Chapter 5: Jupiter Rush, Begin!

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 5: Jupiter Rush, Begin!

Post by Gwathdraug » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:27 pm

Chapter 5: Jupiter Rush, Begin!

The APC continued to trundle along, a few hours passed by, waves of boredom countered by sudden games, stories, and jokes, followed by more boredom would wash through the inside of the armored vehicle. Occasionally, the roof mounted Machine gun would fire off a few rounds, no dout taking out some sort of obstacle or enemy, but otherwise the progress was unhindered. At the end of it all, the Tracked vehicle clanked to a stop with a loud BANG! sound, and Kai's communicator notified him they were there, on time and ready for action. They could hear that they were there as well, Bangs, booms, the distinct sound of a blaster rifle, scattered machine-gun fire as well as some other sounds could be heard.

The drop zone was indeed hot. Their Apc Rocked a bit, and the back end creaked, but that wasn't heard over the deafening roar from outside. Figuring they better get out of the huge target soon, Kai unlatched the rear ramp door and kicked it open. It squaled on it's way down to bang obnoxiously on the side of a crater formed just feet behind their vehicle. Thank God for armor.

"Allright guys, Let's scram! We need to get to the door as fast as possible, because they will have guns trained on us. Use the Crater for cover and come out closer to the trees, I would bet they have the APC zeroed" The captain yelled, jumping down into the defilade. He scrambled up the side near some blackened, burning trees, hiding behind a large bush but looking over the area ahead of them. 100 or so yards stretched deadly in their way, luckily pockmarked with artilerry shell holes and cover that was supposed to be for the Lizards, but had been abandoned in the terran shelling the night before. Right now they were being shelled by the lizards, who were vaulting their shots from one side of the base to the ground on the other, so taking out the emplacements over here would help their allies opposite them, but not themselves.

About 20 yards from the door, the cover stopped, and they would have to make sure their path was clear before running it. Kai motioned to his squad to follow, beckoning Hendlow closer "Hey, Hendlow, We need something sticky to take out the door once we get there. Have it ready as soon as you can, but don't forget to cover people when they need it."Looking at the two grunts, Kai called for them "Gallagher and Peterson, you two share point, and cover Hendlow. Sol, Go with him. Sehene and Mortego, Go next, Rose and I will bring up the rear. But before we go, everyone with a Sugar, try to take out any obvious threats. Rose, I need your skills to pick off any of their snipers before they see us. Once we run out, switch everything from single to Auto or Semi-auto and get ready to do some Runnin' and Gunnin'."

***

Ten minutes before the marines arrived

The call went out for all pilots to ships, and the lighting in the Hangar changed to the reddish tint that meant it was serious. Green, Blue, and Red squadrons were on duty for escort planetside, while White and Black were on call to guard the ship in case the Lizards had any nasty suprises. Green, Blue and Red had a simple mission, Get to the base where the marines were and take out any artillery as quickly and cleanly as possible, then fly cover in case the lizards had anything up their sleeves.. well, Scales.

Emma, whom had just put the finishing touches on helping the technicians load her fighter with mini-missiles, two AA missiles, and wing mounted EMP cannons, thanked them quickly and brightly before hopping into the cockpit of her fighter. Initiating startup sequence, the darkened canopy slid back towards it's seals, enclosing the small girl in her cockpit. Checking her flight suit and helmet one last time, she ran a quick check on the ship. Everything showed green, so she flicked on her comm. "Green lead, this is green four, Reading, well, All green" She giggled at the supposed joke, and smiled a bright smile no one could see behind her mask, and engaged the Antigravity engines and inertial compensators. Suddenly feeling lighter, and noticing her ship bob upwards, she waited for confirmation from lead.

"Let's GO!" Thomas roared, pushing his way out of the APC and sprinting like a madman. The fact he could move so fast with so much metal was impressive. He didn't see anything he could immediately engage with the Bro, so he just made for cover, pausing briefly behind anything that looked like concealment or cover before changing pace and moving again. As a target, he was hard to hit despite his size. Hopefully the others could keep up with him; he paused just before the clear area, waiting for the others to be sure they were with him.

Steven was woken up from his light sleep by the sound of alarms and people running to their stations. In one fluid motion he pulled off his brown suede jacket, which he was using as a blanket, tucked it behind his seat and redid the seals on his flight suit. Having done this on several prior occasions that less than two minutes had passed between the time he had woken up and when he was finishing flight preparations. Running through his flight checks and checking all the systems on his helmet's HUD.
He found it odd that even after so long and even at a time like this that he was still amazed at the sophistication of the system. As the leader of the squadron his HUD could give him status checks on every fighter in GS, as well as health gauges on his wingmen which could be made to show anything about the person's well being from their heart beat, to their breathing rate, and even stress levels.
Finishing his personal flight prep, Steven turned his attention to his squadron. "This is Green Leader, T-60 seconds until it is our turn for take off," Steven said over GS personal comm channel, "Okay, Greens 3, 4, and 5, Arcadia, Emma, Raji, this is your first flight as a part of this squadron. Just remember your call signs and follow the instructions you are given, and you will feel like a part of my big, happy family before you know it."
Looked out the tempered permaglass canopy of his scimitar he saw another squadron, the blues he was guessing, take off. Almost Green's turn, and Steven could feel the excitement well up inside of him. "Alright everyone here is the deal. We, along with Blue and Red squadrons, will be flying ozone giving support to our marine buddies on the ground. Our main objective is as follows: One, destroy any and all enemy artillery units to give the marines room to advance; Two, when all artillery units have been taken out we are to fly patrol around the battlefield and provide general air support. If anybody has questions, you had better ask them quick. T-15 to launch." Steven said over the comm. He was still watching other squadrons take off.
"There goes Red. We are up!"

Jack was shoving through the portal of the APC an inch behind Thomas, his finger already on the trigger of his gun. He was about to start popping off idiot lizards standing in plain sight, when Thomas went charging up the line towards the base. "F#$&in idiot kid!" he growled, glancing quickly to Hendlow. "Hendlow, you'll have to cover your own a** getting up there once that bomb's done, I need to keep that idiot alive."

