Author Topic: Sunrider: Home  (Read 2902 times)

Offline Marx-93

Sunrider: Home
« on: July 02, 2015, 10:26:37 pm »
So, a lot time ago I made a small piece. And presented it to this forum Sunrider's fanfiction contest, and somehow won despite the fact that it's grammar was kinda terrible and that it dripped the fact that I'm not a native English speaker everywhere.

But well, I was kinda happy with how it ended. The problem was that the fic was supposed to be a dual-piece and that I only finished the first part. Well, the 2 pieces weren't connected by anything, they only shared a theme and that one was more light-hearted and happy and the other more tragic and sad, so I felt they fit together in a strange but cool way. However, the first piece became a monster of 10k+ words and I didn't have time to finish the second by the time the contest ended. Well then, I thought I would finish it someday after... and here I am 9 months later. I really wanted to post it today, as it actually was about the battle of far port and I kinda liked the idea of posting it the same day as the novelization. 2 different looks on it, you know? But, as the first piece it has too grown into a monster (seriously 26k+ words for 2 short pieces...) and so today I still haven't finished. What I'm going to do then? Repost the first piece (the tragic one) as shameless self-advertisement and preparing the ground for the second piece, which should be finished in 2 days counting editing.

Unfortunately, the first piece is exactly the same as nine-months ago and I kinda want to edit it to polish it more, but as you'll probably have already supposed I still haven't had time to do it! So just look as this post as a repost of my old story for now! I only made it because I forced myself to do it by this day even if I had nothing new to give, sorry

Also: " " indicates dialogue, while ' ' it's thoughts

Home

"The place when you return where there is nowhere to go, yet the place you also want to find… The place which forgives everything… Your last refuge… The haven you want to defend…
The ideas of Home are varied, yet the universal truth is that every human yearns for one."

Piece 1:The shine of the moon is but a reflection, but its light is real


Part 1
The Gilurian Crusade was the last known act of aggression of the Holy Ryuvian Empire. Undertaken the year 67, it was the brainchild of the crown prince of the Empire, Gilur di Ryuvia. After managing to stabilize the country, the prince launched an incursion against the rapidly expanding New Empire, trying to regain Ryuvia its former place as the number one power in the galaxy. Gilur was an incredibly skilled tactician and statesman, and was loved by the people, which was the reason he managed to convince King Jaylor VIII of declaring a holy crusade despite the country having only just recovered from great political instability. Committing 3 fleets with a grand total of 500 ships, the objective was Cera, a blue planet with great potential that had fallen against the Empire recently. With the Prince there were the Sharr Elanora gi Ryuvia, and the leader of his Royal Guard, Asha Gihelks.

===============================================================================================================================================

The bells resounded in the Star Palace. On the gate of the magnificent building, and old man whose attire and crown designed him as the Emperor of the Holy Ryuvian Empire, was chanting some old verses while moving his hands in wide arcs. While the movements and chants clearly pretended to give powerful and sacred impressions, the figure of the old man weighted by his own robes gave it an almost comical feeling.

In front of him a number of spaceships were anchored, some small, others big, but all of them with the rust and physical decay that marked them as ships built before the Disaster.

Asha was looking at the ceremony from her post, besides the crown prince. The gardens of the Palace were filled with people, all of them wearing the rich garments that only nobles could afford.

Maybe because of the presence of such a crowd, the floor and walls of the Palace were sparkling clean. She could see her short brown wavy hair, tiny nose and amber irises on the reflection of the floor, and her not so tall figure wearing the Royal Guard Dress Uniform, in all of its white and blue glory.

"What a farce"

She turned her head upon hearing the baritone voice of the Prince coming from her side. Lord of Far Port, marquis of Versta and crown prince of the Holy Ryuvian Empire. Those where the titles of the youth with golden hair and emerald green eyes dressed in an almost simplistic military uniform, at least compared to the crowd of peacocks disguised as humans around them. As always happened when she saw him, her heart started pounding and she felt a little giddy.

"What do you mean, your Highness?"

She managed to mutter an answer, while maintaining her calm façade.

"We are now "witnessing" the "miracle of the Emperor’s protection", a mysterious force that surrounds the ships chosen by Him and weakens the power of any laser that is aimed at them. Yet the Emperor doesn’t feel the need to bestow such protection to every ship in the fleet. No, He only grants it to the vessels which were built before the Disaster, our oldest yet mightiest ships. A truly mysterious coincidence, isn’t it?"

The prince answered without missing a beat and with his typical mocking half smile on his face. However, his face suddenly changed to a more serious one.

"However, Asha, didn’t we talk about this? My name is Gilur, not "your Highness". Call me Gil, that’s an order."

He finished his words with his same half-smile, yet this time it was the one that was kind and full of warmness. The smile that always left her in a daze and with her heart wanting to jump from her chest.

"… I’m s-sorry, but in front of the entire Court, I couldn’t possibly commit such a rude action…"

She felt herself stutter. Bad, it was bad! Her heart was pounding, she needed to calm herself, take a deep breath…

"… The court is a meaningless one. See that man, the one in that ridiculously decorated dress? His family once ruled the entire Western quadrant of the galaxy. Yet today he has no lands remaining, and the only thing he is it’s another mouth that the Empire has to feed. In comparison, you are the one who has most right in this entire room to call me what you please."

"B-but I’m a simple commoner, my parents were simple farmers and my only skill is-"

She had started her typical tirade, and, as every time, the prince quickly interrupted her.

"Yet, here you are, commanding the Royal Guard and chosen because of your skills by the same Crown Prince. Have a little confidence Asha; I’m good at my job. Trust me"

"You have no job…"

"Hahaha, you got me, as always."

And so, when he answered with his usual catch-phrase, she had her rebuttal ready. Asha wasn’t able to remember the number of times this same conversation had happened.

Yet, no matter how many times Gil repeated his words, the feelings inside her didn’t change. She was dirty and unworthy, a simple woman with only one redeeming skill.

The prince was flash of light. Singlehandedly returning the stability to the Empire for the first time since the Disaster. Leading countless incursions against pirates until the Ryuvian Space was as safe as during the times of the Third Dynasty. And yet still having time to waste with plebeians like her.

"Still, if the Emperor allowed us to simply research the technology contained in those ships instead of acting this farce every time, things would be so much simpler…"

"But your High-"

Gilur glared at her, slightly frowning. She quickly corrected herself while trying to hide how flustered she was.

"I mean, prince Gilur, wouldn’t such a thing be considered a blasphemy against the Empire? It wasn’t the older emperors who forbid the research of such artifacts to avoid repeating our mistakes from the past and destroy the galaxy?"

The prince’s face had been clearly frowning at the beginning (specifically when she had said "prince"), but realizing that arguing with her wouldn’t change anything, he let out a sigh and started his explanation.

"What we want to research is purely a defensive force field, and from our old regular ships, not from the Ancient Weapons that were a mystery even before the Disaster. And I’m pretty sure that Father and the Royal Family would be a lot keener on permitting that research if Duke Porter, for example, had such ships. Right now all the ships with “miracle of the Emperor’s protection” pertain to the Royal Household. Just like the only Mounts with capacities that barely resemble the ones from before the Disaster form part of the Royal Guard. Father and my family are too scared of what would happen if they don’t have at least one ace in their sleeve that nobody can match, and the Royal Court is to busy licking their boots to do something which wouldn’t return them any kind of immediate benefit"

Gil’s mouth had descended into a bitter half-smile by the time he had ended his explanation. Asha sometimes had difficulty understanding that seeming dissatisfaction the Prince had respect the Empire.

All of her life she had been told that while its territory had diminished, the dignity of the Empire hadn’t decreased one bit. When she had entered the Royal Guard, it had been with the joy of entering the Royal Guard of the Galaxy’s ruler, the pinnacle of all crowns. Even in the actual ceremony, the Emperor was chanting old verses that spoke about Ryuvia’s glory and its fate as the Ruler of the Universe. For her, Ryuvia had always been the absolute center of the Galaxy.

Yet the Prince was never looking at the room. His green eyes were always looking at far away, at the immensities of the space outside the Palace.

"That’s why we need this Crusade, right now. If we delay it more, we will lose our place as a central piece of the Galaxy. While we are here, watching this play, the New Empire is conquering planets, one after the other. I have news that they have recently reached Tydaria."

Gilur turned his face away from the ceremony in front of him, almost like he couldn’t stand it.

"If we continue doing our very best trying to remain still, so that the Galaxy doesn’t realize how low we have fallen, then the same Galaxy will leave us behind without a thought."

The face of the prince had a visible frown by the end of his words. Sincerely, Asha couldn’t understand. How could the mighty Holy Ryuvian Empire, with all of its history, all of its culture, all of its dignity, fall behind a newcomer nation that even had “New” on its name?

'Well, of course I’m unable to understand. I’m a worthless woman after all'

Precisely at that moment, she saw a vision that made her heart sink in a bottomless pit.

"Ahh, Elanora!"

The prince beamed at the newcomer, which had finally arrived in front of them after passing (discreetly) through the crowd. A full smile, not a half one, whose brightness was only comparable to the shine that had appeared in his eyes. Such an expression was reserved only for the woman before them.

Asha’s heart ached while she, as always, struggled to put a welcoming smile for that woman. She really couldn’t blame the prince, for that lady was Elanora gi Ryuvia. Long silver hair that cascaded down her back, blue eyes clearer than Mount’s Destiny water, an almost stainless skin and thin rose-colored lips. Her military uniform was similar to hers, but yet it somehow managed to accentuate her figure, that of a fully developed woman. It was white, but mixed with black instead of blue: the mark of the Sharr, the number one pilot in the Empire.

Elanora had a serene smile on her face, not even an ounce of sweat or anxiety betraying her sudden arrival.

"Good morrow, my Lord. I suppose that nothing of importance has occurred?"

Her voice was clear yet melodious. After she finished her salutation, she made a small bow toward the prince. Perfect manners and grace that betrayed her royal heritage.

Born from a secondary branch of the royal family, Elanora’s only option in her life should have been to get married to some noble as a tool to maintain that lord’s loyalty to the crown. She only shared a grand-grandmother with Gilur. Yet, she took military training, and her skills piloting Mounts impressed and enraptured the whole Empire. Recovering her destiny with her own hand, she took the position of Sharr, and as the brightest star in all of Ryuvia naturally charmed the Crown Prince and became his fiancée. It was almost like a fairy tale.

She really never had a chance.

"Don’t worry Elanora. Something delayed you?"

"My most humble apologies, my Lord. The second Prince isn’t able to attend this holy ceremony, so she asked me to give my Lord his most dearest regards, and to wish us the best luck in our voyage."

The Sharr reported with a stoic face, which almost immediately softened upon finishing. Always ready to act as soldier, yet also always knowing the moment to let her emotions flow.

The Prince was looking only at her eyes, and she corresponded. Asha felt like an intruder.

"So my little brother stayed at his quarters, eh… Can’t say I didn’t expect it."

Gilur answered after some time, almost like he had been speaking until that moment with her through their gazes. His mouth had receded to his typical half smile.

The face of the soon-to-be princess became laced with worry upon hearing him speaking about this matter in such an un-concerned way.

"Please forgive my rudeness, but aren’t you being too careless with Prince Layren, my Lord? While you dearly love and trust him, his greed and ruthlessness may lead him to try something while you are gone. Maybe-"

"Don’t worry, Elanora. My brother is a lot of things, but precisely because of his greediness he won’t do anything stupid. He will help father against any scheme of the nobility, because he knows that all his power comes from his royalty, so the moment the royal power is reduced, his own will too be diminished. And the Holy Crusader Fleet numbers almost two thirds of the totality of our ships. Most of our old warships and of our few still working Mounts are there too. Even if my brother did something, I clearly have more guns than him. And losing them without at least dealing a potent blow to the New Empire would be foolish. After Father dies, I’m sure brother will try something, but for this Crusade we don’t need to worry"

Elanora didn’t say anything, but she saw her face frown with some displeasure and worry.

Perhaps these emotions had broken the spell, because Elanora’s eyes soon focused into her, almost like remembering she had been there since the beginning. Asha jolted awake from her gloomy feelings upon realizing she was again part of the conversation.

"Asha, how has it been? I hope my Lord hasn’t done anything improper or caused you any problems."

She gave her a sweet smile. Asha had known Elanora for some time, and the Sharr had always been supportive and friendly. Such attitude always made her too aware of her own despicable feeling. While she somehow managed to maintain her smile, she was unable to answer as she felt her own heart sinking in a dark mud of guilt.

'She is smiling at me, and yet I’m only able to feel envy towards her. I really am a worthless woman…'

Misinterpreting her silence, Gilur quickly reacted

"Wait Asha, don’t just keep quiet like that! I haven’t done anything this time!"

"This time?"

Elanora looked at the Prince. While she was still smiling, her eyes clearly weren’t.

"Ugh… I-it was only a j-joke Elanora, furthermore, you know Count Reypkor…"

Upon realizing that her tactic wasn’t working, Gilur quickly whispered towards Asha

"Asha, please say something. If not, then I don’t know what she will do to me…"

Hearing the prince’s voice so near quickly rebooted her brain and heart. Bad! What was she doing wallowing in self pity? She was a Royal Guard for the Emperor’s sake!

"T-the prince really didn’t do anything improper, Lady Elanora. He attended with me the whole ceremony, and did not even speak out loud at any moment!"

"… You are really too soft with him Asha. Despite it, I really am unable to think of anyone better suited to guard my Lord when I have other duties"

"… It’s nothing. It is after all my duty to guard his Highness"

Perhaps it was Elanora’s smile, but somehow, she felt a little better. Yet-

"Of course! I personally chose Asha. Don’t worry about anything Elanora, I’m good at my job!"

"Prince, you ha-"

"My Lord, don’t be silly, you have no job"

Yet as always, in the end no feeling could improve the bare truth. The Prince had not even realized she had referred to him as "his Highness", and likewise she hadn’t even realized that she wanted to speak. No matter the kindness and warmness of both of them, she was but a simple surplus. There was no place for her there.

====================================================================================================================

Footsteps resounded in the wide hangar, belaying the presence of a young girl in a blue and white combat suit, with short stature and brown hair that barely reached her shoulders. The extensive hangar was situated at the bottom of the Courageous, the flagship of the Prince and the holy Crusade. It was big, but still far from the legendary ones in ancient ships with capacity of over 1000 Mounts. Asha Gihelks stopped before a gigantic figure.

An impressive frame of metal stood in front of her. Its height reached 18 meters, with a clear humanoid form that carried what could only be said as an oversized sniper rifle. Its head was sleek, with a red visor that worked as optic sensors, and a head antenna to improve its targeting capacities. A bulky reactor was at its back, while the limbs were incredibly slender for the cannon it carried. It had been repainted in the blue and white colors of the Royal Guard, but it still retained some black marks produced by millennia of service.

It was the Virtue, the pride of the Royal Guard, a Mount from before the Disaster. Found in one of the warehouses of the Star Palace, it had been restored as much as the current technology permitted. Despite its age it still was one of the best Mounts in the whole Ryuvian armed forces.

Asha frowned at the cannon however. The Virtue was powerful enough to tear destroyers apart, and had better agility and armour that the best fighter, yet she always wondered why the sniper rifle used kinetic rounds.

"Wouldn’t a laser be cheaper and less energy-consuming?"

"Maybe for our forefathers lasers weren’t that useful?"

A voice sounded behind her. Asha turned to see Elanora gi Ryuvia’s serene and beautiful face. She had probably come here to inspect her own Mount.

"Maybe all of our old ships had the miracle of the Emperor’s protection? If so, then it should be normal to try to find another weapon aside from lasers. Furthermore, aren’t the bullets it shoots faster than light? Then your shots should be even more accurate than simple lasers. Also, there should be no weight of the munitions, because the reactor generates all the imaginary mass by itself from the energy it produces-"

As expected of the Sharr. Asha knew that she was sharp and had a royal education incomparable to the one she had as a plebeian, but it was still a painful stab to her heart to realize how far apart they really were.

"… Shouldn’t you worry about your own Mount?"

It was one of the few moments she saw Elanora blush with embarrassment.

"Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to patronize or offend you in any way."

She even pulled off an awkward smile. Asha was almost angry at herself for that. Elanora was being nothing but friendly and yet she had to snap like that because she was unable to accept her own inferiority. Why was everything so difficult…?

She tried to brush her thoughts away and change the subject. It wouldn’t do to let her guilt and selfishness interfere too much, especially just before a battle.

"It was nothing. Sorry for acting like that. Your Dominion is magnificent though."

She and Elanora looked towards the black and white machine. Slightly taller than her own, with stronger limbs and a less bulkier core, it was equipped with a red single-edged blade of approximately 15 meters long, almost as large as the Mount was tall. It had some missiles modules, and a pulse weapon. It seemed that originally it had been equipped with a powerful laser cannon, but what remained had been too degraded to be of use. The pulse weapons also had needed extensive reparations, and even then it seemed like only half of its power had been recovered (the missiles had to be entirely replaced with the current standard ones).

