Episode 41 (2181.01.29)
by Shawn Hagen (1998)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Opening Titles - As Before
Redding watched as the battle continued. The SAC pushed forward, slower than before, but still forward. The ODF had taken some heavy losses in slowing that advance, the entire Medusa task force, though the SAC had lost most of Battlegroup Hudson.
It would not be long before they SAC ships could start firing on the orbital constructs around Solingen. After that they would be able to start firing on Solingen itself, and the Zeniths. Then there would be the war on the surface of the planet.
He had tried to stop it, and so far it looked as if he had failed. They still had a chance, as he had told Caroline. A very good chance really, but nothing was guaranteed. He looked back at everything he had done and wondered if there might have been some other way he could have done things.
There wasn't. It did not surprise him. He had planned carefully since everything had started.
"Admiral," the com tech called. "Commander Varris wants to speak to you."
"Put him through," Redding said. A screen opened up in front of him. "Has anything of value come from your trip Mr. Varris?"
"You might say that Admiral. I believe you have met Grand Marshal Richter before."
"Admiral Frost," Karl said as he moved into camera view.
"Grand Marshal. This is somewhat of a surprise."
"It's a day for them Admiral. Mr. Varris has become the Chairman of Solingen GmbH. As such he is now my commanding officer, in a way."
"Pardon?" Redding was not sure he had heard right.
"Local boy makes good," Juan said. "I'm think that Lionel Densha can play me in the movie."
"Cast your life story later Commander. Tell me what you plan to do."
"Can you patch us through to whoever is in charge of the SAC forces out here. It will save us time."
"Just a moment." Redding signalled his com officer. "Get me Admiral Mars."
"You have his personal encryption codes and tags, he'll pay attention."
"I've never talked with Admiral Mars before," Karl said. "I know a lot about him."
"I suspect that he knows a lot about you," Redding told him. "Perhaps that will help."
"Admiral," the com officer called out. "I have Admiral Mars."
"Tie him into this."
A second window popped up beside the first. "Redding, what is this? Grand Marshal? What is going on here?"
"Admiral Mars," Juan said in his smoothest tone. "I am the newly appointed Chairman of the Solingen Board of Directors. I wish to propose a cease fire."
"A cease fire. That will lead to a formal peace agreement. The Colonies will be willing to make some concessions to the USSA that will allow us to live in peace. Of course, we will want your side to stop leaning on us, but that can all be worked out."
"Is this come kind of joke?" Khamul asked.
"Mr. Varris is quite serious," Karl told him. "I will do as he says."
"I have known Juan Varris almost since this began," Redding said. "What I have learned about him is that he delivers what he promises."
"Are you telling me that the ODF will surrender?"
"Not surrender," Juan said. "Stand down."
"You'll have to excuse me Mr. Varris, but my fleets are almost on top of you. Your offer does not seem to give me anything that I would not get anyway."
"Do you think so? You are able to see the planet and objects in orbit, correct?"
"Yes. We will be able to fire on them soon."
"Then watch closely. Grand Marshal."
In orbit around Solingen ten defence platforms dropped their cloak. They were large structures, built around old freighters. Huge weapons were set up on each of them, as well as a large number of smaller weapon systems.
"We have twenty of these platforms Admiral, we've let you see ten. Right now, a number of your ships are in range of their guns. You might be able to take them all out, but it will cost you. And then there are the planetary guns.
"Admiral, you may win, but you will not come out of this unharmed. I'm offering a cease fire, not because I have to, but because I have no wish to see a lot of people on both sides die."
"He's right," Redding said. "You may win, but you will not be able to win decisively. You will not be able to bring the cluster to heal as the Inner Circle wants. That means there will be resistance, probably terrorist movements. Are you going to be able to stop that?"
Khamul said nothing for a time. "All right Frost, let's talk. What do you plan to do?"
"What I said I would do. We need to unite all the worlds we live on under a government that everyone can accept. The Interstellar Commonwealth we have proposed."
"And what do you think the chances are of that?"
"Fairly good actually," Juan said. "I'll be pushing for it. Since responsibility for Solingen has been dumped into my lap, I have to take care of the Corporation. Trying to make money and be the government is a tough game, as most governments know."
"There are also a number of worlds that will support this venture," Redding said.
"I can't make this decision."
"You can," Redding told him. "You just have to choose to. I suspect by now you have reviewed the information we sent to you. Your ultimate job is to protect Earth and its people. How best can you do that?"
Khamul smiled in spite of himself. "You use words well. I want to see the ODF pull back, and drop their cloaks. Then I'll order my forces to break off the attack."
"No," Karl said. "I cannot allow you to have such a huge advantage. I'll have all my ships pull back, if you let them, and half of the ODF fleets will drop their cloaks. Once you have pulled back all of them will."
Khamul thought about it for a few seconds. "That will be acceptable."
"Then gentleman," Redding said. "We all have work to do."
"What!?" Nils Gorda shouted. "You can't be serious."
"I am serious General," Karl told him. "The Chairman of Solingen is serious. We could not get more serious."
"But we can still win!"
"Yes, we could still win, now. We would still loose in the end. The duties of the ODF are to protect the people of the Cluster, officially. Unofficially, we are here to protect Solingen property and enforce those desires. Standing down will accomplish both these goals. Now General, are you going to stand down, or do I have to replace you."
Nils looked angry, like he was going to explode. He was actually trembling. "Yes sir. I will order all of our ships to stand down. Hopefully our people will feel like following these orders." He cut the connection.
"He was not entirely happy," Juan said.
"I told you that speaking first to all the commanders we knew would be sympathetic was the way to go."
"I felt bad about doing that. Gorda is a good man. A little arrogant, but good at his job. He's been looking to go after the SAC for a long time."
"Think he will disobey?"
"No, not once he's seen that the majority of his ships are standing down. Once that happens, he will do everything he can to make sure the orders are followed."
"Now we just have to hope that Mars can live up to its side of the bargain."
Khamul was pleased that the first part of the plan had gone off easily enough. There had been questions when he had told his people to halt their forward assault. There had been more when he had told them to let the ODF ships disengage. There had been questions, but no one had disobeyed.
He had talked to some of his commanders, in private, telling them what was going on. Kalvin Kazaki, Alanna Escher and a few others he knew would see the value of the plan. With them on his side from the moment he made the general announcement he thought that things would fall into place.
It almost worked.
"Admiral Mars, this is ridiculous. We can't just stop the attack," Admiral Collins was almost screaming. He was speaking over a wide channel. Everyone in the fleet could hear him if they chose to listen.
"If you are unable to follow rightful orders you will have to stand down Admiral."
"I am not the one failing to follow rightful orders. The USSA has given us orders."
"And they have also trained us to question orders that are wrong. The colonies have also agreed to a cease fire. To continue to fight would be a waste of lives and materials. The USSA would not want that."
"Who are you to decide that!"
"I am the person put in charge of this assault by the USSA. I have been given the authority and the right to make decisions involving all matters pertaining to this attack. I have given you a rightful order Admiral and you will follow it."
"No sir. I will continue this attack, as ordered. My fleet will continue the attack. Anyone who wants to join us will be welcome."
"You are proposing mutiny Admiral. What's more you are acting in direct opposition to the spirit in which the USSA was formed."
"We'll see. If you want to stand by while the ODF kills loyal members of the SAC, then do so. I am moving out." He cut the connection.
"That idiot," Khamul said softly. "Get me Frost, now," he ordered his com officer.
"Yes sir. Admiral Frost is on line."
Khamul turned to the screen on his command chair. He noted that the young man, Varris, was also in the connection. "I suppose you heard?" he asked Redding.
"Pretty hard not to."
"I wish you had destroyed his ship with that first blast of yours."
"I wish I had not ordered my gunners to shoot to disable. Do you think he will get a lot of support?"
"We'll find out. Frost, I can't order my people to stop Collins and anyone who chooses to follow him. Everything will break apart, I don't know what will happen."
"We still have the defence platforms, and the ODF," Jesse said.
"No." Khamul told him. "From this point on, if the ODF hits those ships, in any way, more of my fleet will go over to Collins. You can't do anything."
"The moment those ships fire on the planet the ODF will react," Jesse told him. "They will have to."
"I know," Khamul said. "Which leaves us only one choice."
"The Battalion," Redding said.
"Yes. You can stop him. I can hold the rest of my people in check if you do so. The Battalion has already stated its purpose. As long as you are fighting to save the civilian population everything will be fine."
"You are asking a lot."
"I was hoping you had maybe ten more of those big ships, cloaked."
"You know the situation Frost. You are the only one who can do anything."
Redding nodded. "True. All right, the Battalion will do it. I expect you two to keep a hold on your people."
"You can count on it." Khamul told them.
"I'm sure that Grand Marshal Richter and myself are up to it. Good luck Admiral."
"Yes, good luck," Khamul said.
"Keep in touch, and inform me of anything I need to know."
August had managed to repair the Azrael since it had been hit. The ship was in bad shape, but he suspected it would be an effective symbol. His ship was moving forward, it still had a great distance to travel. Half his cruiser had come with him. He quietly cursed those that had chosen to remain behind.
He was getting some help though. Admiral Landopov was joining him, with two cruisers. Gina Napelli was bringing her carrier, the Rudra, and one of her cruisers. Admiral Marindar had also joined him. Unfortunately his carrier had been damaged during the attack on Faraday and was still in space dock back at Gamma 4. He was commanding one of the Calabim cruisers and had three more cruisers with him.
There were others of course, a few more cruisers, some frigates, a number of battleriders and other small ships. They had a lot of mecha as well.
August was certain that once the fighting with the ODF started again that others would join with him. All he had to do was make sure that the ships which had joined him survived to keep the hole open in the ODF lines. Then the other ships could come it. It was within the ability of his people and ships. It had to be.