The squad not even all out of the APC but Thomas halfway to the door, Jack charged after him. Flicking to full automatic, he pointed his sugar at the Drathonians shooting at Thomas, firing a spray of bolts at several. His accuracy as clean as it was, a small river of blood trickled down the side of the casement. Jack got to a decent position about 15 yards behind Thomas, and continued his barrage from behind a barrier. "Peterson, you are ten kinds of dumbass." he shouted over the com the the mentally challenged kid in front of him.

~~~

Raji shot up in her seat as the alert rang, waking suddenly after having fallen asleep reading performance specs over two hours earlier. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she slung her helmet on and lowered her canopy. Engines powered up, and inertial dampeners powered up for the brief trip through zero gravity. The scimitar fully activated within a few seconds, she eased it up a few feet, preparing to take off. Once Steven gave the order, she shifted into her third row position in their formation. Glancing over the control panel, she gave a tap to her confirmation button to let the captain know she was ready.

Clarissa felt a wave of adrenaline wash through her as she dashed out of the APC for the nearest source of cover. Being directly in the fray like this wasn't really how she worked, but she still found the thrill of it to be intoxicating. Brushing aside the initial rush, she dashed into a nearby crater and psyched herself into a sniper's state of mind. Her first order of business was to find a suitable vantage point from which to strike. Peaking just over the edge of the crater, and zoning out all of the movement and background noise of the marines and gunfire, she scanned her surroundings.
Nothing but flatland in her immediate area. Probably a hundred meters away to either side was the forest line. But given urgency of the task she was given, and given the amount of crossfire, the best she could do was the move from crater to crater and gradually work towards better cover.
Now that she had her intended course plotted in her mind, she settled down into the crater she was already in and unslung her rifle. To any who have ever watched a sniper at work, they could testify to how meticulous they were about preparing a shot.
Scanning with one eye and looking through the scope with the other Clarissa was ready to hunt for the enemy snipers.
"That is where I would be, now, where are you?" she thought to herself as she scanned all the areas that any good sniper would be. Searching. Carefully scanning inch by inch for any indication of where a target may be. Until finally, she found one. A glint of light coming off of a scope lens. That was all it took.
"One," she thought to herself as she began scanning the field once more.

Dante walked out of the APC as he scanned the area. In his mind he saw many different numbers which were anything from distance to refraction values from deflection shields. This was the reason he was an engineer; he was a super genius. All those books he read help this growth and kept him sharp. He could see the physics in the lasers as they curved due to the gravitation distortion of the barriers and other beams. However it didn't take long for him to remember where he was and when he did, he ran to the nearest cover. Softly he cursed: “Damn that was stupid. I could have been cap.” Dante's gaze became fixed on the APC as he was waiting for Garrett to get out so he can follow his lead.

Sehene was jolted out of her stupor – having been bored during the long drive – by the increasing volume of explosions, gunfire and the like. She sat up suddenly, her face becoming cold and emotionless, and prepared for the sudden stop and rush out of the APC. She removed her sunglasses, and quickly put her helmet on, setting the HUD on ‘tint’. She set her Sugar to ‘automatic’ and held it ready for combat. She followed out of the APC, and made her way to the nearest cover, scanning the area swiftly as she did so. She took out a few Drathonians who were...too close for comfort...and then sped out of there, aiming to reach the door as soon as possible. An explosion of gunfire from a little ‘gathering’ of Drathonians led her to launch herself into another crater, and she rolled into it gracefully, coming up into a crouching position, ready to fire, which is exactly what she did. Now to wait for the rest of the Unit to catch up...

"You know," Thomas grunted, "I'm not that far ahead. If you guys could move your puny little legs you'd be out here. We're almost there, we just gotta move," Thomas emphasized. "It's just rocks and shrubbery. If they hit us with a shell we're dead, so we should be moving." He was already shifting to start going again, but back towards his slow comrades. "Do you want me to carry you?"

Hendlow was just behind Dante, giving him a light shove as they came down into the crater. "You move like that, and you'll be dead sooner than I thought." He smirked. "Keep moving." Then he heard Jack; he'd have to cover himself? Not too difficult, he figured. "Just keep pushing, Jack! Looks like you've got competition for craziest man on the squad!" Despite his jibing tone, Garrett's expression was quite serious.

He came up over the crater's rim at a sprint, and slid into crouch behind a rather large chunk of rock. "Engy, watch my back!" he shouted, reaching around his back for the bag of goodies. From it, he withdrew an adhesive C4 charge. Plain, simple, and effective so long as the Drathonians hadn't decided to make their doors out of concrete without his knowledge. With the C4 in his right hand and the S/GUR in his left, he charged ahead to Thomas' position. "I like your idea better; keep moving, you beast of a man!"

As soon as the alert went out, Arcadia finished suiting up and closed the cockpit hatch. She flicked the 'systems green' switch to inform Kerning, and then answered, "Copy sir. Able, ready, and willing." She took a deep breath, and scanned her weapons loadout quickly, having forgotten to requisition something other than the standard. Luckily, there was an EMP and a few standard missiles. The EMP was what she was really glad about. In her head, she was following the countdown until they all took off. Arcadia's Scimitar was up and running smoothly, awaiting zero.
 
Seeing everyone was in motion, Kai quickly left his current position, having been zeroed after taking out a few lizards shooting from windows and the like. He quickly made it to Dante's position, Tapping him on the shoulder and encouraging him with the shout of "Get your a** moving buddy" Before preparing cover for him. Garret was obviously making sure he had the right explosives, and the relative safety of the APC was probably the best place to do that. Speaking of the APC, now that the group was out of it, the could see that the front end, including the driver's compartment, had been slagged by some form of heavy weaponry, and it was now a melty, blackened, caved in hole belching forth smoke. Two men the squad had already managed to avenge.

The door they had been heading for suddenly opened of it's own accord, belching forth about thirty Drathonians, all firing wildly with their Beater rifles, Nearly the equal of the Bro in firing rate, spraying so much fire that anyone caught with their head up too long might bite it.

***

Emma called back quickly "Affirmative, Sir!" And got into formation on Arcadia's wing, waiting as the countdown to launch rolled ever closer to zero. She primed her main engines for the blast out, knowing they would want all the speed they could manage before hitting the atmosphere. As a precaution, she calculed many of the possible entry vectors for the squadron on descent, trying to be sure they wouldn't actually damage something in the transition from Vaccum to Atmosphere.

Captain Hendlow had been coming out from his position to plant the C4 when the Drathonians came swarming onto the battlefield. "F%@$!" was all he could blurt out before scrambling back. He had to act quickly or they'd just overrun his position and tear him into millions of pieces. He punched in a five-second detonation on the C4, leaned out from cover and lobbed it toward the Drathonians. Four of them were blown apart, two more were incapacitated, and the rest were left stunned and/or surprised. Hendlow took a deep breath of relief and sprinted back a few yards, preferring to keep his distance from the Drathonians.

Thomas grinned, yelled "Yes sir!" and was about to leap up and start sprinting again when the Drathonians appeared. With a curse he dove into cover. This was one place he was weak; he didn't carry much in the way of crowd control beyond the Bro, and he didn't trust his helmet to take any fire. He instead reached a stopgap he had many times before; he stuck up his arms and squeezed the trigger without looking. And he held it down until he emptied a cell. He casually dropped the cell to the ground, replaced it with one sticky from duck tape, stuck his arms up again, and repeated the process one more time before reloading and poking up just his head to see if he had accomplished anything. If there were enough Drathonians down, he was going to start charging. And he was serious about it, too.

The combination of C4 and a spray of laser blasets thinned the numbers from thirty to about eighteen. The survivors spread out and got behind cover, one taking the time to close the door, seal it, and lower an extra blast door. The rest began firing from their cover, focusing on the point where Thomas' fire had come from, and where they thought Garrett was. The two provided adequate distraction, leaving the rest of the squad unaccosted. Withering fire from Rose, Sehene, and Nakamura managed to keep snipers and those in higher levels at bay, but a new wave of shelling started whistling down toward the APC and (almost) systematically evaporating much of the shrubbery and trees.

Dante would be able to see Garrett's mad dash and subsequent retreat, so Kai kicked him out of the hole they were hiding in and into a slightly smaller one next to them, before yelling "Get closer to the building, the shells won't hit close to it, and you're more likely to survive a laser than a shell"

Peeking around to survey the results, Garrett spied maybe ten Drathonians scrambling for cover, and plenty more already dug into positions. One in particular caught the Captain's eye; it was trying to reseal the door. As if to add insult to injury... Glaring down the sighting of his bro, Garrett loosed four rounds into the Drathonian. He went down and Garrett placed another two rounds in its skull before he was drawing more heat than he felt comfortable with. Great. Now he was still going to have to open the door AND help clear out these Drathonians. They could only hope that reinforcements didn't show.

Thomas swore and ducked as a blast of energy nearly clipped off his ear. Okay, they knew where he was, they could direct fire at him. No charging yet. Either wait until they reloaded or shift positions and put some fire down in the meanwhile. A deeper crater appealed to him; he could see one maybe twenty yards to his right. Further than he'd have liked, but close enough to cover in just as many strides. That wasn't far. He checked his cell; still full, he could let loose another hailstorm. He braced himself against the far wall, kicked off, and ran. As he ran he fired from the hip, letting off maybe fifty bursts of energy before he stopped at the far end. Man, he'd known he was gonna burn through power cells, but not like this. How long could he keep this sort of thing up?

The drathonians picked up on Thomas' movement, as twenty yards was quite a ways. A bit belatedly, the raked fire towards him, but nothing would hit him before he managed to hide. Garret's fire on the drathonian had indeed succeeded in obliterating it, but it's job finished, the blast door sealing as well, making there be two layers Garrett would need to blast through.

Jack looked on with mute interest, watching Thomas run for cover. All the fire seemed to be aimed at him and Hendlow, which meant the dumb lizards hadn't even noticed him. "Craziest my a**, the title doesn't need to be defended." he muttered into the com to Hendlow before charging off to the left flank of the spread Drathonian defenders. With deft ease, he went barreling into the furthest crater, a slightly undersized Drathonian occupying it. Running right into its crossfire, Jack quickly drew its fire, but too late. Several weak bolts sizzled into his chest armor as he leapt into the hole, ramming an elbow full force into its face. The lizard, smart for a runt, rolled with the blow, rolling to the left side of the crater. Quickly on its knees, it drew its Beater rifle up, only for it to be smashed down by Jack's Sugar rifle. Using the arc of the swing to draw back around, he brought his improvised club cracking into the side of its face. It fell sideways, stunned, and Jack decided he'd wasted enough time. Inches from its face, he fired a few rounds out the barrel of his gun.

Crouching back up to the edge of the crater, he peered out to see how good of a line of fire he had at all the defending Drathonians to the right of the crater.

Sehene was firing on the Drathonians, slowly but surely clearing the field with the others, when the swarm of 'beasts' decided to make her job more difficult. She managed to get a few shots in before they began to barrage the area, and she slid further down into the crater she was hiding in. She peeked out cautiously, and noted where most of the fire was being aimed; forwards and to her right, a ways away. She replaced her cell without looking, still peeking outside of her cover, looking for another place to rush to. Most of the brush large enough to provide cover had been blown away by this time, so the only adequate option was a crater. She spotted one only a few feet away from her, but it was closer to the door, so it was better than her current position. She shifted into a low crouch, a bit of dust rising up from her boots, and then launched herself into the crater. Before she hid herself again Sehene fired on one particular Drathonian who was close. She peeked out to see that the Drathonian had indeed been eliminated, and focused on finding more to shoot at.

Thomas did not like that door. That door was between him and true safety. They were not safe out here. Thomas could rush, but that would get him killed, unless there was somewhere to rush to. Could he find something? A small crater, only large enough to take cover within if he were laying down. It was a mere ten yards ahead. He could cover that in as many strides. Now, to lay down some cover fire. He emptied the remainder of his cell, reloaded it, then leaped up, moving relatively quickly and throwing himself onto his stomach within the crater. A shot glanced off his shoulder plate; that had been close. No permanent damage, just a scorch mark, but it was a reminder that he needed to stay safe.

"The last five seconds are always the longest." That is what one of his teachers at the academy had told him during his first flight in an actually scimitar, and boy is it true. Counting down in his mind, the seconds past in rhythm with the pounding of his heart.
T-5, 4, 3, 2... then silence. An hour past and finally the announcement that Steven had been waiting for came through his ear piece. "Green Leader, this is hanger control, you and your squadron are cleared for take off. Guide beacons are now lit, good luck and happy flying Greens."
"Roger hanger control. Green squadron has visual on guide beacons, and is now commencing take off," Steven replied as he flip a few more switches, finalizing flight preparations. Turning his main comm channel back to squad chat, he spoke once more to Green squadron.
"Green squadron, commence take off," his said in the most official sounding voice he could manage before chuckling a little, "Last one to reach the stratosphere gets to treat the squad to coffee when we get back."
With that Steven eased forward on the throttle, gradually gaining speed as he neared the hanger bay doors until he and the squad were clear of the Hymn.
Over the comm came the voice of Green 9,
"Man I will never get tired of doing that."
"Cut the chatter a little, will ya 9?" Green 6's voice said in reply.
"Relax already Carter," 9 said, continuing the playful banter.
"Hey! You know damn well that we are to use call signs when on missions," 6 said in retaliation.
As much as Steven was enjoying listening to the humorous conversation he did have obligations as squad leader.
"Both of you quiet down. Green 9, please do try to keep to the call signs, and quit pushing other people's buttons. Green 6, comm chatter will be cut once within the atmosphere, till then lighten up a little. After all we don't want to give our new wingmen a bad first impression now would we?" Steven said, cutting into the conversation.

A few minutes passed as Green squadron approached the upper atmosphere when Steven noticed Blue and Red squadron fall into formation to either side of Green. Tuning to a private channel that was designated for squadron leaders.
"Green Lead here. So what do ya think the best trajectory is for getting to the contact zone?"
"Pleasure as always Green lead," the female voice of Red Leader said over the come before proceeding, "Contact zone is going to be 22min North by 41min East."
"So for the smoothest course, we should alter course to 343 degrees North by North-West, and drop our noses 7 degrees," added the aging voices of Blue Leader.
"I agree. See you all inside. Green Leader out," Steven confirmed. Changing back once again to squad chat he began to relay the new information,
"Greens, I am sending you all the data on the trajectory changes. Enter them in immediately."
Entering the information himself, he looked inquisitively at the orange fire as it began to streak around his fighter.

Emma recieved and loaded the data, noting that it mostly corellated with hers, except for a tenth of a degree difference in nose attitude. She fiddled with her calculations again before realizing the discrepancy was because she was calculating for a space-spec Scimmy, not the ones with aerial modifications they were flying. she followed suit, noting to herself that she needed to remember those minor differences in flight characteristics some day. She followed the squadrons in, a bright smile on her face, she was happy to be flying with the squadron. Slightly bored by the short trip, she opened up a monitor with some long range sensor relays, and noted the battle going on down below. Drathonian shelling was beginning, with the ring of APC's closing within range. in a couple minutes, they would arrive, just before the fighter squadrons, and begin the assault. "Green lead, four here, We need to hurry up or the Grunts are going to get beaten to a pulp" she commented to Steven.

"Concern duly noted Four," Steven said in reply, "Can't rush atmospheric entry or we would be risking the stability of our heat shielding. And I don't know about you but that would put a real damper on my day."Truth be told, Steven was also concerned about the chance of arriving too late.
Brushing away the concern he glanced at the time clock for the estimated entry into the lower atmosphere. It was almost time.
"Green squadron, commence deceleration and prep your scimitars for aerial contact," Steven informed his squadron. Scanning the horizon, he found the contact zone.
"Green squadron, move to parade formation on my left, we will be altering our heading 15 degrees North by North-East, and drop altitude to 100 meters above ground level. We will be arriving on the right flank of the marine battle group. Blue will be from the left. Red will be swinging around to flank the drathonian defensive line just along its left flank in order to scout out artillery emplacements and Anti-air emplacements," Steven said while changing his own course, then switching his comm channel to the marine officers' frequency. "This is Green Leader. Green, Blue, and Red squadrons inbound on designated location. Arrival in T-15 seconds. All squadron leaders will have our secondary comm channels tuned to this frequency. Green Leader out."
"Finally time for a little pay back for suffering through the embarrassment of being shot down by a scourge," Steven said, this time only to himself. T-5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. "Man I am good," he mumbled as a small chirping noise went of on the scimitar's control panel. Red squadron was uploading artillery and AA locations. Scanning over them he was impressed that they were similar to the points provided by orbital spy satellites. "The computer jockeys on the bridge actually got their Intel right," he mused.
After relaying the points to the rest of the squadron, Steven set to work readying the precision missiles he had requested. Off to his left, Steven could see the marine battlegroup. Just as he thought of Clarissa being down there, he flipped the cover and pushed the little ready button on the left joystick. With the resulting impact and detonation of the missile Green Squadron officially entered the fray.

A bolt of energy scorched Thomas' helmet, glancing away and pulping a little rock. That was again far too close. This cover idea hadn't been so grand after all.

Then a missile hit. They had air support. Almost subconsciously, he pumped his fist into the air.

Slapping his communicator, Thomas had a simple request. He wasn't sure if it would go straight to the pilots or not; he didn't have enough mental focus to ensure that it did. "Get some air cover on that door!" he shouted. "Put a few holes right around there and let us get close enough to be safe!"

Emma followed Steven's lead by getting a lock on several of the artillery emplacements dotting the base, launching her mini-missiles as she got locks. The projectiles, streaking away, mostly hit their targets dead on, a few missing close enough to confirm kills. She smirked before pulling up over the top of the stangely rounded building so she could set up for a run on the backside, hoping Arcadia, her wing, would follow her lead, she transmitted to her "Three, this is four, setting up for a run on the far side. you have my wing?"

***
Thomas' call was heard by headquarters, but at the moment they had no way of knowing just which door he was talking about. Besides, a hit by a fighter on the doorway would do more damage than a shaped charge, and command wanted the thing capable of being repaired quickly.

Kai mentally cheered. Air support. Their main problem for outside was now nothing to worry about, just some pesky lizards with guns. almost as if listening to him, the sound of gunfire died down a little, and more doorways could be heard slamming shut, then subsequent explosions told them other squads had managed to break in. Kai took a good aim from his position about 55 yards from the door, and began picking off the now abandoned and nearly panicky lizards outside. as the fire continued, CIU 215 managed to take out all of them, their bodies littering the floor around the door, which was now clear for Garret to forcibly open. Kai called to his squad over helmet comms "Alright guys, form up near the door, we need to be ready to shoot as soon as Hendlow's blast removes it."

***

Up at the top of the Drathonian base, a number of panels slid open, revealing capital-ship grade AA weapons, which now begain training on the fighters. Red two immediately took a hit, but her shields remained intact. Blue five, however, was not as lucky, the young pilot having become complacent and giving into an old habit of switching off shields to reserve energy (not needed due to the new power sources), and was blown from the sky. Several others had shields grazed by AA fire, including many in green squadron.

Thomas gave a cheer anyway. The way was clear, and he hadn't even had to charge. Well, he hadn't gotten to either, which was a shame, but there was only so much one could do. He got up and jogged for the door, tracing the building with his sights before he got close so that anything that posed a threat wouldn't really pose a threat. He pressed himself against the wall, waiting for Garrett to show up, preparing to again take point, but again set to run apparently faster than Jack was capable of. Hey, it wasn't his fault. It was his problem, but he figured that it was better to clear terrain then to sit and wait forever. He just had to not set himself up to get cut off. Caution would be required in this little escapade.

Steven was a solid block of nerves. Calm, precise, focused. But the fact that the structure had AA of such a high caliber still shocked him. It was times like this that it paid to be a quick thinker. "Green squadron break parade formation into wingmen pairs," Steven said over the comm in a very stern voice, "Green Seven through Twelve, maintain evasive countermeasures but remain focused on our main objective of taking out the artillery. Greens Two through Six, we will be focusing on the structure's AA emplacements. Greens Five and Six, come in low and flank it on its right. Greens Three and Four, get behind that thing and come in high. Green Two and I will provide a distraction for you."
With Green Two in tow, Steven eased the throttle forward once more, skimming the tree tops inbound on the structure.

Garrett gave a big sigh of relief when he saw the air support show up. "Damn good," he murmured, smirking. He drew his second C4 charge and rushed across the remainder of the cratered field. "Planting, keep clear!" He shouted, and stuck the charge to the door before heading his own advice. Mentally, he followed the count. Three, two, one, and...
BOOM!
Garrett pressed himself against the wall beside Thomas, Sugar rifle at the ready. "Let's do this!"

"Green three, acknowledging sir," Arcadia said plainly upon receiving the new coordinates for entry. Entry was a shaky process, but Arcadia had nerves of steel. She radiated a soothing form of calm, especially in her speech. "Roger, Corporal." This time, she was acknowledging the new orders to disable the AA guns. "Four, I've got your wing. Let's come back around from the southwest corner. It seems to be less defended. Just be sure to deliver target directives to me; I'll make sure you don't miss." Cool, calm, collected: that was Arcadia.

Jack Gallagher stepped out from his foxhole into the hazy dust bowl of the battlefield. Once he'd had the lizards flanked, it was an easy process clearing them out. Regardless, though, his squad was behind schedule. Taking his place on the opposite side of the door from Hendlow and Thomas, he nodded at them in acknowledgement. Jack edged around the corner a bit, firing through the sickly black cloud left behind by the explosion.