The Prince had told her that originally the firepower contained in that Mount probably surpassed that of an entire Battleship squadron together. It really was the most powerful machine in all of Ryuvia.

"It truly is a magnificent Mount. I will never be able to thank my Lord enough for his present. It is thanks to it that I’m able to protect what I cherish, after all."

However, Asha knew that this Mount had had something even better. And she had given it away.

"Lady Elanora, why?"

"? What are you referring to?"

"Why did you stripped away the Emperor’s Protection from your Mount, and gave it to the Courageous?"

She sometimes had suspected of Elanora. What were the chances of a perfect woman like her appearing and falling for the same prince she was protecting? What if she was a spy? She had always felt that this distrust was a result of her jealousy towards Elanora, but sometimes she had seriously contemplated the idea.

Yet what she had done had baffled her. Stripping the protection from lasers of her own Mount to give it to the most well protected ship in the fleet?

Or more like, she didn’t want to understand the reason, because it could only be one, and that one meant the destruction of her already hopeless pipe dream. Because it was an action that wouldn’t be done by a spy or an assassin. It was an act of selfless devotion.

"… It’s actually pretty simple. The Dominion gave me the chance to protect what I love, and that was what I was doing."

"Only that?"

"… Asha, please tell me. What does my Lord, the crown prince Gilur di Ryuvia mean to you?"

Asha felt shivers down her spine, as all her body stiffened. Should she tell the truth? Should she tell what she really hoped, no, desired from the Prince?

And yet, while her mind was in turmoil, a lone thought rose from the depths of her mind

'What are you thinking?! What are you but a useless woman? Do you really believe the Sharr or the Prince will kindly accept your dirty feelings? You should only do your duty! You have been accepted as a Royal Guard, and they want nothing more of you than that!'

Her thoughts were crushed by this black form, and despite all of its unbearable implications, she could do nothing but regard it as an absolute truth. Asha swallowed a lump in her throat while trying to maintain her already breaking poker-face. She had to answer as the leader of the Royal Guard she was.

"He is the crown Prince of the glorious Holy Ryuvian Empire, and as such, the heir of all the titles and honors that befit the One and Righteous Emperor. While he shows prospects for a benevolent and prosperous rule, judging such things is neither the job of a Guard nor of any of the subjects of the Empire."

When she somehow managed to deliver that tirade without her voice breaking or anything betraying her state of mind, she was rewarded with an understanding smile on Elanora’s face.

"A truly flawless and dutiful answer, as expected of the leader of my Lord’s royal guard. Yet my own differs a little. Asha, can I answer you as a woman?"

"… What do you mean?"

"What I’m about to say may be outrageous for you and maybe you‘ll come to hate me for it. But despite it, I want to answer you with honesty. As comrades in war, now that our hardest battle approaches, I want to be able to trust you. So can I answer you not as the Sharr of the Empire, Elanora gi Ryuvia, but as the woman called Elanora?"

What was she saying?

'Aren’t you both the ones that push me away? Aren’t you the one that stole my only hope of a place I can call my own? What are you saying about trust?'

Nonetheless, despite harboring these feeling, Asha managed to nod without breaking apart. For in the end, she knew that her thoughts weren’t fair. She knew they were despicable feelings that were born because of her own weakness, and that, despite knowing it, she couldn’t help but feel them.

"…Asha, is there something wrong?"

Crap. She must have let something show in her face.

"N-nothing, my lady. I was just shocked that you trust me to such a degree"

Elanora’s face quickly softened, and took on her usual serene smile. It was strange, she thought, how she should theoretically hate that smile, yet it always succeeded in calming her.

"It is okay Asha. My Lord fully trusts you, so I can only do the same."

'The prince trusts me, but only as a bodyguard. For everything else I’m nothing for him.'

Without changing the smile on her face, Elanora started talking

"To me, my Lord is not the heir apparent of the Holy Ryuvian Empire, nor the 1st prince and Lord of Far Port. To me, my Lord is Gil. His standing and position don’t matter. Everyone who serves in the army sees my Lord only as a piece of Ryuvia’s government. They think he is replaceable, in fact they believe everyone in the royal line is replaceable, and such proves the stability and eternal presence of Ryuvia. They think that the fact that after the Disaster we still remain proves it. Yet their own faith doesn’t let them see the frailty of our standing. My Lord sees it, and he sees much more. He sees the weakness of our nobility, and even our royalty. He sees the war that is starting to brew through the galaxy."

Elanora stopped for some short seconds, and the seriousness of her words was conveyed through her sapphire irises.

"Ryuvia has become an Empire lead by blind and deaf, people unfeeling to the suffering and disturbance present both inside and outside their holdings. For everyone, my Lord is but one of the princes of the Ancient Holy Ryuvian Empire, but for me he is irreplaceable. An heir of a dying nation, and the only one which realizes of its sickness. Yet, even if he decided to abandon such nation, I would follow him anywhere."

"… You would leave Ryuvia?"

"If my Lord wished so I would. It may be difficult to understand, but I simply believe his skills and kindness are too valuable to be misused. The world in which we grew is far too unkind, far too harsh. My Lord sees it, and he wants to change it. Of a hundred emperors, generals and nobles he is the only one to see it. And he, unlike my useless self, can do it. For everyone he must be but a piece in some game, but for me he is the hope of this nation, no, this galaxy. For that I swore to serve him eternally. If something I can do could improve his safety, even if it results in my death, then I’ll do it."

Upon her last words, her eyes were shining and her mouth curled in a smile. It was not a serene one, but a truly joyful one. Asha felt almost awe-stricken. The words she said were the ones she had wanted to say earlier, the ones that she always wanted to say. Yet as she worded them, they were incredibly more pure and beautiful than anyway she could have expressed it.

"… Isn’t that love?"

"Yes. Indeed it is."

Part 2
The targeting computers showed images of the rapidly increasing enemy ships. Asha looked trough them trying to identify what the Prince had asked.

The Virtue was near the front line, standing upon an asteroid to improve firing stability. The Courageous was nearby, visible even through the numerous asteroids the ships were using as cover. Contrarily to the others more orthodox design, the flagship had a more rounded shape, and despite the high number of battles it had participated, it still was of a pristine white color. It acted as anchor of the crusader fleet, with its high defenses, the Emperor’s Protection and high powered lasers. It was the image of the dignity and power of the Ryuvian Empire, their fleet’s finest dreadnought that despite its designation could still carry Mounts.

Asha opened a communications line with that same ship.

"Courageous, Angel 1 talking, I have identified 3 vessels with the characteristics you defined to me, your Highness."

A familiar voice sounded through the intercom, letting out a sigh before it started talking.

"Asha, as leader of the Royal Guard you have a direct line to me. There is no need to maintain such formalities. Even so, thank you for your work; we have victory at arm’s reach."

Asha couldn’t help but look at the still increasing images of the enemy vessels. A mix of red and black, it was the New Empire’s color. While some of their ships were no more than crude masses of metals, their biggest ones seemed extremely dangerous. She knew that none of them were a match for any of their ancient ships, but Asha also knew too well that at most they had around 20 of the relics, and that most of the crusader fleet was only slightly better than what she called masses of metal. 

It was hard to share the Prince's confidence.

"… Prince Gilur, shouldn’t you at least retreat to the rear guard? If we lose you, then our whole fleet will fall into chaos"

"Asha, we have gone through this a lot of times. Our fleet needs the protection and confidence of the Courageous. We have already won two times against them, and this will be the third."

The leader of the royal Guard nodded, though doubt was still clear in her face. She was distracted however once she noticed that enemy ships had finally stopped appearing. The prince probably noticed the same, as a line of communication to all the vessels in the fleet was opened from the flagship.

"To all ships, remember the plan and directives of the battle. As expected, the enemy has not nuked this asteroid belt. They want to recapture the fortress built at N-78. In 10 minutes, our Automated Flak Units will be active and negate any possibility of a massed rocket and missile attack. If you see them start launching them before they activate, follow directive R-12 and retreat. However, let me tell you, I’m confident that the enemy won’t do that. They will, as always, charge, led by their greediness. And as always, we will meet them and defeat them in battle. Men, I ask of you to only repeat what you have done twice before! For Ryuvia!"

"For Ryuvia!"

The shout resounded through all the ships and Mounts, to the point that Asha almost felt like the sound was propagating through space, even if it was impossible.

The enemy finally started to move, but as the captain said, they didn’t launch any kind of attack. They probably were too scared of damaging the fortress or the important ore mines that were in the bigger asteroids. The com beeped again, connecting her with the Prince.

"Asha, as I said before, don’t shoot until our lasers start firing. We don’t want them to know your true range until it’s too late, OK?"

"Of Course, my Prince"

A pair of very tense minutes passed, as the neo-Imperial fleet advanced. Even when the lasers from her side started firing, the silence never broke. Being already used to battle, Asha started firing without a thought, her targets being almost impossible to miss at that distance.

It was almost magical: the numerous lights and explosions brightened the battlefield, yet there was not even a shred of sound aside from the one her machine did when firing. She knew the prince would probably be swamped in reports and shouts for every lost ship, but the only thing she could do right now was fight.

It was almost a mockery of the fairy tales of her childhood. In them, a fight between mounts was an intense one versus one battle with honor, glory and life at stake. Here perhaps the stakes were even bigger, but the only thing she was doing was shooting.

Aim at a ship (not even needed now that they were at laser range) and shoot. Then aim at another and shoot again. Sometimes she changed of asteroid, so that the enemy couldn’t pinpoint her. The reload was handled automatically by the Virtue’s systems. Even the aiming was mostly automated thanks to the incredibly potent targeting computer. She was slaughtering hundreds of people, yet she could only feel boredom. How much of a monster was she, that her only skill was that?

'Bad, bad! Don’t let your thoughts control you, focus on the battle, on the battle!'

The enemy, realizing that the large, white ship at the center of the line was the Ryuvian flagship, was concentrating all of their firepower at the Courageous. While this worried Asha, she knew it was the prince’s plan. She could almost see how the lasers aimed at the dreadnought visibly weakened before hitting. Not only that, the ships around it also shared that same protection. With most of the neo-Imperial fire centered upon that core, the crusader fleet was holding the line without much effort.

Their lasers (and her own shots) were however mainly centered upon the left flank of the enemy fleet (due to the formation the Ryuvian Fleet had taken on the Asteroid belt, the battle was developing almost like one in a 2-dimensional space), so the enemy center was still firing without care, not feeling the counterattack.

That was until she saw a white spark launch itself towards the neo-Imperial fleet. A Mount faster and mightier than any other, effortlessly dodging most of the Lasers, quickly crossed the space between the two fleets. The Dominion, despite having no weapons capable of damaging warship bigger than frigates, launched itself towards the enemy.

As expected of the Sharr Elanora gi Ryuvia, beautiful, yet deadly. Asha was awe-stricken by the vision of her mount gracefully dodging the attacks, flying with elegance almost like that of a Ryuvian shallow.

However, from the ruins of a battlecruiser in front of neo-Imperial fleet the surged a small frigate. It appeared just from Elanora's blindside. She realized it was too close. At that distance its lasers would surely hit. Not even Elanora’s could have reflexes faster than light.

She suddenly realized that the only one that could shoot faster than light was her. No other ship had equipped a weapon like her, they only had lasers. She could save her. Could.

Almost as suddenly as that frigate, dark thoughts assaulted her brain 'Don’t worry, it was never your responsibility to ensure her safety', 'You were doing your job taking care of the enemy left flank, if she got herself killed it was her fault'. She could have the prince, she could even be the Sharr!

'No! Elanora is my friend, she trusts me! I’m a despicable and useless woman, but if I can do something this time, then I have to do it…!'

Asha tried to move her hands towards the controls, but she felt herself slow, almost like the mud of the darkness inside her heart was affecting her own body. At this rate-

"Asha, shoot the frigate that appeared at point B-15 of the frontline, quickly!"

That shout brought her to action. Without thinking, she simply aimed and shot.

The frigate burst in a soundless explosion. Without that laser, the Dominion effortlessly dodged all the other attacks and quickly entered the enemy line. Asha let out a sigh of relief, but even so a gloomy mood soon descended upon her.

'As expected, Gil realized she was in danger. He truly is only looking at her…'

She shook her head, trying to drive away that thought. Now she was fighting a battle, she should focus only in that.

Another look at the battlefield told her that, maybe, the prince had been right. Their line was still holding, and despite some burns on the white hull of the Courageous, the flagship was still standing strong.

In contrast, the enemy left flank was starting to disintegrate from the concentration of laser fire (to which they had no protection). While the right flank of the neo-Imperial was almost untouched, their center was in disarray.

The reason for that was a white flash. Sparks appeared every time she cut anything, be it an obsolete fighter or some flak turret. An explosion surged when she managed to damage one of the kinetic cannons of a battlecruiser. Every time her sword flashed, it cut something.

There really wasn’t any kind of lasting damage on the ships despite her prowess; a sword of 15 meters can hardly damage a ship of 900. There wasn’t any need to. The ships flayed around, trying to aim their flak cannons and lasers towards the white and black fly that attacked them. Taken by the panic, for they had never seen a Mount, especially of such power, they didn’t realize how little dangerous it was and focused all their attention upon it.

A ship veered to aim its flak at her, forcing the cruisers behind it to stop firing to avoid friendly fire. A Battleship tried to launch a barrage of lasers only to end hitting one of its escorts. Frigates tried to go near her to attack only to end in the path of fire of cruisers, shielding their own enemy. The enemy was panicking at the sight of a vehicle that shredded without problem any obsolete fighters they launched, yet was small enough to easily avoid their fire. The thought of that white and black devil being unable to damage them never entered their minds.

The enemy center was disorganizing, trying to adapt to a new kind of enemy they had never seen nor fought. Perhaps seeing this, she noticed some movement in the enemy lines.

Frigates and ships smaller than cruisers were starting to deploy above and below the enemy front. While they had been in the rearguard, the enemy commander had probably decided he needed them and had spread them like that. It offered an open line of fire without being too far away, yet it also avoided the enemy fire, which was concentrated on their front line. Sola focused her sensors upon them and realized they were all specialized in missiles and rockets. The so called "missile trucks", and even then only the lighter ships. The far bigger Artillery Battleships were still at the frontline, probably deemed to slow for that attack.

Launch an attack from a new spot, relying on swiftness and overwhelming firepower to devastate them before they can shift their line of fire. It was not a bad tactic. Furthermore, while the asteroids they were on worked perfectly as cover, they would explode on thousand of deadly pieces when impacted by a nuclear warhead. Their cover would become a hellfire. While they would lost all the mines and bases they had hoped to recapture, it seemed like the enemy had finally tired of playing around.

It was a shame (for them) that all of that was going according to the Prince's plan.

"Jackpot"

Just as she heard Gilur’s voice, she saw the frigates launch their payload. Numerous missiles and rockets, with power enough to obliterate the asteroid belt of this System. Yet, only half of them reached until there was 1000 km to the belt. 0 reached the 100 km. Even the reinforced rockets launched by the Artillery battleships from the frontline, trying to help its far lighter brethren, were all taken out.

Automated Flak Units. Taken from the remains of the ancient automated machines, they worked extremely well at keeping every enemy missile away. Reinforced with a direct line to her targeting computer for even more accurate fire, whenever they stood the enemy would need a thousand of projectiles so that even one could pass through. The Ryuvian Space Force had in total 36, and this fleet used 19. Together with the flak of escorts and the Mounts, not even a rocket passed through. An enormous fireworks spectacle ensued.

"All units launch missiles towards the new enemy units!"

Asha couldn’t help but smirk upon hearing the prince’s voice. The problem of simply separating from the fleet to launch an attack was that it let the ships without any kind of protection. They were all frigates or destroyers, light enough to quickly move in position to launch a salvo, but in exchange without any kind of protection. Now, without any kind of flak, they were an easy prey for their own missiles. She saw the enemy light cruisers, desperately moving towards them, trying to save them yet at the same time weakening even more their own formation. Even the gigantic Artillery Battleships and the slightly smaller Heavy Cruisers were somehow trying to move.

It was all in vain. While the New Empire focused more on rockets, Ryuvia had always preferred the simplicity of missiles. Right now, every cruiser and most of the Mounts had plenty of these projectiles ready to be launched. Asha also launched her own salvo, and saw how the enemy frigates exploded in bright colors, the fireworks rivalling the ones before.

She could almost see the shock through the enemy units upon realizing that, suddenly, all of their support fire units were simply gone. In barely more than 5 minutes, thousands of their comrades had died, not even their corpses or blood surviving the big ball of fire that their ships had become into. Right now, the fleet realized nothing was left of their comrades, friends and family that were inside those vessels.