Redding looked around the room. There were not too many people there, in person. He had feeds from Juan and the commanders of the ships that were no longer cloaked. He was sending the information out to the other ships that were still cloaked, though he did not expect them to answer.
"This will not be easy, but we should be able to do it. When it comes to ships, anything above the size of a battlecruiser, we'll be outnumbered two, perhaps three to one. Those are odds we can deal with, we have a technological edge. Our real problem is the smaller units, specifically the mecha. On that front we are likely to be outnumbered ten to one."
"We can't get any help at all from the ODF?" Jesse asked.
"You know, our pilots are still flying a few SAC and ODF suits," Juan said.
"What are you suggesting?" Redding turned to look at the screen Juan was speaking from.
"We could paint a number of those suits our colours, change their IFF signals."
"I think it would look suspicious if ninety percent of our numbers were ODF units."
"Well, I was not thinking parity with the SAC, but we could close up the odds a little."
"Can you do it?"
"I'll talk to the Grand Marshal, he'll know for sure. Even if we can, I can't see us getting you any reinforcements for at least an hour. We'll have to work with a cloaked ship to keep this quiet. It will then have to go and hide behind one of the moons or something to launch those sits if no one from that SAC is supposed to see this."
"See what you can do. I don't know if we will call on them but it will be good to know we have the option."
"Sir, not that I'm not up for a good fight," Ree said. "But casualties are going to be damn extreme. Can't you just wait till most of those SAC ships and suits are in your forward firing arch and blow them all to hell?"
"I thought about it Commander. Such a tactic might present us with problems. We have to keep the rest of the SAC from getting upset. Destroying them all at once would not help."
"Hell of a way to fight a war."
"True, but a good way to stop one."
"We'll give you what you need," Ree told him.
"Good. I think you all know what is needed of you. The fighting will probably within the half hour. If no one has any questions," he looked about the room. "Dismissed."
Ree entered the forward launch bays, looking around. They had re-pressurised the bays since there was no fighting going on nearby and no Arrows were launching. The bays were busy with techs repairing the damage that the units had taken. It took Ree a moment to spot the Chief.
"Chief," Ree said as she floated up to him. "What's the story on Emiko's Arrow?"
"I have over a hundred units to work on. What's its number?" He looked at his display pad.
"Give me that," Ree reached out and took the pad. She searched through the information there until she found what she was looking for. "Here." She gave him back the pad.
"Let's see." He looked over the information. "Moderate damage, we'll have it back in shape in an hour. If you want I can re-direct a crew and we could have it fully repaired in ten minutes."
"No, no need. In fact chief I want you to ground that beast."
"Ground it. I think it needs hours of work to be back in combat shape. Since we can't spare that time, ground it."
"You're in charge." He entered the information. "Done. Now, I have work to do Commander."
"Carry on Chief."
Ree watched as he pushed off towards another part of the bay. She turned and headed out.
A minute later she was in the pilot' ready room. A large number of her pilots were lying around, getting some rest. Some were eating, some talking, a few kissing. Whatever passed the time.
She found Emiko curled up on an acceleration couch, strapped down.
"Emi-chan, wake up," Ree said, giving Emiko a prod.
"Nani," Emiko blinked her eyes and tried to sit up. The restraint held her down. It took her a few moments of fumbling to free herself. She sat up. "What is it oneechan?"
"Tell me, what is it you are thinking about when you are fighting? It sure as hell has nothing to do with keeping your ass in one piece."
"I don't understand."
"Yes you do. Now, what is it?"
Emiko looked down at her feet for a time, then finally back up at Ree. "I was thinking, with those riots Grey-san was talking about, my mother might be the target of violence."
"There are probably no mights about it. I suspect the Ravagers might try to get as many of the Inner Circle as possible."
"It's a little distracting."
"It's a lot distracting. Well, you don't need to worry about that anymore. Your ride has been grounded. You are not going anywhere."
"What? Well, maybe I could fly something else? I know some pilots in sick bay brought their suits back."
Ree shook her head. "Okay then, you're grounded as well."
"Forget Emi-chan. This is going to hell," she dropped her voice slightly. "Even if you were completely focused on combat, right in the zone, you would probably still get killed. You are just too nice."
"Here's what I want you to do. Go and grab the John B.. Take it and head to Earth. We might be fighting there and I'll need someone on ground when we get there."
"Sometimes you are a bad liar Oneechan."
"Well I can't be perfect at everything can I."
"But I don't want to leave you, not now."
"Leave or not, you're not going into combat. If you want to sit in this ship, fine. I find you in this fight, I'll shoot you down myself just so I don't have to wonder."
"It's like I'm running away. Like I am afraid." Emiko's voice was soft.
Ree leaned over and brushed the hair away from Emiko's forehead. She leaned down and kissed her above her eyes. "If anyone is afraid it is me. I think you should go. And I'm sure that you find something of value to do once you get there."
Emiko blinked back a few tears, then nodded. She got to her feet. "I guess I better go now."
"You do that. And make sure you come back. We're not finished yet, with anything."
Emiko smiled slightly. She hooked her foot under a chair and then bowed, very properly. "Hai, Ree-oneechan," she said as she straightened. They stared at each other for a moment, then Emiko turned, kicked her foot against the chair, and flew off.
Ree stood where she was, watching as Emiko left the ready room.
"That was a nice thing you did," Epiphany said.
"Practical really. We would have been spending too much time keeping an eye on her. We don't have that luxury this time."
"It was still nice."
Ree turned to face Epiphany. "Another month and I could have made her the pilot she needed to be."
Epiphany smiled. "If we are good enough, she'll never have to face something like this."
"So we go off to fight the good fight, to strike a blow for the forces of light, and happiness and ice cream." Ree laughed. It was a light, pure laugh that was so out of place in the ready room. "One day people will wish they were here, they will lie about it, claiming that they flew with us. They will remember us forever. No matter what happens we will have our immortality. Come Epiphany, let's get ready. I'm looking forward to this."
As Ree left the ready room she noted a number of pilots nodding, many smiling. The atmosphere in the room was no longer so heavy.
"That was very good," Epiphany said after they had left the ready room.
"Just something I think Shakespeare once said."
"Was he that short ensign?"
August stood upon the bridge of his wounded carrier. Ahead of him was a clear run to Solingen, clear except for that large Battalion ship, and two cruisers. He did not think he would be slowed.
"Sir, we're getting a broadcast from that ship."
"Put it on. I want to hear this."
The com officers did as she was told. For a moment there was nothing, then Redding's voice filled the bridge.
"This is a warning to the approaching ships. Solingen has stood down its defences, and you have been ordered to fall back. If you continue on your present course you will all be destroyed. The Starblade Battalion will not allow any harm to come to the civilians on the planet."
Then the transmission ended.
"He's bluffing," August said confidently. "All ships, full ahead."
"They're coming," the sensor op said.
"I knew they would," Redding said.
"Sir," his weapon's officer said. "I can destroy the Azrael easily."
"No. I don't want to make this Collins some sort of martyr. Target the Rudra."
"Yes sir. Do we destroy it right out?"
Redding knew that they should, but he could not help thinking of the crew. "I would rather have her fatally disabled, if possible."
"We'll see what we can do sir."
Redding waited while the weapons officer relayed his orders to the gunners. The weapons officer looked back at Redding.
From the weapon's pod underneath the Starblade a lance of light leapt forth once again. It crossed the void, and holed the Rudra from bow to stern, hitting low. It also cut right through a battlerider that had been directly behind the Rudra.
The battlerider exploded, back lighting the Rudra for a moment. Time seemed to freeze, seconds slowly crawled by. Then the first secondary explosions blossomed from the Rudra's hull. More explosions appeared, soon racing across the ship's surface.
Then it exploded, like a small sun, casting a stark white light across all the ships in the renegade fleet.
August shielded his eyes against the bright light of the Rudra's death. For a moment he said nothing. "Open a channel to all ships."
"Yes sir. Done sir."
"We will make them pay. We will fight to the last."
Redding watched as the Rudra exploded. He said nothing for a few seconds, then, "As soon as the gun is recharged fire again at target's of opportunity as long as you can. And remember, miss at least two times out of three."
"Enemy fleet is dispersing, all ships flying evasive patterns." That from the sensor op.
"Launch suits," Redding ordered as he sat down.
August held tight to the arm rests of his command chair. The Azrael, like all the ships, was burning a lot of fuel for the evasive manoeuvres. The sudden acceleration and deceleration, as well as rapid course changes was making it hard to keep his seat. He should strap in, but he wanted to be able to move if he had to.
The evasive manoeuvres seemed to be effective though, it looked like that big gun was only managing to hit with one out of three shots. Of course when it did hit the ship was usually destroyed outright. He was very lucky to still be alive it seemed. He had survived on blast of that cannon. Perhaps he was fated to survive everything?
"Sir," his sensor op called out. "That ship, it has not fired in the past minute."
"It has not fired."
"Are there any ships in the area, or suits that it might hit."
"Nothing on sensors."
"Oh damn. Warn all ships..." he started, but then it was too late.
The rest of the Battalion dropped their cloaks.
Redding had only kept two cruisers for the Starblade's anti-starship defence. It was not like it needed anymore. If attacked by a ship, he could simply back up and wait for his main gun recharge.
He had given Placide direct command of most of the ships. She was commanding the assault fleet. Her battleship, the 'DR'-recently modified by the Alincourts-dropped its cloak, the big guns on it opening up on the SAC ships. Below her was the Blood. To her port the Despair. To her starboard the Screaming Fit.
She had chosen her point group to its greatest effect. They led the way into the middle of the renegade fleet, destroying several of the ships as they went. Mecha were launching from the Ruby Cruisers and other ship, ready to meet the SAC units.