~~~

Raji followed the squadron down to the combat zone, tapping her confirmation button every so often. Finally, the action began, and she rolled off to the right, 6 falling in behind her. Looking off to her side, she could see the massive defensive batteries firing away at the other ships. She brought her scimitar arcing away for a moment, then turned in a sharp bank towards the far end of the structure. "Six, I'm taking us up along the side of the base. If we stick low to it, we'll be safe from fire until we can get our missiles off." Green Six mumbled in confirmation, and Raji rolled her eyes as she brought her scimitar up along the side of the base, flying parallel to its surface by just a few meters. Her firing window would be within a matter of seconds. "Three and Four, prepare to fire." she half-ordered over the com.

The door burst open, belching smoke for a few moments as the squad poured fire into the opening. When the smoke cleared, they would see... nothing. No enemies, no defenses, nothing of important. In fact, it was a mostly clean, empty hallway with a kiosk to one side, much to small for a Drathonian to hide behind, it held a sign poclaiming: "Welcome to the Jupiter-class battleship Artemis Decommissioned around 3950 A.D...." And proceeded to list of the merits and actions of this ship. most of the sign could not be read, as it was covered in scribbled grafiti written out in Drathonian characters, and had a few laser holes through it. how the kiosk survived, no one will ever know. Just beyond the kiosk was an open door into a room marked "Gift shop", which had been hastily converted into a security checkpoint, now devoid of it's detail, whom they had just vanquished. farther down the hallway, some barricades were set up, but for the moment, the hall was eerily quiet. Obviously other teams at different points of the ship had provided enough distraction to keep their own path fairly empty. as if to confirm that assumption, drathonian war calls, as well as roars of pain mixed with screaming and yelling could be heard faintly echoing through other corridors.

***

"I Copy sir!" Emma chimed at steven, then, hearing Arcadia's suggestion, she replied "Copy, three" and whipped her fighter around, buffetting a little in the atmosphere, but not messing up her course. Approaching the corner, however, two more batteries popped up from beneath the armored plating of the base, and began tracking the two targets "Three, we have to more AA contacts to our right, tracking on you. I'll get them with my EMP cannon, just give my missiles something else to fire at" then, following her own orders, she re-oriented the Scimitar to fly straight at the cannons and swooped down within the short atmospheric range of the EMP guns, Firing blasts of blue energy which overloaded the two turrets before they could even fire.

Thomas furrowed his eyebrows, poked his head around the corner, and made the space between his eyebrows look like a canal. That wasn't right. Where were the Drathonians?

Thomas suspected a trap. No point defended by forty men who just ran out and shut the door was just clean. No one would bother taking that risk. There was something they didn't want the Terrans to have around here, and Thomas voiced that opinion. "I think it's a trap," he grunted Laconically, slowing taking a few steps in first. Of any of them, his build left him most qualified to take a hit, if it were to be non- or near-fatal.

Dante sat for a second, panting, while he put his mind back in his head as he sat next to Kai. “Thanks,” Dante gave to him as he peeked over the crater where they hid. Garret's voice soon reached his ears in his request for cover. As Dante watched him run for cover, he started firing small bursts of fire at selected targets. Two Drathonians fell during the blasts and one wounded.

When the doors opened Dante saw a wave of Drathonians rush over the field. Dante quickly ducked as laser fire shot all around them. A large boom sound came over the distance but he didn't care. All of a sudden, shells started falling, and he felt a strong push as he fell into an adjacent crater and heard what Kai told him. Dante ran down jumping from one foxhole to another, to get in closer to the building. A laser passed his head within an inch which had him hit the ground a little harder as he took a deep breath. God damn it. I almost bought the farm with that one. Dante looked around and estimated that he was far enough to avoid the shells. Dante took the S/GUR rifle off his arm and took out couple more Drathonians.

When the fighting was over Dante was still planted in the foxhole, shaking, and clutching his rifle in his hands so tight it started to leave an imprint. He watched as Garret blew the door off its hinges and a cloud of dust replace where the door was. When the dust cleared he saw the hall empty as an eerie silents engulf the battlefield. Dante just couldn't get himself up to advance. It was like the gravity had doubled and Dante looked down the hall through the scope as he waited for a horde of Drathonians to come rushing forth.

She nodded 'happily' when the arrival of air support announced itself with the destruction of numerous Drathonians. She added her gunfire to the fray, and when everything was clear, crouched higher to observe. She nodded again to confirm the order to herself, and sprinted through the settling dust. She arrived near the door just as it was being blown open, and she cocked her gun, ready for the inevitable onslaught of enemy forces, but there was...nothing. "I agree, it's not like Drathonians to leave any area undefended, even something small. They have no appreciation for life, even their own." She moved a little closer to the rest of the group as she said it.

Nothing happened. The corridor remained empty, and quiet. but thomas took another step and the floor plate he stepped on depressed, made a twanging sound, followed by an electronic zap, and completed with a pathetic little poof as the small remains of what was supposed to be a large bomb went off. Apparently, some of the shrapnel from Garret's bomb had removed nearly all of the explosive device's explosiveness.

Tentatively, Kai walked inside as well, and found there to be nothing wrong. He signalled the rest of the squad to come inside, and walked into the 'gift shop'. There he sat down on a chair and said "Here's what we do. We send either Thomas or Jack down the hallway to scout out what's beyond those barricades, and the rest of us will form up there. If the scout encounters resistence, they are to turn tail and run as fast as their legs will carry them, essentially baiting the drathonians into our guns. If there are none, we continue up to the next floor, repeating the process if plausible, and then continue on to the main control center. everyone clear? Allright, one of you crazies, get gone, we'll be behind in a moment." With that, he stood up, slammed a fresh battery into his sugar, and made sure the rifle was ready, before walking out into the hallway and beginning towards the barricades.

Garrett watched Thomas nervously. When the would-be lethal bomb went off with a comical poof, he laughed loudly. The sight of Dante shaking in his little engineer boots, incapable of movement, ended his laughter. He jogged over, grabbed Dante at the bicep and pulled him into the Drathonian structure just in time to catch Kai's speech. "Great, great, but I have a better idea. Send out one of these fleshy tanks to scout ahead. I can set up a booby trap of sorts: I've got wire and some goodies I can rig like a claymore. If the scout hits some tough bastards, he can pull back-- careful to jump clear of my wiring-- and hope the Drathonians are stupid enough to trip it. If we don't run into trouble, well I can dismantle it or we can leave it there for a fallback point. Or we can stick with your original idea. Your call, Captain." Then he realized he was still gripping Dante's arm.

"Oh, and please keep track of your engy. I pulled him out of a crater about 20 meters from the entrance." He gave Dante a gentle shove farther into the room. "Keep your cool, engy; We don't need to lose a man to himself."

Arcadia had a lot of information coming in almost simultaneously from Emma and Raji; her brain sorted it out easily enough. "Four, veer starboard(right), five and six are on our port(left) side. If you can hit the last four, I can take care of the first four. Six, three and four here, we've got the south side under control. Keep our asses covered will you? I have no desire to be digging Drathonian shrapnel out of my ship or my body." Coming around to the starboard side a short distance behind Emma's Scimitar, Arcadia blasted the first two AA guns with the EMP then opened up the automatic gun on the second two; the third AA was left mostly intact, but the fourth was destroyed. "Green Squadron, be careful we've still got some live AA's on the south side of the structure; sorry about that, but next time perhaps I could get a few more seconds before having to make a move like that. It'd be appreciated."

Thomas shrugged. "All I know is you'd better work fast, Hendlow, 'cuz I think I'm going. A facefull of smoke is not enough to discourage someone messed up like me." He started casually for one of the halls, then paused. Orders would perhaps be good. Well, those were orders. He thought. "Are we ready to pull through with this?" Thomas asked, checking the Bro again before leaning against a wall and glaring down the hallway to see if anything appeared. Silently, he dared something to appear. Rarely did that work, but hey, it was always worth another shot.

Jack looked at the young tank wistfully, giving a short smirk. "Just try to remember the whole turn tail and run part. As opposed to, you know, charging them headlong." Jack walked over to one of the ransacked shelves, picking up a little model of the ship. "So this is why we're here. I thought they'd turned all of the old Rimworld-era ships into scrap." He put the model back down, moving to a t-shirt rack. He laughed at one, picking it off the rack and putting it to his chest. "Vintage! Does it fit me?" The shirt had a huge profile picture of the Artemis, and read 'Largest Terran vessel ever built.' He chuckled at the irony.

---

Raji laughed a bit at Arcadia's statement as she came in for her run. Popping up alongside the row of turrets, she and Six pummeled the remaining ones with missiles, disabling the ones that remained. She weaved between and around them expertly, making the whole pass in one fluid motion. As she pulled up at the far end of the turrets, she spoke over the com. "Sorry Three, I didn't quite catch that. What did you say?" She looked back as Six finished the run and came up behind her. Why had she been given this incompetent man as her wing? She gave a pouty frown.

