Chapter 4: Be prepared, START!

This archive contains the original story as it appeared on gaia, This is our main story, and what BHotR as a whole started from and builds off of. The setting has gone through many changes, and so the story has many inconsistencies. You can, in this forum, see the evolution of the story and its players as we went from a simple roleplay began in 2006.
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Gwathdraug
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Chapter 4: Be prepared, START!

Post by Gwathdraug » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:25 pm

Chapter 4; Be Prepared START!

After a fairly short trip, Flare element's dropship returned to base, oddly uneventfully. As it touched down, the ship was swarmed with medics checking on all the wounded, and taking them to be treated. Kwon, Sehene, Garret, and Meigan were rushed to the field hospital, leaving the miraculously uninjured Ruth and Mortego to their own devices.

Almost simultaneously, a shuttle came down from the Errant venture, containing those soldiers whom had been wounded by the previous battle, to get them ready for the next. it would take everything the Terrans had to finish their final push on this planet, and everything is what was being thrown at it.

But for now, those who were uninjured had a bit of freetime to wind down, or pump themselves up.  

Meigan had no time to think before they had landed back at the base. She tried to stand up, completely forgetting her injury and was thrown off balance just as soon as she had stood. She started to fall down and was about crash face-first into the floor when a hand caught her, she looked up to see a male medic smiling down at her.

"Oh, thanks." Meigan said, blushing at her stupid mistake, how could she forget that some of her leg had been completely blown off?

"No problem," the medic replied, "shall we get you to the field hospital?"

The medic didn't wait for an answer and lifted her up. Meigan tensed up a bit, she wasn't used to people carrying her around so much, did they think she was too weak to walk? It didn't hurt that much, just stung like a B!7@#. She crumpled her face at the thought of everyone thinking she was weak. They arrived at the hospital and Meigan was set down on an untaken spot.

"There you go, someone will be by to help you soon." the medic said, giving a warm smile and then leaving to help more of the injured.

Meigan sighed, she was going to be here for a bit.  

Thomas again checked his Bro rifle. His understanding of precisely what was going on was depressingly limited, but the basic picture was clear enough. Capture territory. Defeat Drathonians. Cover his comrades. Be victorious. And don't get killed. That was all he needed to know, and that was all he really knew. Waiting for orders, however, was remarkably boring. He was eager to just get it over with. How hard could it be?  

Jack Gallagher stepped off the transport shuttle, every muscle in his body tensed in discomfort. Practically the only things in his body that were still his was the brain and (most of) his spine. Even bits of skull had been grafted onto him. He felt barely human anymore - like a brain slug walking around in a new host.

The pain associated with most of this was thankfully dulling down. The artificial sensory nerves running through his body were very tolerant of pain. Despite his disappointment at having lost his old body, he couldn't help but look forward to testing the new one's limits.

Unsure of what to do with this free time, he decided he'd go find captain Hendlow.  

Jack wouldn't have to look any farther than the cot across the aisle, as Garrett was escorted into the field medic tent and sat right there. He was too distracted by the doctors to notice Jack was there, but as soon as they left, his eyes began to wander and they fell upon the "upgraded" Jack.
He paused for a few moments; he seemed to be familiar with this half-cybernetic man. After a few moments, his eyes widened with the realization. A questioning eyebrow rose. "Jack?"

Mortego had been one of the men to escort Garrett into the medical tent, and sat on the empty cot beside him in waiting. He had nothing better to do, and no squadron to return to. His eyes followed the Captain's gaze as he stared at the other man. "Captain Hendlow?"

Garrett looked at him. "Find Ruth, and tell him to find a Promotions Officer. I'd like to recommend you, Kwon, and Ruth for the Medal of Valor."

Mortego. "O-Okay, sir. I'm on it." And the medic took off. Garrett's gaze fell onto Jack again. "Jack, is that you?"

Jack looked in the direction his name was being called from, stepping up to the side of Hendlow's cot. He raised an eyebrow curiously at Mortego. "Medal of Valor? Have you guys been saving all the good stuff for when I'm gone? I'm crushed." Jack grinned at Garrett, while at the same time holding back a small tear of regret. He couldn't help being upset that he'd missed out on a really fun mission.

"So you finally took a hit, cap'n? You'll have to tell me about what I missed out on later. I hear we're getting ready for the final push."  

Unfortunately for Clarissa, there was little time between when she left from the required check-up and when she found Steven to visit with him. For mere minutes after her return they received word that all available men and women were to report for duty. Steven, who was already angsty to return to the cockpit of a scimitar, put up no resistance, but Clarissa, who was looking forward to some time alone with her fiance, gave in begrudgingly. So the two were shepherded into a shuttle a few minutes later and shipped back planet side. Steven, having enough sense to realize that Clarissa wanted to spend time with him (but not enough sense to realize the motives), made sure to sit next to her. And so the two of them took part in some more playful banter as the planet drew closer.

Once planet side, the two disembarked from the shuttle to a scene filled with sporadic movement. Wounded soldiers, men and women eating, fighters refueling, all could be seen as the Terrans prepared for one final offensive. Steven, heading one way to the temporary airfield, bid farewell to Clarissa, who was heading the opposite direction towards the ammo stations, and wished her the best of luck and went on his way.

Clarissa could not move as she watched Steven walk away, could barely even think. All she could focus on was an intense urge welling up inside her chest. And, before she knew what she was doing she began running after Steven, calling to him. He turned around to see her close the last few meters dividing them and throw her arms around him, burying her head into his chest. Taken by surprise, he asked her what was wrong. In a muffled voices, and in between sobs, she pleaded with him not to leave things with just a goodbye, and after some more sobbing finally managed to say what she had been wanting to for a while now. That she cared about him. Steven, just barely able to hear the muffled confession but still able to catch the meaning, could think of nothing to say in reply. Hugging Clarissa in return, he gently lifted her chin so that he could see her face and gave a reassuring smile before telling her that it would all be alright and that he would see her when they both got back from their respective duties. Then, giving her another quick hug, he parted from her giving her a rag to wipe her tears on and adding in a quick remark that tears don't match her personality and continued towards the airfield.

After a few more minutes, Clarissa made her way back to the ammo station.  

Kai Stepped from the shuttle he was on, shuffling out into the midnight air. Slung over his back was a field excursion pack, containing a tent, extra ammunition, a pistol, food, clothing, even an extra set of armor. Aside from that, he was his usual self, and began searching for someone he recognised. Maybe jack Gallagher, or Captain Hendlow. Someone he could talk to. Figuring at least one of them had to be nearby, he walked into a medical tent to find both of them, already having a conversation. "Hey guys, looking good... Except your arm there, Hendlow" he said, looking at the burned out wound in the captain's arm.

Almost as if reading his thoughts, a medic appeared with some bandages, a syringe, and a cylinder of some strange pinkish compound meant to heal the wound in a matter of hours. The medic got to quick work, cutting off the arm of Garrett's jacket before cleaning the wound and giving hendlow a quick shot. as miraculous as the stuff was, it would still hurt like hell without painkillers. Soon, the stuff was applied, Garrett's arm wrapped up and put in a sling. "It will be good as new in about three hours, sir, Just in time for the advance" the medic told him, almost excitedly.

***

Almost immediately after finishing with Garret, the hyperactive medic made it to Meigan. getting a new syringe, he gathered all the necesary supplies from his bag and set to work. trying to strike up idle conversation, he asked her "how'd you get this one?" in a slightly joking tone.  

Thomas was not particularly artistic. Nor was he insanely creative, under normal circumstances. These were not normal circumstances. These were special circumstances, and he was getting creative, for one simple reason: he was going to need more ammo than he had. Now he was trying to find secure ways to carry more power cells, and it was starting to look interesting. He'd managed to find a pair of leather belts, which he had attached a great deal of duct tape to and so turned them into bandoliers, which he was currently filling with Bro magazines. Once that was full, he would consider if he had enough room and enough weight capacity to add more pockets of one variety or another. He intended to go in and out without leaving once for ammunition.

Having filled his pockets, he decided to run a little test, and began jumping about as high as he could. After half a minute, none of the power cells had liberated themselves from their containers. Next he got up a run, tucked in his head, and threw himself into a roll. When he came up from his roll, he checked his packs again - nothing. Not a thing had come clear. He tried again, tossing himself left, right; sprinting, stopping, vaulting walls. Nothing came clear, and that was perfect. He turned back to the ammo station, picked up another roll of duct tape, and prepared to start again.  

By the time she reached the ammo station, Clarissa had managed to regain most of her composure. She was still a little shocked at how she had acted so suddenly, but she didn't hate herself for it. She had finally gotten her feelings off of her chest and Steven didn't get scared away by the sudden confession. But the fact still remained that she was frightened by the idea that she might not see him again. After reminding herself that despite her fears she had a job to do right now, she began to stuff power cells into her bandoliers. Gathering ammo, an easy job, was made slightly peculiar by the fact that a man was doing gymnastics off to the left. Jumps, dives, rolls, he was doing it all.
"You're going to strain something if you keep that up you know," she said to the man without looking up from the cells she was inspecting in her hands.  