Their formations had broken apart, with the left flank barely maintaining itself, the center in absolute turmoil, and even their right flank paralyzed in terror.

The com beeped again

"Asha, can you destroy the dreadnought on sector F-18? It’s one of the ships that you marked me at the beginning. It should still be in your range."

Without doubting, Asha searched for that dreadnought. He found it surrounded by 3 Heavy Cruisers and even a Battleship, and retiring from battle to the rearguard. It was not strange however, because the ship was in its last leg. Even a cruiser laser could finish it now. That was probably the reason that the Heavy Cruisers were so close to it, almost acting like ship-walls. They were cautious, even outside of laser-range.

When looking at the ship more closely, she realized why the Prince had specially asked her to destroy it. The emblem of a noble house of the empire was painted on the hull of the ship, and even the improved communication antenna was visible. Asha had mixed feelings upon seeing that obvious flagship. On one hand, she felt respect towards the nobles that fought proudly and honorably at the frontlines, like the prince. On the other hand, unlike the prince, those nobles were stupid.

And she was going to show them just how stupid they were. Quickly targeting the dreadnought, her targeting systems perfectly traced the geodesic the projectile would follow, and she stopped her breathing.

In a machine as perfect as the Virtue, the true value of sniping was not in accuracy, but in the timing. Normally she wouldn’t even need to focus, but this was a tricky shot, with both the dreadnought and its escorts moving. Any mistake would mean hitting the escorts. To avoid it she had to shot at the exact moment the cruisers slightly moved away, due to their superior speed and lower inertia.

There were legends of a Sharr that could hit a Ryuvian swallow from one of the Ryuvian moons. While she was not a Sharr, she still was pretty sure something like sniping an enemy dreadnought was nothing in comparison.

*BANG*

The dreadnought exploded in a fiery mess. The heavy cruisers that were too near were fully hit by that, and even one of them also exploded, resulting in a smaller chain of explosions that lighted the enemy rear lines.

"Perfect Asha, as expected of the leader of my Royal Guard! While it was only the ship in command of the left flank and not the entire battle, this is already checkmate. If you want to rest and see the fireworks from afar you can retreat to the rear. I would offer you a place at my side in the Courageous’ bridge, but that would probably be more dangerous than your Mount. I have to go recover my fiancée after all."

The smile that had started to reform in Asha’s face quickly disappeared, while she tried to answer without betraying that.

"While the Prince is still in combat, it would be shameful for a member of the Royal Guard to rest. Let me at least provide cover."

"Perfect"

A new line opened, connecting the Courageous with all the other vessels. While they were less than at the beginning, the number was still a lot higher than any could have predicted when seeing their enemy the moment the battle started.

"Soldiers of the Holy Ryuvian Empire! As I said, the enemy came. As I said, you defeated it! Now they are scattered, fearful! We have deprived them of their support fire. We have deprived them of one of their leaders. The Sharr herself is depriving them of their sanity and will to fight. Now it’s the time to make them remember who is that has always ruled this galaxy! Now it’s the time to make them remember the might of Ryuvia! All ships, assault! Full Forward!"

As the Ryuvian Armada left the cover of the asteroid belt and launched a full assault at the enemy, the battle changed from a fight to slaughter. The neo-Imperial left flank, leaderless and extremely punished, retreated immediately, leaving the rest of their fleet totally exposed. The center registered what was coming and tried to reform itself, but it was far too late. After the Ryuvina right successfully flanked them, their resistance crumbled.  Their right flank, doubting whether to retreat or to intercept, ended doing nothing. After realizing far too late that they were going to end alone versus the crusaders in the field, they started their retreat.

Asha simply fired, thinking the same that in the 2 battles before: that any enemy that retreats will be an enemy to fight again.

And so, like that ended the Battle of the N658 System Asteroid Belt, the 3rd major engagement in the Gilurian Crusade, and the 3rd consecutive victory of the crusaders against the New Empire.

Part 3
"Then, shall I report our current situation?"

They were in rectangular table inside the Courageous. A special room only present in flagships, it had a holographical map of the galaxy just like the bridge, but this time it was in the middle of a pristine white table with the Holy Ryuvian Empire shield of arms emblazoned in one of the heads. Just there seated Gilur di Ryuvia, with Lady Elanora gi Ryuvia at his right. At his left was seated Asha, whose expression seemed calm. It was but a façade.

Asha normally didn’t pay too much attention to the Strategical meetings. It was when matters such as logistics, possible routes and estimation of enemy forces and movements were discussed. Her duty was to protect the Prince at the battlefield. While she understood the importance of knowledge of the enemy composition, their movements and numbers, such were never fully mapped out nor known in those meetings. The best and most reliable information was always given just before the battle in the tactical meetings, and even then most of the time that information was the same that the Virtue gave to her when she used it. The meetings usually were 10 minutes of intelligence reporting, 3 minutes of the Prince deciding what to do, and 2 hours and a half arguing about supplies.

This time it was different however. They were at the doors of Cera, and as such, a special meeting was required. The Prince wanted to call it an "Operational Meeting", but his 2n in command of the Courageous, Captain Jerion Kray, argued that calling it an Strategical meeting would ensure the presence of every captain. He was right, as the table was filled with the captain of every battleship and battlecruiser, while the captains of smaller vessels like Cruisers and even frigates were awaiting the decision in another room, the so called “conference room”.

After the prince nodded, the tall and lanky man that had risen up from his chair started talking.

"Our forces right now reach the 400 ships. While we managed to capture some vessels in the battle just before, and have accepted some desertions, we still haven’t managed to restore our full force. Talking with the chiefs engineer of the few ships still awaiting repair, they have confirmed to me that the ships are absolutely destroyed, and as such we won’t be able to increase our number until at least one month has passed."

One of the captains present stood up from his seat with a clear frown on his face

"What do you mean until at least one month?! After Tydaria we were at full force again after only 3 days! Furthermore, this time the number of ships that need reparations is even lower, how could they need more than a fortnight! Are you incompetent, admiral-"

The prince raised his hand and the entire table, which had started to heat up, sat quiet and still immediately.  Without not even rising himself, the prince started talking

"Captains, I note your dissatisfaction towards this matter. However, regrettably, we aren’t able to do anything about it. At Tydaria we managed to recover all our losses and even gain strength thanks to its importance as mining center and the fact that the barbarian’s occupation was very recent. Mercenaries changed sides, soldiers recruited against their will deserted, almost the entire Pirate resistance against them joined our cause. A lot of ships were captured on dry dock, and we could reuse them and even recruit an experienced crew without difficulties. Now it’s different. We do not have the mineral supplies of Tydaria next to us either."

After seeing every captain more or less grudgingly accepting his words, Gilur continued

"Furthermore, I have to admit that this confusion pertaining to the reparations is also partly my fault. At Tydaria and after our ambush, the ships too damaged to continue were abandoned, as I feared they would slow us down. This time however, I personally ordered to try to repair them, sine I knew that we couldn’t rely on reinforcements. I know and feel your unrest about this matter, but this time we will have to make do with our current numbers. Now, let’s move to the enemy numbers and position report."

"Yes!"

The same tall and lanky man from before, Admiral Ishinori, chief of Staff for this crusade, took some other papers from the table and started talking.

"At the Battle of Tydaria we successfully mauled at least 4 fleets, and damaged another 2. Later, we intercepted an Expansion Combined Fleet of the barbarians that tried to reinforce their defenses and annihilated it in an ambush. At System N658 we destroyed both the personal forces of the ruler of this Sector, which they call Neutral Rim, and a coalition of defense forces of all the systems it contains. After so may battles, our intelligence reports that the barbarians barely have 200 ships for the defense of the sector, focused on the nearest planet to our fleet, Barona, which if conquered will give us full access to Cera. The reports also mention that this fleet is formed by the survivors of their successive defeat, so we estimate their morale as fairly low."
 
Some smirks started to appear on the captains faces. After their entire voyage they were finally so close to their objective… Asha however knew that things wouldn’t be so easy. They never were.

"Intelligence also mentions the possibility of imminent reinforcements for the barbarians. However, it admits to be unable to predict either the number or ETA"

"4 fleets led by the 3rd Prince of these barbarians, they have already arrived at Cera and will reach Barona in an hour."

After finishing his words, the prince made a nod towards her, signaling that it was time for her report. Asha rose from the table and started reading from a paper while trying to mask the nervousness she felt.

"Today at the 0600 hours my Mount, the Virtue, detected a huge amount of warp signatures around Cera. After some time, at the 0730 hours, a reduced number of them also appeared. While some were directed towards Minerva, the majority were towards Barona. The total number of them when they first appeared was that of approximately 500 ships.  They also emitted, and probably are still emitting, this transmission on all the frequencies of a FTL transponder."

She pressed one of the buttons present on the head of the table (since she was sited at its side she could do it easily). Immediately, a voice sounded through the room

"This is the 3rd Prince of the righteous and glorious New Empire, coming to punish the treachery of those who refuse the rule of the One and Only Emperor in the galaxy. I have come ready with four royal fleets to smash any resistance. If you surrender yourselves to this fleet and beg for forgiveness you may receive the Emperor’s mercy in his infinite kindness. Any other ship will be considered an enemy to the New Empire, and I will act as its sword to purge them!"

As the captains started to understand the message and what it meant, their faces started to change color. Some turned red, full of anger, while others paled.

"How in the Universe these barbarians dare to talk about a "one and only" emperor, when in the galaxy there is already one and its throne is on Ryuvia Prime?!"

"4 royal fleets… their number reaches 700 ships in total… Can we even win?"

"How dare you doubt Prince Gilur? Look, even within their putrid and worthless royal line they sent only the 3rd Prince! It’s obvious even they know that this fleet is going to end defeated, like all the others!"

"This time we are attacking, not defending! In Tydaria and the ambush we had the element of surprise, but right now we are fighting an enemy that doubles us in number and we have no defensive advantage!"

"Couldn’t we sign an armistice? We destroyed or captured more than 1000 ships of them with only 500 of ours, any nation would be scared and willing to pact after that!"

"Fool, they are not a nation; they are barbarians who dared to take the name of Empire! The only option is show them the power of a true Empire!"

"I don’t think they would agree to a peace treaty. The have been forced to sent a Prince with reinforcements of their core worlds, a peace now would be a huge sign of weakness. Even beasts would understand it."

"Then are you suggesting to simply charge and get slaughtered!"

"What have I said to make you believe that?! The-"

"EVERYONE SHUT UP!"

Asha started trembling upon hearing that roaring voice. It was difficult to anger the prince, but when somehow, someone managed to do it, the results never were pretty. The Prince hadn’t even rose from his chair, but the powerful glare of his green eyes and the strength of his voice were enough to silence everyone in the room.

"I thought of making this reunion to hear your thoughts on this matter, but if you are unable to even talk without shouting like civilized men then I was definitely wrong!"

After seeing every man and woman quiet and perfectly still, the prince let out a sigh and continued.

"I already have a strategy prepared to fight these reinforcements. Still, I also plan to communicate with the enemy prince before tomorrow to offer him the option of surrender or even an armistice. Barbarian or not, he is still a member of a royal line and so its worth at least at much. Never be it said that the Ryuvian line lacks honor or respect for its enemies. Even so, I don’t plan to give up Cera. The Emperor himself appointed us the mission, so it’s our duty to accomplish it. Now, since you don’t seem to have any alternative idea, then simply go to the conference room and argue about supplies with the other captains. Dismissed!"

Upon hearing the prince’s word, the captains started begrudgingly rising from their seats and slowly left the room. Before everyone left, Gilur signaled with his head towards Admiral Ishinori.

"Sorry, but I leave the logistics to you. If all goes well, tomorrow we’ll be in Cera. If it goes bad then I think that supplies will be the last of our problems."

"Supplies are always the most important of problems. Even so, I understand that today his Highness needs to worry about other more immediate problems. Please leave it to me, your Highness."

With a bow, the admiral was the last to left the room. Now only Asha, the Prince and Lady Elanora, which had been quiet during the whole meeting, were left.

"What a waste of time…"

Gil sighed and rubbed his face with his left hand while using the right to refuse the handkerchief that Elanora, as attentive as always, was offering him.

"Don’t worry, don’t worry. Now, I’m sorry to have to ask that of you two, but can you stand up behind me? I need an escort, even if it’s only in a transmission."

Realizing what the prince meant, Asha and Elanora rose from their seats, and positioned themselves behind the Prince, just like the loyal attendants they were supposed to be.
Gilur then pressed another button at the head of the table, and the FTL transponder activated, showing itself as a holographic screen.

"Huu, an incoming signal? It seems our prince here has saved us the bother of contacting him… Asha, contact Jerion, tell him to record this transmission extensively and pinpoint where it comes from. Also, tell every ship to ready ECCM, we may be hit with a virus or some kind of electronic attack. Luckily I’m already wearing the royal attire for the meeting, so I don’t need to change…"

After sending the message, Asha quickly straightened her own uniform upon seeing the prince doing the same, and then stood at attention, with her body straight and still. A look towards Lady Elanora confirmed that she was ready before any of them, with her uniform impeccable and an inflexible posture, like the perfect attendant.

Then the transponder beeped, and an image appeared. A man in his twenties materialized, with a lavishly decorated and gaudy attire. His hair was jet black, and even his eyes gave the impression of an obsidian. Behind him there were a woman and a man, but neither of them made any sign of moving nor talking. The probably were the same that her and Elanora, attendants to their lord.

That boy probably was the 3rd Prince of the New Empire.

"We salute you, crown Prince of the former nation of Ryuvia. As not even a servant of us, we cannot let you know any of our 3 names that signal our pertinence towards the most glorious and mighty dynasty. However, you may refer to us as Gracen."

"I salute you, 3rd Prince of the New Empire, Gracen. My own name is Gilur. You may refer to me as that. Now, I’m sorry to cut the formalities short, but I think that it’s the best in both of our interests to solve this matter quickly."

"Indeed it is. Then, we shall not mince our words Gilur. If you surrender within the next 24 hours we will forgive the lives of all of your soldiers which have not deserted our glorious cause before. As a sign of respect towards an enemy with the honor to fight us head on and the intelligence to recognize our superiority we shall reward you with nobility and a chance to rule the lands under your rotten dynasty in our name."

"Then I have a counter offer. If you retreat all your forces from Barona, Minerva, Rynar and Cera within the next 24 hours I’ll let you and your army survive. Furthermore, the New Empire will recognize all the systems from the ones I said to Ryuvia Prime as sectors under Holy Ryuvian Empire influence, and swear to not send any kind of armed fleet within a parsec of any of them. These are our conditions, Gracen."

The black haired prince didn’t even scowl as he looked at Gilur with an almost incredulous face. Then, first quietly, but getting progressively louder, he started to laugh.

"….ha. Hahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA"

Gil still maintained his courtesy smile, like he wasn’t affected by Gracen’s laughter. Finally, the 3rd prince stopped laughing. Asha maintained her serene façade, but somehow that laugh disgusted her. It was like it gouged deep into her heart, trying to scope out something which she preferred to not remember.

"… We knew that the entitlement of your dying dynasty knew no limits, but even so you managed to surprise us. Tell me, how can you fight our fleet? We could recognize the ship you command as Kether, but aside from that have you any Tiferet? Not even a Chokma, and only a Chesed or two. Even your Gevurah, famed through the galaxy, are but pieces of scrap joined together, and we outnumber them 3 to 1. The rest of your fleet? Barely some ships worthy of being called Hod, and most of them rubble that can barely be Yesod. It’s not our superiority as clear as water?"

"That is for me to show you on the battlefield"

"Very well. Just remember, we shall not let you have even one planet! Your rotten country died because they focused only on themselves, they did not see beyond, they limited themselves! They even feared their own power! We, the New Empire, shall rule the galaxy, because it’s our will! We embrace our ambition and our power! We won’t stop until the last person in this galaxy recognizes our superiority, our power, our perfection! We will stomp on the rests of your nation to remind the galaxy that a new Era has started!"
 
The transmission ended. As Asha tried to recover from the shock of the stupid and blasphemous things that the neo-Imperial boy had said, she saw a smirk form on Gilur’s face.

"… I got you. Asha, please contact Jerion and tell him to come immediately. Elanora, do the same for Admiral Ishinori. Don’t call the rest of the captains though. If they had anything intelligent to say they already had their chance."

=====================================================================================================================================

Same room, same table. Now there were only 5 people in there. After looking at everyone’s face, Gilur nodded and activated the holographic projector:

"So, this is our position, and here, at Barona, there is the main concentration of enemy troops, around 600 ships. Like the 3rd prince said, the rest of their ships are guarding Minerva, Rynar and, of course, Cera. However, their greed will be their downfall. See here?"

The holograph zoomed at Barona and Minerva (if you squinted you could see Cera).