It was going to be a bloody fight.
Explosions filled space, most of them small, a suit going up, or a cutter. Then every now and again the battle was lit by the explosions of a larger ship. The Battalion broke the renegade fleets forward momentum and were holding them.
It cost them though.
Lilith was smiling as the she felt herself thrown against her restraints. It was not so much that the situation was right for smiling, but she was enjoying herself. The Despair seemed untouchable, thanks to Juliet.
The Despair rolled up over a blast of fire from the cruiser it was charging, neatly avoiding it. The big guns on the ship fired back, tearing holes into the Calabim's armour.
"Tough ships," Lilith said, more to herself.
She was not sure how long the fight had been going on. It might be hours, it could only be minutes. She had lost track. The time did not matter though, she was focused on the battle, and keeping her crew alive.
The DR shook as it was hit by another blast of gauss fire. The DR's huge guns fired back. The two ships were facing off against each other, firing. It was a bad position to be in, Placide thought, but it was not as if she had much choice. The destroyer had taken a beating and was no longer handling as well as it once did.
The contest of toughness came to an end as the SAC cruiser exploded.
"Damage report," Placide said.
"I don't know where to begin," her engineering liaison said.
"Can we still fight?"
"We stopped being able to fight ten minutes ago."
For a moment Placide considered ordering her ship on. It was only a moment, as tempting as it seemed, she knew the DR could not stand another fight. "Fall back," she ordered. "Make sure we have a mecha screen."
Placide looked around at the sensors. For now, the battle was over for her. If it lasted long enough she might be able to make repairs and rejoin it, but she did not think it would last that long.
The Screaming Fit was shaken as it took several solid hits from an SAC frigates main guns. Grey was thrown from the command chair, and almost broke her neck when she hit the bulkhead.
"Ow," Grey said. She shook her head to clear it. "Did I not tell you to fire on that ship!?"
"Sorry, the gunners still aren't up to speed on the guns."
"Well they don't have much more time to get up to speed." She pulled herself back towards her command chair. "So blow that damn ship to hell, and then find another one to blow to hell, and keep it up until we win."
Grey took her chair again, and finally used the restraint belts. She had been thrown about the cabin twice already and did not feel like trying it a third time.
Several rents marred the Starblade's armour. Evidence of the ships and suits that had managed to break through and attack the ship. The damage was minor though, and the Starblade stood strong, every now and then firing its huge gun.
Redding stood on the bridge, watching the battle as it continued to unfold. The superiority the renegade fleet had had in ship numbers was gone. They were basically even. On the other hand the renegades still had a much greater number of suits. The mecha were going to decide the course of the battle.
Diane shifted her Arrow into suit form, picking her area of space. Behind her was one of the Battalion ships, badly damaged. A group of SAC mechs were coming towards it, obviously planning on finishing it off.
There were just not enough Battalion mecha to be everywhere, they were therefore stretched very thin.
Diane lifted her suit's guns. They were the gauss shotguns that Jeremy had designed. Under the barrels were the Plasma guns that were the Arrow's normal armament. The over under arrangement of the two weapons gave Diane everything she needed.
She hardly moved as the SAC suits came in. She aimed and fired. A Zephyr exploded, its wreckage spinning off. Another Zephyr exploded, then a Galliard.
Diane flew backwards, giving some attention to evading the return fire. She let her computer handle the jamming, triggered the laser pod, and kept firing. Another Galliard went up, a Manticore took a double blast before it exploded.
The Arrow was hit by a grouping of swarm missiles that managed to get by the ECM and counter fire. While she was shaken, the armour held against the explosions. She kept firing.
Epiphany cut in close to the hull of a battlerider, flying over a terrain of armour plating and guns. There were at least two suits behind her, possibly more, but she did not concern herself with them.
A moment before she would over fly the ship she released the two torpedoes that were mounted under her wing. As soon as they were away she stood the Arrow on its tail and sped away.
The battlerider exploded, the force of the blast destroying the suits that had been following her.
Jesse tore into the Manticore, ripping it apart. He had given himself the task of tracking down and destroying the HAs. The Dragon was good at it. Around him was a battle of suits. He saw a Myrmidon hurl its axe, burying it into the chest of a Galliard. A Draken 2 was torn apart by a group of Zephyrs. A Loviatar caught up with a torpedo and destroyed it.
He jerked the Dragon around, avoiding a blast of fire from another Manticore. The Dragon's head swung around, the laser painter marking the HA. A moment later a blast of plasma burnt a hole straight through the enemy suit.
The fighting was getting harder and harder. He had no idea how many suits he had destroyed, but he felt it was not enough. The SAC suits still outnumbered them, and he could tell the Battalion pilots were beginning to tire.
As he slashed into a Zephyr with his Dragon's wings he wondered if Redding would send those ODF suits Juan had offered. Jesse knew that Redding was loathe to do so. He could understand it. The SAC ships had sat back, watching the renegades, not intervening. That would not last if it looked like the ODF had joined it.
He understood it, but he was not happy about it. Battalion pilots were dying, pilots he had a responsibility to. Of course, Redding had a much greater responsibility.
As Jesse finished the Zephyr off he decided he was glad not to be Redding's position. At least he had the fight to take his mind of unpleasant thoughts.
Ree almost felt guilty. It was not that she was killing the other pilots, that was something everyone accepted. To fly combat was to accept that you would kill, or be killed. No, what she felt guilty about was how much she was enjoying herself.
She was right in the middle of he largest mecha battle ever, perhaps even the largest dogfight ever. For the first time ever she felt truly challenged. It was like she being pushed to the bounds of her limits. That was a little surprising because she had never thought she had limits. It was very exciting.
She went out solo, not wanting to get anyone killed who could not keep up with her. She found large concentrations of SAC suit and charged right into the middle of them. Her ECM was turned up full, the enemy suits could hardly see her. She knew that to the sensors of the ships around her that her Arrow was a bright beacon. It did not matter through. It was not as if any ships would be firing at her.
Her target environment was rich, to say the least. She hardly had to aim. The high concentration of enemy suits worked to her advantage in other ways as well. If they fired at her and missed, which they inevitably did, they probably ended up hitting one of their own.
In this setting Ree flew, unchallenged. Suits fell to her guns, to her sword, to her tricks. She shifted forms almost constantly, using the form that best suited the constantly changing situation. She shifted to fighter form, using the extra speed to escape a spread of missiles. She shifted to suit form and fired at the suit that had launched the missiles. Back to fighter form, building up speed, then back to suit form, slashing into another unit with her sword as she passed.
She doubted the designers had ever thought she would put the Arrow through such manoeuvres. Every now and then she would see the stress monitors creep into the yellow.
As a Zephyr exploded she remembered something that one of her flight instructors had said. He had not known she was listening at the time. If she had the right suit, she'd be a god. He had been a little drunk at the time, and was making a joke, but Ree had always thought that there was something serious in his tone.
The enemy units had begun to thin out. Ree was not sure if that was because she had destroyed that many or if some had chosen to retreat. It made things a little easier for the SAC suits. Ree dodged fire from a pair of Galliards as she shifted to fighter mode. She sped towards a Manticore, avoiding it fire, but not returning any.
As she got close she shifted modes, grabbed the Manticore as she passed, then flipped herself behind it. One of the Arrow's arms was around its chest, holding her tight to it. Before the pilot could react the Arrow's free hand had drawn the plasma sword, and pushed it through the suits rear and into the cockpit.
Ree returned the sword to its storage position. She felt the Manticore shake as the Galliards flew towards her, firing. The plasma gun flipped forward, locking into the Arrow's hand. Ree fired back, keeping behind the Manticore which had become her shield.
She stayed with the Manticore as long as she could. Her familiarity with the suit gave her a good idea when it had taken too much damage to continue to serve her purposes. Ree released it, moving quickly away. A few seconds later it exploded.
As Ree swung around to deal with other suits she looked at her fuel monitor. It was getting low. She could continue fighting for a minute or two longer, then she would have to return to the Starblade for refuelling and rearming.
She could do a lot of damage in a minute or two.
The battle continued, the Renegade fleet was held, though may of their smaller units managed to break through. The Starblade had to deal with a number of direct attacks from suits, a few cutters and in one case from a battlerider that managed to move forward and fire on the larger ship.
While it showed the scars from those attacks, the Starblade was still a beautiful ship, still co-ordinating the battle and still the heart of the Battalion.
Almost every Battalion suit, unable to dock with their own ships-the ones that still had ships-in combat, came to the Starblade. With its own suit, and all the other ones, the techs aboard the carrier were exhaustingly busy.
To keep their supplies up Redding had ordered several Rubies to drop their cloaks and move forward to re-supply his ship. This made the supply ships an obvious target, and led to more attacks.
Redding had not left the bridge since the battle began. He thought things were beginning to turn, but it was hard to be sure. While he had lost few ships, especially compared to the losses that had been inflicted on the renegades, many of his ships were disabled, a few simply floating in space.
That made things more difficult, he had to assign suits to screen the disabled ships, ships which could contribute nothing to the battle.
As he had expected, it was the suits that would decide the battle.
Diane felt the restraint straps dig deep into her flesh as the Arrow was slammed up against another suit. Alarms went off, telling her of various types of damage the suit had just taken.
"Damn," she said, spinning the Arrow around. She thrust the barrel of one of her guns up against the chest plate of the Manticore she had just slammed into, the other gun targeted the Manticore that had sent her slamming into the first.
The one beside her exploded, hit by both the gauss cannon and the plasma gun. The force of the explosion blew her towards the second suit. Her fire stitched across it, blowing an arm and its main cannon off in the process.