Thomas shrugged at Clarissa. "If I don't do it, I'll lose cells. If I lose cells, it's going to be a lot worse than straining. I prefer pulling a muscle than having a muscle torn out with an energy bolt." Grabbing a few cells, Thomas began to securely duct tape them straight onto his stomach, each individually so that the cell would be ripped clean off when it was needed. Onto his thighs, onto his arms. He even considered placing them on the backs of his hands, but that would limit movement. He glanced back up at the woman. "You a medic or something?"" he inquired laconically.  


Clarissa almost laughed. "I am almost the opposite of a medic," she said as she began packing some more cells into her rucksack, "But no, I am a sniper. And you, I am guessing, are a marine, and unless I am mistaken there is a term used in the military that you might consider. It is 'over-encumbered'. If you end up packing to much, you will only be crippling yourself." After she had finished speaking, she reflected on what she had said and was taken aback by how sharp it sounded. "And I am sure there are some out there who would feel bad if you ended up getting hit because you tripped over a power cell that was duct taped to your boot," she said, trying to sound more pleasant.  

Sehene was taken to the medical area, to first have the Drathonian disguise removed from her person, now that her last mission was over. On the way there she was kept from being around as many people as possible; the soldiers didn't exactly want to see a Drathonian on board the ship designed to destroy them. She zoned out almost the entire time, still worrying about the inappropriate way she had acted on the field. The process took about an hour altogether. First they removed the tail, spinal, feet and hand attachments, then the skin, greenish colouring, eyes, and vocal cord modifiers. They checked her over for any injuries, and made sure to heal the arm wound, leaving only a bandage over a paste designed to ensure complete skin healing.

She sat for quite some time by herself on the medical bed, gazing at the various medics and patients coming by. She was moping, somehow hoping that it would make her feel better, although she knew it wouldn't. She sighed and resigned to go to her tent, or...something. She signed out of the medical area, and wandered to her area, grimacing when she realized she was still wearing the patient 'apron'. She changed, cleaned herself up and grabbed a bite to eat, but then realized that all she had now to do was mope yet again. Perhaps she should apologize to the captain? But she never caught his name. She would have to search it up in a database.  


Thomas raised an eyebrow at her. "Over-encumbered? Why d'ya think I'm dancing around?" he told her, executing a quick roll, a twenty-yard sprint, a turn-around, and a dive to the side as though to make for cover. "This is practically scientific," he added, and there was some truth in that; he had kept all of his joints clear enough that they had full range of movement. Thomas felt he had done a good job of it.  
Jack turned and greeted Kai with a hearty bellow. "Well, hey, kiddo!" He slapped Kai on the back, just hard enough for it to hurt a bit... or maybe a lot. He was feeling energized after his intensive, near-death surgery. Who cared if he felt like his body was going to explode, felt great. His mind on his body, his stomach gave a deadly growl. "Hmm. I just remembered, I don't think I've put much into myself today. Put out plenty of blood, but I could go for some gruel right about now." he mumbled, a bit ignorant of the fact that Hendlow was busted up.  

Starting a little from the slap on the back (Jack's muscles were now in prime condition, a little stronger than they actually had been before) Kai looked back at him and answered "Gruel; no. But food, sounds decent to me." grinning a bit, he punched Garrett in his good shoulder saying "You hungry? we need to head to the mess tent, and you seem movable now."  

Garrett smirked. "Food sounds great. I'm sure they could use this space for someone more messed up than me. It was ashame you couldn't make it, Jack. It was right up your alley. Explosions, flashbangs, new Drathonian weaponry, and more Drathonians than you could empty a Bro on. Right up your alley." He stood up, careful not to move his injured limb too much, and gestured with the good arm. "Let's go get something to eat." Then he looked at Meigan. "Think you can make it to the mess, soldier? Or would you like us to bring you something?"

At the makeshift Airfield, Steven would find that his own personal fighter had been shuttled down for him to use. though covered in dust from the state of the facilities, the fighter was otherwise unharmed. however, leaning against it was an engineer, who looked kinda bored. as the pilot neared his ship, the man asked "What kinda loadout do ya want, bud?"  

"Ah, I have missed the feeling of being around fighters," Steven said taking a deep breath. Thinking back to the past few days, he figured it had been somewhere around two days since he had been in a fighter, and two days was much longer than Steven would have proffered. Through the hazy light of the spot lights used to light the field Steven found his fighter, and he was very pleased to see that it was his fighter. It had been probably a week since he had seen it and both a wave a of excitement and of shock shot through him. His scimitar was filthy! His scimitar, the very fighter he flew when he first became a pilot, the fighter he spent every free moment primping and preening, the fighter that felt as much a member of his family as his grandparents back home! He knew he was overreacting, but his disposition wasn't made any better when he finally saw the engineer leaning against the fighter. He felt his left eye twitch. Not even hearing what the engineer asked, Steven gave the man a spiteful, unblinking stare. "What have you done to my ship?" he asked the engineer while maintaining the stare.  

Not noticing Steven's obvious disdain, the Engineer shifted a bit before answering "We made sure the new reactor was workin' properly, an' took off all the fancy space weapons that don' work in Atmo. refitted tha engine a bit so iss more efficient in atmo, not tha it matters or nuttin, with the new generator... oh, and we replaced the old worn pilot's seat wit a new one." he finished his speech with a smug grin, as if he had done something to be proud of.  

After hearing this, the only way Steven Was able to maintain his frustration was by reminding himself that it was looked down upon in the military to stab a fellow soldier. "You...how...why did...grr," Steven stuttered out of frustration. The knife he carried for obligatory reasons felt very compelling now. He shook his head slowly and took a deep breath. Doing his best to make a forced smile, which looked more like a snarl and mixed with the spiteful stare and twitching left eye Steven looked borderline devilish, finally he managed to speak coherently,
"*sigh* Thank you for taking care of refitting my scimitar. Next time though, I would ask you and the other engineers to leave the well being of my fighter to me. I feel better when I know what is going into with my fighter, so I like doing thing with my own hands," he said to the engineer. It was a lie of course. Although he did like to do things himself, it wasn't because he didn't trust the engineers, it was just that to him the feeling of having someone else work on his ship was like the feeling a parent gets when their child gets abducted by a cult. Taking another deep breath he managed to regain himself.
"So, where is the rest of my squadron?" Steven asked in an attempt to recapture the excitement of preparing for take off.  

Finally Noticing Steven's mood, the engineer stood up straighter, and looked ready to bolt. with a colm voice of his own, he answered" Awright, we'll do that nex time." nodding a bit, and taking a mental note. at the question about the squadron, the engineer responded "They're up flyin' patrol righ now, they'll be back soon fer sum rest. at break a' dawn, you guys are flyin' cover for tha assault on the last base here. thing's freaky. looks like the biggest damn cruise ship i ever saw, bu iss' buried in the ground or sumthin. Ya have ta use scimmy's wit weaker weapons, cammand dunnit wan't you ta hurt the thing or summat..." the Engineer said, trailing off as he realized it wasn't his place to say.  

On the T.R.S. Chaos, Dante sol was saying his last good byes. He had visited the sick bay, the bridge, and garage. The last place he needed to check was the mess hall. When he got there, he was surprised. A going away party was being held in his honor. He could tell that they spent a lot of money. There was real fruit, a roasted bird which Dante didn't know, and a cake. It made Dante not want to wonder how much did it cost or how many regulations were broken to get the stuff there. They we're having fun and two speeches were spoken. One by the ship's Admiral and the other by Captain John Weller: Dante's adopted father. When the party was done Dante tried to help with the clean up but was told by John to let them handle it. When it was time to go Dante had two suitcases. One suitcase was fulled with clothes; while, the other one was filled with book discs. As he got to the transport ship, John was standing in front of the door with a gold object in his right hand. As Dante approached John said, “Look how you've grown in fourteen years. I'm glad to be the one to call you son. Here take this.” John lifted his right hand and showed a gold pocket watch. John continued, “It has been passed down from my family form generation to generations for over 400 years and I wish you to have it.” Before Dante could start to protest, John lifted his hand gently to stop him. “You will take the watch. Thats an order.” Dante replied with the only words he could, “Yes Sir.” Dante took the watch, looked at it, and then they embraced. Dante whispered in his ear, “I love you dad.” John replied, “Same here.” Dante headed on to the transport ship and headed to the base.  

