Author Topic: Sunrider: The Novelization (Family)  (Read 31915 times)

Offline woolyshambler

Sunrider: The Novelization (Family)
« on: May 08, 2015, 02:51:33 pm »
Foreword:
Spoiler
Hi Everyone, quick foreword before my first chapter.  First, I'd like to thank Love in Space for their outstanding work in producing Sunrider and their continued commitment to the project.  Among the various games I've played this year, Sunrider has some of the most heart behind it and I'm excited to see how the rest of the story turns out.  Space, Mecha, Anime Girls?  What else could a person want?  Anyhow, I'd also like to thank the folks who backed Love in Space financially; thanks to your contribution, people like me have been able to pick up Sunrider on a whim and find out just how fun the whole thing was.  I'd also like to take the moment to add this disclaimer:  I have no intellectual or financial claim on Sunrider.  Taken from Love In Space's Kickstarter Campaign: “Love in Space gives you the right to use Sunrider in any other manner you want, with the only condition being you do not charge other people money for any part of Sunrider.”

Check out this shiny space whale seal of approval from Samu-kun!



Look but don't touch.  Keep those filthy paws where I can see 'em!

Now recognized as an official collaboration project with Love in Space!  You can read it on the main site here.
You know it's legit because of the sweet cover art!



First Arrival Table of Contents:

Mask of Arcadius Table of Contents:

Liberation Day Table of Contents:


Quick Q&A:
Spoiler
What the deuce is this drivel?
Allow me to present to you my Sunrider novelization project.  Some things are better expressed or explored through prose.  I thought the writing for Sunrider was terrific, and it shows; I take a lot of the lines from the game in their entirety or original form.  Having said that, the limitations of a visual novel need not apply to this particular form of expression, freeing me to further explore in exposition certain motivations, emotions, etc.
How is this remotely original?  Your efforts are contemptuous and insulting to the game itself and I bite my thumb at thee!  Oh, and you're too late!  There's already a short novel of Sunrider!
You thing of no bowels!  Faith, I doest not write to usurp cannon or your enjoyment of the game.  First, if you don't like reading, fee free to find another work of fanfiction that suits you; better yet, write your own.  Second, my hope is to add original content, flesh out dialogue, etc. as appropriate.  I've already written in excess of one hundred pages of single space material, so rest assured there will be some originality wherever I managed to squeeze some in between Sunrider's pretty tight narrative.  As far as I know, only issue 1 of the Sunrider novel actually was released and its contents seemed to be quite different than the game's final product... sooo....
One hundred pages!?  But I demand instant gratification; upload the rest at once!
Ah, but that would be no fun!  At any rate, I proofread pretty extensively so as to avoid mistakes, be they grammatical, spelling, or cannon.  I'm planning on posting roughly one chapter a week, perhaps more depending on interest level/response.  But rest assured, as of this moment, I've novelized up to the Mnemosyne Abyss, so you'll have plenty of reading to sink your teeth into.
Excuse me, but I noticed some MAJOR (minor) inconsistency between your writing and the actual game. 
I've done my best to stay true with what information is available to me through the game and the wiki and if there are any inconsistencies, please feel free to point them out, but I must warn you, the likelihood of me going back to fix them is a coin toss at best. 
Your space battles seem too one sided, are you cheating?
Maybe it's because I'm a better player than you, ever think about that?  Huh?  HUH?  Ahem... Please excuse me.  I've been novelizing the battles based on normal difficulty mode, occasionally shifting events slightly to reflect a more real-time narration flow versus the game's turn based mechanics.  I usually have full forward active and I don't go for shots with less than a 40% chance of success unless I've got no better moves available to me.  I don't save scum... much.  Also, our upgrade choices may differ, leading to differing results.
How long are you going to keep talking; I'm here to read!
Ah, yes... no clever comment for that.  Please enjoy, leave a comment if you feel so kind.  Stay posted for future chapters, which I promise will come regularly.  Also, if you prefer to read this story on FanFiction (I'm not going to go and italicize every little thing like ship names on the forum, so if that bothers you, use the link.), here is the link.



Chapter 1- Cera's Fall


Spoiler
The sun beat down, hot on the black of Kayto Shield's Cera Space Force uniform.  Some found the summer of Cera too warm for comfort, but Kayto preferred the summer's warmth to winter's grasp.  Of course, many of the core worlds of the Solar Alliance had their major cities housed under climate controlled domes, allowing residents to live in perpetual comfort all year round.  Cera had never gotten around to placing such a dome around Cera City, although there was constant talk of such a project. 

In truth, although Cera enjoyed its status as one of the most technologically advanced and prosperous Neutral Rim worlds, its resources were still finite.  Since the fall of the New Empire, Cera had been content to withdraw from the sphere of galactic politics, focusing on internal development and the creation of an independent navy designed to keep Cera safe from pirates and any overly ambitious neighbors.  Weary of war and wary of the government, however, most Ceran citizens frowned upon proposals to expand their naval capabilities, arguing that neither the Solar Alliance nor the People's Alliance for Common Treatment (PACT) would tolerate a breach of the sovereign rights of the Neutral Rim planets which had, since their inception, maintained a tense peace between the two major galactic powers since the end of the Solar-Imperial War over a hundred years prior.  To that end, the Ceran Space Force operated fewer than a dozen battleship class starships, three times as many battle cruisers, and a host of support frigates, which served as little more than launch platforms for Cera's modest Ryder wings.

Scanning the city line as a welcome, refreshing offshore breeze gently fingered his white hair, Kayto's pale, blue eyes took in Cera City's serene beauty one more time before what he expected would be a lengthy deployment.  With PACT's recent aggression towards a number of Neutral Rim planets immediately bordering PACT controlled space, Cera Central Command had ordered all forces to return from their patrols and muster at Cera for possible defensive action.  Although they were impossible to see with the naked eye, dozens of Cera's warships held defensive positions above the planet's atmosphere, keeping a watchful eye for any PACT interlopers.  All ships not at one hundred percent combat readiness were ordered to achieve combat readiness ASAP, including the Sunrider, the Cera Space Force's newest prototype warship and Captain Kayto Shield's first command. 

*******

While still in training at the Naval Academy's officer school, Kayto was approached by Admiral Koris's staff regarding a “unique opportunity.”  Without any additional details, his curiosity outweighing his misgivings, he had been whisked up to orbit to Central Command's orbital command station, Tyr.  From there, the Admiral offered Kayto what was likely the quickest and least deserved rise in chain of command any commissioned officer in Cera Space Force's history had ever been given.

“I want you to captain the Sunrider,” stated Admiral Koris bluntly, gesturing at the “window” of his office, from which Kayto could see a massive orbital dry dock cradling the frame of a starship unlike any other he had seen.  “This is not a joke.”

Without cracking a smile and remaining deadpan as ever, the Admiral went on to explain that the Sunrider was an experimental prototype ship being introduced to the Cera Space Force that would have the potential to revolutionize Cera's military forces once completed.  Built around the Vanguard Cannon, the product of decades of research into and the refurbishing of a defunct Ryuvian warship found in low orbit of Cera's moon, the Sunrider could potentially outgun any existing ship in the Cera Space Force, if the Vanguard Cannon worked.  Combined with a novel design paradigm, the Assault Carrier, the Sunrider would be one of the most versatile and flexible ships in active duty.  Although intrigued enough about the potential asset the Sunrider represented, the Admiral was a careful man and unwilling to bet the entirety of his already strained resources on a project with no guarantee of success. 

Rather than commit veteran crew from active duty ships to years of potentially fruitless training, the Admiral had elected recruit directly from newly enlisted candidates.  “Your file caught the attention of my staff,” said Admiral Koris, bringing Kayto's personal dossier up on the holo projector.  Kayto winced at the burning red “C” evaluation next to his personal information and picture.  “Your formal test scores are entirely average to sub-par,” stated the Admiral bluntly, no pity in his voice whatsoever.  “However,” his tone softened slightly as the corners of his mouth twitched upwards in a brief expression of amusement, “Your simulation scores are at the top of your class. You strike me as a man who can think on his feet, if not always with his brain.  With a competent XO, you might just make a good captain.”

Dazed and not entirely sure how to read the situation, Kayto said the only thing that seemed appropriate, “Sir, Thank You, Sir!”

*******

Nearly four years later, against all odds, the Sunrider had achieved completion.  With the PACT breathing down their necks, the news could not come soon enough.  Despite the tense situation, today would mark the Sunrider's maiden voyage.  The Sunrider's crew left yesterday to relieve the engineering crews who were putting the finishing touches on Sunrider's systems and to acclimate to their new ship.  Officially, Kayto's captaincy had been kept under wraps by the Admiral's office for fear of the political repercussions of promoting a green naval officer to the position of Captain, aboard Cera's newest prototype warship no less.  The Admiral, however, remained true to his word, presenting him with insignia bearing the winged four gold bars of his rank at a small, rushed ceremony that very morning.

“Captain!  Control has cleared us for launch, but we can wait a moment if you like, Sir!” barked a nervous young shuttle pilot, barely younger than himself, saluting aggressively.

“Thank you, ensign,” smiled Kayto as he turned, walking towards the shuttle's bat-like form as it crouched over the landing pad.  “That won't be necessary, my sister did say it was unlikely she'd make it to see me off.  Let's not hold anyone else up.”  Ducking under the overhead door of the shuttle, he strapped himself into a crash seat in the empty passenger compartment behind the pilot's seat.

A moment later, he heard the engines of the shuttle scream to life, ponderously lifting the craft off the landing pad and into the air.  As he looked out the holoscreen masquerading as a window of an atmospheric craft, a white haired teenage girl burst onto the landing pad, squinting against the sudden bright of the sun, laughing and waving at his shuttle as it screamed away into the distance.  Kayto smiled, touching the screen gently, sending distortion ripples through the holographic projection. 

Take care of yourself, Kayto, we'll talk when you get back!

Although it was impossible to tell what, if anything, his sister had yelled as the shuttle peeled away, some intuition in Kayto's mind let him know exactly what she had meant. 

*******

Cera hung in the blackness of space, a brilliant, blue pearl of breathtaking beauty on the holoscreen next to Kayto.  After breaking atmosphere, the shuttle's journey became eerily smooth, as though the craft were gliding atop liquid mercury towards its destination.  Beside the planet, individual starships, although in excess of 700 meters each, appeared as tiny, shining splinters.  One of those splinters grew larger with each passing minute of their approach; the Sunrider.

Leaning forward, Kayto spoke to the pilot, “What's our ETA ensign?”

“Twelve minutes, give or take, Sir.  Bet you can't wait to see your girl, right Captain?” replied the pilot, a smile to his voice.

“I haven't seen Ava since high school...” said Kayto, “I bet she doesn't even remember me...” 

Coughing, the pilot hastily covered a snort of laughter, “I meant the Sunrider, not... the Commander.”

“Oh.”  Kayto felt immensely grateful that his pilot was unable to turn around to see the crimson that crept into his light complexion.  An awkward silence fell between the two men for a minute as Kayto took in the silhouette of the Sunrider. 

Shaped like an arrowhead, the Sunrider's rear was heavy with her four primary drive cores which provided her with sub-light and warp propulsion.  Engineering and the Sunrider's reactors added to the bulk of the ship's rear.  Moving towards the prow of the ship, the Sunrider tapered gracefully, her twelve Ryder launch bays, six on each side, spilling bright light from underneath her armored sides.  During combat, blast doors would slide down from the armored sections once the Ryders had launched to prevent anyone from taking an easy shot at the Sunrider, but when the bay doors were open, as they were now, their bright illumination revealed her shining, virgin hull, casting breathtaking shadows over the flak and pulse cannons studding her sides and her primary ship-to-ship Trinity laser banks.  Atop the ship, the Sunrider's six forward rail guns, the Saviors, pointed forward proudly, each of their 150 meter long barrels capable of accelerating a kinetic slug to 1.7% the speed of light.  Although their accuracy dropped off precipitously at long range combat, any ship sustaining an impact from a full “broadside” from the Sunrider's saviors was likely a dead ship. 

Finally, at the prow of the ship, the Sunrider's crowning achievement, the Vanguard Cannon, became apparent.  A focused plasma weapon of devastating potential, the Vanguard Cannon used a series of magnetic “bubbles” to suspend super-heated plasma before accelerating it to relativistic speeds.  According to the engineering specs he had received from the development team, the weapon had the potential to not only gut a single ship, but any other ships on the same vector of the cannon's discharge, at least until the plasma dissipated once released from magnetic containment.  Powered an entirely separate secondary power plant, the Vanguard Cannon added to the Sunrider's already fearsome combat prowess, although it's firing was limited by the long charge times between shots and limited supply of plasma.

“She's beautiful,” remarked Kayto to himself, instantly taking a liking to his new command.

“Initiating docking protocols.  We have green lights from the Sunrider,” announced the pilot

Banking gently, the shuttle pilot took his passenger towards one of the Sunrider's open landing bays on the hanger deck, passing underneath the Sunrider's armored lateral hull.  As none of the ship's Ryders had been transferred yet, Sunrider's command and control directed the shuttle to bay 01.  In combat situations, Ryders would launch via magnetized launch tubes and return via the same tubes, their magnetic systems allowing for braking and combat landings.  In non-combat situations, however, the magnetic tubes would be powered down, requiring the shuttle to slow to almost a crawl as it passed from the freedom of open space to the confines of Sunrider's interior. 

“Docking complete, Sir,”  announced the pilot.  “Launch tube doors closing... Hanger Bay 01 pressurized.”

“Thank you, Ensign.”  Kayto dawdled for a moment.

“Was there something else, Sir?” asked the pilot.

“No need to mention what I said earlier to Commander Crescentia or any of the crew.”

“Copy that,” said the pilot, grinning ear to ear.  “Don't worry, I'm based out of the Bohemian Princess, just giving you a lift on one of our supply runs.”

“Oh... it's my first day,” sighed Kayto, mentally burying his face in his hands.  Smooth, Kayto, now you'll be the laughing stock of the Bohemian Princess too.

******

“Captain on deck!” a stern woman's voice barked out.  Immaculately dressed without a single wrinkle in her uniform, Ava Crescentia saluted crisply as Kayto's boots touched the steel deck of the hanger bay.  “First Officer Commander Ava Crescentia, presenting for duty!  Welcome aboard the Sunrider, Captain Shields.”

Kayto returned the salute, although his was a good deal more casual.  Frowning slightly, he looked awkwardly at Ava, who remained firmly at attention, her back ram-rod straight, eyes boring a hole through the side of the shuttle he had just exited.  “Uh... at ease...?”  Slim of frame, Ava was almost as tall as he was.  Her hair was soft and straight, falling down to her elbows in the back and framing her cherry eyes in the front.  Although she had often complained in high school that her looks were plain, everything about her appearance was harmonious, each feature accentuating her beauty as opposed to outshining some other aspect.  Were it not for her unfortunate tenancy to glare with alarming regularity, Kayto was certain she would have been one of the most sought after girls from their days in high school.

Apart from putting down her hand in salute, Ava remained unchanged.  For a moment, he flashed back to the Ava he remembered from high school; true her hair was shorter then, but Ava looked almost unchanged otherwise.  Of course, back then, as Student Council President, she was his immediate superior.  A spasm of guilt and awkwardness writhed through his stomach, but he swallowed the sensation; whatever reasons the Admiral had chosen him to be captain over her, both of them needed to respect that decision and perform their duties. 