She pushed the suit out of her mind, deciding for the time being it was no longer a threat, and turned to face an incoming flight of Cavaliers. Her suit shifted to fighter form and she sped at the approaching fighters. There were four of them.
Tracer ammunition lit up space, and Diane flew right into, knowing it could not pierce her armour. Such tactics were not to her liking, but she had no choice. If the suits got past her they would have a clear run on the Starblade.
She evaded the missiles and opened up on the fighters at close range. Two exploded. Diane passed between the remaining two, shifted to suit form, spun about and fired at the bright points of lights that were the fighter's thrusters.
They both went up at the same time the gauss cannon in her left hand ran out of ammunition. She looked at her sensors, then shifted the weapon in her right hand into its storage position. She grabbed a loaded magazine, her last, and slotted it into the weapon.
Both weapons back in her suit's hands, she shifted the suit to face the enemy.
Diane began firing, the recoil driving her suit back. A Galliard exploded, then another. A Zephyr caught part of that last shot, she used the plasma gun to finish it off. A Manticore took a shot from each of the cannons before it went down. She ignored two incoming Cavaliers, letting her ECM deal with the missiles they launched.
Another Galliard went down. The gauss cannon in her right hand was out of ammunition leaving her only the plasma gun on that side. She fired at another Manticore, the gauss cannon and both plasma guns turning the suit into a ball of flame. She swung the guns out, tracking the two fighters now that they had got close. They broke to either side of her, but she caught both with a burst of plasma. One exploded, another spun off out of control.
Her suit shook. A Zephyr had got in close to her while her attention had been focused on the fighters. It's kinetic ammunition drove her suit back, forcing it into an uncontrollable spin. Diane had to shift her attention to steadying her suit. The Zephyr used that moment to get even closer and hurled several grenades at the spinning Arrow. The pilot knew that missiles did not seem to work very well against the transformable suits. Maybe grenades might make a difference.
Diane caught the Zephyr's action. It was not the first time that someone had used such tactics on her, though it was the first time in a mecha.
She hit her thrusters, opening up with her laser pod. The burst of laser caught some of the grenades, detonating them. The force of the blast set off the remainder. Diane's Arrow caught some of the blast, but so did the Zephyr. The Arrow survived. The Zephyr did not.
Diane righted her course, just in time to deal with two incoming Galliard's. The cannon in her left hand ran out of ammunition. Now she was only left with the plasma guns.
The SAC suits were able to get closer to her now that she did not have the power of the gauss cannons. She took at least one hit with each suit or fighter she dispatched. While many of the attacks failed to penetrate her armour, some did. Alarms began to sound, telling her that the suit was not in good shape. Still she fought.
Her port engine went down as a Manticore exploded. She lost her ECM with a Galliard. Three Zephyrs cost her the suit's remaining counter missiles and blew the port wing off.
Diane looked around, realising that there were no more targets left in the area, just wreckage. Then something entered her sensor range. Her computer tagged it. An SAC cutter, armed with gauss cannon and riding on its bow was a Manticore.
It was coming right at her, at speed.
Diane looked at the damage report. If she evaded it, it would get past her, and she would not be able to catch up, not in the shape she was in. The Arrow's guns swung forward, targeting the incoming cutter. Diane watched as information swam across her screen, then she began firing.
She concentrated her fire on the Manticore, picking it as the weakest part. It got closer and she kept firing. The Pilot of the Manticore opened up with the gauss pistol. Diane kept firing. A cloud of missiles leapt froth from the Manticore a moment before it exploded.
The force of the blast washed over the bow of the cutter, and through the docking hatch.
Diane hit her thrusters, trying to climb out of the way of the incoming ship. The loss of the port engine, and the damage the starboard had taken slowed her. She looked up at the exploding ship that was bearing down at her. She swung the guns together, crossing the Arrow's arms at the wrist and began firing.
Bolts of Plasma slammed into the cutter's bow, ripping through armour. The cutter continued to approach, its pilot matching the Arrow, maintaining the collisions course. There was no more than a hundred meters separating the two craft when the small starship exploded.
Diane continued trying to clear its path, but she could not move fast enough. The wreckage was approaching her, getting closer. It was lit by hundreds of explosions from within in. Then it swept over the Arrow, enveloping it.
Epiphany wished she could return to the Starblade. A chance to re-arm, a chance to get a minute of rest. It was not to be. She found herself on the point of a wedge driving deep into a group of SAC suits.
She dove towards a cutter, two Galliards on her tail. She could have easily left them behind, but running away was not the purpose of the exercise. Using all her skill, honed in many bombing runs, she whipped around the cutter, the bottom of her Arrow almost scraping against it.
One of the Galliards tried to follow her. It ended up impacting against the cutter.
The second pilot was more conservative, and had hung back. Epiphany shifted to suit form and opened up on that one with both plasma guns. The opposing pilot opened up on her with the suit's rifle.
Epiphany avoided his fire. He did not avoid hers. After several hits to the chest and head the Galliard exploded.
Her sensors beeped. Epiphany looked. A veritable swarm of missiles were coming toward her, launched from a missile pod on the cutter. Even as she was swearing she was climbing. Her ECM jammed the missiles, but there were so many that they did not need to have a lock on her to hit her. She opened up with the laser pod and missiles exploded, those detonations destroying more, but there had to be nearly a thousand of the small missiles. She evaded as best she could, but there was only so much she could do.
The first of the missiles impacted. Their small charges were unable to breech her armour, but the force of the blast seem to travel through the suit, and through her. More hit, their explosions sometimes detonating other missile before they could impact. A cloud of explosions appeared about her, completely obscuring her suit. Then out of that cloud flew her Arrow, in fighter form.
The fighter looked dirty, most of its paint burnt off, and there were some signs of damage, but it still was in good shape. It flipped around, heading back towards the cutter. Another spread of missiles were launched, but this time Epiphany had been expecting them and she out flew them.
She flew around the cutter, spotting the second pod. She did not doubt it was full of more missiles. Both guns trained on it, she put four bursts into it before pulling back on her controls. The Arrow snapped up and rocketed away from the cutter.
The explosion of the missile pod blew a large hole into the cutters hull, tearing through the engines. The ship did not explode but it was obvious that it was not in the fight any longer.
Epiphany moved out of the battle, wanting to get an overall look at things before she dove back in. As she climbed above-or descended below, depending on one's point of view-she began to feel a lot of pain. Looking about she noticed that one of the fasteners for her seat restraint had snapped. She had been thrown about hard.
Of course a little bit of pain was a small thing to put up with. The sort of beating she had taken would have destroyed most other suits. She would have to remember to mention to Tess that the sock absorbing qualities of the cockpit could stand to be improved.
Epiphany suddenly started coughing, a spasm that might have folded her over had she not been held tight to her seat. She tired to cover her mouth, an almost automatic reaction, but her hand came up against the face plate of her helmet.
She felt moisture on her lips and was annoyed she could not brush it away. Then she saw a red globule floating inside her helmet.
After making sure she was clear she took her hands off the control and ran them down her sides. While she was a little tender everywhere, when she got to her lower ribs, on the same side that the restraint had snapped, she felt a stabbing pain. She hissed breath between clenched teeth and moved her fingers away.
Obviously she had broken some ribs. The coughing and the blood were strong indicators that the bone had penetrated her lung. Damn.
Going back was the smartest thing to do, she might have other internal injuries, she could be bleeding to death inside. Then again, there was only a small bit of blood floating around inside her helmet, and she did not feel that bad. She was hurt, but not fatally so. They needed every pilot they had in the fight.
Epiphany swung back down into the fight. She would engage a few more targets, by then her fuel would be low enough that she would have to return to the Starblade. That seemed like the proper thing to do.
Ahead of her was a Galliard, chasing after a Loviatar. The Interceptor was missing one of its legs, otherwise it would have left the Galliard far behind. Epiphany dove at it, hitting the Galliard from behind, shifting to suit mode along the way. It's backpod exploded, and with the loss of it, and the explosion, the Galliard went spinning out of control.
Epiphany finished the suit off before it could right its course.
"Thanks," the pilot of the Loviatar said. "I thought I was done for."
"You almost were," Epiphany told him. "You better get to..." she was interrupted by a coughing spasm once more. Her suit jerked around, her hands were still on the controls. When it stopped she could see more red globules in the helmet.
"Are you all right?" the other pilot asked.
"Yes," Epiphany said, catching her breath. "Like I said, you better get out of here."
"You don't have to tell me twice. That's where I was going. Good luck."
Epiphany followed after the Loviatar for a minute, shifting over to her fighter form to match it. Once she was sure that it was clear of the fighting she turned around and headed back into the fight.
Over the next few minutes she dealt with eight more enemy suits. She almost was fell prey to the last one, a coughing fit hitting her at just the wrong time. It only put a hole into the Arrow's port wing. She was lucky. Her lung was filling with fluid, blood. That was shy she was coughing. She had taken off her helmet, the blood in it had started interfering with her vision. Now if her cockpit was breached she was in a lot of trouble.
It was time to head back.
She was leaving the battle when a Galliard suddenly dropped into her six, right on her tail. Swearing softly, she snapped the Arrow up and over, pointing her nose at the other suit. The sudden manoeuvre tossed her against her restraints. For a moment the pain froze her, and white lights danced in front of her eyes.
The Galliard hit her in that moment, its rifle rounds punching into the fighter, shattering internal supports and hitting the powerplant containment shield. For a moment Epiphany thought that it might shut down, or even explode. The power output dropped for a moment, then rose back to normal levels. A glancing hit, she thought as she returned fire.
The fight between her and the Galliard lasted a little over thirty seconds. As she out manoeuvred it, finally dropping behind it, she was reminded of the bruising throughout her body. The adrenaline must be wearing off, she thought as the Galliard went up in a ball of flame.