Kai thought for a moment, before deciding and answering "Let's combine the two. Send Thomas runnin' and gunnin', have the trap set up ahead of the barricades, and leave it if we need it later." The captain nodded to his fellow before finishing "Allright, Hendlow, set the sucker up, soon as it's ready we'll let the other sucker loose" with a nod of the head towards Thomas. Looking at the engineer, he said "Hey, Sol, You said you know Drathonian? See if you can hack into the security terminal here and try and pinpoint some lizards for us."
At Jack's display, Kai smacked him on the helmet "Get serious soldier, we're not kids anymore." before picking up his own t-shirt and serruptitiously stuffing it into an empty pocket.

***

Using Telemetry from Arcadia's sensors, Emma's missiles slammed into the remaining AA that Three had left, as well as her own targets. Though crippling, several of the turrets managed to keep rotating and firing, albeit at a reduced rate "We got a couple of sleepers from my hits, Three. Five, see if you and six can mop up for us" Emma's eyes danced about her cockpit, reading different displays, looking over commands which she deftly whipped her hands accross at times, and at others simply directed through the brain reading functions of her helmet. She gripped her twin controls, making sure she was flying correct. Though ungainly and hyperactive outside, Emma was a starfighter prodigy, it was the reason she had been put in such an elite squadron as her first assignment. Noticing ground activity reports floating in her perepheral vision she had been monitoring Idly, she noted, mostly to herself "All the marines seem to be inside the base now..." With that, she whipped her starfighter around as quickly as it could in atmosphere, lining up for a final run on the now doomed AA defenses.

Blue and Red squadrons were doing fine now, reporting no more losses and a 90% suppression or destruction of AA and Artillery on the outer plating. Intel reports suddenly came in to the three squadron leaders, informing them that one of the most far-fetched hypotheses about the oddly shaped and constructed base was true; It really was a derelict Jupiter-class battleship that had been scuttled as a museum, brought to partial working order by the drathonians. Encouraged by the discovery of such a useful spaceframe, the squadrons were to now do their best to protect it. It was a bit Ironic how they had just attacked and de-clawed one of the ancestors of their own ship, the Hymn.

A slight grin grew on Dante's lips as he spoke in a slightly mocking tone: “I'll see what I can do.” Dante walked over to the terminal and started to go through the central hard drive to find any internal security the Drathonian had installed. To his surprise he found that the core programming hasn't been touched and is still written in Terran. “These guys never touched the programming, a few modifications to display Drathonian that's it. Sometimes I love that Drathonian idealism: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' this will be a peace of cake. ” After a minute or two, Dante had not only gotten into the security but also the bridge and the intercom system. “I forgot what did you want again. I've got security, intercom and set up an override code to lock out anyone who tries to take this baby for a spin. I can remove it when the time is right of course.”

Thomas grinned. "Hear that, Garrett? Get her done, man! I wanna get out there real soon here." He glanced around the corner again. Not a thing. What was going on here? He vaguely got something about the Rimworld ship; he wasn't paying attention to that, he didn't care. He was actually very much focused, prepared to move whenever he was needed, perhaps even before then.

Steven looked on in admiration at how smoothly his squadron was functioning. Greens Three, Four, Five, and Six were successfully taking out the remaining AA defenses, and Greens Seven through Twelve were reporting that between them the Blues and the Yellows that their objectives as a whole were at almost 70% completion. All that is left is to work patrol he thought to himself as he and Green Two eliminated another set AA.
"Green Squadron, finish whatever is on your plate and fall into formation," he said to the squad before pulling his fighter into a gradual spiral up and away from the derelict ship.
As his spiral began another loop, and giving Steven a wonderful view of the ship off to port(left), his comm hissed a little as a foreign frequency interupted.
"Green Leader, this is the bridge of the Hymn. Our spy satelittes have picked up a large body of unidentified vessals closing fast in on your position from the South. Intel is currently working to indentify the UV's," said an anonymous member of the Hymn's bridge crew.
"Acknowledged Hymn. Contact me when you get more info. Green Lead out," Steven mumbled in reply. Intel never seems to work quickly when it is actually needed. "Green, Blue, and Yellow squadrons, be on your guard. We have a flock of saucers closing in fast from the South. We are to continue with main objectives until further notice."

"Yeah, yeah, I know! Suicidal maniacs all wanna go get yourself torn apart and put back together again. It's like neo-masochism for all the psychotic boys 'n girls. Sometimes I wonder..." his sentence trailed off as he went out the door, and no one but the demolitions expert heard the rest of the sentence, although he had said nothing of interest or importance. After quickly examining the setup and safety of the barricades, he knelt behind the one farthest from the sentry position his squadron had overtaken and withdrew a small explosive and a ten-foot wire. It was actually just another timed charge, a successor to the popular C4. But if he removed the external plating on one side and added it to the other, it would act for all intents and purposes exactly like a claymore, which as one would expect was Hendlow's exact intent and purpose.

With the plating removed, he was able to tether the wire to the timer wiring in the explosive. Do you remember all those action flicks when someone had to try and figure out which wire to cut on the bomb? Well, to put it simply, Garrett was rigging this device so that whoever tripped the line would be yanking all the wrong wires. The timer was set for 3 seconds, for the Captain's safety. He was just making sure he'd have time to run or reset the device if he screwed up. Once the line was set, though, the explosive would go off the moment it was tripped. And to think if Garrett hadn't had all that free time on board the Hymn he never would have figured this out. Lucky them.

When it was set, he met up with Thomas. "It's right in front of the last barricade down the corridor. Be very careful. Whatever ends up tripping that wire will not survive. Even Terran medics wouldn't be able to put you back together after an explosion of that magnitude."

"Which part? The 'I don't want to be digging shrapnel out of my a**' part or the 'give me more warning next time so I don't have to worry about digging shrapnel out of my a**' part?" As she spoke, Arcadia dropped another EMP blast on those "sleeper" AA's Emma had been talking about. "They're disabled, four. No worries there. Let's swing wide to starboard, then come back up the east side, just to make sure they're all taken care of. Read you, Corporal. Incoming enemies. We're on alert. Just making sure these guns are disabled."

"Uglies approaching from the south, Confirmed" Emma said, switching off displays and reorienting sensors to provide all power towards the south. Near the far end of her passive scans a few blips appeared, followed by an active sensor lock that began broadcasting information Her eyes widened "Lead, My sensors say those things are smaller and faster than Scourge fighters, What are they?" She continued scanning, putting more power into the system, slowing here flying and lowering anything non-essential to the lowest levels in order to boost the sensors "Scans say they are vaguely wedge shaped, but I cannot get a lock on their composition..." Emma was completely lost by now, she had never even heard of anything like these unknowns flying at them now.

"Four, this is Lead. I am receiving visual via spy satellite, complements of the Hymn. One moment," Steven said in reply to Emma's confusion. Gradually a picture appeared on his HUD, zooming closer and closer to the UV. When the picture had zoomed in far enough Steven was perplexed.
"Ah s**t," he heard himself say out loud. The UVs were Rex fighter crafts.
"Green squadron, form up on double. I repeat form up. Unidentified vessels are Rex fighters," he said urgently into the comm.
He had never seen a Rex first hand, but from what he had heard from fellow pilots who had flown skirmishes on the frontier and from the naval academy Rex fights were small, fast, and mean. They also have proved in the past to easily be a match for a scimitar.
"Well, this situation just keeps getting better and better," he thought as he pulled back on the throttle and whipping his scimitar around, looking for small dots on both the horizon and radar.

Charl rounded the corner, his claws clacking on the ground, a Dross rifle in one hand, his trusty sword attached to a leather belt. In his free hand, he carried a small shield, just barely big enough to crouch behind, and he felt like a weakling for carrying it. But, He had been ordered to, something about them not being able to waste even scouts. So he clacked down the hallway, running his swift top speed, ever closer to the main control room. He had a message to carry, and needed to be sure to get there in time. Arriving, slightly winded (though never showing that kind of weakness) Charl stamped out a Drathonian salute, easily making the required amount of noise in the metal-floored room. In drathonian, He recited "Sir! All our outer guard stations have been hit and overtaken, we have retreated to level two, and sealed all the lower levels. My superiors have failed you, I apologize, Commander." With another salute, the Drathonian Messenger bowed his head in compliance with courtesy, and left swiftly to return to his position, awaiting in ambush for those silly pink monkeys.

Thomas nodded, moved past Garrett (careful of the wire), and started down the hallway. He did so in a wholly casual manner, the Bro resting on a shoulder and his head on the swivel, looking at everything there was to look at. On this sort of vessel, that was a lot. Supposedly the biggest vessel ever built... well, it was then. Although he couldn't really see much, he wondered how the Hymn compared to this thing. Maybe it was smaller; this was large enough to be mistaken for a building. Then again, so was the Hymn if it were buried in the ground.

Then he thought he heard something - feet on metal. In a split second it went from casual to war mode. Holding the Bro against his shoulder, he very, very slowly advanced forward, keeping his rifle trained on anywhere there could possibly be enemies. He thought of his knife on his thigh; maybe he'd need that, too.

Thomas would notice nothing up ahead, other than the occasional faint clanking noises from above. If he peeked into rooms he would find them empty of lizards, and if he checked elevators he would notice them decommissioned, and all the stairwells had plugs of some kind (debris, beds, chairs, steel plates welded in place, sometimes simply just destroyed) The stairs up were proven to be empty, but unless the Marine ventured up there alone, he would not be able to see anything. all in all, eerily creepy. Suddenly about and a few hundred meters away, he would hear the sounds of a battle starting, but it was too far and no good soldier would abandon his squad to go that far alone.

Thomas shook his head. Paranoia. Good gosh this place was empty and quiet. He caught himself walking and breathing more quietly than he normally would have. When he tried to return to casual, he discovered that he couldn't manage it, and he couldn't go let out his frustration on the opposing forces some distance away. Perhaps they ought to gather back together and advance. Nothing had presented itself. He obviously needed to keep looking. Slowly, rifle downwards at the ground but pressed to his shoulder, he advanced.

Garrett peeked his head in the doorway really quick to say, "Captain, I'm gonna stay out here, watch out for Thomas in case he runs into some trouble." Then he jogged back to the barricades and crouched beside the one just behind the trap. He kept his gun level and ready, resting the barrel over the barricade top. He was expecting trouble and alert because of that.

A wave of chills splashed over Arcadia when she heard 'Rex fighters.' She knew the stories and she'd seen one or two during patrols, but she'd never had to engage one, let alone fathom the idea of attempting engagement with one. "Copy, Corporal. This is Four, on you." The ferocity had left Arcadia's voice this time, leaving her words sounding hollow. When she heard herself speak, she snapped back to herself, though. She couldn't get weak simply because a new enemy had shown up. No time for diddling around. She fell into formation on Steven's right. "Do we have a strategy for Rex's sir?"

Steven shuffled through every strategy he had learned back at the academy and every strategy his father had devised that he could remember. A Rex fighter is a nightmare for pilots, able to upset the tide of a skirmish mere moments after their arrival. And every strategy that Steven was able to think of for combating a Rex relied upon at least some support from allied AA defences.
"Green Squadron, pair off and Three through Six form up on my 12 o'clock high(above me), Seven through Twelve on my 6 o'clock high(below me). Green Two keep to my tail. Follow my lead Greens and on my signal break off into pair groups and await further instruction," Steven said calmly into the comm. His mind was still racing to think up a strategy. With an exhausted sigh he allowed his train of thought to derail long enough to wonder how his father would handle the situation.

Kai returned to the little security room, checking out what Dante had brought up "Looks like you only have security for this level" He noted, seeing that the floorplan wasn't nearly as enormous as he knew the inside of a capital ship to be. "Can you see anything on our floor anyway? mybe we'll be able to bypass everything with this info."

When Dante would look, he would see that his access was indeed restricted to one level, and, though the level had many functions, most of them didn't help much, and the small auxiliary ststion only had minimum control. Dante would be able to see, after a quick cycle through the security camera views, that there were only Terrans on their floor, mostly concentrated around the few stairwells going up to the next floor.