“It's been a while, Ava,” said Kayto, testing the waters gingerly.  For a moment, it seemed a flicker of conflict passed behind his first officer's chestnut eyes and Kayto could have sworn the corners of her lips twitched upwards on her otherwise porcelain features.

“Same to you... Captain,” replied Ava tersely.

Same old Ava... thought Kayto, sighing inwardly. “The last time we saw each other was at your graduation in high school.  Funny how life works sometimes...  I didn't think we'd be meeting again like this...”

“Neither did I, Sir.”

“Listen,” said Kayto, throwing caution to the winds, “let's not make this awkward.  I'll be counting on you from now on Ava.”

“Understood, Captain,” said Ava with a salute.

“I'm not sure you understand...” sighed Kayto.

“Sir?”

“The whole 'Captain' thing... it's bizarre hearing you call me that.  Call me Kayto, I'll call you Ava.  It'll be just like old times.”

“It's proper protocol for a First Officer, is it not?” asked Ava, glaring at him.

“I... uhh... fine.  Look, don't you think it  would be weird if I called you 'Ava' and you called me 'Captain' all the time?”

“I...”  Ava's lips pursed, “I... suppose first name basis would be fine so long as there are no crew and we're off duty.”

“That's fine,” agreed Kayto, taking what he could get.  “I'm glad you skipped the welcoming ceremony, by the way.”

“Since Central Command issued Condition Orange, I ordered the crew to continue readying Sunrider's systems for her test runs with all haste,” explained Ava.  “Section 14, article 5, exceptions to standard naval protocols.”

“Uhh...” Kayto scratched his head, bemused, “If you say so.  I'm just glad I didn't have to make a speech or anything.”

“Hmm,” grunted Ava with a frown.

“Condition Orange, huh?  Shoot first, questions later... Command must be getting worried.  Alright, Ava, let's do our part.  We'll start the test runs as soon as engineering reports ready.”

Ava nodded, “They'll still need a half hour or so.  We can tour the Sunrider in the meantime.”

******

“Saved the best for last, huh, Ava?”

Kayto and Ava stepped out of the lift onto Sunrider's observation deck, silent and abandoned.  Kayto was grateful for the moment of peace; the interval time had been spent touring Sunrider's other facilities, including the Combat Information Center, crew quarters, engineering, and the sickbay, and meeting his new crew.  The Sunrider's crew had been working double time to clear the ship for launch from orbital dry dock, giving the entire ship a generally hectic and claustrophobic atmosphere.  Even with all crew present, the Sunrider seemed as though it was being manned with barely more than a skeleton crew; roughly ninety naval officers of varying ranks and duties, essential to the running of the ship and its operations, triple the number of engineers and technicians, three dozen marines, who saw to ship security, and a host of civilian contractors and other ancillary staff.  With less than half of the crew of a vessel of equivalent tonnage, the majority of Sunrider's advanced systems were designed for autonomy, with menial or hazardous duties such as waste management and hull repair left to semi-autonomous drones under the supervision of only a handful of human crew members.

Mind abuzz with dozens of names and new faces he was sure to forget, Kayto found the silence and ambiance of the observation deck welcoming in the extreme.

The highest point on the ship relative to its artificial gravity settings, the observation deck overlooked the prow of the ship, opening into the wide expanse of space.  Subtle lighting, almost to the point of non-existence allowed the reflected light from Cera to handle most of the illumination, creating one of the most breathtaking views of the Sunrider Kayto had seen since leaving atmosphere.  Walking out to the center of the deck, Kayto felt a sudden surge of disequilibrium and panic, exhilarating and terrifying in equal parts, as he felt his balance swept away by the wash of starlight and the emptiness of space before him. 

“Wow...” he whispered as he closed his eyes.

“It's something else, isn't it Sir- Kayto?”  asked Ava, advancing towards the view more cautiously.

Kayto nodded, “They say humanity once sailed the oceans of our birth world in tiny vessels of wood, no larger than one of our atmospheric fliers.  This... must have been what it felt like for them too.”

“Perhaps,” said Ava, clearly humoring him.  “At any rate, the observation deck serves as a last resort navigational platform should the Sunrider engage in silent-running or if she sustains catastrophic systems failure to navigation.”

“Cheerful,” remarked Kayto.  “I'm glad they didn't put the actual CIC up here; the view is spectacular, but something tells me this isn't the safest part of the ship during combat.”

Ava shrugged, “The price of an actual view of space.  All of the other 'windows' we passed are holoscreens that project the view based on external telemetry.  They're more for psychological health than anything.  Anyways, it's not like anyone could see anything other than several meters of metal plate out of an actual porthole with Sunrider's hull and armor between us and the sky.  This deck is the exception.”

“Please tell me the windows are armored; I'd hate for the view to get spoiled by any action we see.”

Ava sighed, “Of course they are; when the ship goes to Red Alert, armored plating will automatically shield this deck the same way as our launch tubes seal once the Ryders have launched.”

“Speaking of which, I didn't see any when we docked.  This is an assault carrier isn't it?” frowned Kayto.

“We're expecting our Ryder wing to transfer in two days; seems like some of the more distant patrols had some engine trouble on their way back home.  Since the Sunrider hasn't officially received its commission, all available Ryders were tasked to combat ready ships on the defense cordon.  For that matter, a ship doctor and chief engineer will probably also need to wait until we receive our commission.”

“Makes sense...” sighed Kayto.  As he gripped the hand rail of the ship and watched Cera spin beneath them, he eyed Ava out of the corner of his eye.  Although her expression remained hard as ever, it seemed like there would be precious little time for quiet and privacy in the coming days and now seemed as good of a time as any.  A dozen questions he had for her jockeyed for priority as he tried to sort through the general confusion of his feelings.  Here they were, reunited after almost five years of complete silence; clearly she still remembered him, but how she felt was a different story entirely.  It had been completely impossible to read her since he had come aboard and, although their reunion had not gone as spectacularly bad as some of the scenarios he had imagined, what had transpired gave him no indication of her feelings or intentions at all.  Whatever Ava thought of him, she had chosen to hide it behind a cold wall of professionalism and detachment; in other words, typical Ava.

“Hey... Ava...” started Kayto, locking eyes with her and fumbling slightly, but deciding to say something, even if it was the wrong thing.

Beep Beep

Ava held his gaze for one and a half heart beats, inscrutable in expression, before raising her cuff to her lips.  “This is First Officer Crescentia, go ahead.”

“Ma'am, engineering reports reactor shakedown is nearly complete.  All other systems are green, we'll be ready for launch in half an hour,” buzzed one of the bridge crew.

“Roger that, good work.  The Captain and I are on our way to the CIC now,” said Ava into her cuff before lowering her arm back to her side.  Wordlessly, she turned and strode back to the lift, her chestnut hair swishing behind her. 

Sighing, Kayto followed suit, stowing his questions for the moment.  Behind him, the stars twinkled serenely as ever as the lift doors whisked shut.

*******

Nestled deep within the armored core of the ship, Sunrider's CIC was a hive of activity.  Various bridge crew operated a number of computer consoles and tactical displays set along the walls of the circular room.  Kayto and Ava stepped off the lift, Ava announcing “Captain on deck!”

Returning the bridge crew's salutes, Kayto said, “At ease, carry on,” gesturing for them to return to their duties.  With Ava, he walked to the center of the room, taking in the array of holoscreens and projectors that dropped down from the ceiling around his crash seat that constituted the Captain's station.  To his right, Ava took her seat at the XO's station, a near identical mimic of his own.  In front of them, towards the ship's prow, a massive holoscreen projected the view of space in front of the ship, coming close to, but not quite the same as the view as the one they had on the observation deck.  Before them, Cera hung serenely with her entire navy maintaining high orbit.  Dozens of capital ship engines burned a bright blue, ready for combat maneuvers at a movement's notice.  Suddenly, Kayto felt extremely self-conscious; it appeared nearly the entire Cera Space Force would be present for their trial run.  Given the fact that the Sunrider had already generated a degree of interest and controversy within the fleet, a failed trial run would have impact for months to come.

“Captain,” Ava's voice interrupted his thought, “I think it would be appropriate to address the crew before we undergo the Sunrider's maiden voyage.”

“Of course, put me through Commander,” answered Kayto, swallowing and trying to suppress his apprehension.  First words often set a lasting impression and Kayto realized his captaincy, though officially recognized by the chain of command, had little weight or respect beyond formalities until he could prove to the crew that he deserved their trust.

“Attention all hands, the Captain would like a word,” Ava's voice boomed loudly through the entire ship's PA system.

Lifting his cuff to his mouth, he muttered a quick command to be patched through to ship-wide PA.

“This is Captain Kayto Shields speaking.  I want to first say that it is my privilege to serve aboard the Sunrider with all of you.  The maiden voyage of Cera Space Force's newest ship deserves more than we can afford today at Condition Orange, but I know all of you will perform your duties admirably.  Nearly the entire fleet's gathered here and we're about to sail right past them and show off what we've got... Let's not mess this one up people.”

The bridge crew erupted into snickers and chortles of good humor, quickly silenced by Ava's glare as Kayto cut his link with the ship's PA system.  “What?  Come on, Commander, a good laugh and high spirits aren't against protocol.”

Ava only shook her head.  “All hands, this is Commander Crescentia.  Prepare for-”

A shrill alarm klaxon rang out through CIC, interrupting Ava's orders. 

“Captain!  Sensors are picking up multiple contacts; warp signatures, bearing zero-eight by nine-nine!” called out one of the bridge crew.

The cheerful atmosphere of the bridge dissolved instantly as the crew sprang into action, manning their respective stations.  While Ava fielded incoming reports and barked orders in rapid succession, Kayto's head snapped towards his tactical display as two dozen contacts resolved on screen. 

“Sensors confirm, Captain; new contacts are flying PACT transponders!” announced Ava, turning towards him.  “The bulk of their forces are on intercept vectors with our fleet in orbit, but it looks like two of them are breaking off towards us!”

“Red Alert!  All hands to battle stations!” ordered Kayto coolly, his training kicking in and overriding any panic or disorientation he might have felt otherwise. 

The CIC plunged into red and a wailing siren reverberated through the ship as Ava spoke overhead.  “All hands, report to battle stations.  This is not a drill.  I repeat; not a drill.” 

“Those ships are moving too quickly to be PACT battleships, do we have sensor readings on them yet?” asked Kayto to one of the bridge crew.

“Captain!  Sensor silhouette matches PACT frigate class ships, getting visual now.  I'm... I'm detecting a thermal spike from both contacts!” came the reply.

“All ahead, give me flank speed now!” barked Kayto, his heart pounding.  On the forward view screen, the PACT missile frigates came into view, their crimson hulls unmistakably identifying them as PACT naval warships.  The PACT navy relied heavily upon such vessels, barely 300 meters in length and little more than a warp engine with as many missile launchers that could be fitted to the ship.  Cheap and expendable, the missile frigate was an appropriate embodiment of the PACT naval doctrines, which emphasized superior numbers and coordination to overwhelm any technological edge.  Although individual missile frigates were vulnerable to more heavily armed ships of similar tonnage, their light armor and explosive ordinance made them nimble foes which could overwhelm superior enemies by sheer number and weight of attack. 

“Captain!” protested Ava, “Reactor shakedown is incomplete; the reactors could destabilize catastrophically!”

“No choice, those are missile frigates,” said Kayto grimly as the crewmen worked furiously to coordinate with engineering.  “Those thermal signatures were probably missile launches, they're trying to kill us while we're still docked.  What's our weapons status?”

“Limited,” replied Ava grimly, “The Vanguard Cannon hasn't charged yet, but our other systems are theoretically green.”

“Theoretically?”

“Captain, we haven't even completed our reactor and engine tests, never mind weapon and munitions checks,” retorted Ava.

“No time like the present...”

The entire structure of the Sunrider began to shake, a troublesome sign in a vessel of her tonnage, and her superstructure groaned as her engines roared to life, pushing to overcome her massive inertia.  Kayto gritted his teeth; halting reactor shakedown partway and activating the engines already risked blowing the entire ship to hell, never mind ramping up to flank speed from naught, but the Sunrider had no choice.  Undoubtedly, dozens of PACT missiles already streaked towards their coordinates.  Ordinarily, a single missile salvo, though damaging, would not threaten a ship the size of Sunrider, however, with all the starship fuel and combustible ordinance stored in the dry dock around the ship, Sunrider's cradle would very well turn into its funeral pyre.

“Incoming missile salvo starboard side!” announced Ava, her voice steady despite their situation.

“All starboard flak cannons, fire!” ordered Kayto, feeling the reverberations through his ship as her flak cannons came to life, filling the space to her starboard side with hundreds of computer-assist aimed explosive rounds. 

“Seventy percent intercept!” shouted a crew member.

“Minor hull damage,” reported Ava, scrolling through the automated report generated by the ship's electronic nervous system.  “See-?”

“We're not out of the woods yet,” said Kayto grimly, cutting her off.  “Helmsman, get us out of here, now!  If those bastards staggered their salvos, they'll overwhelm our point defense guns; all they need is a lucky hit to the dry dock; she wasn't built to take this kind of punishment.”

The Sunrider pulled forward, engines roaring as she accelerated out of the dry dock painfully slowly.  Multiple tethers and feedlines snapped as she tore loose from her moorings, clouds of crystallized gases and fuel billowing from her severed connections.  Not a moment after she cleared the dry dock's final strut, multiple PACT missiles, their chemical thrusters burning angrily, slammed into the skeletal structure of the dock, detonating ferociously. 

Inside the Sunrider, Kayto gripped the arm of the command chair tightly as the entire ship shook like something possessed.  “Aft cameras!”

A blazing inferno belched forward, blasting twisted metal debris towards the Sunrider from the fiery demise of her space dock, although it was impossible to tell how close the explosion was to touching the ship herself.

“Temperature rising on aft sensors,” reported Ava through gritted teeth, her cool exterior cracking slightly.  “Now falling... multiple superficial impacts on aft sections, no hull breaches.”

Kayto breathed out, chest tight and painful, having forgotten to let go of his last breath.  “Bring us about starboard, bearing five-four by zero-nine.  Let's give them some payback!”

“Trinity lasers report ready to fire, Captain,” said Ava, “Shall I order the attack?”

Kayto thought for a moment.  True, the Trinity laser banks on the Sunrider would be able to land a hit on the PACT missile frigates at this range, however, their firing would divert precious power from their engines.  “No, hold off for now.  Let's close the gap while they're still reloading their tubes.  Full power to engines.”

“Distance closing, one hundred kilometers, ninety, eighty...” said Ava, counting down their distance gap.

“Fire Saviors!  Target the lead ship” barked Kayto.  Six solid reverberations echoed through the ship as her massive Savior cannons discharged, sending their kinetic slugs streaking towards the forward PACT missile frigate. 

On screens, Kayto saw four of the six slugs land hits, tearing massive holes into the hull of the missile frigate.  With the sheer kinetic energy imparted by their mass and velocity, the entire hull of the frigate seemed to fracture apart as it spun from the force of the Savior slugs' impact.  Secondary explosions chained through the ship as its ordinance detonated, leaving behind a twisted, flaming wreck.

“Lead missile frigate confirmed sunk, Captain.  Rear frigate firing,” warned Ava. 

“Flak cannons on my mark,” ordered Kayto, eyeing his tactical display as the missiles streaked closer.  “Now!”