"Thank you for the information," Steven managed to say in a polite tone, "that will be all. You are dismissed." Not even waiting for the engineer to react Steven turned and climbed up onto the wing of his scimitar to do a personal inspection. Once he had settled himself the rest of the way into the cockpit, he set to work right away scanning and checking every system aboard, all the way from the highly technical navigation system to the landing gear to the little light that comes on when he sneezes. He was always amused by that last one. While the diagnostics were running he began the task of cleaning every inch of the fighter. He was still perplexed as to how even after the work the engineers had done it the craft was still dusty.  

Steven didn't have to wait, because the engineer jumped up and scooted away as quickly as he could, leaving the pilot to look over his fighter. Steven would notice from his checks that, other than the dust (A by-product of the airfield being dirt) There was absolutely nothing wrong with the fighter, in fact, everything checked out to the highest possible efficiency.

***

Suddenly, as if a swarm of locusts had descended upon the encampment (And a very small one inside Dante Sol's pocket), Thousands of Datapads and communicators went off on a low buzz setting, warning the soldiers of a message from their respective commands. As they opened up their respective devices, the Terrans would notice a small letter-shaped icon which was labeled: Orders. The icon pulsed and shook a little, showing that everyone needed to read their orders and respond.

Thomas stretched a bit, cracked his neck, and got set. He checked the BR-02 magazines he'd set himself up with, and then started moving. No response was necessary, he felt, beyond a very laconic message.

Savior? What did they think he was wearing? Tin foil? He shook his head. They could save their armor for someone else; he had his own.

A few minutes later, he successfully located the meeting point of this Collapsible Infantry 215. Nakamura? Who was Nakamura? Thomas couldn't remember meeting him at any point, and being tossed under the command of someone he didn't know at all made him a touch uncomfortable. On the bright side, Thomas wasn't lacking for ammunition.

About the time Garrett had finished eating, the message came in and he smirked. He was being folded into another unit that Kai would be leading; although he felt he had done well as a squadron leader, he was quite relieved to have the mantle lifted from his shoulders. His gaze shifted from the datapad to Kai. "Well, since you're the leader now, what's our next step, sir?" He'd almost forgotten to say 'sir,' a sign that he was getting a little too comfortable with Kai. Then he paused his thoughts; that wasn't true. He almost ALWAYS forgot sir, and had actually remembered this time; THAT was a sign that he was becoming comfortable around Kai. He smirked to himself.

Arcadia was sitting calmly in the cockpit of her Scimitar, having just completed her scouting mission through one sector of the planet's orbit. The job was quiet, slow, and tedious. Arcadia was mellow and expressionless as her gaze constantly moved back and forth from the radar to the viewport. There was nothing, and she checked in with the remainder of her squad. Clean space: not a single shred of hostile matter to be found. Then her datapad and the com in her helmet buzzed simultaneously. "Read message," she declared quietly.

Private Second Class Arcadia Langdon, you have been reassigned to defensive operations for the Battle Hymn and added to the roster for Green Squadron, commanded by Corporal Steven Kerning. Report immediately to the Hymn and rendezvous with Corporal Kerning for further instructions.

Corporal Kerning. She smirked, enjoying the sound of the name; rolled quite nicely. Then she shrugged and the smirk disappeared. Even with a name that sounded like a super-hero, she shouldn't get her hopes up. She'd met assholes with prettier names than Corporal Steven Kerning. So she returned to the largest Terran battleship in existence, and began searching the hangar for her new squad leader.  

Dante was sleeping in the desolate transport ship when the vibration woke him up. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a small blue device which was the source of the vibration. As he read the message, a small chuckle escaped his lips, “So they're giving me orders before I even get to the ship. Well it saves most of the questions.” A voice came from the cockpit loud and clear, “Thirty minutes until arrival.” Dante responded in a similar volume, “Alright, Thank You.” Dante laid back and took out a small black square object about sixty-two by one hundred and fifteen millimeters and a slot to insert book discs. He put his hand in one of the suitcases and pulled out a book disc written in Drathonian thinking he would need to refresh his knowledge of the Drathonian language. It was an Drathonian version of The Art of War.

When he reached the ship Dante had just about finished the book. He grabbed his bags and walk towards the door where he was met by a young officer who escorted him to his room. He was told he had a few minutes to change and wash up before he had to go down to the planet. Dante striped down and walked into the shower. “Holy s**t!” he said as the ice cold water touched his bare skin. Soon the water warmed to a steaming hot. After Dante got out of the shower he found that a Savior CAS was delivered to his room while he showered. He kinda hoped they came after the water changed temperature. No sooner when he was ready, a knock on the door said that it was time to go. Dante took a landing shuttle down to the planet with a few other soldiers.

When Dante landed, he started asking where would Captain Nakamura be. After a few minutes of go here go there, he was taken to the medical tent where he was told Captain Nakamura was at the mess hall. As he entered he remembered that he never asked what Nakamura looked like. He went over the orders but no picture was given. Dante sighed, “Great I'm looking for some guy I've never seen in a sea of men trying to stuff there face. This is going to be a long day.”  


After finishing up a bit of the military field "slop" (which was actually very high quality, nutritous, and delicious despite the slang) Kai recieved similar orders about the upcoming mission, as well as a list of all the people now under his command.

In response to hendlow, Kai simply said "Find everyone, I guess... Here, I'm sending you the pictures that I got from command, and contacts to datapads and the like. Let's round 'em up" With that, he got up, and told Jack "You're with us, let's go find the others" and dragged the Marine along with him, heading towards the ammo dump, hoping that at least a few marines would be there.  

Thomas grunted and sighed. "I've just been there," Thomas complained, indicating the massive number of magazines. As they left the location, Thomas checked the BR-02 rifle he had already requisitioned in the mere minutes of downtime. He was prepared, all right, and walking about to find the rest of this team would merely be warm-up for running.


Hendlow sighed as well and rose to his feet, examining the images and information on his datapad. He didn't really find any of the new members to be all that interesting, so he quickly lost interest. He let his mind wander while he followed Kai to the ammo dump; there was nothing all that important to hold his attention, so he was allowing himself to drift and relax.

Contrary to what he had been expecting, Steven was oddly enough satisfied by the job the engineers had done. And, just as he was about to finish up and go get some coffee, he heard a loud, monotonous ring coming from the cockpit of the scimitar. "What the Hell is that?" Steven said stopping dead in his tracks. Upon further inspection, he found that it was the incoming message alert on his HUD in his helmet. This being a new experience for Steven, he curiously inspected the helmet before putting it on. Then playing around with some buttons he finally managed to pull up the message. Scanning the message over several times before removing the helmet. At first he didn't do anything but stand there looking at his helmet then he let out a loud shout of excitement, and almost as if it had been carefully timed the ship's navi computer beeped. The diagnostics were one-hundred percent complete, and he was cleared for take off soon there-after.

Within a few minutes, Steven was docking with the Hymn. "Ah, it has been far to long Hymn," he sigh upon leaping down from his fighter. Without another word he went to work looking for the rest of his squadron.  

Thomas glanced over to Garrett. Reading his name off his uniform, he offered a sort of greeting - "Hendlow? What'd'ya do?"  

Garrett looked up when he heard his name, and met Thomas's gaze. "I'm a demolitions expert, and it's a dieing breed it seems. Before I left Sol System, they were trying to recruit failing engineers and marines into the demo training; didn't work too well, but if you're interested, let me know. They've made a little room in the books to allow... "apprenticing," let's call it. I can run you through an explosives crash-course and get you on the field in a week.

Arcadia was patrolling the hangar for Steven Kerning when another scimitar flew in and a young man hopped out. She approached him slowly; if he wasn't Steven, he might very well know what he looked like. "Sir," she said, after recognizing that this man was a Corporal, "Do you know where I can find a Corporal..." She sighed, reading his nametag. "Corporal Kerning, I'm Private Second Class Arcadia Langdon, and hopefully you'll excuse me for my stupidity; I seem to have lost so many IQ points on my mop-up mission that I've forgotten how to read. Sir." She saluted, grimacing inwardly for her idiocy.

"Uh, you are excused Miss... Langdon, was it?" Steven said slowly while hesitantly returning the salute since he was a little confused as to why this woman was apologizing, "And mop-ups can do that to you. Now, if you don't mind me asking, why exactly are you apologizing?"  

Arcadia shrugged. "Second nature, I guess. That and the fact that you're now my CO: I've been transferred into Green Squadron, and I was told that it was under your command, sir." She stood at ease, right wrist grasped by her left hand, feet slightly apart. "Is that not correct, or did they not tell you there were new members, sir?"  


Steven felt a shiver of excitement run up his spin. "You'd probably know better than I do. I have a knack for being left out of the immediate circle of information," he said with an awkward smile and looked off into nowhere. Then after a few moments he cleared his throat and returned to reality. "Well then Private Langdon, let me be the first to welcome you in as the newest member of the family known as Green Squadron," he said extending his hand and not even bothering to try and hide his excitement about having a new Green.  