***

"Rex fighters?" Emma asked, to no one in particular. Fairly fresh from training, the young girl hadn't heard more than that they were a type of Drathonian fighter. She formed up on arcadia's wing at Steven's order and awaited the swarming, roiling cloud of fighters to reach them. They just passed into visual range, and, if Emma had been more learned about them, she would be astonished at the sheer number they had been able to scramble. Used to the gaggling clouds of scourge fighters, it didn't give her much dread. but something about their speed and the sharp movements they made with their course corrections... these new things were high-precision, lethal gnats fitted with very deadly stingers.

"Roger." Arcadia increased her Scimitar's altitude, hanging just to the left and above Steven's ship. "This is Four, sir, at five til high noon. Three, be ready. Things are about to get very intense; take my wing this time." Arcadia had only made the suggestion because she was more experienced in this sort of situation than Emma was; It wasn't that she didn't trust Emma, because the girl had certainly proven her skill in the beginning of their run.

She sighed, and shook her head as she began setting herself for the upcoming engagement. She had to stay focused. EMPs were fully charged again; she'd have to make sure only to discharge one at a time, lest she leave herself vulnerable at close range. Missiles were primed, but she was suspicious of their reliability against such agile targets.

Dante sighed, “Yeah there must be some physical damage in the line somewhere. It's more then likely from when this ship got buried. At least they can't see us.” Dante scanned the images from the security cameras and found that the place was empty. “Hey captain, tell Thomas and Captain Hendlow to not worry; there aren't any Drathonians on this floor. By the looks of it, they've retreated to the inner level and our allies are trying to get to them. The only clear entrance is a maintenance hall which someone like Thomas would have a hell of a hard time in Sir : pulling map now.” On the screen a map of the outer level appeared. “Now what I don't get is that even if the line was damaged, we should still be able to get a full map. What is your take Sir?” Dante said looking at Kai.

"My guess is they severed the lines themsleves, to compartmentalize everything in case something like this happened. Show me that access corridor, maybe if we shove Thomas through first he'll make a good shield." Kai said, Plugging a cable from his datapad into the terminal to download as much of a map as possible. he waited for the engineer to plug in the corridor on the map so they could use it.

***
"On your wing, Three" Emma replied, getting into position. Those blips only had a few moments before they were within firing range, and Emma figured that with such a target rich environment, even potshots would work for the moment, until they closed range. Setting her weapons to their maximum effective modes, she armed the two AA missiles and downsized most of the info windows cluttering her cockpit. The young girl charged her shields, adding an extra boost to the front shielding, and filled the capacitors on her EMP cannons. Maybe an EMP would give them a ship that was intact enough to be studied, and bringing in something like that would get her recognition. Not that she cared about recognition, but, hey.

Dante downloaded the map with a guide path to Kai's datapad. As he did that he saw a fragmented data pieces in the same format as the map. “Now what do we have here?” Dante said softly, “Well there's the answer.” Dante's voice increased in volume, “Sir, I think your right. Those lizards had broken the map file in to pieces, and the only reason they have to do it is if they severed the lines themselves like you said. If I can gather the rest of the pieces then we may be able to reassemble a full map; However, I believe that I can find one at each data terminal we come across. I'll put the file on my data pad for later.” After Kai's datapad was done Dante put his pad in and downloaded the same file plus the one he just found. “So what do you want to do now Sir?” Dante asked.

"Thanks Kid" The young captain replied, loading the info from the Datapad to his helmet's small HUD. "We're moving out, striking for that corridor. I'm sure they know about it, but I bet they don't know we do." He walked out the door and called to his squad, including Thomas "Allright soldiers, We're in motion. We got a tight squeeze ahead of us but I think we can fit through without making too much ruckus. You guys can all climb ladders, right?" he said, walking past the barricades, careful not to trip the wire. a few meters down the way an unassuming panel with a small box on it turned out to bee a doorway to the access corridor, and Kai opened the thing and walked through, cautious it might be a trap. Once again suprised, he found it empty. obviously the lizards hadn't had time to set much upo during their retreat to the second floor. the captain walked through, down a little ways, following his HUD's map until it came to a dead end adorned with several ladders going up and down. "this could be trouble" he murmured.

Raji formed up above Arcadia and Emma, ordering Six behind her. She had no experience with Rexs, but their reputation amongst the Terran navy preceded them. They were almost as fast as scimitars, and what they lacked in arsenal they made up for with their agile turning angle. In the hands of a competent pilot, they were a tough match for a scimitar.

Entering maximum locking range, she targeted the foremost Rexs and let loose the last of her missiles. They went swimming off towards the Drathonian formation in a stream of smoke. Raji pulled off to the left, flipping her scimitar upside down and climbing into the stratosphere. Six followed. If she was lucky, she would get the jump on them as the engagement began.


Jack peered up the small passageway, seeing the ladders break off into several more sets of corridors. This was the perfect place for an ambush, where Drathonians could get the Terrans in a single file line and mow them down. Jack looked over to Kai, who was just able to squeeze next to him in the narrow corridor. "I don't like the smell of this... we're walking into a trap. Put Thomas in the rear, and everyone check their angles. I'll take point." With that, Jack pulled himself up onto the ladder up, one hand keeping his rifle trained on the opening above him.

Thomas shrugged. Taking the back worked too. He could usher soldiers who got stuck forward with overwhelming might. Haha.

Nothing had really happened so far, and that was getting a touch unnerving. He'd heard noises; that was inevitable in a buried starship. Groans, creaks; unearthly things like that. Nothing pleasant. For any soldier worth his pay, though, that was nothing. It was just that, combined with sounds of distant fights, that was getting to him. Somewhere there were Drathonians. He didn't know where, but when they showed up...

Arcadia studied Raji's movements as she launched herself into the clouds. It was an interesting plan, and she hoped it worked; if not, it could very well turn out to work against them. An ambush that came too late could be just as bad as one that started too early; and if they knew she was up there, even worse. Arcadia was starting to wonder if Raji should have taken off on her own like that, but she wasn't going to question a peer's actions, only hope she knew what she was doing. "Raji..." There was something of a long pause (which was actually less than a second) before she realized there was nothing snappy she could say. "I'll let you know if they're headed your way." So much for being the squad b***h. Goes to show what men know.

Garrett had been at the back of the line all the way to the service tunnels, and once he had shrugged his way in, he felt extremely uncomfortable. "This is suicide. If we go anywhere, we'll get f@&#ed." Then he realized he was speaking out of turn. "Excuse me, Captain... just thinking out loud." Perhaps a bit too loudly; he had probably scared the s**t out of their new engineer. Too bad; life's tough... Garrett would have given him the spiel if he were in a slightly more humorous mood. "This is what they want, Kai. They want us to try and make our way through these little passages like f%#$ing ants in an ant farm, marching out to meet our doom at the hands of little Timmy and his magnifying glass. They set it up so that this is our easiest path to them, and the easiest thing for them to defend. There's no other explanation for them to have blocked all the other passages up. Sir, I'll repeat, this is suicide."

"That could be, Garret" Kai said "I'm just not sure where exactly the ladders lead. I'm sure if we pick the right one we'll be fine." Watching Jack start climbing up the largest, he decided that that was probably the most direct route anyway, and followed. "You know, I bet this goes all the way to the third floor. We just have to be careful, Garrett could be right. But, as it stands, I'd rather do this than a head-on run at dug-in lizards." Kai said, climbing up the ladder himself. As the rest of the squad filed up the ladder, a loud banging sound could be heard from one of the other ladder passages, followed by some scratching and scraping sounds. An explosion, similar to the sound of a grenade, could be heard, and suddenly blaster whines could be heard. screaming, yelling, something vaguely like orders, and boots clamoring could be heard. Obviously another Terran squad was nearby, a level up, fighting it's way through the lizards. another explosion, and a chunk of metal flew down one of the access tunnels. Kai hurried up, pushing Jack a bit "That must be the Ambush we were worried about. We need to hurry if we're to get through unaccosted, buddy"

***

The two clouds of fighters met with a suddenness, Lasters, EMP's missiles, bullets, cannon shells, everything, flying between them The initial meeting saw a large number of explosions, but once they had passed and began swarming back towards one another, it was obvious very few of the Rex fighters had been hit, and none of the Scimitars were down, though Steven would note many of them sported damage and missing shields, which were slowly regenerating. The More Agile rex fighters were around first, firing upon the Scimitars before they could get fully around. The Rex fighters were, however, using lesser tactics, a kind of every-lizard-for-himself swarm, wheras the Terrans method of wing pairs produced much better results, the Second run being more devastating. Still, The 3 dozen Terran fighters were outnumbered nearly four to one.
Emma whipped around, having not gotten a good lock for either the EMP cannons or her Missiles. She had managed a few shots, and damaged one fighter, which her sensors still had marked, it was 'limpin' around the battle, now only as manueverable as a Scimmy, which was still extremely deadly. "Still your wing, three" Emma noted, following the older pilot through another run. She took shots at targets of opportunity as they flashed past, scoring many hits but few good ones "These things are too damn fast!" she noted, trying to keep up. Focused, the young girl was completely zoned in on the battle, and Everything the rest of the squadron had known about her personality was thrown out the window.

"I tried," Garrett murmured with a sigh. As the team went up, the demolitions expert was the man in front of Thomas. He had no desire to incur the consequences should he happen to be right. Like Jack, he held his gun in one hand and climbed with the other. He looked down at Thomas, and whispered, "If s**t goes down, you know how to fireslide, right?"

When the two forces came together, Arcadia discharged a pair of missiles and one EMP cannon before dipping under the enemy fighters. She smirked; the Rex's were exactly what she had expected. The second time around, she completely disabled one Rex with her fully charged EMP, and made a few other hits, but none of which were noteworthy. "That's one... How many are there, Corporal?" Arcadia would have checked, but she was busy calculating her next swing through. "Calm down, Four. I might actually laugh if you keep stating the obvious like that." Another smirk. "They're fast, so you plan ahead, lead them. EMPs are very effective against their weak shields. If you don't get 'em with one, you can take them out with a second. Our missiles are too slow to be very effective against them, but it'll work... if you get lucky."

Thomas nodded wordless assent. Firesliding wasn't that hard. He did have his gun held in one hand too; this was a little discomforting but oh well, he'd be fine. If anyone started falling Thomas knew he could probably catch them too. Bonus of having him at the back. Too bad he wasn't up front to take shots. "Garrett, what are we aiming for precisely again?" Thomas inquired.

Hendlow smirked. "Trying to clear out this ship that we thought was a Drathonian encampment. I suppose we're also trying to keep the ship's structural integrity, if possible, which is a b***h for me. No Hollywood-style explosions..." He sighed, and made a rather twisted smile. "It's such a shame."

Steven carefully noted the progress of his squadron while at the same time studying them. Focusing primarily on Raji's self-made ambush, and on how Arcadia and Emma were using teamwork. "Thinking for themselves and working together, both good things to an extent," Steven said to himself as he worked to bring his own scimitar about for another run.
At the moment things were going both as he expected and not like he expected. The Rex fighters on an individual level were living up to their name, but on the group level they were sloppy. Stifling his sigh of relief until a later time, he went back to work on his strategy.
"Incorporating Raji's ambush...yeah that might just work," his thoughts said in a strung out line. "Green Squadron, break parade and proceed in your pairs. Pairs watch each others backs and await further instructions. Raji, you and six are to continue with your current course, Seven through Ten will provide initial support. You and Six be careful," he said into the comm, his voice solid and commanding.
"If the Rexs continue to act in a similar fashion the pairs with be able to hold their own for a little bit longer. Blue and Red should be able to...oh that could work!" his mind continued to strategize while the rest of his body flew. Switch his main comm to the Leader frequency he relayed his idea to the others.
"Red Leader come in, this is Green Leader. I have an idea, but you will need to split your squadron."
"This is Red Leader, lay it on me Green Lead."
"OK, this is what I have got so far..."
"Hate to interrupt Green, but I thought we agreed to not use the phrase 'so far'?"
"...As I was saying, separate the Reds in half, keep one half here to continue the dogfight while the other half follows the lead of Green Five and separate. They then separate into their pair groups and swing back in on our little tussle from different directions...I am still working on after that."
"No arguments from me. You are the one who is related to a famous tactician after all."
"Green Lead out then."
Switching back to squadcomm he got back to work.