Multiple explosions lit up the space between the Sunrider and the remaining PACT vessel as her missiles slammed into a wall of flak.

“Missile impacts, minor damage sustained,” reported Ava.

“Let's tear them a new one,” ordered Kayto.  “Trinity lasers, fire!”

As Sunrider barreled towards the final PACT missile frigate, her Trinity laser banks discharged, blue beams lancing ahead of the ship, literally melting through the other ship's thinly armored hull.  Venting atmosphere and fire from a dozen wounds, the frigate listed to port before its reactor containment failed, consuming the ship in a miniature nova.

“Contacts... neutralized, sensors clear,” announced Ava as the bridge crew exchanged nervous grins.

“Always the tone of surprise,” grumbled Kayto with a grin of his own.  Following his lead, the bridge crew burst into a brief, but spirited cheer; even Ava cracked a smile which she quickly hid with a shake of her head.

“Incoming transmission from the fleet, Captain,” she declared.

“Captain Shields... I was about to call to see if you boys and girls needed any help, but it looks like you've got the situation handled,” said Admiral Koris.  A holographic projection of the man appeared in front of Kayto and Ava, as though the Admiral, himself, stood in front of them.

“Thank you, Sir.  I believe the Sunrider is combat ready,” answered Kayto with a smile.

“Not too bad for a bunch of schoolkids,” replied the Admiral, although his expression was a degree softer than usual.  “At least it'll put to rest some of the controversy.  Your assessment is duly noted, Captain Shields.  Bring the Sunrider into formation with the rest of the fleet; I doubt those ships were anything more than a scouting party for the PACT.”

“Roger that,” said Kayto as the Admiral's image dissolved. 

As the Sunrider fell into the rendezvous coordinates with the rest of the Ceran Space Force, Kayto rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  If the PACT was sending combat groups with orders to open fire without parlay, it was likely that the engagement was only a prelude to the larger conflict for Cera.  Although the Cera Space Force had performed admirably against the interlopers, Kayto wondered how many victories against the bottomless arsenal of the PACT it would take for Cera to retain its rights to neutrality.  Still, a victory was a victory; Kayto would leave the long term strategies to the Admiral and his staff.

“Two missile frigates down with barely a scratch on the Sunrider.  Not too shabby for a first day Ava.”

“Hmph,” grunted Ava, although a grim, predatory smile graced her lips.  “Don't get ahead-  Alert! New warp signatures detected just outside weapons range!” she cried.

On the forward view screen, Kayto saw space twist apart as a second PACT fleet dropped out of warp, seemingly appearing out of the vacuum of space.  Nearly five times the number of missile frigates from before suddenly filled the skies, making a beeline for the Ceran ships on their perpendicular.

“Bastards!” muttered Kayto, clenching a fist.  With a rock forming in his gut, he realized the first wave of PACT ships had simply been a distraction, meant to position the Ceran fleet at a disadvantaged stance with their lateral profiles wide open for attack.  “Bring us about starboard, flank speed!”

All around them on the main screen, Kayto saw the other ships begin to break formation, their engines blazing as their captains also maneuvered to minimize the profile of their ships against the forward attacking missile frigates. 

“What the hell is that!?” demanded one of the CIC crew as another ship dropped out of warp into the PACT formation.

“Holy Ryuvia...” said Ava in a hushed tone.

On the main screen, the largest ship Kayto had ever laid eyes upon appeared.  Completely dwarfing the missile frigates next to it, the new ship was easily four times longer than any battleship Kayto had ever seen operated.  The same crimson red as the rest of the PACT fleet, the new ship was a monstrosity of armor plate, bristling with laser banks and missile pods.  At it's prow, the entire ship opened up, exposing a gaping maw that Kayto surmised was the business end of the ship.  Along it's lateral sides, in massive lettering, the ship's name summed up it's combat prowess in a single word: Legion. 

“Report!  I don't remember reading anything about the PACT having anything that... that... huge!” he exclaimed, as Ava scrolled through multiple reports on her view screens.

“Intelligence is reports that the Legion is a PACT super-dreadnought; she's the personal flagship of Veniczar S. Arcadius!  That ship's three kilometers in length and armed with enough weapons to take out a fleet three times our size by herself!” answered Ava.  “Captain, Command has ordered a general retreat; all ships are ordered to fall back immediately; the Prime Minister's office has been advised to offer immediate unconditional surrender!”

Kayto ground his teeth for the nth time since the PACT had arrived in system.  If the intelligence was true, there was little the Cera Space Force could do to protect the planet itself.  Certainly, the monstrosity of a ship that was the Legion left little doubt as to the authenticity of the report.

“All power to starboard shielding, remove all electronic safeties and overload our emitters!  Divert all critical systems from starboard routing, now!” barked Kayto as the behemoth's weapon embankments glowed a hellish red. 

“Sir?” asked a crewman, balking and turning pale at the order.

“NOW!”

Dozens of red laser beams streaked forth from the Legion, catching the Ceran navy in devastating lateral strike.  Kayto felt his entire body shake as the Sunrider sustained multiple laser hits to her starboard side.  The ship rattled and pitched as lights flickered in the CIC; multiple warnings and alarms blared and his entire command station turned a bloody red with reports of catastrophic systems damage and failure.  Sparks flew and a number of Sunrider's control systems simply froze or turned off.  From the corner of his eye, Kayto saw one of his screens showing the ship's electronic nervous system having the human equivalent of a massive seizure from the feedback in her shielding.  Clenching the arm of his crash seat, which had automatically deployed a restraint harness around his body, he forced his attention to the main screen as the fleet around the Sunrider took similar hits to their flanks. 

Not every ship was as lucky as Sunrider, if she could be called such a thing.  Kayto watched in horror as Cera's proudest battleships belched fire and atmosphere from jagged rends in their armored hulls, listing helplessly; more than one ship simply detonated or broke apart, unable to tolerate the devastation visited upon their superstructures by the Legion's attack.  Still, his own ship appeared to be in one piece, which was a miracle in of itself.

“Damage report!” he yelled over the wailing din of multiple alarms.

“Battleships Gallant and Bohemian Princess have been sunk, all hands lost!  The Fearless has sustained severe damage, all hands abandoning ship!” reported Ava, disbelief in her voice.  Her eyes lost focus for a moment as she skimmed an updated report a moment later.  “...Captain, it's a complete rout; we've lost over 75% of the fleet in that single strike.”

Kayto felt the world slow and as though the wind had been punched out of him.  The nearly the entire Cera Space Force annihilated in a single salvo?  It seemed unreal. 

“Captain!  Energy spike detected, more massive than before; the Legion's charging up for another attack!” yelled Ava.

“All hands, brace for impact!” yelled Kayto as the Legion's primary laser cannon discharged from it's prow.

A hellish flared across the main screen, drowning out everything else as the Legion's laser scythed across the remnants of the Ceran fleet.  Two battleships caught in the path of the attack simply vaporized, their outlines visible for a fraction of a heartbeat before atomizing.  With horror, Kayto realized that the Legion's true target lay beyond: Cera City itself.  As though in slow motion, the laser beam hit Cera's atmosphere, refracting downwards towards the peninsula he grew up on.  Although they were too far to see any details of Cera City beyond the gray-silver smudge that represented the planet's largest metropolis, the laser strike's effects were anything but subtle.  As the red died from the main screen, Kayto saw a cloud blasting into the atmosphere and away from the impact site, the ash and dust of the entire city and its ten million inhabitants, thrown into the wind in a single moment.  Transfixed in equal parts horror and terror, Kayto saw that the entire peninsula had been reduced to a glowing, cherry-red crater with molten rock and metal jetting hundreds of feet into the air. 

Slumping forward in his chair, Kayto felt his hands shake and tasted bile in his mouth. 

“Captain!” screamed Ava, her voice sounding as shaken as he felt.

In an instant, he crashed back to reality and to the wailing alarms and red lights of his stricken warship.

“Hull breaches in half a dozen sections, our armor's practically been stripped off the starboard side, hull integrity poor!  Starboard weapons and defenses inoperable, shields overloaded!  Ship electronic systems are almost completely offline.  Captain, we can't take another hit like that!” continued Ava, face pale.

“What's our tactical situation?”

“All contact lost with Command and I'm not getting anything from Cera City.  Captain, what's left of the fleet is breaking formation, we'll be overrun if we stay!”

Kayto breathed out deeply, pushing the crashing waves of fear, revulsion, and disbelief aside.  Whatever the situation on Cera's surface, the Sunrider, and by proxy, he, had no power to provide protection or assistance in the face of such overwhelming odds.

“What are your orders, Captain?  CAPTAIN?!” screamed Ava.

As her wild gaze locked his, he saw a single tear tracking its way down the side of her face.  In that moment, Kayto felt the full weight of his command upon his shoulders, finally understanding the burden of his rank and responsibility.  The lives of his crew against their duty to the people of Cera; Kayto knew what duty demanded, but at that moment, all that mattered was getting his crew out of the situation alive.  However many, if any, lives they might save by staying to face the PACT onslaught, he would figure out another day; for now, it would have to be enough to save the lives of his crew.

Heart pounding in his throat, Kayto yelled his order, damning the consequences for another day.  “Fall back, spool up our warp drive, emergency warp protocols to our fallback coordinates!”

Ava looked stunned for a moment, before discipline kicked in, hardening her features.  “Navigator, enter the fallback coordinates.  Helmsman, spool up our warp dive, prepare for emergency warp on the Captain's mark.”

As he looked to his burning homeworld, Kayto clenched his fists.  He refused to allow this to be the end; somehow, someway he would find a way to come back.  One day, Kayto swore, the PACT would leave Cera, and the Sunrider would be the one driving them out.  “Mark!” shouted Kayto as his displays confirmed sufficient oscillation velocity in the ship's warp drive.

Sunrider's main screen showed a shower of missiles and lasers raining from the PACT fleet, streaking towards what was left of the Cera Space Force, the planet beneath them blazing angrily.  A fraction of a second later, the sensor feed cut out abruptly as Sunrider entered warp, the entire CIC silent apart from the wailing of alarms, as though the ship herself was crying out for the lost on the crew's behalf.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2017, 04:12:15 pm by woolyshambler »
[May 13, 2016, 02:26:28 pm]:   Elvis Strunk will do his best to shoot Eli with a full load.
Elvis Strunk [May 13, 2016, 02:26:45 pm]:   of bullets
Elvis Strunk [May 15, 2016, 03:31:49 pm]:   Knat's the best part of the harem, and the shortest lasting.
Jynx [May 15, 2016, 03:33:36 pm]:   Stop foreshadowing Knat's death
woolyshambler [May 15, 2016, 03:34:13 pm]:   foreshadowing death!? elvis wasn't foreshadowing knat's premature ejaculation problem?

Offline Veniczar Derle

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2015, 11:43:14 pm »
Truly Amazing.
I am not very fluent in English. I beg you to forgive me for that.
My avatar come from here http://budokai01.deviantart.com/art/Infinite-Space-Wallpaper-175541546/.

Offline magnaangemon01

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2015, 01:37:19 am »
Very good. Some grammatical errors here and there, missing a couple words at places, and extra words in some places not needed.

But truly amazing. Followed and favorited on fanfiction.net
Space: The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship: Sunrider. It's ongoing mission to release the galaxy from PACT's control. To boldly undertake what no one has done before.

Offline Samu-kun

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2015, 06:56:16 pm »
This is really good. You get the space whale seal of approval. =w=

Offline Endershadow

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2015, 10:06:36 pm »
That's really good. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment.

Please be careful not to fall into any holes in reality caused by my reality hole generator. If you do fall in though, I can assure you that there will be no adverse side effects except for the following: instantaneous mutation, loss of 1 or more vital organs, turning into banana pudding, amnesia, loss/growth of 1 or more limbs, additional vital organs, loss of DNA, insanity, hallucinations, destruction of the fabric of space and time, redundancy, redundancy, a craving for apples, the ability to see shinigami, for females: an erection lasting more than 4 hours, for males: extremely painful menstrual cramps, testicular inversion, gender swapping, the urge to watch my little pony, and/or death

Offline magnaangemon01

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2015, 11:07:56 pm »
This is really good. You get the space whale seal of approval. =w=

I guess that's his way of saying continue. Maybe, if you finish, and you fix all the errors, maybe Samu will publish it ;)
Space: The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship: Sunrider. It's ongoing mission to release the galaxy from PACT's control. To boldly undertake what no one has done before.

Offline Shirley

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2015, 01:26:13 pm »
I must say, this is very impressive!

Though, its funny, because I have about 5 people telling me the writing sucks, and I tell them they need to relax. XD

This is really good. You get the space whale seal of approval. =w=

....son of a!

Spoiler
IT'S A CONSPIRACY!! Because you all suck and need to lighten up  Me In a Nutshell
KomiTsuku [Sep 22, 2015, 03:43:44 PM]:But tentacle monsters are our friends. BITE ME UNIVERSE [Oct 16, 2016, 09:21:04 pm]:   because one type of forbidden love just isn't enough Afro-Kun [Facebook Nov 21, 2015, 22:40:01 PM]: "I WAS JUST HANDED TEA AND THEN; Friend: "I put the tea in "NTR"!" FRIEND PLS"

Offline woolyshambler

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2015, 03:34:35 pm »
Truly Amazing.

Glad you like it!

Very good. Some grammatical errors here and there, missing a couple words at places, and extra words in some places not needed.

But truly amazing. Followed and favorited on fanfiction.net

Thanks!  The problem with proofreading your own stuff is that you make the same mistakes a second time too.  If you (or anyone) notices something glaring, feel free to point it out.  I do take spelling and grammar mistakes seriously... and personally...

This is really good. You get the space whale seal of approval. =w=

*Cue sobbing*  T-Thank you!  THANK YOU!!!  This... is amazing!  I'd like to thank the academy...

Maybe you'd like to record an endorsement for me?  "This is Samu-kun and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.  I mean fanfic. You get my drift."

That's really good. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment.

Cool beans, hang tight.


This is really good. You get the space whale seal of approval. =w=

....son of a!

Spoiler

You jelly bro?

I must say, this is very impressive!

Though, its funny, because I have about 5 people telling me the writing sucks, and I tell them they need to relax. XD


Maybe those five people should say it to my FACE!  Imma start flexing my muscles now, of which I have many. 
[May 13, 2016, 02:26:28 pm]:   Elvis Strunk will do his best to shoot Eli with a full load.
Elvis Strunk [May 13, 2016, 02:26:45 pm]:   of bullets
Elvis Strunk [May 15, 2016, 03:31:49 pm]:   Knat's the best part of the harem, and the shortest lasting.
Jynx [May 15, 2016, 03:33:36 pm]:   Stop foreshadowing Knat's death
woolyshambler [May 15, 2016, 03:34:13 pm]:   foreshadowing death!? elvis wasn't foreshadowing knat's premature ejaculation problem?

Offline Shirley

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2015, 04:38:21 pm »

This is really good. You get the space whale seal of approval. =w=

....son of a!

Spoiler

You jelly bro?

N-no!

I must say, this is very impressive!

Though, its funny, because I have about 5 people telling me the writing sucks, and I tell them they need to relax. XD


Maybe those five people should say it to my FACE!  Imma start flexing my muscles now, of which I have many.