She managed a half-smile and shook his hand. "And please allow me to the first one to warn you, sir, that I am to be the one to fill that position in the family known as the pessimistic b***h. Or so they tell me." She shrugged. "I don't really care, but I figure that only makes it all the more likely to be true." The smile was gone already, and she seemed all business yet again. "What are our orders, sir? I only know that we are to be part of the defensive operations around the Battle Hymn.  

Steven laughed a little at the odd statement. "I have a feeling that you are going to fit in just fine in my little family. So don't worry, you're in good company," he replied, maintaining a slight smirk, "Now as for our next orders...I...don't exactly...have them yet. All I was told is that we will be receiving further orders shortly. But until then, hows about we go grab some coffee, and you can tell me a little about yourself?"  

She raised and eyebrow, smirking slightly. "That... Sounds good, sir. Please lead the way." She gesture toward the hangar doors. She was rather surprised, actually. It was rare for other people to take much of an interest in her so quickly; or perhaps this was simply the way Steven operated. Either way, she felt it to be a good thing. "But, only so long as you're paying; I'm broke. Sir." She mentally berated herself for almost forgetting to say 'sir.' "And don't expect much out of me."  

"Of course, of course," Steven said before leading her out and away from the hanger. It was only a short walk from the hanger to the Hymn's mess hall, and the two pilots were there within two minutes. Aside from the cooks there was only about twenty soldiers in the hall. "Everyone must still be planet side," Steven said mostly to himself as he looked around. Shrugging, he continued the rest of the way to the counter.
"Hey Bobbo! Long time no see! Could you get us two premium roast coffees with a hint of vanilla flavoring?" Steven called to one of the cooks. One of the cooks simply stopped moving and just looked over his shoulder to give Steven a dull glare before grabbing two coffee cups and sticking them up the coffee dispenser that read 'CAFFINATED'. Once they were filled he sat them down in front of Steven and simply said, "Just go."
Steven gave a quick wink to Arcadia before moving over to a vacant table. "Here you go," he offered her one of the cups, "Now, tell me a little about yourself Arcadia."

Arcadia was happy enough to just be moving, although it didn't show on her face. When they entered the mess hall, her eyes floated over all the marines and pilots; she agreed that they must all be planet side. She, on the other hand, had never seen the planet's surface while within the atmosphere. Steven's shouts caught her attention, and she watched the cook glare. Arcadia couldn't suppress the smirk, and walked with Steven to the table, both hands on the cup of coffee. "Most people find it interesting that both my parents are alive." She sat down across from him and took a long sip. God, she'd forgotten how much she loved a good cup of hot coffee.  

Thomas nodded. "So you guys blow stuff up? Man, that must be expensive," he murmured. "I'd take the course, though. Remember playing with cherry bombs and the like when I was a kid. Fireworks; who didn't love 'em?" he told Garrett with a grin.  

Correction: we blow up important stuff. And I'm part of the experimental division, so I have license to play with any excess explosive materials in the Hymn's workshop. There are currently only ten on staff, although I'm willing to bet our numbers have dropped due to the most recent few battles." He grinned. "So, if you're ever interested, just let me know. I'll see what I can do for you."

"Well it is true that many of the soldiers and pilots in our generation were orphaned by the drathonian assault and now want revenge," Steven replied with a slight shrug before taking another sip of his own coffee, "I am one of them actually, except that I didn't join to get revenge." He looked down at his coffee for a few moments before taking another swig from the mug. "So, you said your parents are still alive. What do they do for a living?" he said getting back to the conversation, "Oh and if you feel that I am talking to much just let me know and you can question me."  


Clarissa was off by herself as usual and was just thinking of going to grab a quick bite to eat before trying to get some sleep when her personal datapad began to vibrate. Pulling it out of one of the many pockets within her jacket she saw the symbol that indicated a new message. She read it once then closed it and put the datapad back in the pocket. With a sigh she stood up and and resigned herself to once again walking aimlessly until she found some food.  

Thomas' grin broadened. "Tom Peterson. P2C. I'll hunt you down sometime," he told Garrett cheerfully. He examined the rifle he was holding. Imagine, if it weren't just grenades he were tossing around; something cool, something powerful. A charge, a bomb, not just a grenade.  

Jack smirked at the quirky kid that was in his new unit. "Hendlow, don't give the kid ideas," Jack sniggered, "You're the only real demo man on the Hymn because you're the only one born to blow stuff up. The rest of us can only hope to pummel Drathonian skulls in for a living." His grin widening he extended a hand to the younger man. "Jack Gallagher, resident berserker. Good to meetcha."  

Thomas' beefy hand slapped into Jack's palm, and he shook his hand rather vigorously. "Peterson, but apparently you heard," he told him with an ever-broader grin. "Betcha I'll be right behind," he told him. "Steel plate stops for no man," here he slapped the plate on his chest for emphasis "or Drathonian, and with a gun, all the better."  

Sehene was mildly startled by the buzzing of her communicator, and glared in the direction of the noise, before searching her person to find the offending object. She read the message, nodding as she got up and grabbed her over coat. She put the communicator away and headed to the supply tent, ready receive her weapons, and a...Saviour CAS. She wasn’t too sure what this was, but figured she would either recognize it, or find it highly useful. She came up to the tent and waited in line with all the other soldiers getting their gear. Her turn came, and she was suited with what turned out to be armour that she supposed she had forgotten the actual name of, but nonetheless was trained to use. She then received her Sugar and Bro rifles, fitted them to her sides and added the ammo and any other necessary attachments to the armour. Satisfied with the general armament of her person, she used the HUD to find the meeting area of CIU 215, and proceeded to ‘clank’ to said area. She hadn’t used one of these since training, and found herself walking rather mechanically and frowning at her feet when she arrived, helmet all but hanging from her left hand as she flailed her arms about rather wildly, almost falling over in the process.

Kai's guess that the Ammo dump was a good place to find people was correct. Sehene's search for CIU 215 pinked Kai's communicator, which buzzed to inform him of her coming, when she came into view, looking like a human and wearing armor, the Captain didn't think anything of it, though Garrett, Ruth, Kwon and Mortego might. In any case, the "clanging was in Sehene's head, but here presense was real. "You a P2C Sehene?" the Captain asked aloud, waiting on only three more from his squad.

Sehene's head snapped up when she heard the captains question, and she hastily straightened her sunglasses and subsequently her posture. "Yes sir..." She looked momentarily at the others waiting with him, and recognized their faces from the last mission. She blushed slightly, not just because she was still embarrassed about her actions on the mission, but also how inexperienced she was with the armour.

Kai looked on as the Girl confirmed she was indeed, "Still Sehene". She's wearing sunglasses? at night? well... she does look kinda pale and the floodlights are rather bright.. I'll just keep quiet. he thought, before answering her "Welcome to CIU 215, your new home for this offensive and, if enough of us stay in one piece, possibly more of the war." He wandered toward the dump, calling out to his squad "Anyone who doesn't have their requisitioned equipment should follow me"

***
As Emma's shuttle touched down in the Hangar of the now somewhat famous "Battle Hymn", she jolted awake from her light slumber. getting shooed off, she checked her orders again and pinged the communicator for the location of this "Steven Kerning" Overlaying the ping to a mmap of the ship, the girl followed the directions to the mess. Steven would get a small buzz as he was alerted of the Ping.

Steven was taking another sip of the coffee when he was startled by a sudden vibration. "What the hell? I do believe that my pant are vibrating," he joked and started to rummage through his pockets. After a few moments of searching he finally found his communicator, which he was assuming was the source of the vibration. But after inspecting the communicator he scowled and could see no calls and no messages. Then he put it back in his pocket after concluding that neither knew why it had buzzed, nor anything about the communicator save for the 'talk' button.  

While walking Clarissa thought again back to the orders she had received. She was now a part an infantry unit under the command of Captain Nakamura. Captain Nakamura, she had met the man just once and for a very brief moment but she still managed to recall what he looked like, thanks to a photographic memory. She had no clue where to find the man though, so through the process of deduction she set her primary task to obtaining the necessary equipment for the mission ahead. She already had her ammunition, but that was the extent of her preparedness. Altering her course slightly, Clarissa proceeded to the equipment depot.

Garrett smirked at Jack's comment. "Very true; and let me tell you, I've never met a man half as crazed as you are on the battlefield that can still keep his wits about him like you. It was a short walk to the depot, and by then Garrett was regaining most of the feeling in his injured arm. He slowly removed the sling and tried bending his elbow. He grimaced; it hurt like a b***h, but that was from the healing and non-use. He was getting it back. That put another smile on his face as he entered the depot and began collecting his equipment.

