at the same time.

He reached down and grasped the centre of her bra, ripping it in half. One of his hands was rough on her breast, his fingers digging into the flesh. He bent his head towards hers then pushed his lips against hers. The kiss was a parody of everything Emiko had though of kisses. It was harsh and cruel with no softness in it.

At that point Emiko was about to give up. She had tried everything she could, had put everything she had into the fight, and he had still beat her. Now he was about to rape her and hurt her in ways she could never dream, and there was nothing left. Then the fingers of her right hand found something.

Ryu pulled away suddenly, screaming. She had just bit his lip. He was going to beat her for it but the sheath of the sword, discarded earlier, whipped out, slamming against his head. It hit so hard the wood shattered, and it drove him off Emiko.

Emiko scrambled to her feet, the pain some far off thing. She snatched the katana from the floor and spun on Ryu. He was just getting to his knees when she pushed the point of the weapon into his throat. A bead of blood appeared, then a trickle ran down his neck, leaving a trail of red on his skin.

"You can't kill me," he told her. "You don't have it in you to finish this off. That' why I will win in the end. You're lucky, but that runs out. Ruthlessness is forever!" He screamed at her and Emiko had to force herself not to draw back. Only as long as she had the sword pressed into his neck did she control the situation.

He was right though. She could not bring herself to kill him in cold blood, not now that she held him defenceless. It was all too close, too personal. Of course how long could she hold him like that? She would get tired, the sword would waver, and he would try something.

She was gently pushing the blade forward, still not sure what she was going to do, when she heard the door open.

"What is going on here?!" a wonderfully familiar voice asked.

Emiko did not turn though, she kept her eyes on the man in front of her. If she took her eyes from him for a moment he would kill her. She was sure of that.

"After last time I would have thought you would not be so stupid to try this," Shingo said as he moved up behind Emiko, carefully taking the hilt of the sword, his other hand moving to support her, being careful of her dislocated arm.

Emiko fell back against her father's chest. He would protect her. That was all that mattered.

"She's a traitor," Ryu said. "You can't protect her from me."

"You would be surprised," Shingo said, then with a slight, almost careless movement he cut Ryu from the top of his nose down to the corner of her mouth. The cut passed very close under his eye. Ryu actually looked a little surprised.

"Take Abe-san and throw him into the brig. He's charged with assault, attempted rape, and anything else I can think of."

Two soldiers moved around and grabbed Ryu, each putting an armlock on him and then they forced him to his feet.

"Those charges won't hold," Ryu spat as Shingo.

"Perhaps. They will keep you in the brig long enough to ensure my daughter is so far from you that you will never hurt again. And who knows, you might be a victim of an accident."

"You'd never try it," Ryu said as the soldiers pushed him out of the room.

Emiko sighed once he was gone. Her father dropped the sword then released her for a moment. A few seconds later her draped his coat gently across her shoulders.

"Isha-san e ikimasho(let's get you to a doctor),"he said as he gently picked her up.

"Hai," Emiko said softly.

Emiko did not remember much after her father took her from the room. Between the shock and the pain killers administered once she reached the sick bay, most of what happened was a blur. She remembered the doctor popping her shoulder back in. That had hurt enough to make a lasting impression.

The next clear memory she had was waking to find her father sitting by her bedside. He was holding her right hand, waiting for her to wake.

"Ohayo, Emiko-chan," he said to her.

"Ohayo papa," Emiko said, and everything was all right.

The reunion between father and daughter did not last long. There was cutter standing by to take her to Earth and Shingo had already been derelict in his duties in just coming to Gamma 4. Still, he knew he would get away with it, the circumstances being what they were.

They said goodbye in a launch bay, then Shingo turned her over to the Cutter's captain, telling the man to take care of his daughter. He had not meant it to sound as hard as it had, but after what had happened before he was more than a little sensitive about it.

As he watched Emiko climb into the ship he felt very proud of her. All she had come through, and all she had survived. She was a very strong young woman. He looked at the black armband she wore and wondered who it was for. He had not asked, sensing that the subject was still a very sensitive one.

Once the cutter had left Shingo fought of the urge to go and finish up his business with Ryu. While his past behaviour would be excused due to the circumstances, he knew he could not push it. All he could do was work to ensure that Ryu did not threaten Emiko again.