"Due to the lack of a satellite at Barona, their gravity well is slightly smaller that other systems. Gracen has positioned his fleet to intercept us if we try to warp directly at Cera. However, this has left a slight aperture towards Minerva. Furthermore, the interceptor group closer to it it’s formed exclusively by survivors of our previous battle. Their morale is an all-time low and they fear us. Despite numbering around 50 ships, a squadron of 30 will be enough to pine them down. Meanwhile, squad Seath will take this opportunity and warp at Minerva, surprising its defenders."

Captain Jerion Kray raised his hand, and after the captain nodded towards him, he started talking.

"Your Highness, squad Seath could with the element of surprise and luck overcome the defenders, but even then they would take heavy casualties. Also, while it’s true that we could pine down the interceptor group, that would be only for a while, and soon more reinforcements would appear."
 
"I have said nothing of attacking Minerva, Jerion."

"!"

"Now, put yourselves in our enemies’ shoes. They don’t have the long range scanners of the Virtue, and we know that theirs is not very reliable, as we managed to ambush them previously. While these 2 squads perform their actions, our fleet won’t move. What will the enemy think, once they suddenly see a squad warp at Minerva?"

"That we probably intent to attack there, and then use it as a foothold towards Cera…"

"Exactly, so our prince will then move himself and his main fleets towards Minerva. Then we will strike. Half of the fleet, fleet A, will launch an attack towards what is left of them at Barona, pinning them down and capturing the planet, while I and the best ships in the fleet will directly bypass them an attack Cera. Meanwhile, both our squads at Minerva will retreat, trying to lure them even further away. When they realize what has happened, both Cera and Barona will be ours. Once we reach Cera, we reach their main supply depot, and we can simply turtle at our planets until they either retreat or lack of supplies makes them easy prey. And if they decide to attack… Well, let’s say I’m confident in a defensive battle, and our position at both Barona and Cera would force them to divide their forces or risk a pincer attack."

"What if the prince decides to move back to Cera directly instead of going to Minerva?"

"We will do the same, except this time me and my fleet will intercept the prince before he reaches Cera. Our ancient ships have warp drives hundreds of times more efficient than theirs, and also have the Emperor’s protection. So we’ll separate from my personal fleet and hit them with full force, to the rear and by surprise. Despite the few numbers, the firepower of our best ships is not small, so the enemy can’t ignore us. By the time they have recovered, the rest of my fleet will have arrived and they will have no chance. Even in the worst case that this is not enough, the battle would give us a chance of destroy the flagship of that neo-Imperial brat. Meanwhile, Fleet A will take Barona and squad Seath Minerva. By the way, if he finally does nothing, then our fleet will simply move towards Minerva, overwhelm their interceptor group and take it without barely any casualties."

"If he attacks?"

"Then we’ll fight them on open space. However, then he will need to leave garrisons for the planets, as they are not precisely glad to be occupied, and as I said, Cera it’s where they have their main supply depot. That means that he will have at most 600 ships, and without any defenses. Only 3:2 odds, I beat worst than that. Furthermore, the long range scanners of the Virtue and all our old ships will detect them whenever they try something, so we won’t be hit by surprise."

Captain Jerion seemed awe-stricken, while Admiral Ishinori had his “as expected” face. Elanora was stoic as always, while Asha herself felt nothing special. She was used to the prince’s resourcefulness. However, she felt a sudden headache. She hadn’t been able to sleep properly these past days, but for it to come now, what in the galaxy…

"Asha, are you okay?"

The prince had probably realized it, as he had stopped his explanation to ask that to her. Asha tried to nod while maintaining her poker face, and somehow succeeded.

"It’s nothing, your Highness."

The Prince frowned at her when she said "your Highness", but after looking a little bit at her he simply continued talking. While she should feel bad of having worried the Prince, she felt a little bit better after knowing that Gil cared for her.

"… And so, that’s it. I may change some things on the fly, since we don’t know for sure what actions the enemy will take. Any more questions?"

Despite having remained quiet during all the meeting, Admiral Ishinori suddenly started talking

"All your plans are excellent as always, your Highness, but I couldn’t help but notice that all of them hinge on the enemy not receiving even more reinforcements or supplies. Barbarians or not, our enemy is a country that has power over at least a hundred systems, and even a planet that makes our Ryuvia Prime pale. What it is that makes his Highness have so much confidence that the enemy will not receive any more help?"

Upon hearing the old admiral, Gilur couldn’t help but smile. It was his usual half smile, mocking, bitter, yet confident.

"The enemy has sent to fight their 3rd prince, commanding 4 Royal Fleets, with the mission given personally by their Emperor being to crush us. They are the fist of their Empire, the symbol of the power of the royal line. Now, what would happen if that fist had to ask for reinforcements? What happens when the royal line is forced to implore help?"

The Admiral had a look of shock upon hearing it, almost like he had realized something

"He simply isn’t allowed to. Not an ounce of help will arrive. One thing is dying on the battlefield, and another is retreating and asking for reinforcements. One is intelligent and the other is stupid, one is humiliating and the other glorious. The Emperor prefers him dead than the humiliation that would represent having to thank a noble for saving his son."

"So it’s a mission of do or die… However, couldn’t help be sent from the same royal household?"

"If the royal household could send more ships, they would have done so already. Since the beginning, only 4 fleets isn’t the New Empire’s style. They would overwhelm the enemy with even more numbers. It has been 3 months since Tydaria, they had more than enough time to concentrate their forces. That means that they don’t want to focus their forces against us."

"Against us? Could it mean…!"

"Yes. Probably our attacks have altered the balance of power in the New Empire. Maybe the governor of this sector was an important loyalist to the neo-Imperial family. Maybe it was another thing. What matters is that the false Emperor believes he has an enemy even more dangerous than us. Without being able to gather all of their forces, they have pulled what they could spare and sent the 3rd Prince in a show of force. If he smashes us, the royal line shows its power as a warning towards their inner rivals. If he fails then probably a civil war will start within the New Empire, especially if we don’t move beyond Cera."

The holographic projector then returned to the image of the galaxy. In it now there were two clear circles drawn. A green one went from Cera to Versta and the other occupied a radius around New Eden. The last one however was shifting its color constantly between red and black.

"If we don’t interfere anymore, then the New Empire will probably ignore us after we take Cera. For them we have barely taken more than some borderline systems after all. Then, while the civil war, either hot or cold, rages on, we will simply stabilize our systems, repair our ships and maybe take a planet or two. And then, in the next Crusade we won’t stop until New Eden. Seriously, what did Gracen said, “Your rotten country died because they focused only on themselves”? I mean, it’s not the same for yours? Want it or not that’s the reason all empires fall…"

While he said his first words loudly, at the end the Prince was almost whispering, so only Asha and Elanora could heard his last words.

Last Part

"Uuughh…"

Asha touched her head, trying to alleviate her headache. Since the beginning of the crusade she had been having these at almost regular intervals. At first she thought of the cause being her nervousness, but after three months she figured she at least had gained some minor confidence.

Still, these last days it had been even more intense than usual. Her insomnia had worsened, and sometimes she awakened without knowing what she had been doing for the last hour.

"....uf"

Her head had finally stopped hurting. Luckily it was never long, but if it happened during a battle, she was afraid of what could come to pass.

It was the day after the meeting, just after the siren which marked the beginning of the "day" sounded. She was right now going to the prince’s quarters, already dressed for battle, to have a last briefing before the fight begun.

She knew that as the other pilot directly under Gilur’s control, Elanora would be there. In fact, this briefing was more of an informal meeting where the Prince wished them luck and made them promise him to return alive. While he twisted every event to do what he wanted, Asha had always liked that of the prince. It was difficult to get angry at him when it was one of the few times since the beginning of the crusade that she could talk to him almost alone.

She reached the door, and entered without even knocking.

'It’s strange, but if it’s open, then it means that Elanora is probably there-'

She was. It was dark, and it was only during a very brief moment, but she still had the image burned on her retinas. Gil and Elanora, embracing each other. In a flash Gilur separated 2 meters and smiled towards her, not even a hint of anger at her for interrupting his moment with his fiancée. Elanora also smiled serenely at her.

However, she still could see it clearly. The always perfect hair of the Sharr was slightly out of form, with a lock falling forward from her shoulder towards her chest, in contrast towards the usual perfectly straight cascade behind her back. The collar of her uniform was even unbuttoned, a thing which she had never seen until now.

She saw Elanora and Gilur smiling at her, probably even genuinely, but she could only think of how much she simply wasn’t needed in that place. Had she even reached the point were she served only as third wheel?

"Asha, good morning. Have you slept well? You told me about your insomnia, but today we fight an important battle. If you need more rest then I can give you s-"

"Don’t worry your Highness. Today I have not slept very well, but I’m not tired."

Even with her feelings as dark as they were, she could at least try to work as the Royal Guard she was. Yes, even if her heart was full of darkness, she still could somehow hover over it, right? She couldn’t fail the prince now.

"It’s a relief to know. Then, I have nothing to say. The plan has already been made, and I suppose both of you already know it perfectly. I hope that when this day finishes, we’ll be at Cera celebrating the success of this Crusade."

The prince looked now at both of them with gentle eyes, his ever-present half-smile in his lips. He took Elanora’s hand with his right, and her own with his left. Her heart fluttered upon feeling the warmth of his hand, devoid of any gloves, directly.

"Now, I don’t want to be a pessimist, but the possibility of dying is still there. I won’t say anything irresponsible like “Please don’t die”, but let me tell you, Asha, Elanora, that even if I searched through the whole galaxy I wouldn’t find any subordinate more loyal, worthy or able than both of you. So please, think of me, and don’t do anything rash."

Her hand intertwined with Gil’s. For once, the fact that Elanora’s was there didn’t bother her. She didn’t want to speak, for she felt that spell would be broken whenever the words escaped her mouth.

"My Lord, I'll always be by your side. While dying in battle is not an impossible outcome, such would limit the time I spend with you. So let me assure you, that until the end I’ll try my best to stay alive. I'll never betray you."

Asha knew that she had to speak. But she couldn’t. Her throat was incredibly dry, and she felt tears starting to appear at her eyes. Why? It was true that when the Crusade ended, Gil and Elanora’s would get married. It was true that after this battle they wouldn’t need her anymore. Still, why was her heart so selfish? Why was she unable to even answer that to the prince? Why did she felt her own eyes tear up? Why she was unable to tell Gil that everything would be fine?

"I… I-"

*BEEP*

Suddenly the transponder in the quarters beeped. The prince immediately separated of both of them, and quickly pressed a button. An image appeared.

Red hair like blood, green eyes like Gilur's, but infinitely more dark. A face that could be handsome if it wasn’t by the openly mocking smile on it.

"Brother"

Yes, Layren di Ryuvia, 2nd Prince of the Holy Ryuvian Empire. When she saw him, Asha felt all her body paralyzed in terror, with his mocking smile gouging deep inside her.

"Good morning, my dear brother. I heard that today you would be fighting the most important battle in your crusade, so I thought "Ei, why I don’t call my dear brother to wish him good luck?". I mean, hasn’t been 3 months since we last saw each other."

"3 months and 10 days, your Highness."

Elanora quickly approached the holograph, positioning itself at Gil’s side, with a face that clearly showed her dislike for the man on it.

"If you forgive my rudeness, 6 of these 100 days have been due to your refusal to go to the ceremony of the Declaration of the Holy Crusade. May I ask the reason of your sudden change of attitude?"

"Ohh, I feel hurt, my dear soon-to-be sister. Can’t I miss my dear brother after 100 days of separation?"

"… Don’t hold these words against Elanora little brother. It’s almost the time of battle, so she is a little tense. How is Father?"

"Ohh, father… Well he is fine, or at least as fine as an old man not even capable of pissing by himself can be…. To be honest, brother, I have already tired of this stupid chatter, so let me finish it. Ga’rk! M256LOH97YR412."

*BANG*

*BANG*

"Wha-"

The prince quickly turned, hearing shots from behind

*BANG*

The third shot resounded through the quarters. It impacted on Gilur's shoulder. After his back hit the wall he fell on the floor, somehow maintaining a sitting posture. Elanora’s corpse, with two bullets on her nape fell towards the sitting prince.

Their blood soon started to stain the carpet on the floor. The prince, still clinging on his conscience, somehow managed to touch something inside his uniform, and a shield of light soon appeared around him.

Asha couldn’t feel anything. Her eyes were full of tears, and she could only ask "Why?"

Why had they been shot?

Why at this moment?

Why did she have a gun on her hand?

Why that gun was hot, like it had just fired?

Why it was short three bullets?

Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why? Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?WhyWhy?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why? Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why? Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?   
Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why?Why? 
       
"Oh… So she first shot the Sharr? Well, brother I suppose that you are still alive?"

"LAYREN!!! WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE!!!"

"Don't worry about it, dear Brother, soon you'll be dead. Even with that personal shield, you have at most 3 minutes with that wound. I know, I personally checked the poison on the bullets. Don’t worry about it though~, I’ll send Father to join you! And probably a cousin or two. Still, you have your love dead at your arms; shouldn't you be pretty happy to go?"

"BASTARD!!! Towards me I would have expected it… I would have accepted anything against me… BUT AGAINST ELANORA!! AGAINST ASHA!! WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO?!!!"

"Oh, why don’t you ask her? She is still alive and here. Tell him, what did I do?"

Asha felt her whole body froze in terror. All the strength left her body, she felt her limbs go limp, and her legs collapsed. The gun dangled useless of her arm.  Every pain, every suffering, she suddenly remembered. And she couldn’t do anything but remember. Her whole body was paralyzed in the most absolute of despairs, and her mind only could drown itself in the pit of darkness that was her memories.

"….A-ah…."

Her mouth barely reacted. All her body was numb, and yet, she felt she could barely whisper something.

"…Asha…"

A gentle voice sounded. A voice, that despite her having betrayed everything it had stood for, every dream and happiness it had, before its owner eyes, it was still gentle. Like the first day they had meet. Like before this entire nightmare.

She felt her tears fall on her hand. She felt them going down her cheeks, without stopping, without end.

"… I-I… I-I’m… i-impure…"

A tiny voice, barely a whisper, managed to escape her mouth.

"HaHa. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA"

A cruel laughter reverberated through the room, while Gilur's eyes narrowed. 

"HAHAHAHA. Hahahahaha. I mean, seriously? Haha. Of all the things I did to you, you had to just say that! Well, you did scream like a bitch. I was in fact almost kinda disappointed. Of all the things I had prepared, I only needed to use a little more than half of them."

That laughter, that voice, only worsened her pain. It was like a spear gouging deep into her hear, ripping it out while it was still beating. All around her was darkness. Until-

"Asha, I’m sorry."

Until a ray of light entered into her pit. A smile. A sad, yet warm smile.

"It was my fault. I was really pathetic. I never realized your pain, your suffering. Despite having you so close, I was too blind, too selfish. In the end, I couldn’t even protect either Elanora or you. I’m sorry."

"…A-ah…"

No. It hadn’t been like that. She had been a useless woman, so easy to break. She had been a useless woman, so quick to betray. She had always been a useless woman.

Some force entered in her body. Without thinking, Asha started to crawl towards Gil.

"Yes, you are pathetic Brother."

The cruel voice resounded again

"Everyone always believed in your ability. Father and Mother always praised you. Even that dammed court only had good words for you! You know, there was time when I thought of maybe letting you rule. Of maybe even helping you and share the power! Yet you decided to squander everything in your little adventure! Despite having the greatest seat in the Galaxy, the greatest honor, the greatest glory, you decided to go do some funny little crusade against barbarians! You were so stupid that you couldn’t even see what was in front of you!"

Asha continued crawling as, little by little, his limbs started recovering some force. Her mind also started to clear, maybe because the light emitted by that smile, unwavering despite the abuse the cruel voice was heaping towards it.

She finally reached it.

She had to do one thing. She could only do that thing.

"…I’m sorry, Gil. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry"

She could only say that. Again and again, for even if she repeated it for the rest of her life, it would still not be enough.

"I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sor-"

A warm, gloveless hand stopped her voice. It caressed her cheek, softly, carefully.

"As I said Asha, it wasn’t your fault. Don’t worry, please."

Gil’s right hand firmly gripped the lifeless body of Elanora. It was stained in blood, but her usual serene expression was still present, even in death.

Asha felt her hands cling to his left arm, even now caressing her cheek like it was the most precious thing in the world.

"Still, even if it was a selfish desire, that I could die with you two at my side it makes me very happy. Thank you Asha, for everything you have done. For your friendship and devotion. Thank you."

And so Gil gave her his last smile. A full one, shining as bright as all the stars in the universe. One as warm as the Sun, as gentle as the caress of a mother.

Finally, he closed his eyes, and drew his last breath.

As Asha held his still warm hand, she could only think of one thing, of one memory.