When he saw the armor they had offered for him, he couldn't help but wonder why. He didn't ask, though. If someone higher than him thought he needed it, he'd take it. He put it on quickly, careful to mind his injury still. It was... different, certainly, but it didn't cause any issues... yet. He didn't put on the helmet, however. It was too constraining, and he needed all of his vision if he was to operate properly. He sat against one of the few tables around the depot, waiting for the others then. He was separated from the rest of the group by some distance, and he was enjoying just being an observer for now.

After Arcadia had finished another sip of coffee, she was about to answer when Steven said his pants were vibrating. She waited patiently, gulping down some more coffee. She raised an inquisitive brow when he didn't explain the occasion. However, she continued to answer his question before asking her own. "My father works for Varvex Utilities Inc. as a project manager. They make the tracking and targeting systems for the cruisers and larger ships. My mother's unemployed, staying at home. And what was that about, if you don't mind my asking?"  

Dante was getting frustrated at the fact that he has been asking around and no one knew where Captain Nakamura was. The mess hall gave him no clues and he was left back at square one. Dante came upon a lance corporal. Dante asked, “Do you know where Captain Nakamura is or someone who does?” The lance corporal replied, “No I don't. why do you ask?” Dante sighed, “Because he is the leader of my new unit CIU 215.” He grinned, “Have you checked your data pad's tracking program?” Dante looked dumbfounded. “Tracking pro...” As if a light bulb came on at that second, Dante smacked himself on the head as if he was saying of course. “Thanks” Dante said as he was running off. Being on a destroyer he never had to use his data pad to find anyone. He could ask where someone was or he could tell where they'd be. After he inputed the data to find Captain Nakamura, he found it lead to the ammo dump. Dante said under his breath. “Well I needed to get my rifle anyways.” Dante entered the ammo dump and found a small group of people where the tracking ends. Dante walked over to the group and introduced himself, “Hello I'm Private Second Class Dante Sol.” Dante caught the captain uniform on Garrett Hendlow, Turn to face him, and said, “would you be Captain Nakamura?”

"Oh Vartex, eh? Must be fun to work there," Steven acknowledged, "What was what about? Oh! The whole vibrating pants thing? It was just this stupid communicator of mine, it vibrated for reasons I don't know about. Nothing to be worried about." He finished off his cup of coffee and looked at the cup in dissapointment. "You want another cup of coffee?" he asked Arcadia as he sat his own cup down, "OK, when did you first realize you wanted to be a pilot?"  

Kai, arms half through the savior CAS, finished putting the vest section on and turned around. "I am he" the blond said saimply. "Who might you be? you look kinda like one of the pictures I got..." and with that, he checked the Datapad "Ah, Private Sol, Nice to meet you, I am Captain Nakamura, CO of CIU 215."

***
In a few fort moments Emma, Intently corresponding her red dot to the green dot marking Steven's datapad, suddenly bumped into him as she muttered "Ah HA!" Stumbling backwards, she shook her head a bit "Oh my, Sorry.. Uhh.. Are you Corporal Kerning? it says i'm supposed to report to him..."  

Steven, surprised by the sudden jostling, turned to look at the girl. "Yeah I am Kerning. What can I do for you?" he asked the girl. Now that he had a good look at the girl whom had bumped into him, he was intrigued by many of her, for lack of a better word, attributes. But he was most perplexed by how young the girl looked, and he wondered why a girl who was barely into her teens was on the Hymn.  

Garrett smirked and pointed toward Kai just as the fellow Captain spoke up. "That's your man over there." He sighed as the private walked away and shook his head. So many damned kids. Sooner or later, one of them was bound to wind up dead. "Can't believe it's come to this," he murmured, laying his head back against the wall.

Arcadia just rolled her eyes and smiled. "ADD much, Corporal sir?" She finished her own coffee and quietly left the table to fetch three fresh cups, returning just as quietly. She set two on the other side of the table, near the Corporal and the new girl. While they spoke, she watched patiently, sipping at her fresh java.

Raji stepped up behind to the cozy little group, having followed Arcadia all the way from the shuttle she had taken. She cleared her voice loudly to get their attention, addressing Steven. ""Corporal Kerning, I presume? P2C Sedhik reporting." She stood with an uncomfortable yet authoritative grimace on her face, staring down at Steven.


Jack, who was 'requisitioning' himself a new Sugar behind Hendlow, gave a grim snigger. He seemed to get a sense of what was going through Garrett's mind. "If he's anywhere near as sturdy as us, he'll be fine. Hell, you've survived this far without even wearing freaking body armor. Not even I could pull that off." He gave a signature Jack grin, reassuring in its manic certainty.  

"OOH, Yay! Hi, I'm Emma thompson! I've been assigned to this squadron. They said my sim scores were too high to put me somewhere alse, but i didn't think those things did real flying justice. They said I got 100% on the solo Drathos run... Can you believe that? I don't even know which simulation that was." The young girl shook her head, obviously not realizing the meaning of her words.

When Arcadia dissappeared then returned, Emma looked at the cup of coffee, eyes widening in suprise before blurting "I can have some of this? My mom got mad at me last time. something about breaking too much stuff." With a fake pout, the suddenly hyperactive girl gleefully picked up the cup and inspected it a few moments before finding the opening and putting it to her lips. Somewhere in the universe, A butterfly flapped it's wings.

Garrett opened his eyes and looked over at Jack with a curious glance. It shifted to a smirk and the Captain gave a shrug. "A fair statement. Still." He shook his head then. "We're bringing in goddamn children, Jack. It's really starting to churn my guts watching these kids get themselves blown to Hell. And they say we're so close to the end of this war, but I don't see it, Jack. Maybe I'm just a damned pessimist, but I don't see it. Look, I enjoy my job: blowing s**t up is what I'm born to do. I've been doing it since I was fourteen, and it's great that this is helping preserve humanity and all that other s**t people roll into their philanthropic mantras... but I'm tired of it. I'm not old, Jack, but I feel old. All these kids, trusting each other with their lives, trusting me with their lives... It's insanity. The sooner we bring an end to it, the sooner I can go home, get an actual job, and maybe-- if I happen to be lucky enough-- find a woman who can put up with my madness." He sighed, and laughed quietly at himself. "Never mind. That's not important. Just promise me you'll help me bring these kids home, okay?"

Arcadia hid her smirk behind the cup of coffee. Setting it down slowly, she spoke. "Seems as though you've found someone far more spastic than yourself, Corporal sir." She chuckled softly... it sounded dark and grim. "I'm just waiting for some elderly transsexual to stroll up on your right side, speaking slow as molasses. The evolution of temperament, at last!" Her serious demeanor returned almost immediately as she stood. "I'll be in the hangar if you need me, sir. They're refitting my Scim for atmospheric combat and I'm going to oversee the work. Good luck, sir." With her cup of coffee in hand, Arcadia strolled from the mess aiming for the hangar.

If Steven wasn't at a loss before, he sure was now. "OK everyone, just hold on for one second to get my thoughts straightened out," he said to the growing group of people around him. Pointing at Arcadia he said, "You are Arcadia Langdon, and you were recently assigned to Green Squadron. We have Covered that, so moving on." Pointing at Emma he said, "You are Emma, and you have also been assigned to Green Squadron, correct? And what your deal with coffee is I am not sure, but go ahead." And finally he pointed at Raji and offered the third cup of coffee that Arcadia had brought and said, "And you are Raji, and I am just going to presume that you are also here about having joined my squadron. And would you like some coffee as well?" Having gotten everybody straightened out in his mind, he looked over each one in turn. "Now, Emma and Raji feel free to take a seat. I was just trying to get to know Miss Arcadia here, but since you two are here as well this is as good of time as any to talk." Ten years since the last woman pilot in Green Squadron, and now three show up within ten minutes of each other. di immortales, heavens above! Too late though, Arcadia left from the mess hall, and now Steven was stuck with the two other girls. "Sit if you like," he said rubbing his forehead.

Thomas raised at eyebrow at Garrett's outburst. "Well, what's your brilliant alternative? We all run away? You can dream about it being done, but it's not done and it won't be. Not for a while yet. There's no point in griping over it, in wishing it weren't so. You've gotta just take what you can get." Sitting down heavily and with a clink of metal, Tom inspected his Bro. It was a nice feeling to have it in his hands. Light and powerful. What beauty.

Garrett glared at Thomas. "I wasn't speaking to you, Private, nor did I request your input. I suggest you keep your mouth shut next time you have some bullshit to say to me, because I'm not one to hold back on pulling rank. It's sir when you address me, especially if you want that s**t to fly. You don't know me, and you obviously don't understand what the hell I'm talking about, so shut it; I don't want to hear any more of your ignorant speech." His voice was level and calm, but there was a strong undertone of anger. No hatred, though; Garrett was slow to ever hate anyone for anything, even if it was as something as ignorant as what Thomas had just pulled.  

"Pardon me, sir, but it sure seemed a hell load like you were griping. And what rank are you going to pull back? To private third-class? Oh the horror. I'll be doing the exact same thing," Thomas shot back. He turned away from Garrett. It wasn't like it was Thomas' fault that Hendlow took it as some sort of insult when he tried to help.  