Emiko knew shipboard routine well enough not to disturb the cutter crew. She spent most of her time in the common area, talking to crew members when they came in, once joining in a game of poker.

She was not on the ship long enough to really get to know any of them. In very short time it seemed that she was being transferred to the shuttle that would take her down to the planet's surface.

Emiko sat in her chair, head back, eyes closed, and thought about her homecoming. Her mother had called her back, all the way from the Pleiades. She wondered why. Was it much as her message had said, or was there something else?

That line of questioning only made her feel guilty. How could she question her mother's motives when she herself had betrayed her mother. What right did she have to expect anything of her.

It was with those uncomfortable thoughts that Emiko returned to Earth.

There was a crowd waiting, press people mostly. Auden had seen Emiko's homecoming as an event that could be used to strengthen the Circle's position. It would have to be handled just right though.

She looked over at Takako. For some reason Takako seemed to be on edge. She was not sure what it was, Takako had been fairly distant since news of Emiko's return had come.

Takako watched as the shuttle came to a stop, knowing very soon that her daughter would be coming out of it. She wanted to be happy, but she could not really feel it. In so many ways everything that had happened to Emiko, all that she had suffered through, was her fault. The guilt was like a force crushing her.

There was so much she wanted to say to Emiko, but she did not know if she could bring herself to say it.

When Emiko stepped off the shuttle she was presented with a sea of people. They started shouting questions at her, she could hardly make out individual words. There was an open area though, formed by a group of men and women in suits. At the end of that 'corridor' stood her mother.

The list rose up in her mind again, but Emiko pushed it away as she dropped all her baggage and ran forward.

There was something in Emiko's eyes when she first looked at her. Takako was not sure what it was, but for a moment there was an incredible distance between them. She wondered if it could ever be bridged. There was so much she had done wrong.

But then Emiko had dropped her things and was running towards her and the distance was suddenly gone. Takako held out her arms to her daughter and pulled her close.

"Tadaima(I'm home)," Emiko said, holding her mother tight with her right arm.

"Okaeri(welcome back)," Takako said softly.

Auden watched what happened and then made a signal to the security people. They quickly moved about to block off Takako and her daughter from the press. They could worry about public relations at some other time.

Closing Credits Song

'Ordinary Day' by - Sean McCann and Alan Doyle - Great Big Sea

We start with Emiko and a group of young women and men walking through the Sydney Arcology, all wearing the uniform of one of the more exclusive private schools in the Arcology. Emiko waves good bye to them and continues on separately, looking into windows a she goes. She looks a little sad, but it is more like ennui.

She stares at one window for a time, in it is reflected a scene in space. We see an Arrow flash by and the scene shifts away from Emiko and into space, following the Arrow.

The suit, in fighter form, speeds through an asteroid field, twisting about the huge rocks, avoiding them all. The suit fades out, revealing Ree who looks like she is enjoying the challenge of the flight.

The scene changes again, Emiko in her classroom, standing up, reading aloud. She sits down, knocking a notebook from her desk. It hits the floor and spills out a number of flat photos. The one on top of the others is one of Juan.

The scene shifts to Juan who is arguing with Akira Ryuzaki and Avatar Shiva both, though he stops for a moment and looks off to the side as if someone has called him.

Back to Emiko who is in her mother's Sydney apartment, preparing dinner. She moves about the kitchen quickly, gathering things together. She stops for a moment to look at a much creased piece of paper on which a recipe is written.

The creases and stains suddenly disappear and it is no longer a separate page but a page in a book and it is Epiphany who is looking at it. She turns back to her preparations, working at a slower pace than Emiko.

Emiko, in her school again, those this time in a kendo uniform, driving her opponent back with a series of speedy strikes.

The scene shifts and Marshal Conaly is using the same manoeuvre on one if his students. None of them wear anything fancier than sweat pants and T-shirts. Above them the roof is clear and looks out into space. The space seems to twist about, then the camera pans down to Emiko, lying on her back in a grassy field, staring up at the stars. There are some other people there but they are out of focus so we can't tell much about them.

She lifts her hand up, extending her finger like a gun and makes a shooting motion into the night sky.