Long ago, when she was still a child, her mother had told her: "Home is the place which forgives everything. It’s the place where, don’t matter your mistakes or flaws, you’ll be accepted."

She had always thought that there was no place for her there. Only now she realized how wrong she had been.

She let one of her hands fall down, her other still holding to Gil’s hand. Below them a small puddle of blood was forming. She found what she was searching.

*BANG*

"Ooh, so she totally broke… Well, I suppose it was time to get another toy anyway."

A final beep signaled the end of the transmission.

It was strange. She felt a cold sensation spread inside her, but her hand was warm. Not only that, her tears were also very warm, flowing endlessly down her body. And she was happy.

She had always felt without a home, without a place. Even if it had been only during her last moments, the realization that she had a home, a place where she belonged, made her very happy.
 
She could only smile, remembering the warmness on her hand.

==================================================================================================================================

The Battle of Barona was an absolute disaster for the Holy Ryuvian Empire. Losing their heir and commander, the fleet was decimated and destroyed as a fighting force. At the same time, Layren III succeeded the throne after the sudden death of Jaylor VIII, barely hours after his son passed away. The succession however caused a bloody civil War between him and his cousin Jaylor IX, which had more support from the nobility. As a result of that, every bit of stability gained during the years before was lost. Finally, the year 69 Versta declared its independence, after neither Layren III nor Jaylor IX attended to its help requests against the growing pirate threat. The Gilurian Crusade, while it slowed the New Empire’s expansion on what is now called the Neutral Rim, ended being the last nail in the coffin of the Holy Ryuvian Empire.


And so, first I'll post the second piece on Saturday, and later I'll edit this one, maybe next week? In all cases, feedback of any kind (even if to accuse me of being a lazy bum) is encouraged, thought I'll ask you to take into account that I finished this 9 months ago.
Why can only the evil have empires, power and majestic theme music? I reclaim the possibility of creating the Federal-democratic-free Empire! A (democratic) tyranny fueled by the Power of Love!

Started writing. You can check it out here: Home

Offline BlackStarLine

Re: Sunrider: Home
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2015, 11:16:29 pm »
I enjoyed reading that. You said you aren't a native english speaker, but your level of written english is pretty good. I mean there's a few bits here and thetr that could do with minor editing and perhaps rearranging of words, but regardless it's really well written.

Offline Marx-93

Re: Sunrider: Home
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2015, 07:07:19 am »
I enjoyed reading that. You said you aren't a native english speaker, but your level of written english is pretty good. I mean there's a few bits here and thetr that could do with minor editing and perhaps rearranging of words, but regardless it's really well written.

Thanks, it's very comforting knowing some people enjoy it.

And now I finally have the second Part of Home! And just in time for the announcement of Liberation Day! I have to say the idea of this part started with one of my early gameplays, where the Phoenix somehow managed to defy the RNG Goddes, which hates me. From that I got the idea of a scene, later it linked with the theme of the first piece and the rest came from Icari, Kryska and the battle of far Port being very awesome. Also, this piece was always intended to be a lot lighter and funnier than the first. While it's not exactly a comedy, it has an extremely large dose of Icari, so that means 50% snark, 50% objectionable language, 200% tsundere. I've may have gone a little anime in some scenes, I admit. I couldn't help it, and I felt it fit the tone and work.

It ended being only slightly shorter than the first piece, so in total the two have a little more than 27k words. In summary, I can't write short pieces. Also, I'm not that happy with how the description of the movement of the Phoenix ended in the battle scenes, but I decided to make them short even if the meaning is not exactly clear. As much as I love long explanations, there's no better way of disrupting the pacing than that, and luckily with the current explanations the reader may be able to get a cool image, even if it wasn't the one I was thinking of. So, stopping my endless babble, here comes the second piece, another look at the battle of Far Port.

Also: I've italicized some terms, but not the main ship or Ryders. Half the text would be italicized in that case


Piece 2: The brightness of the Sun is but an uncontrolled explosion, but the energy it has its real


Part 1
On year 504 after the Ryuvian Wars PACT (the People’s Alliance for Common Treatment), based at New Eden, completed the conquest of Ryuvia, taking the whole Neutral Rim for itself. Immediately after, PACT launched a surprise invasion of the Alliance at Far Port, taking advantage that the Solarians still hadn’t finished their war preparations. Being able to muster only the 2nd Fleet to meet 5 Invasion Fleets from PACT the Alliance was outnumbered almost 6 to 1, so defeat and an invasion on their Core Worlds seemed unavoidable. Despite this, the Battle of Far Port ended in a resounding victory for the Alliance, decimating PACT’s invasion fleets and forcing them to retreat. While dissension still exists as to the main reason of such an unexpected result, due is mostly attributed to the acting commander of the 2nd Fleet, Captain Kayto Shields of the Free Ceran Forces, for his tactical insight, and Admiral Harold Grey of the Alliance Emerald Fleet for his swift arrival almost half a day earlier than expected.  In a risky tactic, Captain Kayto Shields ambushed the command ships of PACT destroying their coordination and exposing them to a sudden attack by Grey’s reinforcements. With a lack of leadership and their losses piling up, PACT was forced to retreat.

=================================================================================================================

Dark. The infinite space was mostly dark. Despite the fact that, in this sector of the Galaxy, this was going to be the largest battle in a 100 years, neither of the 2 forces could really fill even the tiniest part of the infinite space, not even joined. What were after all five-hundred, or even a thousand ships for the billions of stars in the whole galaxy?

Icari Isidolde looked towards the Phoenix main console. It currently was in auto-pilot, in its path towards the PACT main fleet. While the Sunrider followed behind, she was tasked with scouting the enemy. She had of course objected that the Phoenix wasn’t a scouting machine, however she understood that the whole plan that schoolboy had devised relied on that dumb pig acting as the dumb pig he was. If their command fleet wasn’t where their sensors said they were, their whole fleet would be obliterated faster than a newly chosen representative’s honesty in the Solar Congress. And the Alliance… well, while she had to admit their Cruisers packed a punch she could only think of their Ryders as dead weight. That stupid spy supposedly had a “top of the line custom model issued only to the best and with the best materials and technology the Galaxy could provide”, but she only saw what amounted to a giant turret that could travel on its own and was slower than the cruisers it was supposed to support. And their destroyers and frigates were almost the same, either support oriented or too armoured. Yeah, while she still was miffed about the decision, she understood the captain’s reasoning. Maybe he wasn’t so hopeless after all…

Luckily (tough, what the hell, it wasn’t luck, but her skill!), everything had been going just as expected, and now her sensors showed PACT’s main fleet, still moving towards them. She counted around 20 capital ships, maybe 12 Battleships and 8 Carriers? She couldn’t well see the rear, but the enormous profiles told her it was either one or the other. That dumb pig was really stupider than she thought: the frigate fleets had already departed, and it seems he had concentrated almost all his Cruisers in their rear fleets, which still were far outside combat range and so unable to do anything. It was kinda strange to see a “Fleet” composed by less than 30 ships. While the big and heavy Battleships and Carriers would be imposing to the wimpy rookies of the Alliance (She really wasn’t even slightly afraid of those lumbering masses of metal, or even worried about what they could do to the Sunrider!!), any expert eye could see that the Fleet was totally unsupported and they were taken completely by surprise.

“Phoenix here. We have caught those red bastards with their pants down and their panties in a twist. Their arse seems perfectly ready to get a good kicking.”

“Sunrider here. Phoenix, we copy you. Maintain stand-by until we have finished deploying our Ryders. Do not engage the enemy unless you are attacked. We would also prefer if you could restrain your language to be less… colorful.”

“Copy that. My language will be whiter than the face of a lady officer finding a bug in her coffee.”

“*sigh*”

At least she hadn’t replied this time. The Commander really needed to break out of that “military professionalism” obsession with the rules. They were in a war for Ryuvia’s sake! If you stopped to think about what is or isn’t permitted, you’d end dead. If your intent was clearly communicated, then any window for a pilot to let out their stress was good. Professionalism and rules are for peace, in war it only matters to kill the enemy before it kills you, or the ones you love. The Alliance had been the same, and look where that “professionalism” took them. They had a war they could have avoided at any moment at their own doorstep, and even then they needed other people to go and take command for them (and of course they thanked it with spies and restrictions).

Ugh, now her mood had taken a turn for the worse. The Black Jack had only just now sortied off the Sunrider, and the cruisers of the Alliance were still trying to change formation while maintaining their speed, their inexperience visible on each of their movements. There were still a long 10 minutes before reaching the enemy and the PACT fleet was still trying to prepare anything remotely similar to a combat formation. They probably didn’t even notice her. This however meant she had jack square to do while waiting, and 10 minutes were not enough to take a small nap- What to do….

Her eyes reflexively looked towards the dark space. When she was little, she always liked looking at the space. She remembered, in the space shuttles her parents often traveled on, how she loved to simply go to one of the observation bridges and sit and look at the space. Half of the times she felt asleep, sometimes dreaming and sometimes not. She enjoyed seeing every star, but mostly the deep and unchanging dark. Wondering if there really was an end to that expanse, how it was related to them, if it really was the same than the clear azure found on her home planet, and if it was why it was “up” there but really “all-around” here. As she grew, the questions changed, but she still really liked it; her mother often protested that she seemed to enjoy the shuttle travel a lot more than the holidays in a foreign and exotic world.

On that day, when everything she had held dear was smashed apart in ten seconds, maybe it had been that darkness that had let her maintain her sanity. 10 days in an escape pod, alone with nothing but some emergency ration after such a traumatic incident. With her clothes still stained and without spare clothes to change to, with the bag with her holo and all other her things left on the shuttle, too heavy for her to take it in a hurry, without anything. She had been doing nothing but looking at space, trying to find the why: why had her parents had to die? Why had everyone else had to die too? Why those red soldiers had to kill everyone over some small paper nobody cared about? Why was she alive? Why she had to run away and abandon her parents?

Maybe in the end she had really lost her sanity. Still, it felt somewhat weird and nostalgic to look at that dark space again. After that incident, she had never looked at it again. Too much pain, and she really didn’t want to think about anything. PACT had simply killed her parents because they were a bunch of heartless bastards unable of feeling anything but hate, and as such, she simply had to fight and kill every one of them. No thinking, just acting. Yet this time, she somehow didn’t mind looking at space, even if meant having her mind wondering about strange things

It felt strange, waiting those 10 minutes. Until now, she had always fought alone: when she was ready the battle started, and when she finished what she came to do the battle too ended. Even when on break, she just drank and played, or trained. There never was a moment of just waiting, of just being there and thinking about things. When she was on the Sunrider’s brig, she spent the whole time thinking how to get out of that. When work required her to wait, she either trained or worked on maintaining and improving her Ryder. It was always like that. Yet here she was, no longer alone, and simply thinking about things again.

While looking at the darkness made her remember that pain, it somehow was a lot more subdued than she remembered. She didn’t know why, but she also didn’t care too much. Somehow, despite the fact that she had to work with what seemed like a band of schoolchildren on a school trip, and that the last battles had been more dangerous than even her typical mission (seriously, the whole wedding had been insane; it had also been awesome), she was also having a lot of fun. The captain was a naïve idiot, but he was somewhat competent, and he was certainly kind and honest, n-n-not that she l-liked any of it, of course!!! Asaga was crazier than some of the mercs she had worked with at the beginning, but unlike them she lasted more than 2 minutes on the battlefield. Chigara was more naïve and innocent than half the babies of the galaxy, but the universe also needed people like that. The commander was a rules-freak and unable to do anything that hadn’t been previously written on a book, but she had to admit she made a good team with the captain. Claude was a pervert nurse to whom she would never show her back in a distance of less than 10m, but her honesty made her fun enough. Sola seemed to be quieter than half the regions of space she had visited, as impossible as that was, but she was very good at her job, and actually not that unwelcoming once you started to know her. The crew wasn’t too bad: the security chief had pestered her to help with the AEW suit of the ship, but in exchange she had managed to give her some booze hidden from the Commander. The Ryder maintenance chief, or “Chigara’s fanclub member nº1” as he was known, didn’t bother her too much and let her on her own, while also helping when he felt like it (It’s not like she needed the help, okay?!). Heck, even some of the security officers that had put her on the brig previously had been very friendly when she had found them in one of the “gyms” inside the Sunrider. Only that stupid spy currently annoyed her. Yeah, overall, it had been fun.

“Sunrider here. Phoenix, we’ve finished preparations, take position 7-7-8 with bearing 4-2. We’re starting our final approach.”

A sudden transmission took her out of her contemplations.

“Copy that Sunrider. Took your sweet time, huh?”

A bip marked the end of the conversation. Well, at least it seemed the Commander wouldn’t bother her anymore. After taking direct control of the Phoenix, she saw the lumbering form of the Paladin take position in their right flank, contrasting with the Black Jack on the left and herself on the middle.

“Sunrider’s Ryders, Paladin here. Let me show you how the Alliance pilots fight and let’s destroy those reds together!!”

Ugh! That spy had to go and say that, all fired up and proud. She opened a private channel.

“Yeah, they probably fight like lost drunkards, did you see how much time it took your cruisers just to change formation!?”

A holovision of Kryska Stares, the mole of the Alliance, appeared on her console, clearly frowning. Meanwhile, the Paladin was still maintaining position normally, without moving. It was kinda strange to see her all straight like that on the holo, while the Paladin looked to her as if speaking with its crotch (though Icari would be far angrier if the Ryder had moved positions and stopped covering the front with its cannon only to “speak” with her).

“I would like to remind you that those models aren’t Cruisers, but Battlecruisers, as classified by the treaty of Ongess. And their difficulties were due to the outdated maps of the region: the position of debris and even the orbit of the moons have changed, so we had to update our navigational computer and improvise a new course.”

“Oh, sure. Far Port’s moons moving 0.5 m/s faster and shifting their rotation plane by 3 arc milliseconds is enough to force the mighty Alliance fleet to grind to a halt while they remake their calculations. I’m impressed.”

“Hum! You say all those things, but the discipline and training of our sailors is the pride of the Alliance. Didn’t we start our advance without delay and maintained formation flawlessly until now?”

“So the navy that doesn’t do anything but ceremonial marches and formation training is actually good at marching and maintaining formation? What a shock and relief!”

Putting on her best fake-surprise face, Icari didn’t even need to see that dumb spy’s frown in the holo to imagine her annoyance. In fact, the pouting figure in her imagination was far cuter than the real face of the lieutenant, so she continued without paying it too much attention.

“Of course I know that, spy. I was talking about real combat situations. No matter what you say, those Cruisers slowing to a crawl so near the enemy smells like piss to me. Piss coming from those sailors wetting their pants in fear. In combat you can’t hesitate, you have to be faster and quicker and stop thinking about anything besides the battle. If you stop you are dead”

“… Yes, because those reds are doing that well. If we are slow, then what are they, turtles?”

The soldier-boy made a motion towards the front with her head. While she didn’t think the main bulk of PACT’s fleet was where she had motioned (the direction of the cockpit and sensors could be different, for example), what she meant was clear. PACT’s fleet had barely moved: while their Battleships were placed more to the front and the
Carriers brought up the rear, they still weren’t in a perfect formation, and the amount of Ryders was very small for a fleet with so many Carriers. They probably had wanted to wait until nearing the enemy to launch their Ryders to avoid extra fuel consumption, but this had obviously turned against them. Clearly, they still hadn’t recovered from the surprise. Some small flashes appeared here and there, attacks with lasers meant to pin them down and slow them. However, not only were they few but also notably inaccurate. The ships were still far from being in effective combat ranges, and the attacks were not even full barrages but occasional shots from individual laser banks. The Pact Fleet was still mostly focusing on regrouping and putting as much distance possible between their Carriers and them, while also trying to unload their Ryders. Meanwhile their own fleet had foregone such things and simply accelerated non-stop, waiting to reach close-combat range (or as much close-combat as it can be between vessels of more than 500 meters of length) before aiming any shots. She really might have to reconsider her opinion of the Captain.

“If there’s any turtle that’s you, all green, slow and armored. Anyway, those reds bastards are the kings of incompetence and dumb shit. We however are different. If we have survived until now is because we have been fast, flexible and unfazed. So, if you don’t want to hold us back, you better be quicker and faster than your compatriots. And forget everything about Alliance formations and other shit. We are our own army and so far we’ve killed more reds than the rest of the galaxy combined.”

“… Well then, I’ll show it to you; the full might of the Solar Alliance. Not only am I not going to hold you back, but also I’m going to surpass all your achievements!”

“Hoh. Then you want to bet? Whoever has less kills in this battle has to clean the 11th hanger for the next month. What do you think?”

“Security and discipline Protocols do not allow gambling when on-duty or the exchange of tasks between sailors.”

“Isn’t that what I told you to leave out of this before!? What, are you scared?”