It was definitely time to get out of there.
She brought the Arrow about, pointed it at the far off Starblade, and opened her thrusters right up.
It took her ten minutes to get back to the ship. Several groups of suits passed her, heading back to the fight. Epiphany felt guilty for a moment, until she looked at her fuel levels. She was near empty. Three more coughing spasms hit her on the way back, blood floated around her. As she wiped off her mouth with the back of her glove she tried to guess how much blood might be there. Enough for her to die? It did not look like that much.
Her concerns were pushed to the side as she had to prepared for docking. She circled around the Starblade, after getting docking clearance, then came in on the rear part of the front wing. She cut her velocity down, almost to a stop, then drifted into the recovery section. The armoured door snapped open when the Arrow's nose was only twenty centimetres away from it, then snapped close, almost brushing the tail of the fighter.
As soon as the outer door closed the inner door opened. A docking arm swung out and grasped the Arrow, pulling it forward. Epiphany put on her helmet, checked the seal, then depressurised her suit's cockpit.
She slid out from the Arrow, wincing in pain as her tender sides came in contact with parts of the hatch. It was not too bad, so she thought that she would be fine.
One of the tech crew floated up to her, looking the Arrow over. "Got waked a bit I can see."
Epiphany nodded. She was feeling a little light headed. "I know."
"It will take about twenty minutes to fix this," he told her.
"Actually," Epiphany felt another spasm coming, but she forced it down. "You can put this at the bottom of your list for now. I'm heading to sickbay."
"You all right? You look a little pale."
"I'll be all right," Epiphany told him.
The tech nodded, then quickly moved off. He had so many other things to take care of, he had forgotten Epiphany almost as soon as he turned away.
Epiphany rested there a moment, just floating beside her fighter. She might have stayed there, bust she knew that she would be in the way. She grabbed hold of her fighter and used it to propel herself towards the bay's exit.
She felt a little dizzy and light headed. It made coping with zero G all that much more difficult. She missed the door by a meter and had to use her hands to cushion herself as she hit the wall.
"Ow," Epiphany said, then laughed. It seemed funny to her, or did until the pain laughing caused lanced into her. She grabbed a handhold before she went floating off into the bay, and pulled herself to the door.
A few seconds later she had passed through the airlock and was in the central core. The environment indicator told her that there was air in the hallway. She pulled her helmet off, glad to feel the fresher air of the ship on her face. She dropped her helmet, letting it float. Suddenly she was feeling very tired, and a little cold.
She reached out and grabbed one of the track pullers. She missed it the first two times, but got her hand around it the third time. She pressed the button down with her thumb. The puller lived up to its name and began pulling her along the corridor, up toward the sickbay. Once she got there everything would be fine.
She was so tired though, and cold, and still coughing. Twice a coughing fit almost made her release the puller. The third time she could not continue to hold on. The puller ran on for a short distance, then stopped as the button no longer held down.
Epiphany stared at the puller as she floated in the hallway, a flew globules of blood from the last coughing spasm floating with her. She reached forward, but it was just beyond her grasp. She closed her eyes. All she needed was a minute of rest, then she could go on.
Ree had been young when she had gone to the ODF training, as had most of the other recruits.
The first month of training had been the most basic sort of military training. It was when the instructors decided the recruits aptitude and sent them for more specialised training. Almost everyone there had wanted to fly mecha. Only four in ten made it.
Ree remembered one night, in the barracks she had shared with nine other girls, telling ghost stories. One of the girls, something Daniles, Ree could not remember her first name, had talked of the bond between pilot and suit. She had said sometimes that the datalink allowed for a connection so strong that the pilot actually began to think the suit.
Sometimes the connection became so strong that the pilot and the suit merged, their soul inhabiting the metal body of their mecha, forever. In true ghost story fashion she had said that there were, in the darkness of space, some suits like that, hunting those that still had their own bodies.
At the time it had been a little scary. Ree had always thought of it as a moral lesson. Don't become too focused on one thing. Something like that.
As a pilot she knew that such a thing was impossible. As Kareen Maxil, she secretly hoped it might be true. To bond like that with a machine, to become one with it, that seemed the way to the ultimate skill level she quested for.
As the Arrow slid between the fire of a Galliard, firing back at it, watching her burst hit in an impossibly tight grouping, she thought that she might have finally achieved it. The Galliard exploded and she went hunting for new prey. They were all prey to her. There was not one threat to her outside of her suit.
The carrier out there, the one that Redding still had not destroyed, it was called the Azrael. Someone, maybe Emiko-she was the sort who knew such useless trivia-told her that it was the name of the Angel of Death.
Ree was suddenly angry at it. It had taken a name that was rightfully hers. Smiling, she brought her fighter around. The carrier was close by, with its protective screen of mecha. Ree decided that she was going to destroy it.
She hit the Azrael's outer picket lines first. It was a fairly strung out structure of Zephyrs and Cavaliers, put together with missiles in mind. Ree destroyed two suits and a fighter as she went through. There were a number on her tail, but she left them behind. She was sure they would catch up with her soon enough, but she'd deal with them then.
Ahead of her were more suits, the actual defence screen, put together to stop enemy mecha from getting close to the carrier. They were already moving to intercept her, but there were not too many of them. Obviously they did not know what they were dealing with.
Ree hit them fast, giving the other pilots little time to react. Four suits destroyed in the space of several heart beats. The plasma guns, the sword, even the suit's feet, all of them came into play. Ree had complete control of her suit, she was not even aware of the controls, it seemed she thought it and it happened.
There were more suits, more Galliards, more Manticores, more Zephyrs, all coming at her. Again, the high concentrations of suits helped her and hindered them, giving her that final edge she needed.
She used the suit to its full potential. The Arrow moved in ways that looked impossible to the pilots trying to catch it. The vectored thrust gave it an unbelievable amount of manoeuvrability, and Ree happily used that. She shifted forms constantly, using the advantages of each form when it was called for. She even used the transition to her advantage, the way the Arrow changed, to avoid attacks.
As she did all this, her kill count raising steadily, Ree circled the carrier, looking for something. The huge ship had taken a number of hits during all the battles, there were rents in the armour. She was sure that there was something there for her.
The stress indicators were creeping into the red. They had been staying in the yellow almost constantly. Ree wondered if the designers had ever thought that anyone would put an Arrow through what she was putting hers through. As the stress indicators hit the red area again she decided that it was unlikely.
She was going to have to talk to Tess about her suit design.
Ree was shifting to fighter form when a tremor ran through the suit and the sequence halted. For a moment it made her vulnerable, left her open. She swung the almost fighter about, using the vectored thrust to move in and out of the sights of the SAC suits.
There was another tremor, and the suit completed its transformation, locking into fighter form. As Ree flew in behind another target she brought up the damage control screen. One of the actuators that powered the transformation had simply ceased to function. The others had finally completed the sequence, but she had lost three more. The Arrow was stuck in its fighter form.
With a loss of one of her greater assets Ree knew that it was time to act. If she did not she might not get a chance.
She pulled up into an inside loop, flying between two Galliards trying to close in on her. Ahead of her was the hull of the carrier.
The first blast of the Starblade's cannons had cut right through the ship. While the tech crews had patched the holes in either side of the ship, it was not much of a job. Ree flew straight at the side of the hull, firing as she went. The plasma blew holes into the metal. By the time she hit the patch it looked like a lace curtain.
As soon as she was inside the ship she flipped the Arrow over, using the engines to brake, slowing the fighter down. Around her was the torn up interior of the ship, a large space carved out by the blast of the cannon. She could see the tech crews, in PARS-Personal Armour Repair Suits-working on the damaged interior. She felt bad for them, but it did not stop her from acting.
A blast of the thrusters started the fighter spinning around its central axis. She changed the thrusters direction slightly, changing the nature of the spin. Soon she was traversing an almost globe shape.
Ree locked the trigger down for the Plasma guns and let them begin carving up the inside of the ship. It was hard to focus on any one thing. She saw PARS cut down, small explosions in the area about her as the plasma burnt through power conduits. A suit, maybe a Galliard, tried to enter the ship as well. It was blown back out the hole in the hull before it could do anything.
The Arrow kept spinning about, faster and faster, the guns firing so fast, building up so much heat that parts of them began to melt. Still they fired. Ree decided when she got back she was going to kiss Dr. Roberts.
And suddenly the Arrow stopped. It just stopped, the nose pointing at the hole it had entered in. Had there been anyone alive to see that they probably would have been amazed. Ree brought the thrusters up to full, passing through the hole at full speed. She had to do some impressive flying to avoid colliding with several SAC suits in the area. She wanted to get out of the area as fast as possible.
She was not sure how she knew, but she knew that the Azrael was in its last moments of existence.
There was suddenly a lot of light coming through the rear part of the fishbowl. Ree switched the rear view to her front monitors. She wanted to see it. It was sort of a morbid as she knew what was happening, she just had to see it.
There was a ball of light where the Azrael had once been, an expanding ball of light. She could see the small shapes of SAC suits as they were caught in that light, torn apart by the powerful forces unleashed.
Ree watched as it continued to grow, almost as if it was trying to catch her. A moment later she realised that she was not going to get away, not unless she was able to move faster. Even as she was thinking that her fingers were activating her escape velocity boosters.
The Arrow leapt forward, accelerating away from the blast. Still, she knew that she was going to catch the very edges of the blast wave. She changed her Arrow's orientation slightly, tilting it down so that the bottom of her fighter was presented towards the approaching blast.
When it hit her it was like she had been slammed by some sort of giant hand. She was pushed even deeper into her seat as the Arrow's acceleration was increased.
Alarms started going off around her as systems began to fail. The manoeuvres inside the carrier had put a lot of stress on the fighter, activating the boosters had increased that. All the stress monitors were in the red and staying there.