This guy....I like this guy!
IT'S A CONSPIRACY!! Because you all suck and need to lighten up  Me In a Nutshell
KomiTsuku [Sep 22, 2015, 03:43:44 PM]:But tentacle monsters are our friends. BITE ME UNIVERSE [Oct 16, 2016, 09:21:04 pm]:   because one type of forbidden love just isn't enough Afro-Kun [Facebook Nov 21, 2015, 22:40:01 PM]: "I WAS JUST HANDED TEA AND THEN; Friend: "I put the tea in "NTR"!" FRIEND PLS"

Offline woolyshambler

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2015, 01:01:04 pm »
Because I hate the work week as much as I love you guys:

(Fanfiction)

Chapter 2- Asaga


Spoiler
Ava sat at a table in the Sunrider's mess hall alone, save for the company of a glowing holo and a steaming mug of coffee; her third that shift.  Since initiating an emergency warp to flee the destruction at Cera, the Sunrider had been traveling slowly at sub-light speed, scanning endlessly into the night and making for the last fallback coordinates issued by Central Command at the beginning of what the crew was now calling “Cera's Last Stand.” 

Part of the issue was the massive damage Sunrider had sustained during the battle, the other part of it was the nature of warp travel itself.  Virtually all interstellar travel depended on the warp engine, a relic of humanity's distant past that likely predated even the Holy Ryuvian Empire.  Every ship capable of such travel mounted an extremely large and elaborate series of drive rings, proportional to the mass of the ship being taken into warp.  Hull design differed among the different manufacturers and time periods of the galaxy, but the Sunrider's design with internalized warp drives was currently the most prevalent kind of ship hull observed.  Transitioning to warp was not an effort undertaken lightly, as any number of disastrous outcomes could be precipitated by a botched jump. 

Most commercial and civilian vessels would take the time to clear any strong local influence from gravity, plodding along at sub-light speeds with conventional fusion drives until reaching open space.  Jumps any closer to gravitational bodies typically resulted in increased “drift” or inaccuracies in navigation that could land a ship weeks away from their original destination, necessitating either another costly warp jump or weeks drifting along at snail's pace using sub-light engines.  It was due to this particular quirk of warp travel that the Sunrider had exited warp several days away from the fallback coordinates, having initiated an emergency jump while still trapped in Cera's gravity well.

Once clear of any strong gravitational influences, civilian ships would slowly begin to accelerate their warp rings, a process informally referred to as “spooling up” the drive, either to maximize the longevity of their warp drives or because of their lower tolerance specifications.  Military and other high performance spacecraft, however, incorporated drive designs with far higher tolerances and performance than the typical merchant cargo ship, allowing for much more rapid, if not near instantaneous warp transitions at the cost of additional maintenance and the inherent risks of suffering catastrophic warp drive failure.

Due to the strain on her systems, both from combat and the emergency warp, for the last week, the entire crew of the Sunrider, officers included, had been pulling double shifts to shore up the ship's integrity, bypass damaged systems, and restore the ship to something almost like combat-ready status. 

Lifting the mug of tar-black liquid to her lips, Ava took a sip, half-appreciatively, half-apprehensively, shuddering as she swallowed.  At least the coffee was hot; the first two days after the Sunrider dropped out of emergency warp, so many of her systems had been compromised that all non-essential ship functions were suspended, so as to devote full resources towards the repair of their vessel.   Compared to the stone cold coffee that they'd had when they first arrived, her current beverage was an improvement... marginally.  The situation had improved in other aspects of ship function since as well, although Sunrider remained questionably combat-ready; there was only so much repair the crew could attend to in deep space without the assistance of a space dock's infrastructure.  So desperate were some of their repairs that the crew had even taken to dismantling certain munitions and drones for spare electronics and parts to replace every manner of overloaded, fried, or simply destroyed starship component.

Flicking through her holo as the coffee blasted away her fatigue into a foggy discomfort somewhere in the back of her mind, Ava assessed the Sunrider's increasingly dire supply and munitions stocks, tenuous tactical situation, and complete lack of support or orders from Central Command.  Although they had all been initially hopeful of regrouping with what remained of the Cera Space Forces, no other ships had arrived at the coordinates since the Sunrider arrived.  Harrowing as their escape from Cera was, it appeared the Sunrider had been uniquely fortuitous in avoiding destruction or capture at the hands of the PACT, for better or worse.  With each day that passed, Ava's hope for finding other survivors of the battle diminished as her fears of falling afoul a PACT patrol grew.  Combined with the fact that the Sunrider had been outfitted with only the minimum of supplies and munitions in the rush to launch, Ava was not optimistic about their odds of survival if the PACT came calling.

Looking around the canteen, she sampled the general atmosphere.  Most of the men and women of Sunrider looked exhausted, but the entire crew was calm and focused.  Judging from her observations and hearsay from some o the other ship officers, Kayto's stunt in orbit over Cera seemed to have won him the confidence of his crew.  Overloading the shield emitters had arguably saved their lives during the Legion's onslaught, however, Kayto undoubtedly knew the risks of doing so.  Half their systems were fried by feedback from that particular trick, a lucky outcome considering Sunrider could have as easily melted herself, electrocuted her crew, or simply vaporized all of them if the overload had managed to become self-feeding from the ship's central power and reactor systems.  In retrospect, however, the gamble had paid off, allowing Sunrider to avoid the fate of the rest of Cera's fleet.  The possibility of death weighed against certain death... Kayto's assessment of the situation had been spot on and he had shown the backbone to gamble on an unorthodox, albeit effective maneuver that had saved the ship.  Ava shuddered; it wasn't the kind of decision she envied, but, perhaps, that was why he was Captain and she was his First Officer.

Even with their damaged ship and the fall of their entire world, the crew continued to attend to their duties, confident that the Captain had some other idea up his sleeve that would set things right.  Ava wasn't as sure.  Swirling her coffee, she braced herself and knocked back the remainder in two rapid gulps.  Rising and walking out of the mess hall, she tucked her pad under her arm and dropped her mug onto a conveyor belt carrying the dishes back into Sunrider's robotic kitchens.  Time to find out whether Kayto really did have a plan for Sunrider.  In retrospect, she thought, he probably did have one; just one she wouldn't like.

******

Kayto set down his stylus, sighing deeply and shaking the weariness out of his wrist, looking out at the large holoscreen that simulated a two story window in his quarters.  Spacious and tastefully furnished, the Captain's quarters appeared more like a luxury apartment in Cera City's central district than a warship's accommodations.  The entrance to his quarters lead to an upper level balcony that doubled as his office and study.  Behind his desk, a series of stairs descended to his personal space, opening into an efficient minimalistic parlor and bedroom.   

“Computer, save Captain's report.”

“Report saved,” affirmed the computer.

Leaning back in his chair, Kayto closed his eyes, rubbing at the puffy skin beneath them.  Sleep had been nigh impossible, a series of nightmares and an exercise in tossing and turning.  Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on perspective, the sheer amount of work and responsibility over the last week kept his mind completely occupied, without a moment's rest for self-pity or self-recrimination.  For this, Kayto was grateful.  One day, he knew the pain of the fall of Cera, the destruction of his home city, and all the rest would come for him with a vengeance, but, today, all that mattered was that his crew needed him and that his duty remained the protection of the sovereign people of Cera.  With those two duties on his shoulders, Kayto had all the reason he needed to continue pushing ahead, rather than to look back.

'Bing Bing' chimed his quarter's doorbell.

“Come in,” answered Kayto, straightening and pushing his weariness to the wayside.

Ava stepped into his quarters, the door hissing shut behind her. 

“Captain.”  Ava saluted crisply. 

“Have a seat, Ava,” offered Kayto, too tired to fight her on the first name basis argument again.  As his First Officer sat, Kayto studied the dark circles under her eyes, surmising that her fatigue likely exceeded his own.  “Any news of the fleet?”

“None,” answered Ava, characteristically blunt.  “It may be dangerous to continue holding our position at these coordinates.  If a PACT patrol were to find us... let's just say they might finish the job the Legion set out to do.”

“You're suggesting we give up our search?” asked Kayto, arching an eyebrow.

“Long range sensors have shown no Cera transponders since we arrived at the fallback coordinates.  What's left of Cera's government surrendered and was dissolved six days ago.  Most likely, whatever remains of the fleet has either been impressed into service for the PACT or gone rogue.  Sir, we have no standing orders from the fleet or government since the fall of Cera and we're unlikely to get any no matter how long we wait here.  Also, our contingency plans may no longer be secure after the PACT took over.  Waiting here becomes more dangerous by the day.”

“So you would have us go rogue too?” asked Kayto, staring out at the simulated stars on the holoscreen. 

Across the desk, Ava only shrugged.  “The entire crew is looking to you for direction now.  That was some quick thinking back at Cera, overloading our shields on one side and rerouting our systems.  The crew knows who to thank that this ship is still in one piece, but that trust will erode with fear and uncertainty.  We can't just sit around waiting for orders that may never come... for better or worse, we're no longer bound to the Cera Space Force by any authority remaining.”

Kayto mulled over her words for a minute before replying.  “Ava, tell me, what's a ship without a flag?”

Crossing her arms, Ava answered, “A pirate ship.”

“This isn't a pirate ship.  And I'm no pirate captain.”

Sighing, Ava rolled her eyes.  “I'm not suggesting we turn to pirating, Kayto!” she said in an exasperated tone, feeling he was missing the point. 

“I know,” he reassured her, “But so long as I'm Captain, Sunrider will fly Cera's flag.  So long as we keep that transponder active, we'll always be men and women of Cera Space Force.”

“That's fine, but it doesn't really solve any of our immediate problems out here in the middle of nowhere in PACT controlled space,” pointed out Ava, cutting back to reality.

“The PACT won't get away with what they did to our home...” Kayto balled his hand into a fist on the bureau between them.  “We're going to take the fight to them.”

“With respect, we're one ship.”  Ava's tone was blunt and skeptical.

“We'll find allies,” insisted Kayto, trying to sell his plan.  “We're not the only neutral world conquered by the PACT.  We'll find others like us, regroup and build a fleet, and, when we're ready, liberate our worlds, one by one, from the PACT.”

Ava tapped her thin lips thoughtfully.  “It sounds like you've already given this... 'plan' some thought.”

Kayto smiled wryly, “I gave it a shot.  Hey come on, it'll be like old times.”

Ava sighed, raising a hand to her brow, half-amused and half-exasperated.  “If it's going to be like back then, it's a good thing they made me your First Officer.  I don't even want to think about what kind of trouble you'd cause without me to clean up your messes.

“Just a minute!” laughed Kayto, “Is that all you can remember of me from high school?”

“What I remember is that you were one of the most frustrating people I had to deal with as student council president,” bit back Ava, although her tone lightened half a shade.  “I'll thank you to remember the time you installed that anti-gravity device in the student council office.  I don't think we ever got things to look like before again.”

Kayto chuckled appreciatively, “Oh that little thing.  Come on, you had a good laugh about it afterwards didn't you?”

“No.”

Kayto closed his eyes happily, indulging in revisiting their shared past for a moment while the mood, at least on his end, remained light.

Shaking her head, Ava brought them back to the topic on hand.  “It's not a bad idea, I'll give you that.  But Sunrider needs a little more than deep space repairs before we'll be in any shape to seriously take on the PACT again.  We're going to need repairs at a space dock.  We're also bone dry on missiles and munitions for our flak cannons and the Saviors, never mind virtually every other kind of supply this ship needs.”

Kayto nodded, opening his eyes and turning serious again.  “I know, I read the same reports you do... we're not exactly flush with options are we?  Our best bet is probably to lay into safe harbor at one of the Neutral Rim worlds off the beaten path and look for repair and resupply once we get there.  Tydaria is only a day's jump from here.  Maybe we can trade some of our tech schematics for services rendered...”

“That won't be necessary,” said Ava, a smile breaking across her face for once.  “Galactic powers and governments, Tydaria included, place bounties on anyone they've got beef with; pirates, rivals, whatever.  Ever since the PACT began pushing into the Neutral Rim, some pretty big bounties have been posted for their ships too.  We'll be paid a lump sum for each ship we sink; fast cash for the supplies and services we need to keep operating.  I've already put together some preliminary dossiers for bounties that align with our mission.  So long as we start small, the Sunrider should be more than a match for anything out here in the sticks.”

“I thought we decided we weren't taking the pirate route,” said Kayto with a straight face.

Ava flushed slightly.  “This is different, it's more mercenary or privateer work- Hey!  S-shut up!” she demanded as Kayto broke into snickers.

“I like it,” smiled Kayto as Ava's cheekbones flushed crimson.  “Any operation against the PACT we can pull off is a good one for now.”

Ava nodded, steadying her composure.  “There's also the matter of personnel and equipment.  As you know, none of our Ryders or pilots transferred before Cera fell, severely limiting our capabilities as an assault carrier.  We're also short one ship doctor and a chief engineer; we'll need to find some people with the qualifications we need, preferably sooner rather than later.”

“I guess Tydaria is as good of a place to look as any,” shrugged Kayto.  “Wherever we find those people, it won't be out here, that's for sure.”

Ava nodded and stood, saluting.  “Any additional orders, Sir?”

Kayto stood and walked around his desk, stopping at a respectful distance.  “Ava... are you holding up alright with all this?” he asked, eyeing the dark circles under and the fatigue behind her eyes.  Clearly, she was sleeping no better than he was.

“I'm... fine.  There's no reason to worry about me, Captain,” she said stiffly, avoiding eye contact.  Kayto said nothing as her hand dropped down and she relaxed from her salute, still firmly looking away from him.  “Kayto... we've got more immediate problems to worry about; let's make sure we all pull through this in one piece first.”

Kayto nodded, “Use my door anytime you need to.”

“Understood,” she replied, turning and walking towards his door.  “I'll see you in the CIC when you're ready to lay in our course to Tydaria.”

******

“Dropout from warp without incident, all expected systems read green.  Navigation confirming coordinates... confirmed.  We've arrived at Tydaria, Sir,” announced Ava as forward screens activated, showing a massive, ringed, rust colored world hanging in front of them.

Not every planet colonized by humanity looked like or even remotely resembled Cera; the vast majority of worlds were a good deal less hospitable.  Tydaria was one such world where humans had been drawn to establish a permanent presence out of industrial necessity rather than comfort.  Although the planet's surface was lashed with high winds, sandstorms, and the occasional toxic rain, its crust composition and planetary rings were rich in ores demanded across the known galaxy for applications in high quality starship manufacturing.  Most Tydarians were, either directly or indirectly, employed by the mining industry and shared the same ascetic, dry, humorless and occasionally dangerous attitude of their homeworld.  Among the local Neutral Rim worlds, Tydarians were famed for their ability to nickle and dime a trader within a centimeter of his or her life, fiercely bargaining every penny's worth out of the ore they wrested from the planet.  Perhaps it was the inhospitably of the planet and/or its inhabitants, but neither the Solar Alliance nor the PACT had much interest or luck in swaying their allegiance one way or the other, ore prices and quantities having the final say in all of Tydaria's business and political dealings. 

Kayto regarded the rusty planet on the main screen, noting the healthy sprinkle of orbital habitats and factories encircling the planet with swarms of cargo freighters puttering to and fro on their regularly scheduled runs.  In some ways, Tydaria and the hard bargains they were bound to find made for a less than ideal port to trade for repairs and resupply, but their strict neutrality towards galactic politics and the fact that their technology level was on par with Cera's made it a more attractive option than at first glance.