She nodded and made her way down the hallway with the others, carefully avoiding the string, and squinting as they reached the ladders. She shuffled forward, her senses ready for anything, gun cocked. The explosion tore through the air, and she flinched slightly, before un-tensing her body again.

Dante was between Kai and Garret as they transversed the corridor. Dante was a little more relaxed in here then other places. He was used to working in places tighter then this and was holding back a smile as he saw Thomas trying to get through. He didn't have to try hard after the fighting was heard. “s**t. Captain Hendlow. Don't worry too much Sir. We'll have the upper hand if fighting breaks out. Think about it Sir. Can you see a squad of lizards the size of Thomas or bigger coming down these halls? They wouldn't able to fire without shooting the one in front. No, worry about the exit when it more open: that is where an ambush would be Sir. Wouldn't you agree Captain Nakamura?”

"Engy's right, guys. we shouldn't worry too much in the tunnel. Looks like the tops right there though so, i'd get ready if I were you, Jack." Kai said, pressing on. as the group filed up into the small passage that led to a door, it was obvious these ones had been tampered with. In fact, the large amount of explosives attached to the door showed that it was a trap set by the lizards. It was down the exact corridor that CIU 215 would have traveled had they gone the normal way. "Hendlow, get rid of that s**t, see if you can use any of it. Looks like we're about to ambush an ambush." As if to confirm Kai's ambush theory, a bit of scuffling and clanking could be heard outside the hallway. They would have to go in hot as soon as the door was safe. Maybe Garrett could blow it early or something, giving them a bit of an advantage on the lizards.

Thomas grinned a little, pushing against the wall and dropping to a knee. The less space he took up, the more space Garrett had to get his job done, and the less likely he was to get killed should the explosives go off. A little self-serving, but hey, if he was alive he'd be more useful. He turned his head to watch behind them, not that he expected anything behind them. Just in case.

"That's what I've been trying to say..." He sighed and nodded. "Yes, now slide aside. I'll see what I can do with it." He shimmied past all those in front of him, and stared at the explosives for a bit. "You've got to be f&*#ing kidding me." He sighed again, and began tracing some of the wires with his pointer finger. After a few moments, he laughed to himself. "Well, I can salvage about half of it, but the rest is dead-wired. At least we know these guys don't know how to make proper traps; if they did, it'd all be dead-wired. Just a second here..." He pulled a few wires, and began detaching some of the devices. He managed to remove all but three, and stuffed the disabled explosives in the pack on his lower back.

"Just a bit more here. I have to see if I can't just disable them entirely. Ehm..." He looked back at Jack. "Just, uh... Have everyone move back about 10 paces." He smirked. "Just in case I'm not as good as I think I am." Then he was back to work, with a multitool in hand. First, the side plate was removed and he flicked on the flashlight end so that he could peek around. "Well you guys can breathe easy for now: I've got this one in the bag, so to speak." He flicked out the screwdriver end and knocked a single transistor out of place. He put the cover back on and began detaching all the wires that were on the exterior. It too was stuffed in the bag. He began opening the last explosive when there was a faint clicking. He froze. Slowly, he lowered it a bit farther. A second click. "Goddamnit... You have got to be kidding me." A third deep breath. "Ehm... I recommend you guys wiggle your asses a bit farther back." Think, think, think!

The one time the Drathonians get it right, and Garrett didn't have the tools to deal with it. He pulled out his multitool again and looked through all its various applications. "Jack, get up here." Garrett pressed himself against the right side of the tunnel, reaching across to the left side of the explosive to hold it where it was. "What I need you to do is hold that, while I finish up. I just have to open up from the other side." Once Jack had the siding in his hands, the Captain comforted him. "Don't worry, you can push; it's designed to only open once it's been dismantled. It won't close back up. Now just a second." He cracked open the other end, and paused. No clicking. "Alright. We'll be fine." He did his deal, and as he popped it, there was a small spark that flared in front of Jack's face; it wouldn't injure him, but it was certain to give him a scare. Garrett smirked, keeping his chuckle quiet. He didn't want to give away their position. Slowly, he began making his way back to the end of the line.

"Roger, Corporal. Breaking formation. Four, watch our back, keep me alert on approaching hostiles. I'll let you know if we'll be hitting any 'turbulence'." She smirked, dipped down, flipped her fighter upside down, and came back up behind a trio of Rex's. Her EMP dropped another one out of the sky, and she launched two missiles while opening up the chainguns. A second one went down, unaware of her presence. The third one evaded the missile and chaingun fire. "Four, I'm taking this guy out. Swing left and regroup on our position five seconds ago."

Without waiting for a response, Arcadia was veering sharply to the right, trying to keep the Rex in her sight. Then it took a sudden turn left just before the Private discharged her second EMP. "He got away, Four. How are you holding up over there?"

"No he didn't!" Emma replied, having Kept Arcadia's wing, she took out the escaping fighter with an EMP blast of her own. Suddenly, warning sirens wailed in her cockpit, citing missile, lazer, and chaingun locks, all simultaneously, as five of the fighters suddenly grouped together, taking advantage of the lone pair "All power to rear Shields, Evasive actions! Arcadia, in five seconds, all stop, Let's get them" The young pilot said, Spinning her ship to avoid a chaingun that opened up. The lock tones for the Missile and Chaingun dissappeared, but the lazer tone remained constant as the fighter kept up with her fighter. When the counter her shout had initated went to zero, Emma's fighter sprouted a few flares of exhaust from the dorsal surface and bow, dropping her fighter down and stopping it's forward motion. In a flash, the thrusts reversed and she was behind the bewildered lizards, her fighter shuddering from the manuever, which was as difficult in artmosphere as it was easy in vacuum. Her guns low giving the warning tones, Emma unleashed both of her AA missiles, not getting any hits but the explosions having the nice effect of peppering all five enemy ships, some shrapnel apparently killing one of the pilots. She opened up with the nose mounted lazers, lighting up the back ends of two more.

"Good-- oh, s**t!" Warnings went off just as she began to commend her wingman (or wingwoman, rather). A pair of missiles were locked on Arcadia's ship, and a chaingun was lining her up as well. "Four, you were supposed to be watching for this sort of thing!" A trio of flares sent the missiles careening off into the clouds before exploding. In the back of her mind, Langdon wondered if any of her allies had been near that explosion. Then five seconds was up, and Arcadia dropped back violently, incurring a little whiplash. The chaingun that had been targeting her Scimitar created a lovely oval orifice in the port side of her cockpit as she whizzed by, but it wasn't serious. Thankfully they were in the atmosphere, so if need be, she could just fly lower. For the time being, she depended entirely upon the air supplied by her ship via the helmet. "F&*#ing lizard put a hole in my cockpit!" She punched the chaingun into action before even fully aligning an enemy in the reticule. When they enemy broke whatever their formation had been, she launched three missiles and discharged another EMP. One ship succumbed to the hail of bullets coming from the chaing gun, and a second went down with the electromagnetic pulse. Two received unremarkable damage.

"I swear Four, if you EVER slip up like that again, I'll make sure they transfer you to patrol around Terra!" There was plenty of anger in Arcadia's voice, and yet it still came across even and controlled.

Jack cringed his face a bit at the sudden spark that shot out of the contraption Hendlow was working on. As the captain backed away from the door, Jack took up a crouching position behind it, ready to strike. "Just say the word, Kai." he whispered loudly, listening intently to the sharp clack of claws on metal.

---

Raji grinned as the squad leader told her to proceed, her ship slowing to a glide several kilometers above the battle. "Time to call down the thunder, six. Keep our tails clean." her wingmate muttered a response, beginning to get fed up with following her orders. She grinned a bit, laughing inwardly to herself at the pathetic little man that she had to rely on. She could do fine on her own... a small part of her didn't mind if he got shot down in the fight.

Raji kicked her engines into full gear and plummeted back down towards the battle. She caught the edge of the fight, where a group of Rexs were making their turn arc mid-fight. She angled her ship out a bit to compensate for their movement as she came careening down on them. Letting loose, she and Six unleashed a hail of laser and gun fire, scoring successful hits on all four of the ships. As she passed perpendicular to her victims, she didn't even have time to notice that the cockpits of two were shattered and splattered with blood - if she had, she probably would have completely broken focus. She did, however, note that the third was spiraling downward in a trail of smoke. The fourth was saved from any critical damage, and quickly came diving furiously after them. Six began swerving about in a bit of a panic. Raji cursed to herself as it began firing at the idiot. She wasn't ready to have his blood on her hands just yet. She fired full reverse thrusters, jolting her harshly about the cockpit as the ship slowed considerably. The other two ships went whizzing past her, and Raji quickly sped up again to take some pot shots at the Drathonian. They were well below the fight at this point, and in a fraction of a second all three ships would have to even out to avoid hitting the ground.

Despite the lack of need for it, Thomas checked his magazine. It was still full; they'd scarce fired in this conflict. Well, ignoring two or three outside. But that hadn't lasted long. Not long at all. Something was definitely up here. No one especially skilled, no one particularly set up to oppose them. Oh well. It was going to get hot soon, and Thomas was still in the back. Why? he might have asked, but it was not his place. Kai knew better, presumably.

"Okay, Jack, On my mark, kick the s**t outta that door, hop out, and start firing." Kai whispered. "The rest of you, get ready for it to be hot. We'll have about five seconds to get into the hallway and run our asses off to the control center. If my math is right, we cut 200 meters off of this hallway by using this hatch, so, as soon as you're out, start heading to what's currently our right, it should only be another twenty or thirty meters to the control center. Lock and Load!" the Captain said, checking the batteries in his Sugar rifle. All green. "Three... Two... One... Mark!" Kai said, ready to bounce as soon as Jack got the door open.

***

"Sorry, three" Emma responded, before continuing "I just figured you'd want less lizards on your tail" And with that, Emma unleased some EMP of her own, sizzling all the electronics in one of the fighters, which was soon taken off her HUD as a target. She immediately switched to lazers, turning the engine cluster of the second into metal vapor. Suddenly, Emma realized something was wrong. "s**t, Arcadia, my ship reads your shields are offline" She manuevered to the side of her wing's fighter that usually held the pod that generated shield power, only to notice that it seemed to be missing said pod. "That's why the chaingun hurt you, you're shields are gone!" Suddenly, Emma was in protective mode, keeping her fighter between Arcadia's and the nearest enemies. "I've got an Idea, Arc, I'm going to divert all shield and weapons power to the front shields, we'll go head to head. Use my telemetry, an when I get mark you pop out and fire on the lizards. Sound good?"

"What the hell do you mean my shields are offline!?" Putting the controls on auto for a split-second, she peered out the gaping hole to see that the shield generator was indeed missing. "F&#%! One thing after another with these damn Terran mechanics!" She took a deep breath and took control again. "This is ridiculous. I was reading green back in the hangar, and I'm not getting any warning lights now." What a load of s**t. She was flying without shields and a hole larger than her head in the side of her cockpit. There was a brief silence while she calmed herself. "Alright, on your six and low. If you earn me another damn hole for my Scimitar, though... Just watch yourself. I'll be covering our asses this ti-- speak of the devil. Four, we've got three of those buggers coming in at 7 o' clock high."

"Green Lead to Green Two, we have some scalies coming up quick. You split left and I go right," Steven said to his wingman. The many years of practice and teamwork between the two were evident as the two veterans swooped away into a synchronized loop, each mirroring the other. As Steven expected, three of the five Rex fighters followed him and the other two followed Two. Steven was mentally crossing his fingers for this maneuver always works well with scourges, but he was unsure as to whether it would work on a Rex. From a quick guess he figured there was a 59% chance of it working, a 33% chance of the Rex overtaking him a shooting him down, a 7% chance of the plan working perfectly, and a 1% that his engines spontaneously combust.
Sure enough two of the Rexs were cutting the curve and broadsiding him while the other one stayed on his tail. All he needed was a few more seconds. The seconds passed and some higher power must have been rooting for him because both he and Two completed their loops and were now heading straight for each other. They both altered course ever so slightly and opened fire on the weakened front shields of the Rex squadron. Three out of the five were shot down, one was critically damaged, and the last had only minor damage; Steven had taken several hits to his right side, and Two was not much better.
Passing a few quick glances at his radar he saw that the terran pilots were still out numbered 2:1. But Red squadron was going to be commencing their flanking maneuver shortly, and Green Five and Six had re-entered the fray. Steven was amazed that this was going so well, but his sigh of relief was stifled when an alert sounded on his HUD.
”Green Lead to Green Three, Three status report. What the hell happened?” Steven said into the comm with a faint hint of concern.