The powerplant alarm suddenly sounded. It was going to crash shutdown if she did not do something. Even if Ree could have done something, she knew there was no point. If the reactor did not shut down it would probably explode.
As the powerplant went down Ree thought she could feel her heart stop. It was a very strange feeling. The cockpit was going dark, everything shutting down. Ree tried to think of something poignant, but all that came to mind was that she was the best there ever was.
It was enough.
The Dragon almost crashed into the side of the Starblade. It's port side was a mess of twisted armour, and the engine was gone as was the wing. Jesse fought it for control, then moved into the recovery bay.
The bay sealed, and then he had to wait until the airlock pressurised. He wondered why there were using the airlocks, it took too much time. The inner door opened and the Dragon was moved into the launch bay.
When he got out he noticed how few people there were around. It was a large change from the activity that had greeted him the last time he had come back to the ship. He pushed away from his mech, flying towards one of the techs.
"How long till you can fix my mecha?"
"Pardon?" The tech turned to face him. "Oh, sir. Sorry. Your Dragon?" He looked across the bay. "Well, a couple of hours I guess."
"Hours? I want minutes."
"Jesse," he heard Akadi call. He turned to see her there some distance behind him. Her arm was in a sling. "It's over," she told him as she moved towards him.
"It's over. What's left of them have either gone back to the SAC or surrendered to us."
"Congratulations." She stopped in front of him. "You survived."
Jesse said nothing. He had survived. How many had not? Akadi seemed to sense what was going on inside him. She reached forward and put her good arm around him, pulling him tight against her.
After a moment the tech realised that if he stayed any longer he would be intruding.
Tess and Josie stood by one of the portholes, looking out into space. While the armoured shutter should have been locked down, Josie knew ways to bypass most of the ship's systems. Tess had a pair of binoculars up to her eyes. Without the distorting effect of an atmosphere she could see for a long distance.
"So many lost lives," Tess said after a moment.
"So many saved ones."
"I feel responsible."
"Perhaps you are."
"What?" Tess looked towards the other woman.
"Perhaps you are, but I don't think so. This would have happened with or without us. Had you not given us the technology, had not my family been there to build everything that was needed things would have been worse. We gave them a chance to make a difference."
Tess stared out the porthole for a few seconds. "I don't think I will ever design another mech again, or do any work related to it."
"What will you do then."
"Your talents will be missed."
"Well Admiral Frost, you did it," Khamul said.
"Thank you." Redding felt tired. Exhausted.
"I'll be leaving a small force around Salamanca, just to be sure, but most of the fleet will move back to Gamma 4 or Earth space."
"I'm glad to hear it."
"What will the ODF do?"
"I don't know, not yet."
"I suggest you tell Mr. Varris that he might want to disperse it as much as possible. All those ships in one place are bound to make people nervous."
"I'll tell him."
Khamul said nothing for a moment. "This was the right thing in the end. Thank you." With that he cut the connection.
Redding was just sitting back when another window appeared. In it was Juan's face. "So, we won."
"We won. I need rescue vehicles out now. I want every survivor found, no matter what side. I want any remains brought back."
"Right away." Juan turned and relayed Redding's request to someone off screen. He turned back. "They are on the way. Any news about casualties?"
"I only have figures right now, no names."
"So, what are the figures like?"
"Twenty percent of ships crews have been killed or wounded, nearly eighty percent among the pilots."
Juan looked shocked. "Dear gods."
Redding nodded. "I hope that with rescues that the projected death figure will go down. I don't know yet."
Juan was silent for a time, then shook his head. "I wanted to ask you, what do you want done with the ODF? I've told Karl that you are basically in charge of them for now."
"I figured that was for the best."
Redding shook his head. "Talk to the Grand Marshal, figure out who is not likely to take their ships and become pirates. Those I want sent out to the colonies for their protection. Stand the rest down, go to skeleton crews, release any draftees."
"Right. I'll get on it."
"So it's over now."
"This part is over. The difficult part is just is just beginning."
Emiko had not bothered trying to sneak into Earth space, though she probably could have. Once she had shunted in she had contacted the authorities, been patched down to Sydney, and had received permission for entry into Earth's atmosphere and landing clearance at the Zenith.
As she approached the Zenith she saw thin columns of smoke raising from the beautiful building. There weren't many of them, but they spoke of something terribly wrong. She guessed that Grey's riots were probably going on as planned.
She circled around the Zenith, following the orders of the flight controller, then put the John B. down on the landing field she had been directed to. She could see people moving out on to the field, but she made them wait as she shut everything down.
Emiko undid the restraints and got to her feet. She brushed her hands across her skirt, then walked off the bridge. On the way to Earth she had taken some time to change out of her skinsuit and into something proper. She had put her flight jacket over it, trying to look military in some way, but she felt she had failed. At least it covered the shoulder holster she wore, and it was armoured. That might come in useful.
She exited the ship, then stopped, turned, and activated the security systems. The hatch she was standing in front of closed and she heard the click of the security bolts locking home. That done, she turned back towards the people on the field.
There were eight of them, wearing ODF work dress, carrying rifles. A Major approached her. "Miss Miya, please, come with us."
"Thank you," Emiko said, having nothing else to say.
They fell in around her, the Major in the lead. Emiko felt that they were there for her protection.
From the field they took her into the Zenith. Waiting for them was a black APC with USSA markings. She was shown into it, and shown to a seat. One of the women made sure she was properly seated and the restraints on right. A moment later the APC moved out.
"What's happening?" Emiko asked.
"There are disturbances in the city," the Major told her.
Emiko almost asked if he meant riots, but decided that might be impolite. "Are we going to be all right?" she asked instead.
"We'll be fine. This," he waved his hand around to indicate the APC, "is more than we really need." "Where are we going?"
"High security section."
Emiko nodded, and asked no more questions. The high security section was where she had expected to be taken. It was where her mother would be.
The trip in the APC was quiet. She was quickly taken into the secure area and into the parking garage of an office block. She was shown to the elevator, at which point she lost her armed escort.
Out of the elevator she was met by a harried looking secretary who led her to a conference room door before leaving her alone.
Emiko stood outside of that door for almost a minute, then she pushed open the door and entered the room.
"You are late," her mother said. She was sitting at the head of the table.
"Gomen nasai(I'm sorry)," Emiko said.
"I'm sure you are." Takako got to her feet. "Do I have you to blame for Dr. Melan's current incarceration and the unfortunate allegations being made about him?"
"It would be hard not to. At about the same time your Battalion was making its announcement to both fleets, similar announcements were being made on Earth, and in the orbital colonies, and on the Moon, and on Mars, and probably everywhere else."
"It is all true," Emiko said, suddenly feeling a little defensive.
"It is, and it isn't. The truth is, probably, that Dr. Melan was influencing the behaviour of the Midnight Sun. Your side suggests, very carefully, that the entire Inner Circle was involved and that it was the Midnight Sun that was influencing our policy, as they were with the Solingen board." Takako shook her head. "I must admit, your side has all the good spin doctors."
Emiko almost said, 'That was because the Inner Circle and Solingen tried to kill them all', but she did not. It would not help. Instead she apologised again, "Gomen nasai."
Takako shook her head. "I don't think you are really sorry about it. You've said you were sorry before, and then you just left. Your apologies are worth very little."
Emiko wanted to say something, but she could think of nothing. She looked down at her shoes.
"I made your life very difficult did I not?"
Emiko looked up at her mother and shook her head. "No.."
"Don't lie," Takako said sharply. "Not about this. I did make your life hard. I wanted you so much, even though by everything I believed I should have never had you."
Emiko straightened and set her jaw. "I wasn't the perfect daughter either. I spent a lot of time finding small ways to get at you. It doesn't matter."
Takako looked at Emiko, a surprised look on her face. Then she laughed. "I don't know if you are a genius or you just accidentally stumble on the right things to say. It must be something you got from your father. There is not a single child that does not torture their parents in some way. I on the other hand was abusive to you."
"Uso yo(you were not)!" Emiko said.
"I was." Takako reached into her jacket and removed a pistol. "What I did to you was cruel, and I thought of only one way to make it better, to end your pain." She walked towards Emiko. "It was not the best thought out plan, but you always manage to confuse and confound me." She stood in front of Emiko and lifted the gun, pointing it at her. "You've been an extremely naughty young lady."
Emiko stared at the barrel, but did nothing.
"As I said, your father is also either a genius, or accidentally stumbles on the right thing to say. It was fortunate that he came back here and we had the chance to talk." She shifted the pistol so it was pointing up at the ceiling, then she returned it to inside her jacket. "He made me realise I was looking for a way to punish you, as opposed to helping you."
Emiko was not sure what to say, her mind was in a jumble about everything her mother had just said, what it meant. "I might have had you killed." She did not know why she said, she had not meant it. It just came out of her mouth.
Takako looked at her. "Pardon?"
"I cracked the encryption on the list of Inner Circle members, and I saw your name. I knew that they might assassinate members, but I gave them the list anyway."
"I wanted to take your name off, but I couldn't, and it did not even matter. They already had the list," Emiko said. She had begun to cry.
Takako shook her head. "Well that explains some things." She pulled a handkerchief from her jacket and gave it to Emiko. "Take this, and stop crying."
Emiko took it and wiped the tears away. "I've felt so bad about it."
"You should, but it is understandable."
"I didn't do it to get back at you!" Emiko said angrily.
"Then why did you do it?"
"Because it was the right thing."
"That's why you did all of this, isn't it?"
"Even thought it put you against me?"
"I'm your mother. Don't you owe me something?"
Emiko opened her mouth, then she closed it. She could not think of anything to say.
"Did you do this to get back at me?"