“Lay in a course for the planet's rings,” ordered Kayto.  “There's bound to be an open repair dock somewhere in that mining operation.  We'll be able to get things straightened out and some resupply at the very least.”

Ava leaned forward, examining her screens carefully.  Explosively breathing out, she spoke grimly, “You might want to hold that idea, Captain.  We're detecting a number of unknown contacts on an intercept vector.  We're being hailed and I don't think it's an invitation to sit and chat over tea and biscuits.”

“Open the channel,” ordered Kayto.  “You're always so pessimistic...” he muttered.

Ava sniffed, “Woman's Intuition.”

The holo projector hummed to life between them and a blonde haired child with gray eyes wearing a violet armored Ryder suit materialized on the deck exactly where Kayto expected, but at least three heads too short.

“HaaHaaHaaa!”  The unknown Ryder pilot's peels of mirth rang out on the bridge.  “This is pirate Ryder Havok.  Lower your shields and surrender your ship!” she demanded in a menacing and surprisingly low pitched voice, pointing threateningly towards Kayto and Ava.  Small and child-like, the avatar shattered every pirate trope from the holodramas, but Kayto was not one to judge the peculiar fetishes of Tydaria's local pirate gang.  For all he knew, a burly, fat, hairy pirate lord was hiding behind the projection in the opposing Ryder's cockpit.

“OK, looks like you were right after all,” whispered Kayto to Ava from the corner of his mouth.

“Captain; unknown contacts are flying no registered transponder signals.  Looks like they actually are pirates,” announced Ava, rolling her eyes.

“Red Alert,” said Kayto calmly, looking down at the holographic avatar of Havok's pilot, “All hands to battle stations.  Pirate; stand down.  This is the warship Sunrider of the Cera Space Force.  We will not hesitate to open fire with deadly force if you do not deviate from your course vectors and turn tail immediately.”

“Cera huh?” smirked the pirate. “That explains a lot; looks like you're ship's ready to fall apart, even without my help.  It's a fixer-uper, but it'll do nicely as an addition to my pirate fleet, once we're done taking care of your crew, of course.”  The pirate's voice was casual.  “Boys, rough 'em up!”

The pirate's avatar dissolved as they cut the communications link.  “Ava, what's the tactical situation?”

“Two pirate Ryders inbound on fast-burn intercept vectors, standard Imperial surplus infantry models, likely refurbished.  Scans are reading them as Mark II's.  One additional Ryder, bomber class, custom configuration, designation 'Havok.'  We've also got two pirate destroyers five minutes behind them pushing to intercept from separate vectors; they're trying to box us in.”

Kayto nodded.  The Ryders represented the most immediate threat to the ship.  Quick single-pilot space superiority fighters, Ryders were nimble, agile opponents capable of mounting starship grade weapons.  Ancient legend from the days of the Holy Ryuvian Empire spoke of Ryders as having ceremonial and ritualized functions in addition to their military applications.  For a time, their actual existence had been heavily debated among academics, the art of their manufacture and operation having been lost during the Dark Ages after the fall of the Holy Ryuvian Empire.  The nascent space faring powers of that time returned to traditional single-pilot fighter starships to fulfill the space superiority niche until the rediscovery of Ryder technology circa the year 398 when Solar Alliance archaeologists retrieved a fully operational Ryder from an ancient Holy Ryuvian Empire ruin. 

Locked in a desperate and gridlocked war against the New Empire, the Solar Alliance gambled it's not-insignificant scientific and industrial resources on large scale reproduction of the Ryder.  Although Imperial scientists and spies quickly allowed the New Empire to reproduce the technology as well, the Alliance had already found it's advantage, winning several key engagements with the re-introduction of Ryder technology to space warfare.  Outmatching traditional single-pilot spacecraft in nearly all regards, Ryder technology quickly became the staple of space-superiority in space-based conflict, forever replacing the now obsolete concept of single-pilot spacecraft.  The only domain in which traditional fighter craft continued to play a role was in atmosphere, where the Ryder's light frame and lack of aerodynamics spelled certain suicide for any pilot foolish enough to fly that close to a planet.  If the atmosphere didn't kill them, the gravity would, dragging the vehicle down into a flaming, deadly embrace.

Now, slightly over one hundred years since their rediscovery, Ryder technology had become significantly more refined, with all major space-faring powers operating their own Ryder programs.  Such was the proliferation of Ryder technology that even independent powers, such as criminals and pirates, had managed to secure and learn to pilot the craft, albeit heavily modified older models, mostly left over from the Alliance-Imperial War or PACT revolution. 

Painted an anonymous shade of green, the Mark II Imperial Ryder had once been a staple of the Imperial Navy, produced en mass by their factory worlds, although it seemed that the pirates had splashed all manner of gaudy holograms and neon-painted war symbols across the once spartan hull.  Wielding a standard semi-automatic 70mm autocannon directly integrated into its right armature and long range laser weaponry on the left armature, the Mark II Imperial Ryder was equipped for almost any job imaginable, although it traded performance for the versatility.  Some of the Ryders had even been equipped with missile pods, allowing the Ryder to carry a limited number of guided missiles as a one-off supplementation to their offensive capabilities.  Aside from a large shield integrated onto the left armature, the Imperial Mark II's lacked any defensive capabilities beyond their pilot's skill, completely lacking modern shielding or additional hull armor, making them relatively frail targets against large-caliber kinetic weapons or laser weaponry.  Of course, since the pirates were vastly more interested in outfitting their Ryders to appear intimidating than actually paying attention to the maintenance of their craft, Kayto suspected their machines would fall short of even the sub-par specifications of the Mark II Imperial Ryder.

Completely composed of standardized parts, Imperial Ryders made ideal black market merchandise, allowing less scrupulous dealers to buy, sell, refurbish, chop, etc. with the minimum of hassle.  The Ryders moving to intercept the Sunrider had been obsolete the day the pirates had bought them off the black market, but, despite the poor attention paid to maintenance, were apparently more than enough to strong arm the local trade vessels.  Behind them, two of what passed for the pirate equivalent of a destroyer shuddered towards the Sunrider.  Eyeballing the ships, Kayto marveled at their ability to remain in a single piece through the strain of the acceleration.  Little more than a fusion powered frame mounting the biggest, flashiest guns and engines they could scrape off the black market, the pirate destroyers were a used starship salesman's worse nightmare potpourri of decommissioned and salvaged starship parts, all wrapped up with the pirates' unique taste in decoration to boot.

Likely, the pirates' relative success in Tydaria had emboldened them to the point of recklessness; a lone warship, clearly wounded, was too tempting a target to simply ignore.  Even so, Kayto mused, their leader either ambitious and confident, or simply foolhardy to approach even the crippled Sunrider with a fleet like that.

“Let's focus on taking those Ryders out before those destroyers close range.  Give me full forward on engines, bring us about bearing five-five and ten-six, drop us three degrees down relative to horizontal axis.,” ordered Kayto.

“Aye, Sir,” replied Ava, relaying the orders.

Sunrider's engines responded, pushing the crew into their crash seats as she accelerated in-system. 

“Pirate Ryders maintaining present intercept course, removing weapon safeties; we are ready to fire on your command, Captain,” reported Ava.

“Target lead pirate Ryder,” instructed Kayto, tapping a series of commands into his tactical screen.  “Fire our missiles and take him out before we get within range of their laser weapons.”

“Understood,” nodded Ava, “Be advised; Sunrider's missile munitions will be exhausted after this action.”

“Do it,” confirmed Kayto.

“Missile pods hot.  Launch all missiles now!” barked Ava.

Along Sunrider's lateral fins, one dozen missile silos on each side slide open, allowing her remaining stock of Hell Dart missiles to take flight.  Trailing clouds of vaporized propellant which flash froze in the vacuum of space, the missiles streaked towards their lead target, making minor course adjustments as their micro-computer systems tracked the incoming Ryder. 

“Hell Darts away, contact with target in ten; on main screen now.”

Kayto looked up, watching as the pirate Ryder held its course in the face of the missile salvo in a deadly game of chicken.  As the missiles were semi-autonomous and capable of limited target tracking, Ryder pilots always waited until the last moment possible to initiate emergency course corrections with the hope of throwing the missiles off.  As the missiles drew closer, the pirate Ryder let loose with an extended burst from it's 70mm autocannons, spent casings drifting off into space in a cloud of metal.  Two missiles detonated from the incoming fire, but the rest streaked forward, unharmed.  Kayto grinned; clearly pirate Ryder pilot training left something to be desired. 

Too late, the pirate activated his lateral thrusters, kicking his Ryder to the left.  Two missiles clipped his frame, one blowing a hole his right armature, the second, blowing off the sensor suite which made up the “head” of the Ryder.  Blind and wounded, the pirate Ryder tumbled from the impact, wildly firing retrothrusters in a desperate attempt to regain axis stability.  The remaining missiles shot past the Ryder before banking and homing in on their wounded prey.  Impacting one after another, the missiles jerked the pirate Ryder's frame around like a rag doll before a critical shot caused its reactor containment to shatter, consuming the entire Ryder in a ball of flame and metal vapor. 

Heedless, the other Imperial Mark II blasted through the remnants of his partner Ryder, its glowing holograms depicting various gang signs and women in anatomically questionable positions turning a blood red.  Raising it's left arm, the Ryder leveled its laser cannons at the Sunrider, letting loose with twin crimson beams. 

“Laser hit on our port side, Captain,” reported Ava, as Sunrider's monitors beeped in consternation.  “Lateral armor intact, no hull breaches reported.”

Kayto smiled.  Although laser weapons were effective and accurate at range, the nature of space warfare made it difficult to concentrate fire on a single location to maximize the chance of a hull breach.  Less than effective laser attacks simply gouged ugly grooves along starship armor, unable to penetrate to core systems or into the hull itself.  “Charge Trinities, let's show them the difference between our training and theirs.”

“All Trinity laser banks, lock target and fire on my mark... mark!” ordered Ava as the computer achieved a firing solution for the target. 

Blue laser light erupted from Sunrider's lateral laser banks, her six laser cannons on each side discharging asynchronously.  Boxed in from all sides by multiple laser shots from the different laser cannons, the pirate Ryder found itself unable to escape and hunkered down behind its large, legionnaire style shield.  The shield glowed bright orange for a moment before sloughing off, allowing the deadly laser strike to melt the Ryder behind it like a wax candle.  Deformed and damaged, the molten Ryder began to flash freeze as the laser lost coherence, fusing the entire machine into a useless chunk of glass and metal.  Doubtless, the pirate pilot inside the Ryder did not survive the transition.

“Open a channel, the same frequency the pirates hailed us on,” requested Kayto.  “Pirate; turn back now before things get messy.”

“Hah!” the pirates' leader materialized on the bridge once again, her purple Ryder suit festooned with holographic symbols and marks on its armored plates, although hers were a good deal more understated than her flunkies'.  “Those grunts are a dime a dozen, just a distraction to get my Havok in range.  Take this, Firestorms away!”

“Incoming missile fire, Captain!” called out Ava, the calm around her voice cracking microscopically.  “All hands, brace for impact!”

Sunrider shook angrily as her flak cannon gunners fired into the oncoming ordinance, their computer-assisted aim nailing several of the incoming missiles.

“Not enough!” squealed the pirate happily as Sunrider rattled under the barrage of missiles.

“Damage report!” grunted Kayto through gritted teeth as the ship stabilized, muting the comms system.

“We're venting air in four sections, multiple hull breaches.  This is putting a pretty hard strain on our systems, Captain,” replied Ava grimly.  “No fatalities... yet.”

“Who let that many missiles through?  Are our gunners blind!?” demanded Kayto, only half-serious, breathing out in relief despite Ava's pessimism.  “What the hell's in them anyways?  They burned through our armor like it wasn't there!”

“No idea, Captain, but our systems, sensors and computer-assist for the flak cannons included, were barely hanging on by a thread before we even got here.  Sunrider's giving it all she's got.”

“And this one,” gloated the pirate girl.  “Is for your engines.  Get ready to be boarded, Captain!  We'll cut your crew into pieces!”

“Play nice, pumpkin,” admonished Kayto in a mock sweet voice.  “Why can't you just be a good little girl and save us both a lot of trouble?”

“Hurk...” the pirate girl's eyes contracted to pinpoints, her voice strangled by sheer rage.  “Did... did... you just call me...”

“Don't worry sweetie, the grown ups will let you stay up next time.  Why don't you run along and head to bed now?”

Y-YOUUU!”  Kayto arched an eyebrow as the girl's eyes bulged alarmingly.  “KILL THEM ALL, BUT LEAVE THE CAPTAIN FOR ME!  HE'S... MINE...”

Beside him, Ava buried her face in her hands.  “Captain... provoking the enemy... IS ONLY GOING TO GET US SKINNED ALIVE!!!”

“Actually, I think the plan was to only do that to me; the rest of you have it easy,” dismissed Kayto as Ava rolled her eyes and sighed explosively at him.  Although he passed it off as good fun, spitting in the enemy's eye had bought him and the crew a few precious moments to reconsider their tactics given Sunrider's reduced capabilities.  With any luck, having been goaded into attack, the pirates' lack of discipline and tactics would give the Sunrider the advantage it needed to turn things around.

“Eh?!” squealed the pirate girl, her hologram suddenly rippling from interference.

“Captain!  New contact, coming up from behind on our port side on intercept vector with the Havok.  Multiple laser impacts on enemy Ryder detected!” relayed Ava, her composure returning.

“The cavalry has arrived!” announced a free-spirited female voice.  On the bridge, a redheaded woman with sea-green eyes materialized on the open channel, wearing a Ryder suit with matching red armored plates. 

“What the-?  Who are you?” demanded Kayto, thrown, but impressed.  Landing multiple laser hits on another Ryder at that range and while accelerating spoke volumes of the pilot's skill.

Flashing a roguish smile, the Ryder pilot stuck a pose in front of her camera.  “A HERO OF JUSTICE!!!”

Next to him, Ava pinched herself through her uniform, muttering, “Too much coffee, too much coffee...”

“Looks like you guys could use a hand,” continued the Ryder pilot.  “Don't worry, my Black Jack can take care of those guys in a flash!”

“Scans complete, Captain,” cut in Ava.  “She's piloting a privately owned custom Ryder, licensed through the United Mining Guild.  Probably private security or mercenary hired for the mining operation here.”  With a sideways glance, Ava's real thoughts were clear; Can we trust her?

Kayto shrugged to her, meaning clear as day: Not much choice. 

“Alright Black Jack.  Let's see what you've got.  Keep that Ryder off us and let us handle those two destroyers inbound.”

“Roger that!” answered the Black Jack's pilot as the Ryder flashed past the Sunrider on the main screen, it's blue engines flaring brilliantly as it barreled towards the Havok recklessly.

“All ahead forward, give me a firing solution for those destroyers; we'll fire the Saviors once we get in range,” ordered Kayto, steel in his voice.  “And keep an eye on that Ryder,” he added as an afterthought.

As Sunrider pushed towards the pirate ships, Kayto watched as the Black Jack engaged the Havok.  Having recovered from the sudden attack, the pirate Ryder leveled a massive Gatling gun at the Black Jack while what appeared to be a chainsaw powered up, spitting sparks menacingly as it came to life.  Hitting her maneuvering thrusters in rapid succession, the Black Jack dodged and weaved, dancing recklessly around the heavier Havok's machine gun bursts while chipping away at the other Ryder's armor with bursts from her own autocannons. 