"Apparently, Corporal, my shield generator fell out. Don't ask me how, sir, I don't have a clue. All I know is I'm flying without shields and a really big hole in the side of my cockpit." Then radar blipped. "s**t. Four, we've got three of those buggers coming in 7 o' clock high." As soon as she finished speaking, the Rex's began to fire their plasma weapons in unison. It seemed they were beginning to pick up on group strategy. Without shields, the plasma tore through the Scimitar like a knife through melting butter. "Green Lead, Green Four, this is three. I've taken critical damage and lost most of my systems. I'm taking her low and then ejecting. See you on the Hymn." Another deep breath. It seemed that the day just kept getting better. As soon as her warning alarms had begun to blare, Arcadia had dipped her Scimitar into a dive, using gravity to speed her escape from the fray. "Watch your a**, Emma. This is Three, out."

She yanked the ejection lever the cockpit hatch flew off and Arcadia followed after it shortly, still strapped to the chair. The parachute deployed successfully, but about 15 yards from the ground, a few plasma bolts ripped through it, giving Arcadia a much quicker route to the ground. When the seat struck dirt, she cried out, but no one could hear her. With the Scimitar in flames, the helmet was no longer communicating with anyone. After a few more select strings of swear words and unlatching her harness, Arcadia pulled the helmet off her head as well and drew her sidearm. "God, I hate guns," she muttered to herself. Perhaps 50 yards away was the disabled ship that appeared to be a Drathonian fortress. Without another thought, she sprinted across open ground and into the nearest entrance. Four guns were immediately trained on the pilot and she hit the ground quick. "Don't shoot! I'm friendly!" The Marines lifted their weapons and Arcadia climbed to her feet.

"Who the hell are you?" inquired one of the grunts.

"Calm down, Briggs," interrupted the CO, silencing his squad. "What're you doing here, ma'am? You look like a pilot to me, and this sure as hell ain't a functioning ship."

"I was shot down; Scimitar malfunctioned. I survived. Could you radio in? Let 'em know Private Langdon of Green Squadron survived." The Captain nodded and had one of his techies radio the Hymn.

"This is Oscar element. We were Jackal Squadron before this raid started; got hit by an ambush, and now it's just us five."

"Well, make it six for the time being, sir, although I doubt I'll be much help. I've never handled any gun outside the range."

"S'alright. You know how to use a bro, and we've got one to spare. Every capable body is helpful."

"Whatever you say, sir." She took the bro rifle, checked the energy clip, and sighed.

What a f&*#ing day. She flew into battle with a loose shield generator (she guessed) and had lost it in the middle of the fight. Immediately after finding out, she'd been shot down, ejected, and then damn near shot out of the sky. Her a** was as sore as... well, use your imagination, and now she was stuck on the ground with half a squadron of Marines in the midst of a raid. "Couldn't get much worse," she muttered under her breath.

"Roger Green Three, good luck down there," Steven said. "Green Four, form up with me and Two."
"That makes Green squadron down to eleven pilots, Blue is down to nine, and Red has seven. Of the nine downed pilots, four of them were safely on the ground, four were KIA, and one was MIA. So that leaves us with twenty-seven pilots." Steven thought as he continued formulating his next move.

"Dammit!" Emma yelled, the word sounding strange in the innocent-looking 16-year-old's voice. She was angry now. Angry at herself for not being good enough to keep her wingmate up, angry at the damn lizards for killing so many good Terran peoples, angry at this whole messed up war that those stupid lizards caused. When lead told her to form up on him, Emma responded "In a minute" before diving at the group that had downed Arcadia. Something broke free of her control, something that, though not nearly as bad as it had been before, made her seem near suicidal. Losing her brother had given the young girl such rage, which, when channeled into fighter school, had given her marks as high as Kerning at the school. it was a blind rage that got her 'killed' as much as it got her marks. Right now, a bit of that rage tore through, as evidenced over the comms by a demented sort of growling sound, as she shut her shields off and diverted everything to weapons and thrusters. The three poor lizards never stood a chance, blazing out of the sky in fiery globs of metal within seconds. Her anger mostly abated, Emma formed on Steven, equalizing power and panting "On your wing, one"

"Green Four! When I tell you to form up, I mean right that instant not 'in a minute'!" Steven almost shouted into the comm. "Don't...never mind, we will continue this when we are back on the Hymn." The worst time to lose your cool was when in the middle of a dogfight and Emma got lucky, and him scolding her would not alleviate the situation.
"Red Leader to Green Leader. Green Lead, Red Seven through Twelve are inbound on our position. ETA 30 seconds."
"Roger Red Leader. Green Lead out," Steven responded. "'Bout time."
"Green Lead to Green Squadron. We have three Reds coming from the East, and three from the West. They will be coming in hard and fast. Think drathonian BBQ. We need to keep these lizards busy until then, so form up into quad groups(groups of four) and listen for further instructions. Green Lead out."

Raji yanked her ship up dangerously close to the ground, quickly pulling it back into a vertical climb. Six swung out, moving parallel to the horizon. The pursuing Rex leveled out awkwardly behind him, and after a couple seconds nudged into a well-placed tree. It spun out, crashing in a shriek of flame and metal on the ground below. Raji observed the blip die out on her HUD, and grimaced at the dumb luck of her wing. If the Drathonian pilot hadn't been even more incompetent than him, he'd be toast right now.

Raji flew back up into the fight as Arcadia's fighter went tumbling down past hers. Well now, looks like we know who the real pilots here are. Coming back on the upswing, she caught another Rex with laser fire, sending it spiraling down in a cloud of smoke. At Steven's order, she found her way to Seven and Eight, Six catching up from below. The foursome zigzagged past the enemy formations, looking for a group to jump on.

--

On the mark, Jack brought his foot flying up into the hatch, sending it flying out onto the ground several meters away, bouncing a couple times before shaking to a halt. He was out shortly after it, crouching over the ground as he swept his sugar from side to side, sending a hail of fire flying indiscriminately in every direction.

"Yes sir, Sorry sir." Emma apologised truthlessly. she continued to fly on his wing, waiting for those further instructions. the girl was silently fuming, angry at herself for not being good enough. Even though Arcadia had survived in fairly good condition, Emma's brain still correlated it with the loss of her brother, something she would not tolerate. shaking her head to try to get a grip back on reality, Emma looked at the numbers falling, and watched which fighters attributed which kills. With the standard drathonian enemies being Scourge fighters, Terran Ace regulations were 25 fighters, not the ancient 5. in this battle, she noticed several people making it to half and quarter ace, which would have probably been full aces if they had been attacked by the larger, slower Lizard fighters. Noting her own seven kills, Emma predicted that she would have made ace in this battle under those circumstances.

***

Jack would burst out into a fairly large corridor, about five meters wide, and the same amount tall. he would find that he was about midway between to Drathonian defensive positions, which, luckily for him, weren't on full alert yet. To his left, ten lizards were facing away, completely unawares, and seven fell before even noticing something had happened, the rest scrambled about in suprise, grabbing weapons and firing the wrong way before realizing they were hit from behind. The second group was caught with just as much suprise by Kai rushing out the door just after Jack, and firing towards them. Three fell before the rest dove behind their cover, and one ran off to a small box a little farther up the hallway, pressing a button and laughing in the disturbing Drathonian way before looking shocked as nothing happened, the explosives safely in Garrett's pack.
Kai rolled to the opposite wall from their door, taking a kneeling position and firing at the lone Drathonian, felling him instantly. as the others came through, Kai yelled "The door to your right is our objective, we need to get to it as soon as possible." as if to spite him, the door opened up, spilling forth more lizards to defend the small barricade. Thinking fast, the captain hefted the busted access hatch and used it as a shield, blacing it accross his side of the hallway. It made enough cover for two or three more people to hide behind and fire from.

Sehene waited her 'turn' and burst through the door with the others, cringing as the shots echoed through the metal halls and pinged off the doors. She shot at least five of them, and probably killed at least two before they had realized where their enemies were coming from, and was forced to back away as more of the beasts poured from the doorway that they needed to get to.

Garrett was out the door about midway through the mass murder of the Drathonian defenses. In fact, he was out just as Kai was picking up the door and using it as a defense. He slammed his side against the new shield and grabbed a grenade from his belt. He tossed it underhanded around the side before grabbing a second one. He tossed this one blindly over the top. "Jack! Thomas! Storm the front! Kai and I have your back!" The two grenades only killed three and wounded one, but it was certainly a strong deterrent; Garrett was positive they wouldn't advance. Leaning around the side, he fired on all known positions, laying out suppressive fire. The battery went dry unexpectedly. "I'm dry!" he shouted while ejecting the old package. He slammed a new charge into the gun and peeked over the makeshift wall and began firing again, expecting to take a shot any second now."

The raid could be heard by the six-man team of which Arcadia was now a member. One of the two technicians remarked that it was just ahead.

"We're moving. Jenkins, point! I've got your six. Langdon and Arkasian, on me. Techies, you've got the rear. MOVE!"

The team came up the stairs, intercepting the three remaining Drathonians from the first defensive line; Oscar Element eliminated them and secured Kai's squadrons hindside. Corporal Logan -- the CO of Oscar Element -- vaulted the defensive perimeter. Crouching low, he sprinted the open space to Kai's position. He dropped on his stomach, leaving space behind the door. "Soldier," he said to Kai, "Who's commanding this assault? I'm Corporal Logan, CO of Oscar Element, and I've got four men behind you, plus a downed pilot."

Arcadia was at the defensive line, afraid to pull the trigger. There were so many Terrans ahead, she couldn't do it for fear of hitting a friendly. So she dropped back down with a deep breath and waited. "And this is why I'm not a Marine. These guys are f&*#ing nuts."

Soon after the Grenades went off and the new group arrived, the previously stunned lizards opened fire. The creatures had not been expecting anything for quite a long while at least, thinking that their lower defences would be enough. But now, there were thirty or so in the corridor, all firing downrange at the two squads, CIU 215 getting the worst of it, being farthest forward. Kai's makeshift shield was indeed enough to stop the blasts from the Dross and Beater rifles, and the sheer number of lizards made kills easy for the Terrans, but by that same token, they were in trouble. Blasts flew about, hitting anyone not in cover. Sehene was grazed all over, but suffered no major hits, while Jack got a nice shot straight to his chest plate. The armor did it's job, keeping him alive, but the small explosion from the blast superheating and turning part of the armor suit into gas was enough to knock anyone off their feet. The doorway was being targetted as well, it's edges eating away, and anyone still inside would have a tough time getting out without being hit.

"Captain Nakamura here, I'm in charge of this group" Kai replied, before nodding to the corporal's addition of 6 soldiers. "we're almost to the ship's control center. If we get there, we can radio command to send our backup in. Sure glad you brought us some help, we're in some trouble as it is." Kai said, motioning towards the large number of enemies ahead of them.

"Don't be so sure, Captain. Only 3 of us are proper Marines. Two of 'em are techs, and the other one's a downed pilot. Don't even know if she can shoot a bro properly." The Corporal gave a grim smirk. "This doesn't look too good, does it, sir?" He carefully picked himself up and managed to crouch against the wall and cover. "Just how many are there, sir?"