Emiko looked like some animal caught in headlights. Her eyes were wide, and she looked like she wanted to run, but did not know where.
"I don't know," Emiko finally managed to say. Then she began crying again. She brought her hands up to her face, trying to wipe away the tears.
Takako stared at her for a moment, then stepped forward and pulled her into an embrace. "You are such a foolish child," she said softly.
"Gomen nasai, honto ni gomen nasai(I'm truly sorry)," Emiko sobbed.
"This time I think you are," Takako said softly.
Emiko did not say anything else, she just held on tight to her mother. They stayed that way until they heard the door open behind them and Auden's voice. "Sempai, we have to leave soon."
Takako released her daughter and took a step back. "Clean your face up," she told Emiko, then turned towards Takako. "How are things?"
"Building. They've burnt me in effigy. It was not even a very good effigy." Auden walked over to Takako.
"Well we can't expect much for them."
"True. Here," she handed Takako a long coat similar to the one she was wearing.
"Thank you," Takako held if up, then put it on.
"This goes well with it." Auden reached under her own jacket and removed a submachine gun from within it."
"Always one to know that perfect accessory," Takako smiled as she looked the weapon over.
"What's happening?" Emiko asked.
"Many things," Takako told her.
"The Battalion has won, in so much as they can win. Both the Moon, and Mars, as well as several orbital colonies, have declared for the Battalion's plan. The Battalion obviously has friends in all the right places.
"This had put the USSA in a rather unfortunate situation. There is a definite possibility of civil war breaking out at this point. To prevent this they have also agreed to the Battalion's terms, in the interest of saving lives. I can't really fault them, a civil war would be very wasteful."
"So, why the weapons."
"The USSA has given the Inner Circle up." Takako cocked her weapon and put it under her coat.
"Look." Auden picked a remote of the table and pressed one of the buttons. A number of screens on the wall lit up. They showed scenes of violence on a large scale. "We have a very damaging riot on our hands, this scene is being played out all over the world, but it seems worst here. While I suspect that the initial rioters were plants, a mob rule has taken over. Now everyone seems to be involved. They want us."
"You're going to go out there?"
"Yes," Takako told her.
"But they will kill you."
"A definite possibility," Auden said.
"Because we are responsible for it. If we were to run away, like some have done, then it would be like saying we did not believe in what we did." Takako smiled. "It is what you did, and I can't let my foolish, young daughter upstage me, can I?"
"But..." Emiko was interrupted by the arrival of her father.
"Osokunatte, sumimasen(sorry I'm late)," he said.
Takako walked up to him. They stared at each other for a moment, then as one embraced. Emiko turned away, feeling a little embarrassed.
Takako released him and stepped back. "Emiko-chan wa, tanomu(please take care of Emiko)," she said.
She bowed deeply to him, then straightened. She move close to him again and kissed him on the cheek. "Sayonara," she said, then she was gone.
"Goodbye Shingo," Auden said as she walked towards the exit. "Goodbye Emiko." She left.
Emiko walked after them, but her father put a hand on her shoulder, stopping her. He shook his head.
"What are they going to do?"
"It's been announced to the crowd that they will address them. They are going to do that."
"We have to go with them," Emiko tried to pull away from her father, but his grip was like iron. "They'll be killed."
"You don't really know your mother very well, or Dominica-san. If you go out there you will probably be hurt."
"I don't care."
"Well you should," he shook her. "You made a promise to everyone that you would help to build a better government when this was over. Well, it is over, and you have to live up to that promise."
Emiko looked up at him for a moment. "That would be the right thing to do, I know, but it is right for everyone but me. I'm tired of doing that. I want to be selfish. I will not let okaasan go out there by herself."
"Well you will have to. She does not want you out there, nor does she need your help, not now. If I thought there was a chance of her being harmed I would be out there with her. She is wearing some of the best armour available, and she will have 40 PAFS acting as crowd control, as well as about a hundred other troops. This is something they have to do, but neither is suicidal. Now come on."
"I'm taking you to your ship, and I'll probably need a ride as well. There is a good chance that we will have to pick up your mother and Dominica-san before this is all over."
"It's over Emiko. All that is left is a little cleaning up. Come on." He pulled her along out of the room. She tried to break his grip, or stop him, but she soon appreciated how strong her father was. Giving up she followed after him.
"Will she really be all right?"
"If anyone can survive this, she can."
Dom looked down at Epiphany. She lay on the table, her skin tinged blue.
"I'm sorry," the doctor said. "She was already dead when they found her. The ship's corridors, they are mostly empty during combat and..."
Dom held up a hand, silencing the man. "Leave us."
The doctor bobbed his head, and quickly left.
He looked down at Epiphany for a time. "You messed up my life, confused the hell out of me in so many ways, and now you leave me?" He looked down at her face. "Damn you."
Lilith sat on her bridge, a squeeze bottle of scotch in her hands. She and her crew were celebrating.
"So Dawn, what do you do now?"
"I don't know," the woman said from the screen. "I was thinking of going back to the SAC."
"And they will court-martial you and your crew for stealing that ship, and deserting. Not much of a future. And even assuming they don't, you'll never be considered part of the SAC again. You left them after all."
"I know," Dawn sighed.
"So stay with me. The Charybdis will still support the Battalion, until it starts to get more government like, then we'll ditch them."
"And do what?"
"Back to smuggling and a little piracy on the quiet. You'd make a good pirate."
Dawn nodded. "It appeals."
Grey looked around at the bridge. It was a real mess. She smiled.
"So now what?" Quick asked from behind her.
"Now," Grey laughed. "Now we ask for a world."
"A world. Redding will give us one. A place where a Ravager can be a free, away from the authority. A hard world that will let us keep our edge. We'll be the new samurai, or something, of this coming age."
"Every Ravager will want to follow such a dream," Quick said, admiration in his voice.
"Yes." Grey touched one of the chair controls. It spun about, putting her face to face with Quick. He had his pistol half way out of the holster, she had hers pointed at his head. "Bet you'd like to steal it, now that I've done all the hard work."
"It was just an idea," Quick said, letting go of the weapon.
Grey smiled, then laughed. "I can't stay mad at you."
Quick began to laugh.
Still laughing Grey shot him between the eyes. "I was not mad at you." she told his dead body. "All right," she shouted. "Let's get the ship in some sort of shape."
The first thing Ree felt upon waking was disappointment. She had somehow hoped to die with her fighter. It seemed the right thing to do. Instead of her heart stopping when the powerplant had shut down she had simply blacked out due to the stress of the acceleration, and probably some exhaustion.
The interior of the cockpit was pitch black until she turned on her helmet lights. Looking around she saw small cracks in all of the screens of the goldfish bowl. She thought that there were probably tiny cracks running through every part of the craft, expect for maybe the armour. It was likely that it was only the armour holding the Arrow together.
She released the seat restraints, pulled the connection to the Arrow's life support and then reached for the hatch. There was no power so she had to use the explosive bolt. The hatch was blown out into space. Pulling herself out of the fighter, she crawled across the surface towards a small access hatch. She opened it up and carefully removed the pack inside.
The first thing she did was to remove the mooring line and tie one end around her and the other to the Arrow. Secured, she went though the bag, removing three beacons. While it was likely that the Arrow's own emergency signal was working, it was just as possible it wasn't. The craft had taken a lot of damage.
When the shaft was telescoped out the beacons looked a little like a sceptre. The shaft was about thirty centimetres long. On top of it cylinder containing a powerful strobe light, the batteries and the transmitter.
She activated one, then threw it along the path of the Arrow's flight. If floated on, about thirty meters in front of the Arrow, the bright light pulsing, casting shadows on the Arrow.
The second one she put on the top of the Arrow and the third was strung out behind the arrow on a one hundred meter line of utility cord.
Carefully standing, Ree looked around. She could see the planets of the System, and the primary, and stars, so many stars, but she saw no ships. She had been unconscious for nearly three hours, according to her best figuring, and she had been travelling at nearly ten times the speed of sound at the time.
That was a long way, and space was so vast. Rescue might not be something that was going to happen.
She returned to the cockpit, perched half in and half out of the Arrow. She took a recycler lung from the survival pack and plugged it into her suit. That gave her six hours. After that there was cryogas, or just letting herself go.
Ree pulled a thermal blanket from the pack and wrapped it around her shoulders. It would not be so bad. She had, after all, done most everything she had ever wanted. And her confirmed kills for this battle was going to put her in an untouchable class. The best that ever was, the best that ever will be. Not a bad place to be in her life.
She had been sitting there for a while, thinking about nothing really, when she noticed that the shadows caused by the flashing of the beacons was joined by a fainter, constant shadow. She stared at it for a moment, then tossed the blanket aside and pulled herself out onto the Arrow's surface.
In the distance she saw a grouping of powerful lights. While she was not sure, they looked to be coming towards her. As she waited she suddenly realised that she did not know who was coming for her. She did not know what the outcome of the battle had been. Then she decided that she did not care.
After five minutes she could tell it was a long haul shuttle. A minute later she could see the rescue markings on it, as well as the ODF insignia. So the ODF was finally going to do something good for her.
Ree had been trying her suit's radio, but with no response. Perhaps they weren't very talkative, but more likely the radio just no longer worked.
The shuttle put itself fifty meters from her, travelling along the same path as the Arrow. From a lighted airlock one of the crew sent her over a line. Ree grabbed it and hooked it to her suit, at the same time she unhooked herself from the Arrow. For a moment she thought that she should try to salvage the craft, but decided not to. Any stress would probably cause it to start breaking up, and it had served its purpose. Letting it float forever in space, the record of the battle stored in its inactive computer, seemed a good tribute. Better than letting someone turn it into a museum piece.
She gave the line a tug and jumped from the Arrow.