“Fire Saviors!” ordered Kayto.  Sunrider's heavy deck guns fired in succession, sending satisfying reports throughout the ship.  Having never been built to withstand that kind of fire, the slow moving pirate destroyer's hull broke apart like a ripe fruit, Sunrider's kinetic slugs gutting her and exposing the insides to vacuum.

Angrily, the pirate destroyer's sister ship let loose with a laser cannon barrage, causing Sunrider to pitch unexpectedly. 

“Captain!  Saviors offline, multiple systems failures.  Our hull integrity is below acceptable limits!” called out Ava, dispensing the bad news with professional detachment.

“Black Jack, time to wrap things up,” said Kayto, biting his lip and watching the main screen where the Black Jack kept its one up on the Havok.  Without the Saviors, Sunrider would have difficulty sinking the remaining pirate destroyer without receiving unacceptable punishment to her fragile hull as well.  “Uploading firing solutions to you now; coordinate with our weapons and fire any long-range anti-ship ordinance you have so that we target the last destroyer simultaneously.”

“Roger that, Capt'n!” came the Black Jack's pilot's cheery voice as her Ryder broke away from the dazed Havok.

“Fire Trinities!  Kill thrust and use our remaining power to overcharge!” ordered Kayto.  “Target the remaining pirate destroyer!”

“Imma firin' mah lazers!!!” called out Black Jack's pilot as shoulder mounted anti-starship laser weapons deployed from the flat of the Ryder's back and angled at the pirate destroyer. 

“What... the HELL was that?” demanded Ava, blinking in surprise the strange proclamation as Sunrider and Black Jack's laser beams converged on the destroyer.  Shaking her head, she consulted the ship sensors.  “Catastrophic damage to pirate destroyer, looks like what isn't on fire is in vacuum,” she said, satisfaction thick on her voice.

“Pirate Ryder Havok coming around,” called out Kayto unhappily.

“Don't sweat it, Capt'n,” said the Black Jack's pilot.  “Fly my pretties!”  Missile pods opened up all over the Black Jack's armor, sliding back armored plates to reveal row after row of missiles.  Launching rapidly, one after another, they chased after the Havok, detonating and shearing armored plates from the Ryder and damaging it's internal systems.

Sparking and covered with impacts and other damage, the Havok gave Sunrider and Black Jack one last glowering look before turning tail and slinking away, rapidly accelerating out of their weapons and sensor range.

The bridge breathed a sigh of relief and Kayto motioned to stand down from Red Alert.  As normal bridge lighting returned, Black Jack's pilot re-materialized on the bridge.  “That sure was exciting!” she laughed, pumping an armored fist into the air.  “I wish I could have seen the look on their faces!” 

Kayto nodded appreciatively as Ava put a hand to her brow.  “Thanks for the assist Black Jack, we'd be happy to give you a lift back to Tydaria.  We're opening our hanger bay; you have permission to dock.”

“And to explain yourself,” added Ava skeptically.

“Roger that, coming aboard!” said the pilot happily as she cut communications. 

On the main screen, the Black Jack's engines flared and the Ryder dropped down, vectoring towards hanger bay 01's entrance as the Sunrider dropped the scarred armored port to the docking tube, lighting up to guide the Ryder's docking approach.

Standing and stretching his stiff legs, Kayto straightened his uniform and breathed deep, unwinding some of the tension of the battle from his back.  “Well,” he said, turning to Ava, “Let's go meet this 'hero of justice.'” 

“Roger that, Captain,” answered Ava, drawing the small pistol at her hip and checking the cartridge and chamber before returning it, safety off, to its holster. 

“Such a pessimist,” said Kayto with a shake of the head.

“Woman's intuition.”

******

Sunrider's Ryder hanger occupied the single largest contiguous space within the ship, also serving as a reservoir for atmosphere when various other parts of the ship required emergency pressurization.  Since departing Cera, the hanger bay had largely been ignored due to the lack of Ryders aboard the ship.  Although twelve berths were available for docking, only a single one, bay 01 was fully lit, the rest having been powered down due to damage to the electric system, giving the entire hanger the mostly accurate impression of disuse and borderline neglect.  The hanger was structured so that a central catwalk, suspended several stories above the ground floor, stretched into the dark from the lift connecting the hanger to the rest of the ship.  Here, pilots or maintenance staff could access the Ryders through a series of individual airlocked lifts that granted access to the individual bays.

As Kayto and Ava stepped off the lift into the hanger, their footsteps echoed morosely, the hanger quiet save for the occasional oiled whir of a passing drone, the only sign that the ship had made itself ready for the docking Ryder.  At Kayto's insistence and observation that Ava was armed, the two had come to the hanger alone, without a security detail in tow.  Beyond the see-through walls of the upper catwalk, the two could see the Black Jack drift into the docking berth, its engines powered down to a minimum as a series of powerful electromagnetic tractors affixed to standard hardpoints on the Ryder frame guided it into position into a docking cradle.  As the far door to the launch tube closed, atmosphere hissed into the berth, appearing as jets of snow white vapor until the room heated to normal temperature.  On the catwalk, at the level of the Black Jack's “head,” Kayto and Ava jumped reflexively as sound of the Ryder's disengaging thrusters and heavy machinery from the active bay returned suddenly with the re-pressurization of the berth. 

Kayto and Ava positioned themselves opposite to the lift marked “01,” Ava's hand casually close to the butt of her pistol.  Raising his cuff to his lips, Kayto spoke through the bracelet on his wrist.  “Activate Ryder hanger lift 01.”

Several moments later, the lift returned to the catwalk level, hissing open and revealing the pilot of the Black Jack.  Clad in the red armored Ryder suit she had appeared in earlier, the pilot stepped off the lift, her armored magnetic boots clinked gently as she walked, making the additional weight of suit apparent the way holograms never could.  Lean with short red hair and bright green eyes, the pilot's youthful and curious expression lent the air of immaturity to her, completely at odds with the piloting skill she had demonstrated against the pirates.   

“That's close enough, pilot,” said Ava firmly before Kayto could open his mouth.  “Put your hands in the air for a weapons check.”

The pilot's jaw practically dropped to the ground, “Seriously?!  Come on lady, I just did you guys a solid.  Why do I have to get groped by you?”

“L-Lady?!” spluttered Ava, turning red, “We're almost the same age!”

“Listen,” Kayto raised his voice and hands before the situation got out of control.  “Ava, she's right, if she wanted us dead, she'd have helped the pirates.  Maybe we could let her off the hook this time.”

“Captain, naval protocol section 9-32B clearly states-”

Kayto sighed, turning to the pilot, “Listen, could you just put your hands up and do a quick spin?  I already convinced her to leave the security team behind, so let's all just meet halfway.”

Rolling her eyes, Black Jack's pilot did as he asked.

“Great,” said Kayto as Ava looked equally dissatisfied with the perfunctory weapons check.  Stepping forward, he offered his hand.  “I'm Kayto Shields, Captain of the assault carrier Sunrider.  This is my First Officer, Commander Ava Crescentia.  Welcome aboard.”

Black Jack's pilot grasped his hand with her armored gauntlet firmly.  “Asaga Oakrun, pilot of the Black Jack.  Nice to meet you two.”

“Thanks again for the help out there.”

“No problem,” said Asaga flicking her short hair back over her shoulder.  “Those guys were nothin'.

“Maybe you could tell us what you were doing out here in the first place,” asked Kayto, nodding towards the Black Jack.  Like the vast majority of other Ryders, Black Jack most likely operated from a base or some other form of infrastructure, having no warp capabilities or ability to operate without frequent resupply of fuel and munitions.  “Hard to imagine a lone Ryder just happened upon us like that without a reason.”

“Oh, nothing, just keeping the space ways safe!” answered Asaga jovially.  “Coming to the rescue wherever the weak are oppressed; it's the hero of justice, the vanguard of the innocent!  For love, freedom, and just a little money on the side, it's Asaga Oakrun, pilot of the Black Jack!”

Ava simply stared at the pilot as she finished her introduction with yet another pose and smile, although Kayto fancied he could practically hear his First Officer's teeth grinding. 

“So... you're basically a freelancer?” prompted Kayto.

“Ehh, I suppose you could call me that,” admitted Asaga, the wind leaving her sails slightly.  “The space around here is pretty dangerous with the pirate gangs and all.  The Mining Union pays pretty well for any pirate skulls I crack, although it's harder than it sounds.  Those guys bug out faster than cockroaches, especially when they see the Black Jack.  I just figured that we could help each other out a bit when I saw your predicament, and I was right!  We got 'em pretty good that time!”

“How long have you been in the business?” asked Kayto, interested.

“Oh, just a little while,” answered Asaga breezily.  “I've traveled all over the Neutral Rim, picking up odd jobs here and there.  I guess you could call me an adventurer.”

“You do that all alone in a single Ryder?”  Ava sounded skeptical.

“No, no.” Asaga shook her head.  “I've got Chigara helping me out!  She built me the Black Jack, here.  She's an absolute genius when it comes to tech; fixes and builds anything mechanical you can imagine!”

Kayto made a mental note to ask more about Asaga's partner later.  Building a custom Ryder from scratch was no mean feat and, clearly, the Black Jack was no amateur job.  From what Kayto had seen, the custom Ryder easily outperformed anything he had ever know the Cera Space Force to field.  Someone like that could, at the very least, help shore up their starship.  “Tell me a little bit about those pirates, sounds like you have some experience dealing with them.”

“Well,” said Asaga, dragging out the word as she tapped her chin thoughtfully.  “Seems like you've already met their leader, the one piloting the Havok.  Her name's Cosette Cosmos.”

“We've had the pleasure,” replied Kayto, deciding to skip over the words they had exchanged on the bridge.  “What's a little girl doing leading a gang like that anyways?  Don't kids have anything better to do around here?”

“She looks like a brat, but don't underestimate her Capt'n; she's a nasty piece of work.”  Asaga's face grew more serious as she crossed her arms.  “She's feared for her ruthlessness in a number of sectors, including this one, kind of a de facto pirate queen by some standards.  One of the stories has it she slit her own Pa's throat on her fourteenth birthday for not buying her candy.  Plenty of other stories too.”

Kayto's face must have conveyed his skepticism as Asaga threw up her hands defensively.  “What I can say for a fact is that I've had a few run-ins with her and the Havok and they're not to be trifled with.  I got the one up on her this time, but she's had me in a pickle more than once too.  For your sake, you'd better believe in her Havok's anti-matter missiles; those little beauties will do more than dent your starship hull, but you probably noticed that already.”

Kayto rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, “Yeah, well... tell us about the Mining Union, what's your deal with them?” he said switching topics.

“Not much to say, Captain,” answered Asaga, shrugging.  “They mine ore and pay me to take out as many pirates as I can.  My contact with them is a lady by the name of Sophita, she's the person to talk to about work around here for freelancers like me.  Of course, since we both worked the last job, we can split the fee, fifty-fifty.”

Kayto nodded, “Fair's fair.”  Even though Sunrider had taken out the first two Ryders and a destroyer on its own, he figured the likelihood of their collecting the bounty without the Black Jack's sudden appearance was limited at best.  On top of that, Asaga's introduction to her contact with the Mining Union would likely be useful to say the least in securing the funds the Sunrider needed for her repair and resupply.

“So what now?” asked Asaga, sizing Kayto and Ava up.

“We'll give you a ride back to Tydaria like I promised,” replied Kayto, pushing the ball back into her court.

Asaga's lips quirked up slightly into small smile.  “You guys are Cera Space Force right?”

“That's right.”

“Sorry to hear about your planet and the PACT, it's been all over the feeds,” offered Asaga.  Neither Kayto nor Ava said anything, although Kayto felt his chest tighten at the mention of his homeworld's fate.  “Look,” continued Asaga.  “It looks to me like you're an assault carrier without Ryders.  That doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  We make a good team, so I'll tell you what; help me take out the pirates here and I'll join up as Sunrider's first Ryder.”

“Captain!” protested Ava before Kayto could say anything.  “We can't just conscript locals on a whim!  How can we trust someone we've just met?”

“Not much choice, Commander,” said Kayto with a frown after a moment's thought.  Truthfully, he considered Asaga's offer a stroke of luck; her piloting skills were clearly polished and the Black Jack would undeniably improve the Sunrider's capabilities.  Ava's point was, however, well taken.  Even though Asaga seemed straightforward enough, her offer to join the Sunrider seemed a little too quick and Kayto wondered what other motivations were at play.  “Sunrider was always meant to have a Ryder wing; we're fighting with our arms tied behind our back without Ryder support.  Plus, she's already saved our necks once; I think we can work together.” 

Ava sighed, slumping slightly as she raised a hand to her brow again.  “I knew you were going to say that.  Why do I even bother?”

Asaga laughed, “Glad we could agree, Capt'n!”

Turning to Asaga, Kayto said seriously, “This is a military vessel.  If you join Sunrider's crew, you'll be putting on a uniform with the rest of us.  That means following orders and protocol, just to make that clear.  You don't have to answer now, but make sure you know what you're getting into.  For now, we'll work together as partners.”

Asaga nodded thoughtfully.

“Also,” continued Kayto, “Sunrider needs repairs and resupply.  We'll set a course for Tydaria and figure out a plan once we get those things taken care of.”

“Best place to go for that is Chigara's place, Capt'n!” said Asaga cheerfully.  “She'll get your ship sorted out in no time and at a fair price!  I'll give you the coordinates to her workshop!” she offered, retrieving and holding out a data chit with her partner's repair dock information on it.

Kayto shrugged and accepted it; it wasn't as though they had any other recommendations for local talent.  “Pretty slick; you probably offer these to any ships shot up by the pirates, huh?” 

Asaga merely grinned.  “Hey, we all gotta eat!”

“Ava and I are going back up to the bridge,” said Kayto with a smile.  Beside him, Ava turned and called the lift.  “It's probably best if you stay here with the Black Jack.  I've have a crew member come by to show you areas of the ship you'll have access to while you're here; if you need anything else, give us a call on your comms.”

“Aye, Aye!” affirmed Asaga, turning back towards her Ryder.

“Oh, Asaga?” Kayto called over his shoulder as Ava stepped into the waiting lift in front of him.  “Don't do anything that'll make Ava beat me for later.”

Asaga giggled, waving for him to catch up with Ava.

“I heard that,” Ava muttered as Kayto stepped in with her, whistling innocently.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2015, 02:59:42 am by woolyshambler »
[May 13, 2016, 02:26:28 pm]:   Elvis Strunk will do his best to shoot Eli with a full load.
Elvis Strunk [May 13, 2016, 02:26:45 pm]:   of bullets
Elvis Strunk [May 15, 2016, 03:31:49 pm]:   Knat's the best part of the harem, and the shortest lasting.
Jynx [May 15, 2016, 03:33:36 pm]:   Stop foreshadowing Knat's death
woolyshambler [May 15, 2016, 03:34:13 pm]:   foreshadowing death!? elvis wasn't foreshadowing knat's premature ejaculation problem?

Offline Endershadow

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization (Chapter 2 Up)
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2015, 01:55:21 pm »
Another good chapter.