Diane stands on a shooting range, firing round after round down range, quickly turning her paper target into tatters. She ejects both her clips spins both pistols around and tucks them under her arms, then reloads them, hooks her thumbs into the trigger guard, spins them about, shifts grips and keeps firing.

Emiko sits at her desk at home, a display pad in front of her shifts quickly through many pictures of various people from the Battalion. The camera angle changes so the display pad fills it and we watch the many familiar faces flash by. It stops on one of Tern, behind him is the Sloop John B.. A tear hits the pad, blurring an area beside Tern.

As the song winds down, Emiko is standing outside the Arcology, looking out over the sea. She reaches up after a time and pulls the black armband off, holds it up so the wind can pull at it. After a moment she lets it go and it flies off over the sea, fading to a single black dot as the song finishes.

Fade to black.

1. The lines that Emiko quotes when Tern's coffin is launched from the John B. are from the Poem 'High Flight' by John Gillespie Magee Jr. The poem is as follows:

Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun split clouds
and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of.
Wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there, I've chased the shouting wind along,
and flung me eager craft through footloose halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

If I remember correctly, Mr. Magee was an American who joined the Canadian air force to go fight in World War 2 and the beginning of that war. He wrote this poem in a letter to his mother a few weeks before dying in battle. If I remember correctly.

Tern had this poem etched into the inner face of one of the John B. access panels.

Lyrics to Ordinary Day

I've got a smile on my face, and I've got four walls around me
I've got the sun in the sky, all the water surrounds me
I'll win now but sometimes I'll lose
I've been battered, but I never bruise... it's not so bad

Chorus: And I say way-hey-hey, it's just an ordinary day
and it's all your state of mind
At the end of the day,
You've just got to say... it's all right.

Janie sings on the corner, what keeps her from dying
Let them say what they want, she won't stop trying
She might stumble, if they push her 'round
She might fall, but she'll never lie down...


In this beautiful life, there's always some sorrow
And It's a double edged knife, but there's always tomorrow
It's up to you now if you sink or swim,
Just keep the faith and you're ship will come in.


Notes for Gear Heads:

I gave up trying to figure out stats for everything a while ago, but I know there are people out there who will want them, so some basics:

The Dragon

-Well, its big, and while it will have a lot of thrust its top speed probably won't quite approach that of Interceptors. Big obvious, Supercharged, hot powerplant. With the ACE 100%, the Fishbowl and this the Dragon's MP will be pretty high, but hit that powerplant and that will be it. As for weapons, well, beast forms (and give it a beast form, the Avian kind of sucks for this, buy your wings separately) are great when it comes to the up close and personal. Four claws, a bite, a tail lash, and a wing slash (egads, shades of AD&D dragon attacks). Of course its got a big plasma gun in the head (and if the neck is sitting on a flexible necks-basically a tail-then you can pack part of it in there as well. Pop out body missiles and what ever else suits you. The thing will be horribly expensive of course. One of a kind. A mech for a hero.

The Wyvern

- No legs, three pods for thrusters and fuel. Pods, no kills, no weight, so the torso, head and arms can be larger and still keep the weight down (somewhere between and Soldier and an HA). Its hands are basically talons, lots of damage, AP, no handy. This thing was never meant to function as a construction unit. Does one thing, does it well, and the Gaians hate it for that. And what about those two shoulder mounted cannons? Well, Gairon was not quite accurate. The suit can be fitted with two different cannons. One is basically just the Manticore cannon. The other is an incredibly powerful weapon. So powerful the suits powerplant can't provide the necessary charge. Solved by use of capacitors, though it gives the gun a charging time. Targeting computer for weapon's accuracy. When I was thinking of this one I was kind of picturing the Alpha Ajiiru from Char's counter attack.

If I had a long list of credits Keko would probably have to be tagged as a music director or some such. Here's a list of songs he has suggested:

Suggested character themes:

Good Guys:

Bad Guys:

Suggested BGMs

"We're here in the Engineering Section of the Starship Enterprise where we have replaced the fine dilithium crystals they usually use with Folgers crystals. Let's see what happens."
Shawn Hagen <hagen@brant.net>

On to Chapter 32