The Saturn Ring City of Brigit had become one huge memorial to the war. While the owners of the structure and of properties within Brigit had opposed this, their concerns had been ignored. In the end it did not matter. Few wanted to live in a place that had seen so much death.
It was filled with memorials of one sort or another. When the many bodies within the city had been moved into morgues the crews had taken careful records of where each body had been found. Now, in those places, where possible, there were small plaques. On those plaques were the names of the people, and the dates they were born. Everyone knew the date they died.
In other places buildings had been torn down to form large, open plazas. In those plazas were fields of quartz caskets. They were not really quartz, each one had been constructed by nano-machines in zero-gravity. They were stronger than quartz could ever be.
Set in each casket was a holo generator. One could activate it and learn much about the life of the person interred in the casket.
Brigit was one huge graveyard really.
It was a graveyard that saw many visitors though. Family of the victims often came, people who wanted to learn something of the war, one of the largest museums dedicated to the war was within Brigit. Schools would send their students there, if they had the resources.
Today there was a group of girls walking through the colony, all wearing school uniforms. While they tried to be quiet and polite, as befit such a place, they were young, and the war was such a far off thing to them. They had not been born when it had happened, though some of them had parents who had fought in it.
One of the girls, a tall, willowy young woman near the end of the line, grabbed her friend's hand. "Come on," she said.
The other girl looked up toward the front of the line where their teacher was. It did not look as if she was paying attention to the end of the line, so she let herself be pulled away. "Where are we going?"
"To the best thing," the other girl said, tossing her long black hair.
They ran, earning some hard looks from some of the other people there. It also earned some smiles. It was hard not to find their youth and energy attractive.
The taller girl led her friend through the city, past plazas full of graves, over the plaques on the ground. While each of them tried not to step on them, they did step on a few. It hardly mattered. The plaques had been constructed in zero-g as well and it would take more than their shoes to mar them.
They were nearly in the middle of the city when the taller began to slow, releasing her friends hand. Ahead of them was another plaza, but this one contained a garden of low shrubs and stones. In the centre was a memorial. The three women on it were twice their size in real life, and they were set on a base that was three meters tall. It was an impressive monument.
The entire thing was made out of pure white marble, thought it was really no more marble than the caskets were quartz or the plaques were brass. All three of the women were beautifully rendered, so much so that one might expect them to come to life. Their eyes were all closed and they were clothed in light clothing that clung to the bodies.
The two girls moved up close to the monument, staring up at the three women. In the middle of the base's face were inscribed the words, 'Verse Calls them forth, 'tis verse that gives Immortal youth to mortal maids-Walter S. Landor.'.
Standing near the rear of the base, higher than the others was a beautiful woman. She had short hair, long bangs partially covered her left eye. The gown she wore left her arms and part of her legs bare showing off an athletic build. She had her arms crossed over her chest, in each of her hands she held pistols. The weapons framed her face.
To the right of that woman was another, set lower so her head only came up to the other woman's shoulders. She was breathtakingly beautiful, and there was a hint of a smile on her lips. Her long hair fell freely to the small of her back. She held her hands over the pommel of a sword, the point of which was grounded between her feet. Looking closer at the sword one noted that the hilt and cross piece were modelled after the famous Arrow00.
To the left of the first woman stood another. While she stood at the same height as the woman with the sword, she was taller, so her head came up to the first woman's chin. The third one held her arms out, almost as if welcoming the viewer. She was beautiful, her long hair extremely neat, and her clothing perfect for her. If one looked close they could see a ring on her left ring finger. On her right index finger was a larger ring-though not to the point of gaudiness-that bore the old insignia of the ODF aerospace corps.
Diane Vichy, Kareen Maxil and Epiphany Clarris.
"You knew Kareen Maxil, didn't you?" the shorter girl asked.
The tall one smiled. "Yes." She felt as if she had known them all. One of her earliest memories was sitting on her mother's lap, listening to her talk of the woman up there. At that time only Diane and Epiphany had been on the monument. "She was my second mother."
"It is not important. She taught me to fly, in my kaasan's plane. Kaasan pretended to be mad, she said there was no reason for me to learn how to pilot a mecha. Ree-Obasan only laughed at her."
"Laughed at your mother?" the shorter girl asked, almost sounding scandalised.
"She could get away with it. It was a year later that she died. Kaasan said that had she had a chance to reach her plane she would still be alive. No one had a chance though."
The other girl said nothing, sensing her friend was lost in other thoughts. She just stared up at the monument and thought about everything she had ever heard about those three women. There was so much. Books, movies, plays, poems and more. She envied her friend in that she probably knew more about them than most people did.
"They say your mother will be up there, one day, between them all." She said it hesitantly, curious, but not wanting to offend her friend.
The taller girl nodded, smiling. "That's what the sculptor told her and Ree-Obasan when this was first unveiled. She said that Ree-Obasan had to shake it out of the man. According to him it won't be complete until all four of them are up there." She laughed. "I am torn between wanting to see that and hoping it is never complete."
"I would rather it was never complete."
The tall girl looked at her friend, a sad smile on her face. The shorter girl, staring intently at the monument, did not see.
They had been standing there a few minutes when they heard a coughing behind them. Both turned to find their teacher standing there. She looked between two of them, then settled her eyes on the taller. "You may be a princess Miya-san, but you are still one of my students, until you graduate in a few months. If you graduate."
"Hai sensei," she smiled.
"Come along you two, the rest of the class is waiting for you." She turned and walked away.
The shorter girl ran to catch up with her teacher. The taller took a few steps, then turned back to look at the monument.
"Miya-san!" she heard her teacher call after several seconds.
"Haiii," she called out, turning away from the monument and running after her friend and her teacher.
Closing Credits - probably Bruce Cockburn's 'Dream Like Mine'
The camera pulls above the monument and we see the three walking off. The credits roll up the screen, and then we fade to black.
I finished this on November 11th. While it will be a few days of proofing and making a few changes, I still finished it today.
Lest We Forget.
Well, that's it. I hope you have enjoyed it.
This has been a first draft, and I experimented with a few ideas that I later discarded, and I lost track of a few things along the way. I apologise for any confusion that this may have caused you in reading this.
And everyone that has gotten in touch with me, whether just to tell me you liked it, or to send me all kinds of stats for this and that, thank you.
Oh, and I suppose I should have written new opening credits about eight episodes ago, but I just couldn't find a good song.
Well, there are a lot of things I'd like to do, FSS, Dirty Pair, the rewrite of my BGC epic as I kind of promised, Vampire Miyu, and others. I'd like to, but I kind of need to eat, and put a roof over my head.
So my next writing project will be, hopefully, be completely, in so much as that is possible, original and if you want to read it you will have to buy it in bookstore. We'll see.
At the time I did not feel like giving any design information on some of the ships and mecha from the last few story episodes. This is probably as good as any place to put that information, I'm sure a few people would like to see it. If you have not read the final stories yet you might want to treat this information as being spoiler type.
The largest modification is the mating of a Lyons type Guass Shotgun with the Standar Roberts Plasma Gun. Both weapons were given improved targetting systems. Speed and maneuverability were maintained by decreasing the weight of the combined weapons, and the ammunition. Extra clips for the Lyons Guass Shotgun are stored on the exterior of the mecha in areas were they enjoy some cover from enemy fire, such as the interior of the forearm sheilds.
An annendum concerning Diane Vichy: Not only is she a big fan of John Wayne movies, she also is a fan of the Hong Kong genre of action films.
The Maxil Type, which was nicknamed such after the battle, was modified by the inclusions of a prototype plasam sword, say about 10 kills at least.
Furthermore, for whatever reason, the Maxil Type possesed what can only be described as Thought Control for that last battle. Nasty, nasty, bad, bad.
Any company dealing with the SAC, and the USSA, is often hampered by the Gaian philosophy when it comes to product design. Bahn/Zai's newest Team, Kitbash, discovered this when they tired to sell the Wyvern. While it was a suprerior suit in many ways, it simply was not a design that was environmentally firendly. As such it never saw mass production and Bahn/Zai lost a large amount of money on the deal.
Kimble Industries, a small ship building company, was aware of this sort of thinking when they put forth their design for a new SAC crusier. While they were not the only company bidding on the cotract, they were ultimately successful. The problem all of the comapanies ran into was the same. A vessle that met the specs needed for the war ship were, like the Wyvern, not environmentally freindly enough. Those that met the Gaian's desires lacked something in military usefullness.
Kimble dealt with this problem by producing not one ship design, but two. The Calabim Cruiser and the Ofanim Cruiser. The Calabim outclassed every cruiser currently fielded by either the ODF or the SAC (the Ruby Cruisers had much better armour and were able to hold their own against Calabims) when it came to weapon systems and defensive measures. The Ofanim on the other hand was a ship closer the the Master class in many ways, a ship that could preform many duties.
The Ofanim and the Calabim were basically the same ship. With a number of rather ingenious designs Kimble Industries designed the Calabim to be the ship that was needed to fight and win (it was thought) the war, and then afterwards to become the Ofanim, a ship that was more useful to peace time duties.
It got them the deal.
The Calabim is, as stated, a war ship. It offers no creature comforts. The quarters on board would seem cramped to even a member of the ODF. Tight quarters and high crew concentrations lead to the ship becoming very dirty, a build up a grime and such more than anything else. In fact SAC regulations stated that should any Calabim remain in use after the war (ie. not converted over to Ofanims) that no crew sepnd more than two months serving on the ship. Furthermore, once every six months the ship is to undergo a thorough cleaning that will include exposing the interior to vaccum.
When converted over the Ofanim Class the ship looses some of its weapons systems (though the Ofanim is still a warship) and rotating crew decks are added on. This opens up much of the interior space, creating a much more liveable environment.
"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <email@example.com>