Please be careful not to fall into any holes in reality caused by my reality hole generator. If you do fall in though, I can assure you that there will be no adverse side effects except for the following: instantaneous mutation, loss of 1 or more vital organs, turning into banana pudding, amnesia, loss/growth of 1 or more limbs, additional vital organs, loss of DNA, insanity, hallucinations, destruction of the fabric of space and time, redundancy, redundancy, a craving for apples, the ability to see shinigami, for females: an erection lasting more than 4 hours, for males: extremely painful menstrual cramps, testicular inversion, gender swapping, the urge to watch my little pony, and/or death

Offline Samu-kun

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization (Chapter 2 Up)
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2015, 06:00:16 am »
Was a roller coaster ride start from finish.

Offline Gamerjunkie

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization (Chapter 2 Up)
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2015, 12:22:10 pm »
I salute you in your endeavor, my good sir, and I applaud the quality of your writing!
rellimkram [Apr 03, 2016, 06:06:12 pm]:   Hyperspace Yuri Delivery: Service so fast we ship it before it's ever ordered
rellimkram [May 05, 2016, 03:42:02 pm]: I'm not sure if you're wanting Lola to tamper with school projectors to show porn during class, or if you want Lola to actually make porn during class
Elvis Strunk [Apr 03, 2017, 04:31:33 pm]: "You're under arrest... but we're not confiscating any of your stuff, guarding you in any fashion, or trying to actually prevent you from leaving." Elvis Strunk [Apr 03, 2017, 04:31:44 pm]: "We're good at copping."

Offline woolyshambler

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization (Chapter 2 Up)
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2015, 05:27:29 pm »
Friday update for you guys/girls (putative).  Lot's of talking in this chapter; more action in the next.  I'm planning on uploading the next chapter this Saturday or Sunday, so cancel those dinner dates (putative).

FanFiction

Chapter 3- Chigara



Spoiler
“This is the Sunrider, requesting permission to dock,” announced Ava over the communications system as Sunrider drew closer to the large, skeletal framework of the starship dry dock Asaga had directed them towards.

Kayto eyed the construct, impressed.  Large enough to easily accommodate the Sunrider's hull, the dock had clearly been built with the intention of servicing even larger vessels, such as the slow, lumbering behemoths that carried extracted ore from Tydaria to the various clients the Mining Union dealt with.  Large robotic repair drones skated around on the skeletal frame of the dock, as though eager to attend to the work Sunrider brought to their home.  Slung underneath the dock, a series of large modules, undoubtedly containing all manner of starship supplies, fuel, and the like opened and closed their doors as robotic dollies carried goods to and from.  At the very front, a single habitation module, dwarfed by the sheer size of everything else on the dock, was revealed by the band of warm light pouring out of the window wrapping around the outside of the structure.

“Uhh... yes!  This is the Stardust Bakery, may I take your order?” came a young woman's nervous voice.

Ava's eyebrows nearly disappeared, rising up behind her bangs.  “Stardust... Bakery?”

“Yes!  We have fresh bread, muffins, sandwiches, and... Cupcakes!”  replied the woman, her avatar materializing on the bridge.  Slim and of light complexion, with pale lavender hair and sapphire eyes and wearing a baker's outfit, the woman was clearly anxious, playing nervously with the bow on the top of her head.

“Captain...” sighed Ava, exasperated, “Don't tell me...”

“Ahh, yes!  This is Captain Kayto Shields!” said Kayto, relieving Ava's burden.  “We were given to understand that we might be able to negotiate for the repair and resupply of our vessel here.”

“Oh, of course... I should have known...” sighed the avatar from the dock with disappointment.  A second later, the avatar's clothing morphed, putting the woman into a white lab coat of sorts.  “We do that here too.  With your permission, I'd like to scan your ship, Captain.”

Kayto nodded, surprised by the courtesy.  “Please.”

“Let me see... yes... nothing that we can't handle here,” she said, consulting a scan of the Sunrider.  “Dock your ship, Captain, and I'll come aboard.  We can discuss the details then.”

“Copy that,” agreed Kayto as running lights activated around the dock, guiding Sunrider into the cradle of machinery.  “We'll meet you in our hanger bay; your partner is already on board.”

******

“Chigaraaa!  I'm home!” called out Asaga, waving happily as the mauve haired woman stepped aboard the Sunrider.

“And you've brought friends, I see,” said Chigara in a quiet, melodious voice.  Slightly shorter than Asaga, Chigara looked even younger than her partner, although she was clearly the more level-headed and mature of the pair.  Wearing a long white lab coat over an armored Ryder suit, blue, Chigara seemed to be a strange blend of professions; case in point the bakery/repair dock hybrid she operated.

“This is Kayto Shields, Captain of the Sunrider.  And the lady with him is Commander Ava Crescentia, the First Officer,” introduced Asaga, gesturing at the two of them.

“Ugh,” sighed Ava, disgruntled.

Kayto saluted, “Welcome aboard the Sunrider.  You must be Chigara; Asaga told us a little about you.”

Chigara giggled a little at the salute, a hint of pink entering her cheeks.  “Chigara Lynn Ashada, nice to meet you Captain Shields.

“So what's all this about the bakery?” asked Kayto, curiosity piqued.

“Ah,” said Chigara, her face breaking into a passionate smile.  “Stardust Bakery is the best place in Tydaria to get any baked good; bread, pastries, cream puffs, sandwiches, we have them all!”

“It's the only place!” butted in Asaga enthusiastically.

“Uhh... how's business?” asked Kayto awkwardly, having a hard time imagining a team of burly miners placing an order for cream puffs.

Chigara sighed with resignation, “Not that great.  Everyone seems so much more interested in getting their ship fixed.”

“So why not just call it a dry dock?” asked Kayto blithely as Ava rolled her eyes behind his back. 

“Oy, Oy!” interrupted Asaga, putting a protective arm around Chigara's slumping shoulders.  “You can't just shut down a girl's dreams like that!  Chigara's always wanted to run a bakery!”

“Maybe he's right...” replied Chigara, somewhat dejected.  “It feels so awkward making and selling cupcakes next to starship fuel.  Probably illegal in most sectors too...”

“Way to go, Captain,” muttered Ava so that only Kayto heard.

“Uhh, well, this is kind of a strange planet to find two girls like you two...” observed Kayto, switching topics quickly.

“Not at all,” refuted Chigara, “The Mining Union operates tons of ships out of Tydaria.  With all the wear and tear hauling ore, pirate attacks, and what not, I've got my hands full repairing their ships.  Being close to all the ore and smelting facilities here also keep my costs lower than if I were to start up in another system.  So when Asaga and I got here, I rented out this dock from the Union and we've been patching up their ships since.  With all the good we do here, they've been very supportive of our efforts... except for the bakery.”

“I guess I meant more from a personal perspective.  Not too many folks who weren't born into it come out to these mining worlds.”

“Oh, well I guess you could call me an adventurer too, just like Asaga,” said Chigara, waving dismissively.

“You freelance too?”

“Oh... yes, freelancing.  I do some of that too,” shrugged Chigara in a disinterested tone.

Maybe Ava's paranoia was rubbing off onto him, but Kayto sensed something amiss with the story both Asaga and Chigara put forward.  Nothing malign per say, but not the entire truth either.  Internally shrugging, Kayto decided to drop the line of questioning; if the two of them weren't sharing the full story, it wasn't his business to pry anyways.  “Well anyways, let's get down to business,” said Kayto.  “Sunrider needs a whole mess of repairs and we've got a pretty long shopping list of things we'd like to resupply on.”

Ava handed Chigara her holo, showing the ship's depleted inventory and highlighting critical supplies they needed. 

Prior to docking, Asaga had contacted the Mining Union to collect the bounty on the pirate ships they destroyed.  After verifying the combat records of both Black Jack and the Sunrider, the Union had obliged their request for a split fee, transferring the agreed upon funds to an account with their bank, one of the larger such institutions in the galaxy.  Although the fee had been reasonable for the work entailed, Kayto kept his fingers crossed that their account would cover the repair costs and leave enough for resupply.

“Looks like the damage is worse on your outer hull and electronics system,” said Chigara, showing them the scans from her dock.  “It won't be too difficult of a job; I can probably have it done by the end of the week.  You and Asaga split the fee from the Mining Union, right?  The repairs here won't cost more than half of your share.”

“Now I think you're underestimating the job here,” said Kayto, crossing his arms skeptically, “Sunrider's a top of the line military vessel; fixing her won't be the same as scraping a meteoroid impact off a mining freighter.  Even my crew could barely get her critical systems back in a week; and they were trained to do that sort of thing.”

“Don't worry, Capt'n!” assured Asaga as Chigara smiled demurely, “Chigara's a crazy genius, you'll see.  She's never met a machine she couldn't fix or optimize in her life!”

“Take a look at that relay over there,” challenged Kayto.  “Normally it regulates power for the whole hanger, but we've had to bypass the whole thing just to power this one bay.  When I overloaded our shields, it fried half our electric systems to hell, including this thing; it'll take more than a prayer and whistle to fix something like that.”

Chigara pulled out a set of mechanics goggles from her coat's deep pockets, pressing them onto her face.  “Doesn't look too bad... the auxiliary feed looks like it too most of the hit.”  Reaching into a different pocket, she drew forward a multi-tipped tool Kayto had never seen before and a patch of conducting putty.  “I'll just cut here and...”

“Hey, just a minute!” said Kayto with concern, stepping forward to stop her.  “That's a live circuit, you can't just-”

A sudden whirring stopped him in his tracks as the ventilation shafts coughed out a plume of dust and ash, coming back to life.  The catwalk's lighting also intensified as the rest of the hanger's berths lit up one by one.

“I'll be damned,” coughed Kayto, brushing off his uniform and looking at the massive, now lit hanger, dumbfounded. 

“Relay efficiency improved by roughly twenty percent,” announced Chigara.  “That's probably all I can do until I get the rest of my kit.”

“See?” demanded Asaga smugly, “Told ya' Chigara's a genius!”

Chigara gave a delicate laugh, like china clinking, shrinking from the praise.

“Well... I guess that's that,” decided Kayto, his mind settled.  “I'll have Ava give you a temporary access all areas chip; you can start repairs as soon as you're ready.”

Ava nodded, “I'll oversee the repairs, Captain.”

“Great, looks like we're in business,” smiled Kayto, shaking Chigara's hand and closing the deal.  “If you need anything, give a call to the bridge or my office.”

“Will do, thank you Captain,” agreed Chigara happily.

******

“Captain's log,” dictated Kayto to the ship's computer in his office.  “We've been in dry dock for the better part of the last week; the crew's been getting some well deserved rest and sleep while we're in for repairs and resupply.  That engineer, Chigara, is really something; so far, we're two days ahead of schedule for repairs and she's gotten the Sunrider back to full combat capabilities.  The techs aboard Sunrider can't stop talking about her and the repairs, bypasses, and fixes she's been implementing all over the ship.  If we had someone like her for a Chief Engineer, I think we'd be set.  Well... I guess we'll have to wait until our next paycheck before I can offer anyone a position; we spent the last of the fee from the Mining Union to resupply Sunrider's armory and general inventory.  Not that I can complain, Chigara's given us more than a fair deal and it's less than half of what we would pay getting the goods off the black market.  I guess that Mining Union license is good for something.”

“We'll be ready to set out again soon, so we'll have to decide what to do about our two guests.  First Officer Crescentia still probably doesn't trust them, but Asaga and Chigara have been invaluable to our mission since we arrived at Tydaria; I think they'd do well on this ship if they stayed aboard the Sunrider.  Maybe we should take Asaga up on her offer to take out those pirates and have her join our crew.  As for Chigara... my gut says she'll go where Asaga goes.”

Kayto looked out at Tydaria's orange globe and breathtaking rings for a moment, taking interest in what appeared to be a dust storm scouring part of the planet's northern hemisphere.  “End Captain's log.”

Stretching his legs and straightening his uniform, he walked out of his office with the intention of making his way to Ava, likely on the bridge during his absence.  As he walked casually down Sunrider's corridors, he stopped to exchange salutes and pleasantries any member of the crew he ran across.  The general atmosphere was as upbeat as one could expect for a ship with a conquered homeworld, although Kayto arrived to the Sunrider's CIC with the impression that his crew felt the same way as he did; eager to give some payback to the PACT in return for the favors they had received at Cera, but level-headed enough to understand that Sunrider needed to bid her time until the opportunity to strike presented itself.

“Captain on deck!” announced Ava, saluting as she saw Kayto enter the CIC; the bridge crew followed suit.  “Captain, I thought your shift didn't start for another three hours...” inquired Ava as the bridge crew returned to their duties and Kayto approached the command dais.

“That's right,” he nodded.  “I just wanted to touch base and plan out our next moves.  What's the Sunrider's status?”

“All systems green,” answered Ava with satisfaction.  “I'll hand it to Chigara; she knows her way around a ship.  I expect she's putting the finishing touches on her work here.  We'll be ready to leave dock within the hour.”

“That's good news,” agreed Kayto.  “Now we just need to figure out where we're going.  Thoughts?”

“First things first; like you said, an assault carrier without Ryders doesn't make sense.  We need to find Ryders and pilots before Sunrider even thinks about taking the fight to the PACT,” said Ava, putting a hand on her hip.

“We've already got one interested candidate,” pointed out Kayto.

Ava's eyes narrowed slightly, pinning Kayto with her gaze.  With arms crossed, she was the model of skepticism.  “You should be careful with that one; I know her type.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

Ava sniffed, “Asaga's the type to look for thrill and danger.  You're going to want someone more dependable than that.”

“Uhh... right...” said Kayto slowly, not entirely sure whether Ava was still talking about staffing Sunrider's empty hangers.  “How do you even know that?” he demanded.

“Woman's intuition.”

“But of course,” Kayto sighed, putting a hand to his brow, imitating Ava's favorite move.  “Carry on, Commander.  The bridge is yours.”

“Aye, Sir.”

Kayto walked out of the CIC, chuckling to himself slightly.  Even after so many years, Ava hadn't changed a bit since high school.  Those days, she had warned him from more than one girl he had dated, citing some fatal personality flaw.  In retrospect, he mused, she had been right more than once.  Still, Sunrider needed pilots and Ryders, and that was a fact independent of any intuition, a woman's or otherwise.

Taking the lift to Deck 2, Kayto exited to the Sunrider's hanger, now, comparatively, a hive of activity with the restored power and repairs aboard the ship, serving as a repository for the materials and equipment Chigara had brought aboard for her work.  Through the window, he saw that Asaga had scaled the Black Jack's right shoulder, tinkering with an open panel on one of the laser cannons mounted onto its back.  Waving to catch her attention, he motioned for a word.

“Did you need me for something Capt'n?” asked Asaga, a smudge of engine grease on her cheek, after rappelling down the Black Jack and coming up to the catwalk via the lift.

“Sorry to interrupt, I just wanted to talk over our next few moves,” offered Kayto, apologetic at having made her take the trip.  “Is everything alright with the Black Jack?”

Asaga belted out a loud laugh.  “Thanks for askin', but nothing ever troubles mah Black Jack,” she said, crossing her arms and closing her eyes smugly.  “Just doing a little tinkering to see if I could boost the power to Black Jack's lasers.”

“Maybe you should let Chigara handle that,” suggested Kayto, Ava's words fresh in his mind. 

Asaga waved him off, “Hey come on, a pilot knows her Ryder best!  Besides, I was just installing a minor upgrade.  With the haul we got from the Mining Union, I figured I'd replace some of Black Jack's older parts.  All it takes to upgrade a Ryder is cash for the parts and a 'pretty please' for Chigara!  She's always got some kind of idea to improve Ryder systems.”