“Hm! You won’t get me with those tricks Ms. Isidolde. We are putting our honor on the line, there’s no need for such small additions. Besides, I know the duty of cleaning the 11th hanger has already been given to you by the Commander.”

“Tch! I suppose you’re not as dumb as you seem. Okay, you’re on!”

Icari then quickly cut the transmission. Her search for a little quiet was however interrupted by a sudden message from the Sunrider

“Sunrider to all units. I repeat, Sunrider to all units. We’re going to cross into the enemy’s effective laser range in 100 seconds. While their formation is still in disarray, we expect heavy fire, so it’s imperative to maintain your formation and not stop. If for some reason this was impossible, your main priority would be to quickly search for shield covering. As said in the briefing, we will maintain current acceleration until after 200 seconds of crossing effective laser range, after which we will slow to combat speeds and engage in close quarter combats with kinetic weapons.”

The words were effective, and she quickly felt all her muscles stiffen as tension raised within her body. A head-on charge against a wall of laser weapons. She knew that with the shields on the Liberty and the Bianca and her natural speed she should be fine, but it would be lying to say she wasn’t nervous. What they were doing was the opposite of everything she had learned during her whole life as a merc. Never go head on against lasers.

It was true, now they had shields. But still, no matter how you heard it, the idea of simply charging against the heaviest and biggest ships the enemy had had would always sound suicidal. She and everyone in her side knew it; that the only chance they had was in close combat, where the slow and heavy kinetic guns of the battleships, thought to fight against similarly slow and heavy targets, wouldn’t be able to keep up with their speed while their own guns created perfectly round holes in their enemies’ hulls. That with their support units, even if their normal cruisers didn’t have a shield, they could get as near to the saturation point (100% of shielding) as possible and thus should be mostly unaffected by the enemy laser barrage. That without enemy Cruisers or Ryders interfering they could mostly focus on the battleships, destroying or disabling them before they could launch their devastating missile barrages. And that even when launching their missiles and rockets, the lack of missile frigates and Bombers would make their salvos a lot less threatening.

But still, even after all her bravado and boasting about being “unfazed”, Icari Isidolde was nervous. Until now, even with the Sunrider, they had always fought on the defensive, or made a quick attack to escape even faster. She had never charged like this. And she wasn’t alone this time. She was fighting with the weirdest and most insane bunch of schoolboys in the whole galaxy, but it was her bunch of schoolboys! What if, due to being unused to such attacks, she messed up? What if it ended with that crazy Asaga finally biting off more than she could chew? What if, trying to repair her, it ended with that naive Chigara getting exposed to enemy fire? What if-

“Grr…”

Icari grinded her teeth and gripped her controls with all her strength. ‘Stupid! Now it isn’t the time to get nervous!’. But of course it was a lot easier said than done. Her tension now threatened to immobilize her, while her own mind was filled to the brim with nervousness. She could only see as the counter, displaying the seconds remaining to reach laser range slowly decreasing, until it passed the 40 seconds mark. Then-

“All ships, this is Captain Shields speaking."

A voice, coming from her main console.

“The enemy is at your gate. The Alliance now fights a war for its very survival. No, the whole galaxy fights a battle for its very survival, for the survival of our ideas of free will and liberty against this red onslaught of madness and paranoia."

Kayto Shields’ voice resounded in the Phoenix cockpit. It was a general transmission to all the units of the fleet, just like the one before.

"The task before us is great. We stand guard of billions of innocent lives beyond Far Port. And yet the enemy outnumbers, outguns, and outpowers us one to six. But we can’t retreat: I have seen with my own eyes what PACT does to civilians and prisoners. For those who we left behind, steel yourself for the coming fire, for nothing will survive! Cera City was razed seconds after its surrender! Ryuvia itself was devastated and occupied just after Arcadius promised them peace. There’s no “after” if we are defeated. Yet, in the face of such odds, we will not scatter, but instead charge forward to meet the enemy head on!"

The resolution in the voice was clear. However Icari had heard that voice a hundred times before, and because of that, she knew it. That voice, while resolute, was also shaking a lot more than usual.

"The enemy may have strength in numbers, but their numbers are meaningless when we outnumber them one hundred to one in mettle! For, as I said, we fight not only for our own survival, but for the survival of our worlds! Forget regrets, thoughts or wishes, for none of that will make any sense if we are defeated! There will be no thoughts, no will, not a home, nothing left if they overtake us. That’s why! Put all your thoughts and will on the battle, let your cannons be your arms, your computer your head, and your engines your legs! Fight at your 100%, and don’t think of anything else! Fight, destroy your enemy and win, that must be your only thought and desire!”

But, despite being nervous, that voice didn’t stop.

"A hundred years ago, a fleet with even lower numbers against an even more formidable foe managed to change the fate of the galaxy. That was the birth of the Solar Alliance, a birth based on the fight of a few to preserve and assure the free will of the galaxy. A hundred years later, we have a similar foe. The Sunrider hasn’t stopped fighting at the 100, no 110% against such enemies. We showed the entire galaxy that PACT could be defeated, that we could steal Arcadius’ bride in front of his very eyes and his very fleets. However, what has the Alliance showed until now?! Will the Alliance let her name be erased in the memory of the galaxy? Will the Alliance not repeat the same fight that a hundred years ago, not repeat what us Cerans have been doing until now?!”

Almost a hundred voices seemed to suddenly resound in that transmission, despite the fact that such a thing (answering such a transmission directed to every unit) should have been forbidden. Icari, though, couldn’t blame them.

“OF COURSE NOT! For the defense of the inner worlds, we will march forward! Let the crimson fleet learn today the might of the free men of the Alliance!"

Her own tension had been converted into adrenaline. Her mind was now void, almost as if her nervousness and thoughts had cancelled each other. Yet her hands itched at her controls, and her gaze was now focused only on the enemy frontline

    "All units... FULL FORWARD!!"

The Captain, perhaps shrewdly, perhaps unwittingly, had started her speech shortly before crossing the laser effective range, and continued during the 200 seconds after it. While such a thing would be the death of any orthodox staff or commanding officer (she would have paid to see the Commander’s face at that instant), it had effectively prevented their formation from scattering, prevented the crews panicking against the laser attack. Focusing on the captain’s speech had let them cross those supposedly eternal 200 seconds in barely a flash, ready and motivated for the real fight. It had distracted them from their losses, small but present and visible on the map.

“Really, for having needed the help of such a schoolboy, how low have I fallen?”

As she muttered, she also surveilled the battlefield. As expected, their own Ryder force had been barely affected by the attack. While a pair of lasers had hit the Sunrider, the combined shield of the Bianca and Liberty had made the damage negligible, especially as she saw the latter’s repair drones act on it.

The enemy in front on them was not as negligible though. Recognizing the Sunrider as the warship with highest tonnage in the entire Alliance fleet (seriously, the Alliance reserve fleets had precisely to be the ones without the top-of-the-line Machiavelli class Battleships the Solarians liked to brag about so much?!), the captain had of course taken the sector with the highest enemy presence in it. 4 Battleships and 2 Carriers, 30% of the PACT fleets capital ships. Behind them, the flagship of that fat Veniczar awaited, without doing nothing, like a pig waiting to be slaughtered (seriously, a Battleship behind carriers!! She knew he was a coward, but this was too much). Of course, of the roughly 40 Alliance Cruisers (or Battlecruisers, as that spy liked to call them) they had only 2 accompanying them acting as the Sunrider escorts.

It was almost suicidal, and that came from a pilot having just endured 200 seconds of them simply receiving the most powerful lasers the PACT fleet had to offer.

“So, business as usual?”

The Phoenix thrusters flared, its swords unfolded and guns ready: Icari Isidolde launched into battle.


Part 2

“Attention, the exact composition of enemy is of only 3 Standard PACT Ryders and 3 Bombers anti-ship units besides the main objective of 4 PACT Battleships and 2 PACT Carriers. While they managed to reorganize successfully, our quick advance into close combat ignoring a laser skirmish has successfully given us the initiative; sensors indicate that the enemy is readying their missiles and rocket barrages, but is not yet ready to unleash them, and that PACT Carriers still haven’t launched a very sizable portion of their Ryders. This enters within the acceptable parameters of our previous simulations. As such, we’ll proceed as explained in our briefing: we shall take this brief window to try to bring down the highest number of them we can, and cause as much chaos as possible.”

For a brief second, Icari’s mind returned to the briefing just before the battle. They had fought PACT Battleships before, and the strongest weapon they had was their thermonuclear rocket, a devastating projectile sturdier than normal missiles to boot. The safest way to fight them would be to create a very compact formation, and to focus their flak on them.

However, this battle had never been about being safe. Doing that would mean that the Sunrider and its escort Cruisers would very likely survive, but it’s Ryders, a lot smaller and fragile, could be easily caught on the explosion of the thermonuclear weapons that did mange to impact. A Cruiser or Assault Carrier was build to sustain a nuclear weapon or 2, however, for the Ryder and the pilot in it such a thing was not possible, they would die instantly in one hit. Not only that; the battle right now was with the command fleet, but that wasn’t the only enemy they had. It was only a matter of time until the faster frigate fleets or the Cruisers support fleets would reach them.

The only way to avoid both of them simply bombarding their ships with lasers and missiles was to enter in a knife-fight with the ships in front of them. To force the enemy reinforcements to get closer to the fight to avoid friendly fire. And that’s why they had decided to take the risky way.

A white glow covered the Sunrider just before the ship abruptly disappeared, a clear sign of the Assault Carrier executing a short range warp. Meanwhile, she herself accelerated more, carefully maintaining a spinning motion to avoid any lucky hit by PACT. She didn’t know exactly every step of the plan (“You don’t have enough clearance” was what that rules freak had said). However, Icari was perfectly aware of what her mission was: Go towards them, and wreck the shit out of every PACT Ryder she found. It was preferred if they had missiles or rockets, but she wasn’t picky.

Heat spikes in her sensors showed that the Alliance Cruisers and that turtle-Ryder had started shooting. An enemy Bomber simply disappeared off the map, work of their sniping princess. Meanwhile, she had found her own prey, a Bomber that lingered way too close to them.

She activated her left thrusters, slightly moving her sword to maintain her stability. The Bomber panicked when it saw her approach, while a PACT mook nearby tried to cover him. A short burst flashed.  Upon seeing that, she cut her rear thrusters, sending the Ryder in a brief loop that she quickly aborted. Rotating her Ryder to maintain the direction, she weaved through most of the shots, only a few impacting on her Phoenix.

“Tch.”

She didn’t like the idea of those dirty cheap bullets scratching her Ryder, but the damage was negligible, and she was finally near enough the Bomber that the mook wouldn’t be able to shoot without risking hitting his partner.

Seeing her coming straight at him, the Bomber, all on its own, tried to start its missile launching system, when the Phoenix suddenly changed direction, leaving the red machine frozen on the spot.

‘Green.’

The Phoenix quickly spun around the enemy Ryder, at a speed that the Bomber couldn’t keep up with even if it hadn’t stayed still on the spot. Its missile armaments were on its front, and they needed time to be aimed. Something it didn’t have.

She smirked. While lighter Ryders like hers should never attack from the front, the mistake of the enemy spared her from the typical merry-go-round around the opponent, trying to find their back. Reaching the Bomber’s rear, the Phoenix dived upon its prey with both swords ready.

It was sometimes easy to mistake the reason the Phoenix carried two swords as a simple “two attacks is better than one”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ancient swordsmanship styles spoke of a technique called iai. In its supreme form it should be an unseen slash, one that before the enemy could react had already returned the sword to its scabbard. That however was but an incidental result of its true essence. Iai was one attack with two strikes. If the first one hit, then the second swing would clean the blood from the sword, returning it to its pristine state and scabbard. But in true fights, it was never as simple as one slash. Thus, whenever the opponent required it, iai changed its form to a dual assault: the first slash broke the enemy stance, while the second drew blood. An attack that hid two slashes.

A Ryder could never reach the response of a human body, that’s why she needed two swords. But the core was the same, a unique attack with two slashes.

The Phoenix violently collided with the Bomber. Her right sword cut deeply into the Ryder’s shoulders while both of them shook due to the collision. That was the first strike, an attack with all of her strength and momentum that broke the enemy’s stance.

A laser sword would cut right through the Ryder, minimizing the collision and letting both machines take distance from the bout. Her kinetic sword however would entangle both of them, losing their stability and momentum in what should be a giant mess. Even with the Ryder’s auto-stabilization measures, it was something impossible to quickly recover from.

That was when the second strike came in. With both riders joined by her first sword, the Phoenix would quickly maneuver thrusting the second sword where the enemy armour was the weakest. Like the returning strike that spilled the enemy blood after breaking the stance.

It was an insane technique that required the pilot both to recover control of her Ryder just after the collision and to quickly scan the enemy in those seconds to find its weak spot. Just like iai, the first strike was the one with the most strength, the one that aimed to either defeat the enemy or destroy their guard. But it was the second strike the one that was the core of the attack.

One attack, two slashes. 

Striking precisely at the ventilation hatch above its knee, the sword gutted the Bomber with barely any effort. Using that same motion to both free her first sword from the enemy’s shoulder and slip away from the red Ryder, she quickly took distance. Barely two seconds after that the Bomber exploded, its entire body filled with munitions of some kind.

In truth, recovering control after the collision was impossible. It depended on too many factors to even be simulated properly. But that was when human mind entered the equation. There was no need to really recover full control, but only to ride through it. There was no need to really scan the entire enemy in a second, only to find its weak spot. In the end, it really came to pilot instinct and experience. Not to stop to think, but to act quickly and effectively. Others said it was mostly due to luck, but Icari scoffed at them. She had been fighting like this for a looong of time, and while she had crashed many Ryders, she had done this way too many times to be alive only due to dumb luck.

As she quickly escaped from the blast, two huge heat spikes appeared on her sensors, after which the image of 2 gigantic explosions tinted her screen. It was on the level of shaking the entire battlefield. Before she could dwell on it however, a smaller but much nearer spike forced her to quickly spin out of the way.

“Tche! I had just recovered my stability!”

It was the same damm mook of before. After dodging that burst Icari took a breath and calmed her mind. The PACT Ryder hadn’t moved from its position of before, afraid that he would share the fate of his comrade where he to get closer. That however put her in a very advantageous position. She quickly spun her Phoenix towards the mook, carefully, without speeding up.

The red machine had cheap, badly maintained guns, and a pilot with poor aim. Its thrusters had barely half the power of those in the Phoenix, and despite sharing the total lack of armour, her Phoenix was build with high-performance light materials, instead of the standard PACT steel of the red Ryder.

“What are you, near-sighted?”

She simply slipped away from its aim. The enemy mook shot some short bursts (all missing) cautiously, probably expecting her to speed up at some point and launch upon him like she did with the Bomber.

There was no need to do that. After dodging one of the bursts, she simply aimed her arms at the enemy Ryder. When it tried to start evading it was too late. Far too late.

Her computer automatically compensated the heat and flashes caused by her kinetic assault weapons to avoid cluttering her sensors, so the only proof she had of them firing was seeing their bullets tear up the enemy mook, until one of them managed to hit the fuel tank.

*BOOM*

The explosion that followed was plenty satisfying.

Allowing herself to release another breath, Icari looked for nearby enemies. While there were some other mook nearby, they were too far to aim her assault weapons at them (or for them to hit her with them). While their laser weapons would be worrying, there really was nothing she could for now except keep mobile, she was way outside the Liberty’s or Bianca shield range. For now the best would be to communicate with everyone and see if someone needed help.

Of course, there was no way she would ask them directly about it (It’s not like she was worried about them!). So she took the indirect way. She opened a line with that spy of the Alliance.

“Hey, soldier-boy. How are you with your lovely turtle? I have already taken down 2 enemies, have you even reached the frontline?”

“Oh, it’s you. Funny you ask about that precisely! One of my salvos has just opened a hole in the hull of one of the enemy Battleships! Right now the Maiden’s Grace has probably just taken the chance and-“

A big heat spike, with its corresponding explosion just after, ensued, almost as if punctuating the Lieutenant’s words.

“-finished it! Do you see it, the might of the Solar Alliance?!”

“So you have sunk not even one ship by yourself. I wonder if you’re the last or if the others are just as slow…?”

“A PACT Battleship is a ship with a length of 1km, it has more tonnage that all the Ryders you have sunk in your entire career put together! Helping bringing one down is already a big achievement!”

“… I made a question…”

“Fueh?! A-about the others…? Why should you ask that? Well, we have confirmation that we have sunk a Battleship and a Carrier besides this one right now, and that there are neither casualties nor important damage in any nearby units, but if you ask specifically, then I don’t know…?”

Her question already answered, Icari couldn’t help but curl her mouth into a small smile.

“Well, whatever, it’s not like I really expected anything from a spy like you.”

“Hm! as expected from a mercenary, to only know how to be rude…”

Their banter was however interrupted by a sudden communication.