Dante turned and stood attention as he spoke: “Yes Sir. Secondary Head of Engineering of the T.R.S. Chaos.” He cursed his hidden talent as he overheard Captain Hendlow. Dante was never told the whole truth when he was younger. To make up for this He had developed a good ear for gossip, and the older he got the better he needed to be. Now he can hear a pin drop in a crowded room and the close space they were in made it louder then a pin. He felt a little bad as he heard. Though he could tell it was a general statement, he still felt a little responsible for it. Then some guy had to stick his neck in it. Dante could tell it was only getting started. That could get you dishonorably discharged or at least court marshaled for silent insubordination. Dante kept his mouth shut but he wanted to tell the P2C to shut up. Not to be mean just to try to save his skin.

Garrett shook his head. "Apparently you don't understand the definition of pulling rank. When I pull rank, Private, it means that I utilize my rank of Captain to authorize a command to any inferior soldier. I could issue any command, in fact, and failing to meet the requirements of said command can result in dire consequences. I assure you, Private, I will not hesitate to pull rank if you continue with your ignorant speech. And I wasn't griping. As I've said, it wasn't spoken to you, nor did I ask for your thoughts on the matter, nor do you understand what and why I said what I said. There's a lesson to be learned here, but I have the feeling you're not catching on." Garrett was quite honestly amazed that Thomas had even made it through basic with a mouth like that... and then he remembered the desperation of the military; they'd take anyone with half a brain and a mouth twice as flippant as Thomas'.  

Kai looked back at his Datapad. "Says here you are a Hymn boy now. That patch on your shoulder needs changing after this mission. Now, you are critical to our mission. We need you to take over the Enemy base with the Help of Private Sehene. I must warn you, Somehow, I always get the suicide runs, since I have a knack of surviving them with most of my unit in tact. I plan on surviving this one with no casualties. You ever been in combat? a boarding action, maybe?"

For a short second he turned to the squabbling marines and uttered a quick, curt "Shut the hell up, both of you." Glaring at the men before returning to the Engineer.

***

Emma sat down and slurped at the coffee, a delighted grin on her face. Even though it was Black coffee and bitter as hell as was usually the case in the military, the roasted aroma and flavor were amazing to the girl. Chugging the caffeine, Emma's body perked up even more somehow, her senses becoming alert and the world slowing somehow. A fidget began in her foot, slowly spreading as more and more coffee entered her system. before she was completely gone to the coffee, however, she said to Steven "Sir, I haven't had coffee in five years. I feel funny." The fidget was quite obvious now.

Garrett gave a huff and folded his arms over his chest. "Look, I'm tense. Got a lot on my mind. Leave me alone, we can say this whole ordeal never happened. Hm?" He was trying to make peace with Thomas; he doubted success, but it was worth a shot... or so he supposed.

Thomas grimaced. "Works for me," he grunted. Now was not the time to be working out personal issues. If personalities clashed, they could fix that some other day. He shook his head. Threatening him with rank? That was a new ploy. And he accused Thomas of being a kid.

But wait.

He had been being a kid.

Damn that realization hit fast and hard.

He turned to Garrett. Sincerely, he told him, "I'm sorry, sir. I overstepped my boundaries. I thought you just might... I don't know. Thought I could help."


Garrett smirked and nodded, friendly all of a sudden. "Trust me, kid, you couldn't help me if you were a certified psychiatrist. My problems are too deeply rooted to be dug out if I had the rest of my lifetime to work at 'em." He laughed quietly, glad that it had been resolved to quickly and easily.

Thomas chuckled. "What is that, some sort of 'don't grow up like me' cliche?" he joked, grinning again. That was indeed pretty fast.

"Captain Nakamura, how long do we have 'till we move out?" he asked, yet again checking his rifle.

Dante sighed, “Not on the front lines sir. I have done many simulations with high marks, but that would be it.” It's not like he avoided combat, but more like he was kept away from it. John tried to have him in some combat missions but many of the crew would rather have them go then Dante: something he was regretting right now “However, I know Drathonian and have a 75% accuracy rate on my last marksmen test,” He added quickly.

Raji gave a somewhat disquieted look from Steven to Emma, and back to Steven. She gave a bit of distasteful grimace before saying, "Sir, I believe I will go to the hangar, as well." She gave a halfhearted nod before turning and going back the way she'd come.

Walking quickly up the hall, Raji had soon caught up with Arcadia. Coming up alongside her, she gave a curt smile. "Hi, I'm Raji."

Jack looked on uneasily as Garrett went through a very dour moment. Hendlow serious...? he thought to himself. The world must be coming to an end. At a loss for words, he was quickly forgotten in the 'conversation' (argument).

As Garrett chewed the kid out, Jack thought about what he'd said. A buried memory bubbled up to the surface, one that he hadn't thought about since this madness on the Hymn began. Subconsciously, he rubbed his shoulder, gently touching the spot where - on a shattered, broken piece of forsaken medical waste - a tattoo had been. A cold chill ran down his neck, and a blank, brooding stare crossed his face. He sat there for some time until the room was quiet once again. He looked over to Hendlow, muttering, "I gave up on that s**t a long time ago. The only place we can live is the present, and we can only do what little we f$@#ing can." He picked up his weapon, looking at it placidly. "I'm not here to babysit anyone. I'm just here to make sure that every single last one of those scum sucking snakes knows exactly what it means to suffer." He uttered these words with chilling effect. However, in the pit of his stomach, despite what he'd just said, right that moment he had absolutely no desire to kill.

Garrett looked back to Jack, listened to him speak in that foreboding tone. He had a deep appreciation for it, but had great difficulty showing it; he had a desire to bring Jack back around; he had the greatest urge then to find a solid wall, sit against it, and sleep; he wished to do all these things, but he couldn't or didn't know how so he did nothing... nothing of value anyways. He stepped out of the depot a short way, pulled the last cigarette out of his pocket and managed to spark his lighter one last time. He took a deep drag, relishing it for several seconds, before exhaling. The last little comfort, it seemed. And that's when he realized he was acting like it was the end of the goddamn world. He laughed at himself and strolled farther away from the depot's front entrance and took another tar-tainted breath. "What a fool I am..."

She was in the midst of sipping at her coffee when Raji approached. "Raji, hm? Arcadia Langdon: your choice. I take it you'll be joining me in the hangar." She smirked, gaze turning ahead. "Have you named your Scimitar? Painted it perhaps?"

Thomas leaned back. Hmm. That was what he had been trying to tell Garrett. Oh well. He'd screwed up his approach and gotten slapped down for it. He should've gone onto that debate team in high school.

Then again, it wasn't like he could debate with the lizards.

Anyway, this was more fun.

If it could be called fun.

Raji followed along beside her. "Ah, no. I've been a shuttle pilot until now... so I suppose my new ship will be needing that." They came to the massive hangar, and she was once again taken aback by the enormity of it. Standing in the doorway, she looked around, wondering where her scimitar might be.

Jack followed Hendlow out of the depot, taking a seat near him against the exterior wall. The drear image of Garrett standing there smoking gave an air of foreboding. It made Jack feel helpless. Staring into space, Jack wondered with a sigh why the galaxy was such a b*****d place.

Garrett lowered himself, sitting on his heels beside Jack. He offered an empathetic smirk and his half-used cigarette. "Smoke?"

Arcadia looked at Raji with a hint of surprise. "A shuttle pilot? Hm... Seems they're dragging in everyone they can, then. Must be something big, hm? My real wonder is if they're giving you Scimitar. I would imagine that to be rather... unorthodox and... lethal." She smirked.

Raji was drawn away from the wonder of the hangar by Arcadia. She smirked. "Trust me, you've never flown a shuttle mission unless you've done it through hostile space. I do it by choice. I'm fine with a scimitar, it's just... well, I guess killing makes me ill. I hate it." She said this with an embarrassed blush crossing her cheeks.

Jack looked over to the cigarette being offered to him. "Nah thanks. I don't feel much in the mood. Let's just get this s**t mission over with and sort out our stupid 'feelings' later. I'm too thick for crap like this." He stood up with an air of impatience, hating to have to do anything yet knowing he didn't want to talk.

Kai watched as two of his soldiers walked outside. He hadn't heard the whole conversation, but could tell that morale was not at 100 percent. Not much he could do, he decided, so he turned back to Dante. "The language skill could be useful, but that accuracy shows you've either used only a Bro, or need more practice with a Sugar. It should be fine enough, we've enough marksmen in the unit to make up for it. Just try not to get in over your head. If you feel threatened, make it known. we'll do waht we can to help." he patted the young engineer on the shoulder and asked "you almost ready? we head out at first light, about five standard hours from now if my information is correct."