“How'd you two meet anyways?” asked Kayto.

“She and I go back pretty far,” started Asaga, happily launching into the story.  “I think we met about five years ago; we were both girls back then.  She was a refugee from a planet destroyed by a natural disaster or something.  Anyways, one day, I was walking and I saw a bunch of dirty guys scaring her in the middle of the street, so I stepped in to scare them away.”

“How'd that turn out for you?” asked Kayto, making a mental note to apologize for dismissing Ava's intuition.

Asaga grinned sheepishly.  “Ehh... let's just say I might have bitten off a little more than I could chew.”  Eyes misted with the past, the pilot touched her chin with an armored gauntlet, smearing more grease onto her face.  “I would have won in the end, of course, but luckily for those guys, Chigara took out this gadget and zapped them silly.  It didn't seem fair to space a bunch of unconscious dudes, so I let 'em off the hook that time.”

“Lucky for you Chigara was there,” rebutted Kayto.

“Weren't you listening to the story, Capt'n?” demanded Asaga.  “The fight was as good as over when she zapped 'em; I was just about to bust out my finishing moves.”  Waving aside Kayto's disbelief, she continued.  “Anyways, we've been comrades in arms ever since!”

“So... about joining the Sunrider,” transitioned Kayto, getting to the meat of things.

Asaga's eyes twinkled with excitement, “So have you decided to take my offer?  Help me take out these pirates and I'll join your crew on the Sunrider.  Tydaria's going to turn boring once those guys are gone anyways.”

“So that's all you're after?” probed Kayto.  “Just another chapter in your adventures?”

“Come on, Capt'n!” Asaga's cheeks blew out slightly with exasperation.  “How often does a girl get to join up with an assault carrier?  You and your crew seem like a decent bunch, even that Ava lady.  Plus you're after the PACT, right?”

“After what they did to our homeworld?” asked Kayto stoically.  “You bet.”

“We all heard about what they did to Cera,” said Asaga, her tone turning glum.  “A hero of justice can't just stand by while they're going around glassing planets for fun.  Somehow, I didn't think you were the type that was going to just take it laying down either.  If we don't do something now, the PACT's going to keep on gobbling up planets and hurting people until they own the whole galaxy.  That's bad for you, bad for me, bad for anyone who cares about justice or freedom.  The way I see it, we'll be able to do a lot more together against the PACT than either of us can manage alone.”

“Your beef with them seems to run deeper than just that,” pointed out Kayto.

“Ehh... well... nothing as bad as planetary bombardment,” evaded Asaga.  “It's more... personal.  Let's just say I'm in it for the heroics, alright?” she said, pushing back.

“Fine,” said Kayto, letting the subject drop.  Honestly, it didn't matter why she had pitted herself against the PACT.  The Neutral Rim was full of tales of woe regarding the PACT and digging for her personal tragedy was neither helpful nor appropriate.  Whatever her personal reasons, Kayto's gut told him her grudge against the PACT was sincere and, that, he could appreciate.  “Tell me more about these pirates we're going after then.”

Noting the “we,” Asaga's expression brightened.  Crossing her arms with determination, she answered, “They've been terrorizing this sector for ages!  Nobody's safe from them; merchants, what passes for military here, not even unarmed civilians.  That kind of thing just makes my blood boil!  Their main base is hidden in the Tydarian asteroid belt; I say we take Sunrider and go mess that nest up.  Let's show them they can't pick on civilians like that!”

“Hidden?” inquired Kayto.

“Well... not exactly.  We all know where they're operating out of, but nobody's got the muscle to make a move on them,” said Asaga unhappily.  “But now, we've got ourselves a bona fide assault carrier!  We'll make quick work of 'em, Capt'n!”

“Alright,” said Kayto, coming to a decision.  “Let's do this.  Welcome to the team, Asaga.”

“I knew you'd agree, Capt'n!” said Asaga with a smile, punching the air.  “Let's whack those pirates good and, after that, I'll put on one of your uniforms and we'll take it to the PACT together!”

The two shook hands again, Asaga saying, “I won't let you down, Capt'n! AH-HAHAHA!”

“Keep on practicing and you'll give Cosette a run for her money,” smiled Kayto, turning back to the lift. “Try to keep out of trouble until the operation, Asaga.”

Asaga's laughter doubled as the lift closed behind him and whisked him back to the Sunrider's main deck. 

******

“Eahh!!!”

Kayto took a hasty step back from Chigara, who dropped the holo she was carrying and inexplicably snatched the the hair ribbon off the top of her head, spinning to face him, breathing hard.

“Whoa!  Hey, I'm sorry; didn't mean to sneak up on you like that,” explained Kayto, holding up his hands.  Curious as to why the lights in Sunrider's workshop/engineering bay were on, Kayto had apparently startled Chigara in his investigation.

“Oh...” Chigara's face flushed and she knelt to retrieve her pad and returned the ribbon to her hair.  “Captain Shields, I didn't hear you coming...”  Calming down, she took a deep breath.  “Was there something you wanted, Captain?”

“Just taking a look around; I don't think I've been here since Sunrider launched.  We've been flying without a Chief Engineer, so this workshop's been kept dark since we left dock at Cera,” said Kayto, gesturing around the empty room.

“I see,” said Chigara thoughtfully.  “It's an impressive set up; I didn't expect a warship to have something like this on board.”

“I think Sunrider was always intended to have the capacity to independently upgrade or outfit her Ryders or even her own hull.  The brass meant for this ship to be the first in a new generation of multi-purpose starship,” said Kayto with pride.  “It's impressive you've been able to repair our systems; it's the only thing my engineering staff can talk about.  Even on Cera, these repairs would have taken a lot longer with a lot more labor to finish.  Where did you learn to handle machines like that?”

“Hmm...” thought Chigara.  “I guess it's always been like that.  The people on my world were experts in technology, so I grew up around tech as long as I can remember.  There are only a few of us left in the galaxy, so it probably seems really amazing to you, but, honestly, back on my world, I was nothing special.  I wasn't even particularly good at the sciences.”  Chigara paused wistfully before continuing.  “You should have seen my parents; they were amazing.  They were researching some amazing technology; advanced life support, Femtotechnology that allowed us to synthesize complicated machines from thin air... To tell you the truth, what I do here would have seemed like child's play to my people.”

“That's amazing,” said Kayto with wonder.  Likely, Chigara's people had wielded technology not seen since the fall of the Holy Ryuvian Empire and, perhaps, even exceeded it in certain capacities.  “You're from Diode, aren't you?” he asked, the pieces clicking into place in his mind.

Chigara nodded.  Everyone across the galaxy had heard of the wonders of Diode, where technology rivaling magic and the legends of the Holy Ryuvian Empire were real.  A society built from intellectuals without peers, some had even postulated that the planet was established in secret as the flames of the Holy Ryuvian Empire burned low as a way to safeguard their secrets and technology until the time was right to reintroduce it to the galaxy.  Compared to the people of Diode, the other starfaring  planets and civilizations of humanity must have looked uncouth and barbarous.  And yet, despite their technology, Diode was no more, consumed by a backfiring experiment, resulting in the infamous “Diode Catastrophe” six years ago.  Save for a scattering of refugees, Diode had left no legacy beyond the stories children grew up hearing.  Although Chigara's background explained her apparent affinity for the work aboard the ship, Kayto marveled at the odds of meeting someone from the legendary planet firsthand.

“I'm sorry,” he offered sincerely, having now known the pain of losing a homeworld as well.  “The Diode Catastrophe was a really terrible event... micro-blackhole wasn't it?”

“Mhm,” affirmed Chigara sadly. “I was on my own after that, at least until Asaga found me.  I'm sorry... I don't really like to talk about that day.”

“Of course,” Kayto nodded, “I'm sorry; I didn't mean to pry.”  The two stood in silence for a moment, each reflecting on their respective homeworlds.  “Asaga mentioned that you built the Black Jack for her, is that true?” asked Kayto, restarting the conversation.

“That's correct,” said Chigara, coming to with a smile.  “Asaga used to pilot this old, surplus military fighter from the pre-Ryder era that she pulled out of the junk heap.  I was always scared to death she would crash, blow up, or something, so I built her the Black Jack.”

“It's incredible,” said Kayto with wonder, “I've never seen a Ryder like it.  Back on Cera, even our most advanced Ryders would probably be outdone by the Black Jack.”

“Well... I didn't need to worry about standardized parts or mass production for the Black Jack,” dismissed Chigara, blushing again and waving aside the compliment.

“You know, if you worked for an engineering company, you'd change the entire galaxy,” insisted Kayto.

“Well... then I wouldn't be able to open a bakery...” Chigara's expression was shy, but earnest.

Kayto laughed, “That's true.  Do you pilot a Ryder too?”

“Yup!” said Chigara happily.  “I pilot the Liberty.  I built it around the same time as the Black Jack.  The Liberty is a support Ryder; I leave the gunning and fighting to Asaga, but if the mission's tough enough, I'm right behind her as her wingmate.  Usually she doesn't need it though; the Black Jack's tough enough to fly solo most of the times.  The Liberty's got automated repair drones, a full electronic warfare suite, and shield projectors.  Speaking of which, your shield generator's fried beyond repair; you're going to need to get a new one somewhere and I don't have one just lying around the dock.”

“Ah... that will complicate things for the operation we're planning...” mused Kayto.  “Asaga probably mentioned this to you, but we're planning on taking out the pirate base in this sector.  I was hoping to have shielding on our side for this one.”

Chigara smiled, “That won't be a problem, Captain.  I'll take the Liberty in with you two and provide support.  So long as you stay within range of my Ryder, the Sunrider will have shielding.”

“You'd do that for us?” asked Kayto, impressed.  “I like the sound of that; we've got an awful lot of empty Ryder bays that we need to fill.”

“Sure, like I said, whenever there's a tough mission, I'm right behind Asaga in the Liberty,” beamed Chigara.

“Great, bring the Liberty aboard; you can use hanger bay 02.  I'll let the bridge crew know,” said Kayto, spirits high.

“Actually...” Chigara looked sheepish again, “Liberty's already on board.  Asaga called me as soon as you two finished talking and I had the autopilot dock with your ship.”  Waving her hands defensively, she continued, “Liberty's in bay 02 though; just like you wanted.”

Kayto laughed, “And I'm supposed to be Captain aboard this ship; sheesh!  No worries Chigara; thanks for the talk.  We'll probably get ready to undock and find these pirates as soon as we batten down the hatches.”

“Thank you, Captain,” smiled Chigara one more time before returning to her holo as Kayto turned and left Engineering, making his way to the bridge once more.

******

No sooner had Engineering's doors hissed shut behind him, Kayto's bracelet chirped.  “This is the Captain, go ahead,” he said, answering the ping. 

“Captain,” Ava's voice came from his bracelet.  “Incoming call for you from the Mining Union.  Looks like Asaga's contact wanted to speak with you directly.”

“Did they say what they wanted?”  he asked, although he suspected it most likely had something to do with the Sunrider's newly restored Vanguard Cannons. 

“Business, probably,” replied Ava.  “The Mining Union's one of the biggest corporations in the galaxy.  They control everything from mining ore to refining it into high-grade starship armor.  Last I checked, they probably supplied half the navies in the galaxy with raw materials.  With all their investments, they contract a lot of their security needs out.  After what we did to the pirates, they probably want to talk about something along those lines.”

“I thought as much,” mused Kayto.  “This might not be a bad way to keep ourselves operating.  I'll take her call in my office.  Thanks, Ava.”

“Roger that,” confirmed Ava, cutting the channel.

******

Making his way back to his office, Kayto settled into his chair and activated the FTL transponder which allowed the Sunrider to access real time communications across the galaxy.  A holographic projection of a severe woman, blonde and in her mid-thirties, dressed immaculately in an expensive suit,  appeared.  Straightening her glasses and picking at a microscopic speck of dust, the woman spoke quickly in a cold, professional tone.  “Captain.  I'm pleased to make your acquaintance.  My name is Sophita Brooks, Vice President of Operations for the Mining Union.”

“Captain Kayto Shields of the Sunrider, Cera Space Force,” said Kayto, introducing himself as well.  “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

Sophita's expression betrayed a hint of amusement at his use of “Cera Space Force,” however, she let the moment pass without comment.  “A business opportunity,” she answered. “The Mining Union is always on the look out for reliable partners and... well let's just say we don't get the chance to work with a prototype warship or her Captain every day.”

“I'm listening,” invited Kayto.

“If you're agreeable, I'll have my staff forward you a dossier of contracts whenever our corporation wishes to engage the Sunrider's... services,” said Sophita, all business.  “Of course, it's entirely up to you whether or not to undertake the contracts, but, rest assured, the Mining Union will see you and your crew fairly recompensed.”

“What sort of contracts?” probed Kayto, not entirely certain he liked the executive's tone and expression.

Sophita sighed, “Contracts of the sort that require a Big Stick, Captain.  We're not hiring your crew to attend dinner parties and social functions; when the Mining Union requests your assistance, let us simply say we'd prefer a more direct and conclusive solution.  I'll leave it to your imagination as to what that entails.  As I said; the contracts will be offered to you and your crew on an entirely voluntary basis.”  Shrugging as though she didn't care one way or another, she continued.  “Furthermore, should your ship require our services, I would be happy to serve as your trade contact at the Mining Union.”

“Well that all depends on what you have for sale,” shrugged Kayto in return.

“All the basic necessities of a modern life and polite society,” offered Sophita with disinterest, examining her perfectly manicured nails.  “Tactical nuclear warheads and other such staples... Just remember, Captain, so long as you have the will and the money, the Mining Union will be more than happy to offer you our assistance.” 

“The two forces more important than any starship,” nodded Kayto cynically, half-sarcastic.

“I'm glad we're on the same page, Captain,” said Sophita dismissively.  “Finally, as a gesture of goodwill, I'm having my staff forward you the latest intelligence regarding those ruffians in the Tydaria system.  Needless to say, they've been a thorn in our side too long for comfort.  Although we appreciate your crew's enthusiasm in pursuing them, we would rather the job be done properly.  We leave the rest to your discretion, Captain.”  Without waiting for his reply, the FTL transponder deactivated, ending the call from her end.

“Charming,” remarked Kayto to his empty office.  Studying the forwarded scans and documents, his face grew longer.  Raising his bracelet to his lips, he called Ava.  “Ava, ping Asaga and Chigara.  I want the three of you to come up to my office as soon as you can.”
« Last Edit: August 08, 2015, 02:59:55 am by woolyshambler »
[May 13, 2016, 02:26:28 pm]:   Elvis Strunk will do his best to shoot Eli with a full load.
Elvis Strunk [May 13, 2016, 02:26:45 pm]:   of bullets
Elvis Strunk [May 15, 2016, 03:31:49 pm]:   Knat's the best part of the harem, and the shortest lasting.
Jynx [May 15, 2016, 03:33:36 pm]:   Stop foreshadowing Knat's death
woolyshambler [May 15, 2016, 03:34:13 pm]:   foreshadowing death!? elvis wasn't foreshadowing knat's premature ejaculation problem?

Offline Samu-kun

Re: Sunrider: The Novelization (Chapter 3 Up)
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2015, 10:43:28 pm »
Yaahh good chapter, good chapter.