“Attention all units! The enemy battleships and Bombers have finished their preparations and will immediately launch a rocket barrage! All units take immediate evasive actions!!”

Her transmission was immediately cut; both knew what had to be done. As she started a combination of a back flip and a loop, she focused on the enemy battleships.

They looked really panicked and in chaos only from their motions. The sudden loss of half their squad and the presence of the Sunrider on their rear were probably driving them to hysteria. She saw one of the small hatches in the nearest Battleship open and-

*BIP*

‘FUCK! What the hell!!’

*BIP*

An alarm resounded inside the Phoenix. The Battleship had launched its thermo-nuclear rocket aiming at the Phoenix. A 1km long Battleship had launched a weapon of Mass destruction towards an 18 meters machine…

Icari didn’t know where to cry or laugh. She didn’t have time for any of them. In 8 seconds her Ryder and she would disappear from the galaxy. The battleship had been too confused to properly find their targets, so instead they had seemingly aimed to a lone element. A safe decision. One that wouldn’t change the battle, but it was better than wasting their rocket against flak or having been blown apart before firing it.

8 seconds

Dodging was impossible. If she managed to avoid triggering its proximity fuse, the weapon would be remotely detonated from the Battleship. She would need a distance of at least 50, no, 100 meters to survive. Aiming her flak at it was silly; she would need at least 10 accurate and solid hits to destroy it, and her assault weapons (arms) weren’t even in position. It was impossible

7 seconds

Wait. Icari’s mind went on overdrive, as time slowed to a crawl. She knew the proximity fuse of PACT’s thermonuclear rockets had a radius of only 10 meters. They were thought to be launched against similarly gigantic battleships after all and they wanted to avoid misfire with space debris. It was believed that in the worst case, it could always be detonated remotely. And PACT didn’t have money to spend on reliable proximity fuses.

6.9 seconds

She also knew that, aiming for an explosion at a safe distance and to get the maximum number of stragglers as possible, they wouldn’t detonate the weapon until she passed alongside of it, maybe even some milliseconds after it. If she managed to destroy the rocket before detonation, both nuclear fission and fusion reactions would be stopped before even starting, which would mean she would barely feel the shockwave even at point-blank range. The proximity fuse was 10 meters. Her sword measured 14 meters.

An insane idea, the third of that day, had come to her.

6.8 seconds

However, if she had a chance, she would take it. She had not reached that far, finally found a place where she was welcomed, only to throw it away because she was unable to do the insane for the third time today!

She ordered her body to move.

6.3

The Phoenix engines were pushed to the limit, all of its thrusters flared to live. Her trajectory would be straight line, every other danger be dammed.

5.8

She positioned her left sword perfectly horizontal to her Ryder. The movements however required her to monetarily turn off some of her thrusters, as well as the use of her right arm (and sword) in a way as to avoid disturbing her trajectory.  Fortunately, it seems like that perverted nurse had managed to interfere with their aiming software, and the rocket was slightly off to her left. There was no need for more corrections. Only to let the tip of her sword shred everything.

1.2

Her computer finally corrected the estimated time of collision to take into account the fact that she WAS RUNNING STRAIGHT TOWARDS IT!

0.7

Now. There was no time to think. Only action

0.2

Her sword. Her Phoenix. Herself. It was one and the same.

0

*PING*

In space, transmission of sound waves was impossible. Yet she could hear, nay, feel may be more correct, the impact of her sword with the rocket. Just after, a small shockwave rocked her Ryder, sending the Phoenix in an uncontrolled spin.

Yet she didn’t care

“FUUUUUUCK YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH”

She had done it. She had slashed in half a goddammed thermonuclear rocket. Fuck, not only had nobody before ever pulled off something like that, but even the idea of trying would have been laughed as the most insane thing in the galaxy.

And she had done it.

“EAT THAT YOU RED BASTARDS! What, surprised that I goddamed slashed your nuclear warhead in two?!! Well then, you better have enjoyed that, because you’ll soon be nothing but space debris, even if I have to be the one to fucking do it!!”

With adrenaline surging in her entire body, she quickly stabilized the yellow machine. However, a sinking feeling froze her mood just as quickly as it had soared before.

The goddamed battleship not only hadn’t stopped, it was fucking moving towards her. The red mass of metal, at least 2.000 times bigger and heavier than her, was advancing towards her. Why was it so much dammed obsessed with a light anti-Ryder unit?!!

“Phoenix here… I may be in a little bit of a pinch”

She finally let out her voice.  The transmission was directed to all nearby units.

“What, Icari, did you finally stoop to ask for the help of the Hero of Justice? Hm, but don’t worry I- WHOA!”

An annoyingly cheerful voice answered her (and she wasn’t asking for help! Only informing she was in a bit of a rough spot and thus couldn’t help even if they asked! N-not like she would have helped them anyway…). Immediately, an image was presented on her holo

“A PACT Battleship entirely for ourselves…  Well no worries, the cavalry has arrived. I’m gonna fire mah lazor-“

After the red-haired “Hero(ine) of justice”, a meek looking girl in a blue suit appeared

“Waaait Asaga~~ The enemy shield is too strong, you won’t do anything, and their flak and armour is also too thick, so your missiles won’t work either!”

“Chigara, are you there?! Then couldn’t you disable the enemy battleship?”

A flicker of hope lit up in her heart

“Uhhhhhhhh… Sorry, but Asaga received quite a beating so my repair drones are working on it and I can’t do anything else. I’m very sorry!!”

“Tch! So not even that”

Almost as if to hammer on that, another image appeared on her console, that of another white-haired beautiful woman. Her normally expressionless face was tinged with a bit of dejection, letting her know what she would say even before she started speaking.

“My apologies, but the Seraphim is still reloading. I won’t be able to cover anyone for at least 45 seconds.”

A pink-haired woman also appeared in her monitor

“uhhh~~~ Maybe I should try to hit it with my shotgun…?”

“You wouldn’t hit even if it was at your side! Your tampering with their aiming programs is still effective right? Then I’ll just have to do it by myself, it’s not like any of you can be of any use right now…”

“uhhhh~~~, so mean…”

The situation was bad. As the red warship neared, her Ryder quickly recovered its speed and went into a series of loops, spins and countless maneuvers. The battleship AAA had started to flash, and while it should still be fairly inaccurate, it was better to be safe than sorry. Of course, she always had the possibility of retreat, but that would be even worse.

In the briefing they never said it, but a look at the plan would tell it clearer than anything. She was bait. The Sunrider would warp deep in the enemy lines, launch a devastating attack and cause chaos in their rearguard. Meanwhile their units would pound the front, while her Phoenix devastated the entire enemy Ryder detachment by herself. The Sunrider would cause the chaos on the rear, while she would cause the chaos on the front.

The plan was only to bait the enemy Ryders, and maybe force a battleship or two to support them to avoid their utter extermination. It had perhaps worked too well. However, if she retreated, the whole enemy detachment might focus on the Sunrider on their rear. There was no way the Assault Carrier could win against 2 Battleships and a carrier whole Ryder wing by herself. She at least had to somehow distract it.

So, if they wanted to win, she had to somehow avoid that Battleship while not running away too much so that they would focus entirely on the Sunrider. Luckily, every second it went towards her it was a second away from the Sunrider. Unluckily, it made harder to avoid its flak.

Maybe with 30, no 45 seconds of enduring it would be enough?

“HAHAHAHA. Don’t worry; the Alliance is here to help!”

A boisterous voice together with an already known figure joined the previous ones.

“The Alliance Cruisers are maintaining the line, so I’m free to help you mercenary. Better be grateful!!”

“It had to be you; I swear to God that I’ll… Ugh! I will be already nothing but dust by the time you reach here!! “

Did that damm spy even have a concept of timing?!

While all that banter was still going on, she was weaving through the enemy flak. It had started to get more accurate and dangerous.  Just when she dammed that alliance-girl and her turtle of a Ryder-

*BANG*

The Phoenix shook. It had been a single shot that had reached her, but it had been powerful. The assault guns on those battleships were miles ahead of the ones in mook or Cruisers. And it had only been a warning of what was to come.

“Shit!”

She had seen it! The laser banks on the Battleship starting to unfold, probably heating up and readying to fire. While the flak was easy, those lasers were a lot more dangerous, and she didn’t have confidence on being able to endure even one shot. Starting another spin while diving towards the right, the Phoenix avoided any more flak, but Icari knew it only was a matter of time. Dammit, only 20- no 15 seconds more…

“Icari, quickly speed up with bearing 12:2:5!!”

A voice, this time not accompanied by an image, reached her ears. A male voice she knew.

“Captain?! What the-“

“Icari, just move, you’ll realize it soon. Trust me!”

‘It’s not like I trust you…’ But before she had even finished that mutter her Ryder was already moving in the exact bearing the captain had told her. Well, if Kayto was stupid and wanted them to fail they would all die anyway, so banking all on him was probably the right option (but still, why had her body reacted so quickly to the orders of that schoolboy! It’s not l-like she l-l-liked or respected him!)

Her thruster flared up, and she was far from the battleships in barely seconds, somehow managing to avoid a laser shot aimed just where she was before speeding away. She focused her sensors on the battleship, wondering what it would do now.

It was on time to see her whole screen tinted white, blinding her for an instant. An enormous heat spike crossed the battlefield, surging and consuming the battleship before her eyes, and another one at the rear. It was the unmistakable signal of an enormous plasma cannon, one that she had seen other times.

“The Vanguard Cannon…”

 The first battleship it had impacted on had immediately exploded in bright red flash that was however minuscule compared to the same Vanguard Cannon. It seemed like that ship had been focusing on the Sunrider, and the damage it had sustained from that fight had already token its toll on it, allowing the plasma cannon to cut it apart like paper.

The second battleship (the one that seemingly was her nemesis) was still afloat, but not exactly well. Its armour was scorched, almost all of its flak destroyed and its laser banks, unfolded trying to shoot her, completely obliterated. While it was still alive, the ship was frozen in shock, probably still trying to compute what had just happened and trying to get a hold of its damage.

“HEREEEE I GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

A shout echoed through the battlefield, as four slugs at super-high speeds slammed into the already battered Battleship, opening a hole in its hull but not quite finishing it.

“Late! You’re way too late, dumbass alliance freak girl!! Do you even have a sense of timing or does your stupid Solarian bureaucracy forbid even that?!!”

“Uhmm! I’ve arrived and the enemy is still there, what more is there to matter?””

“You’re supposed to worry about rescuing your allies, aren’t half the Alliance war holomovies about that!?”

“Everybody knows the Alliance military doesn’t have anything to do with how it’s represented in the holo! For one, our ships aren’t mixed!”

“The point wasn’t that! Haaaaa…”

Exhaling, Icari thought it was time to finally end this. Luckily the holes that soldier-boy had just opened presented a perfect opportunity. Reversing the course she had taken, she accelerated straight towards the almost-dead battleship.

‘The holes are big enough to actually fit the Phoenix there… nah, it would be too much trouble.’

While the idea of entering inside the ship and just start slashing was tempting, it just would take way too much time. So she just aimed her guns at the breaches on the hull. The Battleship seemed to stir, realizing its fatal weakness. But it was too slow, and with both lasers and flak destroyed it had no chance to counterattack.

She pulled the trigger.

Her bullets went inside the ship, ricocheting on every wall and damaging all of its innards. Until one lucky bullet entered on the missile storage, still half-full. The explosion triggered not only consumed a third of the vessel, but caused further secondary explosions that enveloped the entire ship, destroying any possibility of its survival. Yep, explosions like that were plenty satisfying.

“… Sooo, what were you saying about PACT Battleships and big achievements, soldier boy?”

“That still only counts as one!”


Part 3

*BANG*

Another mook torn apart

“There’s no end to them?!”

The battle had started roughly 3 hours ago. After destroying the battleship squad it had become fairly mundane, well that’s if tearing holes and cutting in half every PACT Ryder you found was your idea of “mundane”. As predicted, the enemy frigate fleets had been the first to reach them. Finding them in a full melee with the command fleet, the missile frigates had to get closer to avoid friendly fire in that chaos.

‘It was a shame for them that we didn’t. ‘

With almost 70% of their battleships annihilated, PACT’s command fleet was almost in a rout, with only the rear lead by their flagship maintaining some kind of order. By the time the missile frigates reached effective laser range, most of the enemy resistance on the front had disappeared, which meant their vessels could focus almost exclusively on the flanking force. The Alliance Cruisers meanwhile, due to the immediate approach to kinetic range they had taken, had more than 70% of their missiles reserve still left, and all of their lasers charged and ready. On one side you had a fleet of cruisers mixed with what was left of the command fleet with both lasers and missiles ready and plenty of either willing or unwilling cover. On the other you had a flanking force of frigates without any kind of shield or flak, and that had taken a clean path on the open without any support.

It was a good reminder of why the idea of charging against a wall of lasers and missiles had been so insane in the first place. Without shields or flak, it had practically been a turkey shot (and no, she wasn’t mad because that dammed soldier-boy had taken two kills in such a way while she couldn’t do anything!). The Paladin and BlackJack had even returned to the Sunrider to restock missiles.

Still, even then the battle still wasn’t over. The time they had spent shooting frigates had been enough for the vanguard of the PACT Heavy Cruisers to arrive, hurrying up to shield the flagship of that pig. The rest of the Cruisers would reach weapons range in barely minutes.

And their losses were piling up. It didn’t matter if they had managed to take a battleship for each cruiser they lost, or that the whole total of Alliance Cruisers sunk in the missile frigate attack could be counted with the fingers of one hand, if after all of that they still had to fight 2 fleets of cruisers that already outnumbered them 2 to 1 even before the start of the battle. The vanguard had come just in time to delay their attack on the flagship, and while the Sunrider and everyone had broken through it, it seems the leftovers of everything PACT had thrown at them had managed to regroup around Cullen, together with the slowly but steadily arriving cruisers fleets.

This was the last step. Once they finally got the Veniczar, the plan was to get the fuck out of here and wait for the Alliance reinforcements. Well, that was until they had detected some outliers, which was what lead to her current predicament. 2 Carriers had managed to slip from the massive furball that was the main fight. Each Carrier also served as a transport for ground troops and had enough officers, manwork and space to serve as supply center or HQ for any kind of invasion force. Not only that, while the Legion still remained the chain of command of PACT would never be truly broken. With both chain of command and supply centers the fight to stop the invasion would be meaningless if even one carrier survived. So eliminating those 2 vessels was their priority.

However, as said before, the fight around the enemy flagship was extremely fierce, and the losses had piled up to the point they couldn’t afford to send even a single Cruiser squad. Not only that, with the carriers having slipped out of the main fight, any vessel also escaping out of the furball to target them would be instantly assaulted by a storm of lasers by the Cruiser fleets (trying the same or using missiles on the carriers would be impossible though, due to very thick flak, armour and energy shields, and Chigara was too busy repairing ships to try anything).

So they sent what they could. Which were two Ryders. It somehow made sense; the Phoenix was there to clear all Ryders while the Paladin would aim for the Carriers themselves. Well at least until you realized you were sending 2 pitifully small 18 meters units against two vessels larger than 1 km each equipped with at least 100 of those 18m units.

Really, was that because of the rocket thing?! Do a miracle once and after it everyone wants you to pull one after the other…

*SCREECH*

She pulled apart after finishing the Bomber. Still, it had been going well until now. Their small figures had meant the cruisers hadn’t targeted them, and the unloading speed of Carriers was slow enough she had no problem cleaning the Ryders before there were enough to overwhelm them. And even that soldier-boy had actually helped while reloading her main cannons, and even finished one with her assault weapons!

The first Carrier had gone smoothly enough, and now they were nearing the second. While lengthy, the process wasn’t necessarily difficult, and at this point Icari was worried more by her remaining fuel and ammunition than by the fight, that merely annoyed her.

“Geez, they don’t really give up.”

“Uhm, however that won’t stop us! My cannons will be ready in seconds!”

“Well, then let’s finish this quickly. The Sunrider seems like it needs our help finishing that fat pig”

“Do not worry about the Sunrider, its escorts are the best ships of the Fleet! The Maiden’s Grace is even the rear admiral flagship!”

“I-I-I’m not worried about them. It’s just that-“

Red.

A red beam streaked through the space. Wide. Powerful. It was even brighter and stronger than the vanguard Cannon. Following the beam a series of explosions just appeared whenever it touched anything, be it PACT or Alliance. Despite being further than any other ship, an enormously huge heat spike, unlike any other, signaled the point of origin of that terrible beam.

“The Legion…”

“So that’s Veniczar Arcadius, no, PACT’s flagship…”

She could hear the alliance-girl gulp. For once, she couldn’t blame her. Almost all the battlefield had just frozen, as if awed by the magnificent might showed by that ray. If the Legion had entered the fight, then everything changed. Mainly the possibility of total annihilation becoming the most likely end

“Shit! We don’t have time, do something and kill this carrier right now! I’ll clean every damm Ryder personally so just focus on the carrier!”