****

Wordlessly, a Technician handed a ship roster to Acadia and Raji. while mostly full of names neither had ever seen, the section Labeled "Green squadron" held their own names, as well as the serial numbers of the fighters belonging to them. Arcadia was assigned FJ-XR-4281, and Raji FG-XR-5500. The indicated craft were sitting near the maintainence section of the bay, painted an a dull grey primer with their registration stenciled in black. while the ships could fight like this, most of the others had custom color schemes. The only reason Arcadia's was like this was because it was a bit old and the previous paint was a bit pockmarked with debris. the Hymn's Engineering crew, currently bored, had decided it needed re-surfacing. In any case, the two women would have to go and talk to said crew to get their ships in order.

***

Emma began shaking and hyperventilating, but she didn't seem to notice. "So.." she said rather quickly, "What is it that you want to know about me, Corporal, sir?" the young pilot looked up at him, shaking like some strange vibrating doll. Honestly, the girl had almost never had any caffeine, so the sudden addition of it to her system created a very profound reaction. Luckily for anyone nearby, the girl's metabolism would burn it of fairly soon. She waited as patiently as she could, looking from place to place as if she was extremely paranoid.

"Five hours?" Thomas groaned. "Come on, I'm psyched now. Let's hit 'em now." He knew that would be a bad idea; there was some reason for waiting, but he still wasn't happy about it. Five hours of lugging around all this ammunition. If he'd known, he'd have held off 'till a little later.

Raji looked at her scimitar, grinning. "FG 5500, hmm? Well it certainly is an easy number. You said it needs a name... how about F***er's Gallow? Heheheh..." She said it half-jokingly, mostly because it was the first thing that had come to mind.

Arcadia sighed. "You really have NO tolerance for violence whatsoever, do you? F***er's Gallow? Talk about hating your ship AND your job. A disgusting name for a disgusting ship, if you ask me." She shook her head and gestured for Raji to follow. Arcadia led her new teammate to the engineers, got the ordinances registered to their ships, and requested some black and red paint to make this new Scimitar the beauty her last one had been. "Splice yours if you like, but it doesn't sound like you really care. Your call." With that, Arcadia strode toward her ship, a bucket of paint in either hand.

Garrett smirked. "Yes, well I think I just heard the kid say we aren't leaving for another five hours." He stuck the cigarette between his lips again and dropped himself on his a**; the smirk dissipated. "Hope you don't mind if I do," he blew smoke in the direction opposite Jack, "But it's my last one."

Jack sighed. Five hours to kill.

"Nooo no no, you misunderstand. I meant F***er's Gallow like it's a gallow for killing f***ers. It was a joke, anyway. I couldn't come up with a good name for my ship if I wanted to." Following suit with Arcadia, she got some black, silver, and white paint from the engineers for her own ship. She followed the other girl toward their ships.

"I can tell," was Arcadia's abrupt reply. She set the buckets down in front of the Scimitar registered in her name and immediately got to work with the black paint. "Might I recommend NOT naming your ship? At the very least, learn some respect for it before you attempt to do so." Only then did she look up at Raji, awaiting a response while her hands continued to paint the hull ebony.

Dante stood where he was, “Yes Sir. I just have to get a weapon. I prefer a “sugar” more then the bro.” Dante walked over to the S/GUR rack, picked up a S/GUR, inspected it, and put it back on the rack. After 6 or 7 S/GUR, Dante found one that he liked and walked to the battery packs. Dante repeated the same process until he had 4 power packs to his standard. With a grin he turned around, “I'm ready sir.” And hopefully I don't f**k this up.

Raji gave an exasperated roll of her eyes while the other girl had her back turned. She's so obsessed with ships! As Arcadia turned back to her, she gave a soft smile. Nodding in agreement, she turned to her own ship and began slopping the black paint on.

Arcadia sighed as Raji walked away; the girl didn't understand an ounce of the information she'd tossed around. Pilot Langdon couldn't help but worry that Raji was going to end up dead or at the very least half-dead and crash landed in hostile territory. Raji didn't like fighting or killing, and yet the military was giving her a Scimitar, saying, "Be all you can be," and then expecting her to fly it into battle as if it were just another day in her shuttle. If that wasn't desperation, Arcadia didn't know what was. With another sigh, she pushed the thoughts from her mind and focused on the job at hand.

Releasing a deep sigh, Steven leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table and looked at Emma. His night had really picked up pace quickly. A little confused, and a little...well maybe just confused. But he was still excited, three new pilots for his squadron. A hyper teenager, an intimidating Indian, and a relatively pleasant girl. Yup, Green Squadron now cover most of the emotional and psychological extremes. Giving another deep sigh, he downed the cup of coffee in a few gulps.
"Well Ms. Emma, normally I would take this time to ask you a few things about you to help get to know you, but it looks like you would rather be moving around right now. And the other newbies left for the hanger to prepare for the next mission, so we might as well follow suit," Steven said, once again in a light, carefree tone. With that having been said, he stood up leaving the empty coffee cup and started for the door. "C'mon, we can talk on the way."

Raji worked patiently over her ship, completely drenching it with black paint. Their corner of the bay was left in general silence, but for the echo of things going on across the vast chamber. Raji drew into herself, thinking about the design she was putting on her ship.

Kai patted the engineer on the Shoulder "Neither do I, Kid, Neither do I" He watched on as the rest of the soldiers seemed to make up, then finished getting ready. their next orders were to get ready to board an APC that would take them to the frontlines and insert the team where it was needed.

***

Emma jumped up hyperactively, Knocking over her empty coffee mug, but ignoring it in favor of following Steven. she asked him again "There anything specific you want to know, sir or can i just start talking about whaterver?... Sir?" She followed along behind him, bouncing about and flitting to and fro, looking at every little thing along the way.

Thomas stood up. It looked like everyone was ready; maybe this meant they'd at least move somewhere. Hopefully by foot; a little warm-up was still necessary for a properly-executed charge maneuver. The way Thomas figured it, from the insertion point to wherever the nearest indoors were, he'd have to be sprinting, because he was probably just too big. So a little preparation seemed in order. Then again, they might be taking a vehicle. Save some energy. Ah, which was better?

Thomas would soon discover that Kai was headed off towards a rather large grouping of APC's about a quarter mile distant. Anyone who knew what an APC looked like (meaning everyone in the Terran military) could tell that that's what they were, even from this distance. Kai yelled to his squad "Allrighty, guys. Make sure you have everything you need. We''re going to head that way. The only way we can get to the insertion point without being mobbed or killed by AA seems to be the APC's so we're loading up and getting ready for a bumpy ride."

Thomas grinned. That was more like it. He hefted his weight into a jog, something he was sure he could keep up for that far. Get the blood flowing in his legs and what not.

"Well, normally I ask about why you first wanted to be a pilot, or something pertaining to their past or ambitions. But right now I am wondering about how much training you have recieved. Because, well, you are knida young, ya know?" Steven said to Emma as he walked casually down the hallway.

Garrett noticed that it was time to leave and he climbed to his feet. Perfect timing too, because his cigarette had reached its end. He dropped the cigarette to the ground with a sigh, then offered a hand to Jack. "Let's go. Time to get this show underway."

Emma giggled. "I get that all the time. I've had about four years of training, mostly in simulators, but the last year I was placed in charge of my training squadron. They transferred me over here, because i turned sixteen about a month ago, and they thought I was skilled enough to handle frontline duty." Even though every word Emma had said was true, Steven would have a hard time believing her between the goofy grin and the shaking and bouncing about. In all seriousness, however, the hyperactive reflexes were not just the effect of the coffee, they were part of what made her such a good pilot, though the coffee did lessen her control over them.

***

Kai watched the various Soldiers in his squad get up and get ready to board the APC's, and he looked over them all, having a generally good feeling about them. The mission, however, was not something he looked forward to. Close quarters with desperate Drathonians was suicide unless you were experienced in dealing with them. This new kid, Dante, Was worrying the Young Captain. Kai had lost men before, but they had all been either repatriated convicts, or professional soldiers, Most of whom were distant. There didn't seem to be any distance with this eager kid, willing to fight and die when he could have lived a life of safety back in the Altresian empire, or aboard one of the rimworld colonies that had been missed by the lizards.

And yet here he himself was, Actually Younger than Dante, thinking of the soldier as someone so much younger. In a way, that was true. This kid hadn't seen the kind of vicious, violent, gritty reality of warfare, had not Been nearly killed more times than a person cared counting, as he and Gallhager and Hendlow had. Though his early past was as horrendous as evryone else's, he didn't have the brutal recent history of the band of marines command had decided to lump together.

Dante was getting nervous. He had never been in this kind of mission before. Dante didn't know what to expect. All he could go on was basic training and as that thought passed through his head, he remember one buddies from boot camp: “There is a reason they call it basic training. They give you the very basics and expect you to figure it out on your own.” That was not a comment he would have like to think of at this moment.