“Y-yes. However, our fleet is changing position to put the PACT Cruisers between them and the Legion. The risk of friendly fire should be too high for them to fire, sure-“

“Hell no! Arcadius is insane. If to kill us he has to personally destroy every ship of his own fleet then he would do it without thinking! Our only solution is to kill that damm Carrier, slaughter that damm pig, and get the fuck out of here!”

“Tch! Then, I’ll show you the determination of a free woman of the Alliance. Clear any Ryder, because I’ll pound this carrier to oblivion!”

“No need to say it!”

She accelerated, forgetting her concerns about fuel. Only 2 mooks were between the Carrier and the Paladin. For the first she simply charged, spinning around in a spiral while still advancing towards it. Some damage piled on her Phoenix, as some of the shots were lucky.

Feinting towards the mook on the left, she suddenly cut of her rear thrusters and activated her forward ones, jerking her Ryder and moving backwards, only to turn on her left ones, use them to spin and subsequently cut off the front ones and turn on both her rear and right thrusters. All in the space of a single second, and adjusting the output to produce a smooth spiral dive towards the mook on the right, while the two machines could only ask themselves what had happened.

Without having the time to react, the red Ryder just shot in a panic, only a very lucky hit managing to rattle the Phoenix. It didn’t matter though, as the sword gutted him without an afterthought. This however started the tricky part. The mooks were weak enough that there was no need of a second hit to finish them, but Icari still thrust the first sword deep into the Ryder, making it impossible to retract it in an instant. Using the sword as leverage she raised the Phoenix’s arm. However, instead of a second swing, that arm had its sword folded, and an assault gun aiming towards the other mook. Frozen seeing the demise of her fellow pilot, the PACT mook didn’t even realize it when the shots started to tore through the paper-thin armour of his Ryder, sending him to a fiery death.

Using the brief time of her second strike to kill another target with her guns instead of using her sword was another insanely hard technique that she prided herself in. With this, the path should be clean.

“THE PALADIN IS CHARGING THROUGH!!”

As the scream tore through her ears (seriously, couldn’t that alliance-girl cut off the transmission if she was going to shout like that?!”) she saw the Paladin accelerating the meager amount it could, directly towards the Carrier. Without stopping.

“What the-“

*BUMP*

The Paladin crossed the flak storm with only small scratches, all the bullets being unable to bypass its mighty armour, and landed on the exterior of the carrier, still without stopping. Countless sparks appeared, signaling the path of the green machine on the surface the Carrier, letting the friction stop the Ryder instead of its engines, destroying more than one small AAA turret in her path with her frame and painting its feet red with the heat. Finally screeching to a halt, the Paladin halted just before the small central tower of the PACT Carrier.

*BANG*

Before she could even think about what that crazy soldier had planned, the guns on the Paladin fired, sending 4 slugs exactly through the carrier and opening 4 round holes on it. And at that moment-

“Freedom or Death!!”

*CLING*

A number of hatches opened on the Paladin revealing her remaining salvo of anti-ship missiles she carried. Without a pause they immediately launched, aimed towards those 4 round holes the cannons had just made. With a portion of the flak turrets being unable to fire due to angle, another portion destroyed by the Paladin in its path and the last simply being unable to distinguish between the missiles heat signals, the Paladins heated cannons or even the own Carrier’s heat due to the attack and landing before, the projectiles just entered into it without being intercepted. 5 huge anti-ship missiles had just bypassed the main armoured belt of a carrier and reached their insides.

*BOOM*

The explosion that followed was expected, but that didn’t make it less spectacular

As dozens of shockwaves rocked the ship, she saw a lone mook (probably just exiting the carrier) aiming towards her partner. As she dived and used her guns to take it apart (she caught it from the back, it wasn’t even a fight) however, she realized the Paladin seemed oddly still.

“Kryska, why aren’t you moving? The Carrier’s going to explode, you know?!”

“Well, my stunt seems to have made me lose 60% of my engine power, probably overheated both due to the friction and firing both my cannons and missiles…”

“What! Reach out your hand!”

“My hand? Ms. Isidolde what-“

“The Paladin’s hand!”

“Oh! But why-?”

“Just. Do. It!”

As the girl obeyed her, the Phoenix swooped down taking the Paladin’s “hand” and pushing its engines to the maximum to take them both out of there.

“W-wait, if you wanted to do that you should told me! I’ve just deactivated my magnetic boots, it should be easier now”

“Magnetic boots huh? So that’s why you could attach to the ship”

“Yes, without them I would have bounced of it with my speed. Specialized Alliance gear, it can solidly attach to any vessel no matter the weight or force applied!”

A bigger than normal explosion told them that the Carrier barely had seconds of life, and they should get away from it if they didn’t want to figure if the tons of ammunition it carried was enough to create an explosion capable of destroying the Paladin’s armour.

“Your Ryder is really like a turret. Don’t tell me the Alliance carries Ryder on their Cruisers or battleships as additional gun turrets…”

“Well, that’s one of its features -“

She jerked the Phoenix (and so the Paladin too) to the right. A laser attack just passed where they were seconds ago. Looking to the right she could see a mook launching on the catapult of the dying carrier, its last contribution to the fight. Luckily, the aim had been poor and thus she could dodge it. But as expected, with the Paladin the weight was too much; she wouldn’t be able to dodge it again.

“Dammit, why does your turtle have to weight so much! It had to be Karium!”

“To be a shield! And, if you have that much pride in your Heratium why don’t you launch your exhaust ports towards that mook?! Maybe seeing it cut a Ryder in pieces would tell you how dammed dangerous it is?!”

“I may be insane but I’m not stupid! And it’s your fault that I cannot aim!”

“Then let ME do it!”

Using its assault weapons, the Paladin shot a burst towards the mook. The later however easily dodged the bullets… only to move precisely to the place where a secondary explosion erupted, incinerating the red machine in an instant.

“Hm, Seven”

“Like hell seven! That wasn’t you; it was an explosion from the Carrier that destroyed it!”

“And I caused that explosion! Since the beginning, as one of the remaining Ryders inside the Carrier it should of course count as my kill. Meaning that I have at least 306!”

“Bullshit! You were the one that said Battleships only counted as one!”

“And here I’m not talking about tonnage, but about enemy units. A Carrier has around 100 Ryders onboard; of course it also has to count them!”

“Yeah, a 100 Ryders that didn’t even start their reactors. Weren’t you the one speaking about honor on the battlefield?”

Just as they finally left the ship (1km was a lot when you started accelerating from 0), a last blast rocked their Ryders, coming from the exploding Carrier. Barely even debris were left: their work was done.

“Well, let’s return at once, I barely have fuel left anyway”

“Agreed. The Sunrider might need our support too”

However, as they started they return towards the Assault Carrier, things started to look grimmer. The cruisers had finally all reached combat range, and if the panicked Alliance transmissions they picked were any signal, they were as tough as they had feared. That wasn’t the only problem though. The enemy had noticed how 2 Carriers slightly apart from the battle had been attacked and destroyed, and a squad of at least 5 cruisers was quickly nearing their position. The only reason they hadn’t attacked yet was probably because they were still searching for the enemy, not believing 2 measly Ryders had been able to destroy the 2 capital ships. But Icari didn’t doubt that, waiting more enemies or not, the Cruisers wouldn’t take the chance of easily destroying 2 enemy machines in their path.

“Damm, think! Maybe we can slip? We are not that far from the Sunrider, if we could evade them for-“

“Let the Paladin go, Ms. Isidolde, it’s not worth it”

“What are you saying?!!”

“With the added weight of the Paladin, we won’t have enough acceleration to slip by those Cruisers. However, if you were to leave with the Phoenix alone you could reach the required speed with no problem”

“And leave you without engines against 5 cruisers?!!”

“My engines are at 40%, not dead! While I’m unable to reach the speeds required to engage in a tactical retreat, my capacity to maneuver has not dropped below acceptable parameters. And the shield of my Paladin stands strong! I have more than enough chances against mere PACT cruisers!”

“Like hell you have! Do you even have enough ammunition to even finish 2 of those things! Stop being stupid and-“

Another sudden heat spike stopped her mid-phrase.

‘Could it be, the Legion again?!’

But, contrary to her thoughts, the origin was from one of her allies, though not the Sunrider. As she tried to understand how the Black Jack had managed to generate whatever that was, she saw a flash of blue light and an explosion in front of the enemy fleet.

“Was that Asaga…? What have she and Chigara done for her machine to even be able of shooting that?!”

“That doesn’t matter! We have confirmed that that explosion was Veniczar B. Cullen’s flagship. All the capital ships of the PACT fleet have been successfully destroyed; we should now proceed to disengage!”

As if on cue, a transmission of the Sunrider reached them:

“All units scatter! The main objective has been accomplished, disengage and try to survive!”

“Did you hear Ms. Isidolde, leave me! If you stubbornly wait for me neither of us will be able to escape!”

Icari’s grip on her controls tightened. She was right, but that didn’t mean she was disposed to simply leave her to die. She was tired of that. She had done it once, on that day. She had abandoned the ship with all the people she loved, leaving them to die. She had enough.

“Like Hell I’ll do it. It may be the first time, but you still launched from our Carrier, and fought together with us. There’s no way I’ll simply let you fight alone against these bastards”

“But the orders-”

“You should know I never cared about the orders. And don’t misunderstand, I don’t plan to die. I’ll attract their attention and dodge their attacks, while you will pound them. Like those Carriers before. Be grateful that I’m giving you those kills.”

“Tsch! Even supposing we destroy them, what will we do after?! Our fleet will have  retreated, while there will still be at least 75 Cruisers ready to obliterate us.”

“Well, the captain will think of something”

“What?!”

“Did you remember what I said? Even if only for one battle you still launched and fought with us. Spy or not that schoolboy won’t leave you nor me to die. Remember he slipped by 4 fleets and Arcadius himself to save one of our crew? A defeated enemy fleet won’t stop him. Nor us.”

“…”

“What? Do your Alliance regulations also limit the number of words you can say per battle?”

“… Nothing. I just didn’t expect that from you”

“W-what? I-I’m here just to kill the maximum number of enemies possible!! A-all that justification was an e-excuse! Yeah! An e-e-excuse to get to kill the maximum number of red bastards possible!!”

“But, you’re right; I’m also not going to give up! I'll down you all!”

"Tsch.... Really, I didn't think that I'd ever end up like this... Fighting some stupid war alongside the likes of you!"

"Wait...! Look!"

A sudden flash illuminated the battlefield. Together with it, her sensors made the characteristic alarm indicating a warp out signal. When she looked again she found a number of Alliance Cruisers that had appeared just besides Far Port. A number that didn’t stop increasing as the vessels started to move towards them.

The Alliance Fleets had finally arrived.

“Such a number of Cruisers…”

“It’s the Emerald Fleet!! Admiral Grey has arrived!”

The reaction was immediate. All PACT units stopped whatever they were doing. It was normal: a sudden fresh fleet had just warped in, and was poised to attack them. They were dispersed, trying to catch an enemy that was starting to retreat, without a proper formation or flak and shield covering. To boot, they had lost all their command ships and the legion was still far off the battlefield. Even the 5 Cruisers that had already caught them stood still, as if frozen on liquid helium.

A laser shot out from the lead Alliance Cruiser. Without even waiting to see if it really hit something, the PACT fleets just started retreating in a disordered mess. She didn’t knew if they planned to regroup (maybe around the Legion), or were definitely retreating from Far port, but, at this point, she didn’t care.

The fight had ended for her and the Phoenix. Now it was time for that gray admiral to show if he was the real deal.

“Well, it seems it’s over. I’ll carry you to the Sunrider. If you have to go alone PACT will have enough time to retreat and try again with another invasion fleet before you reach the Sunrider.”

“I told you I still have 40% of my engine, so I’m not that slow. Still, okay, I accept. Time to return to the nest.”

“…Nest?”

“Uh? Ah, it’s an old name we use in the space force to refer to our personal carriers. You know, like birds returning to their homes?”

“Oh, I get it. Home… Yeah, let’s return to our home.”


And that's it. Home is finally finished. I've got to say, I think I've improved a little in my grammar and English in this second piece, but if you notice some place where I'm visibly worse, please say it! Learning wrongly can only be bad.

Also, as to check if the battle strategy was even possible, I used it with 7.2 and was visibly surprised. Not only it worked perfectly for the first turn, but it even ended with the Phoenix dodging 2 battleships rockets, which was even more than what gave me the idea of this fic. This despite the fact that I had to do it with an old save with only one rocket and some useless (for that play) upgrades.

Well, as always, I'll thank anyone for any type of feedback or commentary. Home is now finished, and while it has leaved me a little out of creative juice, I enjoyed writing it a lot, and hope you can enjoy it in some form too.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2015, 11:27:30 pm by Marx-93 »
Why can only the evil have empires, power and majestic theme music? I reclaim the possibility of creating the Federal-democratic-free Empire! A (democratic) tyranny fueled by the Power of Love!

Started writing. You can check it out here: Home

Offline ShadowX

Re: Sunrider: Home
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2015, 11:29:10 pm »
This is great! The first piece didn't have any errors that were obvious to me as I read it. The second piece had a few sections that were awkward grammatically, but worked. I love this story. It's a bit long, but I would definitely recommend it.
Spoiler
Your love was handmade for somebody like me
Come on now, follow my lead
I may be crazy, don't mind me
Say, boy, let's not talk too much~💕

Offline Drath

Re: Sunrider: Home
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2015, 06:06:40 pm »
Chiming in late but yea pretty fascinating to read your description of the Far Port battle from Icari's point of view, replete with strategies. I read it with gusto and enjoyed it as much as your first piece. :)
I liked the overall tone, the energy of the piece in part 2 and how you described Icari's thought processes. Icari for the win lol. In general I felt the story here complements the original Sunrider storyline very well and neatly fills some gaps, ie why Icari and Kryska's perception of each other changed after Far Port and some backstory on their friendly contest at the beach scene.
Its nice that you discuss the other crew members a little as well besides the commander/ryder pilots. Makes it feel a little more real/authentic.

Some of my favorite parts:
"We have caught those red bastards with their pants down and their panties in a twist."
"My language will be whiter than the face of a lady officer finding a bug in her coffee."
"The captain was a naïve idiot, but he was somewhat competent, and he was certainly kind and honest, n-n-not that she l-liked any of it, of course!!!"

"not Cruisers but Battlecruisers"
Really Kryska? Its only a Battlecruiser if its pilot says "Battlecruiser operational!!" when you click on it xD
Yea I know, I'm sometimes a little too easily amused... >_>

(and she wasn’t asking for help! Only informing she was in a bit of a rough spot and thus couldn’t help even if they asked! N-not like she would have helped them anyway…).

(but still, why had her body reacted so quickly to the orders of that schoolboy! It’s not l-like she l-l-liked or respected him!)

Mental picture of Phoenix "towing" Paladin back to the Sunrider xD


Mailed you via PM, some typos and suggested corrections.

Offline Marx-93

Re: Sunrider: Home
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2015, 11:18:28 pm »
Everyone, thanks a lot for the feedback. Sorry for this (very) late response, but i admit that I wanted to look at the revisions Darth sent me carefully, and well, this week has been bumpy for me. The second piece is edited with your feedback Drath, I took almost all your suggestions, though one or two I kept them as they were (for example, I know sailor sounds weird, but i could swore Kryska specifically refers to them as that once, so i kept it). While my grammar is a little wonky (mainly prepositions), it's a relief that almost half om my mistakes were normal typos. I also put some other 2 or 3 changes (all very small, it's not a worth a re-read, the contents are the same).

If anything, I wanted to ask you what you thought of the action scenes? It was the first time I went full action like that, and I struggled with them, so if you could tell me what you thought it would be great (very bad, bad, normal, not bad, decent, etc).
Why can only the evil have empires, power and majestic theme music? I reclaim the possibility of creating the Federal-democratic-free Empire! A (democratic) tyranny fueled by the Power of Love!

Started writing. You can check it out here: Home

Offline ShadowX

Re: Sunrider: Home
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2015, 11:48:10 pm »
The action scenes are really good. They are actually pretty on par with the ones wooly writes for the novelization, as an example. I couldn't really ask for more in them.
Spoiler
Your love was handmade for somebody like me
Come on now, follow my lead
I may be crazy, don't mind me
Say, boy, let's not talk too much~💕

Offline Drath

Re: Sunrider: Home
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2015, 07:34:01 pm »
I was fine with the action scenes in the second part as well. I don't think it was a big departure from your first part where Asha was the focus of the action. Of course combat with melee tends to be more visceral compared to say sniping from a distance. And it was nice to read how Icari made her decisions.