Whenever Dante got nervous he looked for something to work on. He walked around the APC 3 times slowly looking for any flaws whatsoever before deciding he could do nothing at the moment to improve. Dante entered the APC and looked around for the same thing inside but could not find anything. In fact he thought they gave them an almost new APC. Dante wished he had something to read or do. He didn't want to sit and think and risk his mind betraying him. He cursed his luck as he sat down in the APC and cut himself from his mind in a futile hope to forget about everything for the moment.

Once Jack was on his feet, Garrett followed the group toward the APC, feeling rather nonchalant yet again. When he laid eyes on the new engineer, he even managed a genuine smile. He was walking circles around the APC, inspecting it, and looking nervous as a lab rat. Finally, he went inside and the demolitions expert followed. "Hey, engy, what's your name?" Garrett was standing with one foot outside the APC, one in, and a hand gripping a hold on the ceiling near the door.

A half a second passed before Dante realized that Garret was talking to him. Stumbling over his words as he started to speak, he said “I'm um.. Private Second Class Dante Sol.” As he got a good look at Garret, he recognized him as the captain he mistook for Kai and quickly added a “Sir” to the end.

Thomas squeezed in past Garrett. He didn't fit well in the enclosed space of the APC; he was simply too large of frame. Terrifyingly so, in fact. He would've been claustrophobic, but he wasn't claustrophobic, so it didn't bother him. It probably would bother whoever was sitting next to him, though; he'd be encroaching a little on their seat.

Jack hustled past Hendlow and slammed in beside Thomas, dropping like dead weight down on the already half-filled seat. He looked over to the other soldier, his usual air of humor completely restored. "Well kiddo, yer pretty big. I'd stand behind you as a shield, but with a target that big every lizard in town'll be aiming for ya. Heh heh heh...." His devilish grin across his face, he dropped his gun into the slot beside him and strapped himself into the seat. He looked over to Garrett. "Yo Hendlow, you gonna sitcher a** down or what? I have an appointment to keep."

Kai Herded the other soldiers in the squad into the APC, Patting Hendlow on the back before entering himself. "Go easy on him, He's a bit green" The captain whispered to the Demo man, before giving Dante a swift smile and seating himself. As soon as Garrett got in, Kai would have him close the door and the APC would be off, to trundle toward the enemy base. It would be a long drive, nearly four hours cramped in the back of the vehicle.

Thomas burst into laughter. "Oh, that's what I'm good at," he returned. "Taking fire is a specialty of mine." That wasn't entirely a joke, either.

Garrett laughed and then nodded. "Yeah, he's green alright. Like ******** Terra, he's green." With everyone inside, he closed the hatch and planted his a** in the seat beside Jack, smirking. He pounded twice on the wall behind him. "Let's get moving! We've got lizards to roast!"

Then he looked at Dante a second time. To Kai, he said, "You sure we should bring fresh meat with us? You know how hot the field gets when we're around. You think he'll even last the first hour?" Then he realized he was probably scaring the s**t out of Dante.

"No offense, engy, but this squad always ends up in the most intense situations, and I'm willing to bet a kid straight out of basic isn't exactly likely to survive. Just a matter of the facts. Don't let it bother you. You keep your a** behind Jack and you'll be fine."

Dante showed no sign of change; that is if you can't hear his pulse double in speed as he listen to Garrett and Kai speak. Damn someone has it out for me. When Garrett spoke to Dante, his response was quicker: “Yeah, Captain Nakamura said something similar. Sir.” As the APC started moving, Dante contrasted on the sound of the treads moving across the dirt. Now I know why they did there hardest not to put me in the front lines. It's sounds suicidal. I really hope I don't get killed on my first mission off Chaos. John and the rest of the crew would be heart broken. Dante gave off a slight sigh as he started looking over his S/GUR to preoccupy his mind.

Jack grinned. "I doubt standing behind me will improve his chances of living. Try this kid-" he said, pointing to Thomas, "according to him, he's a great human shield."

Steven simply shrugged. "Works for me so long as you have some training. Just listen to me and play nice with your squadmates and you will get get the hang of thing real quick," Steven said as the two of them passed through a doorway into the vast hanger. Checking his wristwatch he said, "Still have time before take off, so we better check our scimmys make sure there are no kinks. And maybe, just maybe, I can try and get an actual conversation going with the rest of our squad."
With that Steven began moving towards the section of the hanger where Green Squadron was located.

"Hey, Hey, I thought I told you guys to be nice." Kai said with a raised voice. "Last thing we want is him to be freaking out. Obviously, command put him with us because he thought we could keep him alive, so quit it. Although, standing behind Thomas just might be a good idea" The Captain added, smirking a bit.

****

"YES SIR!"Emma Said, Way too excitedly, before shooting off toward her scimitar, which was near the other two. Checking really fast to make sure it was hers before grabbing a sprayer from the rack, ignoring the paintbrushes the other two seemed to favor, and began to paint her starship black in the nose fading to teal at the wingtips. Finish that, she stencilied the name "Azure Phantom" on the nose in teal, along with a ghostly black outline of the grim reaper under the words. Adding her name and rank under the cockpit. Satisfied with her work, she looked over at the other two female pilots whom had recently joined the group.

"Bullets galore!" Thomas laughed. "Heck, they got more metal out of me than they needed for the Liberty Bell," he added. His thoughts went back to some of the blows he'd taken. Man, sometimes he wondered if he was screwed up. Making jokes about crap like that. Whenever he thought like this, though, he said to himself 'screw it' and kept at it.

"Mental note: Switch her to decaf." Steven said to himself as he quickly lost ground to the hyper-active young girl. But he was quite pleased to see she had such an eager disposition about taking care of her ship. He was also pleased to see Arcadia and Raji busy at work on their scimitars as well. He himself having already done pre-flight checks on his scimitar, and being a few months away from needing a new paint job, he began standard diagnostics on his scimitar. Reclining on the left wing of his ship he inspected each new member of his squadron, how they were taking care of flight preperations, and how they were painting their fighter.
Pleased with some of the creativity he saw being expressed he turned to look at his own scimitar. Dark sage at the tip of the nose that gradually fades as it moves towards the tail until it is a light pistaccio green, the blades of the wings edged with the same dark sage color. Just below the rim of the cockpit, intwinned with the title The Green Phoenix is the image of a phoenix in flight. Heaving a heavy sigh he thought to himself that it was times like this when he was most at peace.

Garrett was having trouble keeping his laughter in check, but he managed. "Don't worry, engy, we've got you covered. Just don't expect this to be a stroll through the green fields of Terra, and you can be sure as Hell no one's holding your hand." Tilting his head toward Jack, he murmured, "We must be fifty different kinds of f@*$ing crazy, and I love it."

For now, Arcadia was comfortable leaving her Scimitar a solid black. She'd add the other touches when she got back from the newest assignment. Having completed the task at hand, she finished off what little was left in the coffee mug and sighed, gazing at the ship for a few seconds. She had big plans for its paint job, Arcadia thought to herself as she hopped onto one wing and then eased herself into the cockpit. She was going over the preliminary checks; she'd hate to have her first atmospheric battle go to s**t over bad planning.

Raji put the finishing touches on her ship design, stepping back as sweat dripped down her forehead. Her scimitar had been painted a wonderful space black, with hundreds of seemingly glowing speckles all about it. It was a perfect image of the galactic horizon: stars glimmering from every angle. On the side of her cockpit, she placed her name and ship number, and beneath that her ship's name. Rather than thinking hard about it, she simply put the first thing that came to mind when she saw it. "Black Jupiter" she wrote, and inside of her icy blue rendering of Jupiter, she drew the sign of Virgo.

Satisfied, she climbed into the cockpit, which felt very cozy and homely now that she knew it was hers. She began going through diagnostics and specification programs, adjusting her knowledge of shuttle flight to this more agile killing machine.

Clarissa was not happy one bit and she made no attempt to hide the fact. Not only was she stuck inside a small transport vehicle, but she was also stuck inside a small transport vehicle with marines. The best thing she could do at the moment was to get as far into a corner as possible, but still she was surrounded by the loud, obnoxious, and vulgar marines. "Oh why do sniper units have to be attached to marine units," she thought to herself. Sparing a slight glace around the interior of the APC she saw almost no familiar faces, aside from the few she did recognize from the earlier rescue mission. The only one of them who's name she actually cared to remember was Kai's. And he, like usual, was talking with a close-knit group of fellow marines. That was one thing she did have to hand to marines, they have an amazing sense of comradery and belonging. Snipers on the other hand were almost the exact opposite, preferring the company of only one or two other snipers if any company at all. That being the case she felt very much like an outcast with in this community, but was just fine not doing to try and remedy the situation.
Cutting off her train of thought, she sat back and closed her eyes trying to picture Steven in her mind.

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