Arcadia was peeking over the barricades with the bro, scanning for clear shots, but was having trouble finding one. Then she looked over and locked eyes with Jenkins. "Cover me, Langdon, I'm moving up." Without awaiting a response, Jenkins vaulted the barricade and rushed toward the battlefront, bro on full automatic. Arcadia peered over the top nervously, remembering again why she decided never to be a Marine. With Jenkins running, she had absolutely no clear shots, so she just watched. The Corporal saw Jenkins running toward them and instantly became alarmed. "Jenkins, no! S'not safe up here! Fall back!" But it was too late. About the time Jenkins reached Kai's shield, the Drathonians had all targeted him. The first shot tore through his left knee, ripping away the bottom half of his leg, As he fell, three more shots ripped him up: one sliced through his shoulder, another through his heart, and the last one hit him in the groin. When he hit the ground, he howled with anguish and began clawing his way to cover. Seeing their prey had not yet surrendered his life, the Drathonians fired again; Jenkins' skull and much of his upper body disintegrated before the squad's own eyes. What was left was a headless, one-legged, cavernous corpse.

"Goddammit Jenkins!" the Corporal shouted. He had given that man an order, and he disobeyed. Now he was dead and they were down a man.

Thomas was still in the doorway; he hadn't taken his chance and now even with his armor he didn't think it would be safe to move. Instead he leaned a not-insubstantial piece of shoulder and head out to get accurate shots, and he was getting plenty. He emptied one, two batteries before even really thinking about what to do next. "Can we put some grenades back there?" he shouted, apparently unfazed by Jenkins going down. "If we can thin down to maybe ten or so, I could just charge!"

As they rushed out and attacked the Drathonians, Dante stayed at the door and shot a few rounds at the Drathonians taking out three of them. He tossed a small black ball in to the hall and came right behind it giving a few rounds to them before hiding back in the shelter in the door. He heart jumped as he saw the Corporal and gave a soft 'Yes' and a small smile. That smile quickly disappeared as he watched the merciless onslaught of lasers tearing through Jenkins. Dante felt something warm on his left cheek as the leg was ripped off and touched the warm spot with two shaking fingers. As he hesitated for a moment and lifted his fingers slowly to see the crimson life on his finger tips. Dante panicked and quickly and roughly rubbed the dark blood off his cheek. Dante's breathing quickened as he could not keep his eyes off the butchered corpus and cluched the rifle with his right hand very tightly.

Hendlow was fresh out of grenades. He brought the pack around and began rummaging past the disabled explosives. He needed something to clear the doorway for Thomas, but he was having trouble finding anyth--
"Yes!" He withdrew from the bottom of the pack one of his personally crafted devices, armed it, and tossed it amidst the Drathonians. The electromagnetic blast fried the brains and stopped the hearts of six Drathonians. Two others were dazed and crumpled, incapable of properly maintaining their motor skills. The rest were behind cover, so he could no longer do them any harm. "I did what I could, Thomas," he called across the opening.

"Hold this, Corporal" Kai said, handing the door to the other squad leader. "Anyone who's willing and able charge on three!" the captain yelled, then counted "One... Two... THREE!" And jumped from behind his cover, Sugar on full auto, rushing towards the enemies. their numbers dwindling faster than they ever thought, combined with a sudden bum-rush sent the Drathonians into a defensive stance, and they began fumbling shots in their haste to get them off. Most were so scared that they couldn't even hit the walls.

Sehene squirmed inside her armour as the gunfire left little scratches, and in some cases dents. She ignored the damage for the moment and continued to fire on them, shuffling back a few steps and gaining her visual focus before downing a few more.

She sprung forwards on the Captains count, shooting rapidly as many as she could get to. She quickly replaced her charge while running towards two of them, and rammed into them with her shoulder while clicking it into place. She then pointed her gun up and unleashed the fire into the Drathonians, who, surprised by her physical attack were caught unaware and killed by the bullets piercing the skin underneath their necks. They slid to the ground, almost taking her with them, and with a grunt she kicked one in the face before heading onwards.

Thomas jumped the gun a little on Kai's count. Just by half a count. Nothing serious.

He didn't end up too much in front, since he had to get momentum up. As he began sprinting, he began roaring, loud as he could, right up until the moment he had to point the Bro at the ground and draw the knife to slam it into the back of a Drathonian neck. He rammed into the Drathonian, rolled once with it, pulled his knife free, sheathed it, and started reloading, down on one knee to try to keep clear of danger. "I'm gonna empty this thing real fast," he muttered, pulling another duct taped pack.

To the Captain, he shouted, "Should we pursue if they flee?"

In just the first few moments of the insane Terran blitz, CIU 215 managed to cut down ten of the twenty remaining Lizards, evening the odds, but now a few soldiers were stuck in the midst of the remaning lizards, at a severe disadvantage to the larger, burlier, scaly-tailed Drathonians. Kai had hung back slightly, using the front side of the Drathonian cover to cover himself, and fired point blank from a crouched position on the confused Drathonians who were otherwise distracted by several Terrans, and pumped a Sniper blast through one's head and into the chest of another. Thomas was quickly bowled over after distracting himself with talk, while Sehene managed to kick herself free. One of the Oscar elemnt soldiers was likewise taken down, but used the position to his advantage to open up on the softer underbellies of his enemies. All in all, the blitz had been successful so far, leaving no more Terrans dead (seeing as the very fact the squishy pinkies even ran at the clearly superior Drathonian soldiers had left dumstruck looks and puzzlement on the faces and minds of these "superior" lizards)

Knocked onto his side, Thomas twisted so that his back was against the ground and his legs were bunched up for a powerkick. He proceeded to deliver the kick with both legs, throwing his assailant off. While the enemy was still airborne, Thomas dropped his legs and punched a few shots into him - not enough to kill, but more than enough to incapacitate or leave a fatal wound. Regaining his feet, he backpedaled with the goal in mind to rejoin Kai and wait for further orders. He considered trying to tackle someone, but dismissed it; it wouldn't be as effective without full momentum.

Garrett had maintained the position of a supporting role all his life, and as Kai called for a rush, he knew that again he would be needed to supply support to his fellow Marines: in this case, it was cover fire after the initial rush. As the Marines began to clear out, he began laying down suppressive fire on any Drathonian that so much as stuck a talon out in the open. This brought about the demise of a couple lizards, and left a few others with minor injuries, but Garrett wasn't counting like he usually was. He was just trying to keep his fellow Terrans alive.

Wth he suppressing fire, Kai's position was much more useful, as Garrett's shots stopped any lizards from popping their heads up to shoot the nearer captain. As it was, the drathonians were split between their pride at close combat and their safety from the guns further down the hallway. Not to mention the fact that the relatively small space didn't give them enough room to fight properly. all these factors combined in the quick cutting down of the last few Drathonians in the hallway by Oscar element and CIU 215. Everything seemed clear, so Kai called for Dante "Private Sol! We got a door that needs opening that command told me needs to work. get over here, we'll cover you."

Dante awoken from his panicked state as he heard his name get called. As he gathered his thought together, he felt ashame of his actions and regain control of his breathing. God damn I'm pathetic. I just froze there while everyone fought and risked there lives. I can say this though, I'm glad no one saw me like that. Dante got up and jogged to the door with a dishearten look in his eyes. He aproched the door and started to get to work on the door. “Give me a few minutes the lizards know a little more then I realized.” Dante worked at a slightly slower pace then he did hacking into the outer level computer.

Dante recieved quite a bit of resistence, it seemed there was a Drathonian hackeron the other side trying to counteract the engineer. Private Sol continued to gain ground however, the Terran had more experience with the interface and coding that this ship utilized. Back and forth they fought with bits and bytes, more fiercely than any of the gunfights in the hallways of this ship, though both parties kept their calm, because losing one's mind in this battle meant instant failure.

Suddenly, Sol's datapad beeped, a small message, bearing mini version of the Hymn's avatar (Whom Sol had not yet met) the avatar soon began moving about Dante's screen, fixing small errors in his coding. Suddenly, the door beeped and flashed on, it was ready to be opened from this side. The Quantum computer aboard the Hymn had used it's link to the soldier's datapad to help him hack, and they now had full control over the doors on this level, but the main computer itself had been isolated, and Dante would need to connect directly to it if he wanted to hack through anc take control of the Artemis.

Dante thought he was breached when he saw the avatar and tried several defensive strategies to stop the avatar from advancing but didn't work due to the fact that the avatar was coming from the Hymn and not from the Artemis. When he saw it fixing his code he was dumbstruck and it showed on his face. When he saw he had control, the words “Holy s**t” escaped his lips as he started checking the data stream. There wasn't much but Dante unlocked every door he could access and found a fragment of the map for the ship. He ran a simple repair program and was able to join that file with the one he found earlier. “Capitan,” Dante said, “All doors are unlocked and would you like the other half of the map that we had gotten in the outer level?”

Clarissa was doing what she did best as a sniper, namely, remaining relatively unnoticed while picking off enemies with deadly accuracy. Much of this could be accredited to the marines whom were fighting in a manner that she could only call flamboyant; firing hundreds of times and lobbing dozens of grenades, so compared to them one soldier in the back firing on average two times a minute were the least of their worries.
It may not be the prime environment for a sniper to work in, but she had always been a thrifty girl; staying well away from the front of the pack, and firing only one round instead of a burst. She may have been told to switch to burst, but as a sniper efficiency was to deeply ingrained in her to use burst; why waste several rounds to take out an enemy when one well placed round can do the same, that is what she had been taught. So, with the painfully slow pace of at most three rounds per minute, Clarissa had a growing tally of headshots. As she was still in a sniper mind set, she barely spoke at all choosing instead to remain separated from the central community that was the marines close-knit family.

The dogfight was beginning to take its toll on the valiant pilots of Green, Blue, and Red squadrons. Due in part to the lack of experience combating Rex fighters, and in part to the lack of aide, and the fact that the enemy fighters still out numbered them 3:1 didn't help at all. Steven was impressed at how well the squadrons were doing given the odds, but his practical side kept telling him that no matter how well his compatriots fought, and no matter the tactics he used, this fight was not looking to up for the terrans; the Hymn could not spare any fighters and there was no telling how many reserve fighters were waiting just beyond the horizon. Logic told him that he should withdraw his forces back to the Hymn and regroup, but that would mean leaving the marines on the ground defenceless, not to mention the downed pilots. So, as Steven would never be able to willingly leave an ally, all that was left was for him and his fellow pilots to hold the enemies off until relief fights came, no matter how long it took.
But all that was easier said than done. For not only was the fight showing on the scimitars themselves, but the fight was also wearing down the pilots flying them. Steven was at his wit's end trying to balance controlling his squadron and figuring out how to keep them all alive longer, Emma was having issues conrolling her emotions, and Raji was in her own little world. Three of his pilots had been downed, thankfully none were seriously injured, including Greens Three, Nine, and Twelve. Green Three was God knows where playing jarhead. And now more than ever, Steven was feeling the touch of self-doubt wondering what his father would do, and thinking how much he missed his collegues from the naval academy. These kind of thoughts were quickly silenced as Steven maintained a level head knowing that such thoughts were what led to the deaths of many rookie pilots.
So he dug deep into what resolve he had left and continued to order his fighters for God knows how long. But there was little left and he was soon drained mentally. Just as he ran out of ideas and the Rex fighters seemed to be getting stronger somebody's voice cut into his comm channel. "Looks like you could use a hand Green Lead," the voice said. The Ride of the Valkaries was blairing in the back ground.
"Never thought I would be happy to hear your raspy voice, Epsilion Lead. We are in a bad spot right now," Steven replied with a breath of relief.
"Epsilion, Gamma, Omicron, Zeta, and Theta squadrons are here to bail you guys out. And besides Steven, I can't let you fly South 'til you pay back those seventy-five bucks."
"Randall, just get over here you French jackass."
Breathing another sigh of relief he switched back to squadcomm.
"The calvary has arrived boys and girls!" he said holding back none of his enthusiasm. "Let finish this up quickly. The coffee is on me, Emma you can have tea."
That was just the mental boost Steven needed, and without missing a beat he regrouped his squadron and felling into formation with the reinforcements as they engadged the Rex fighters who were now the ones who were outnumbered. Within the course of a few minutes the remaining enemies were either eliminated or driven off.
"That should take care of them," Epsilion Lead, Randall, said over the comm, "And I was thinking I might raise your debt to one hundred dollars, what do you think?"
"You really are a jackass," Steven responded curtly, "Thanks for the assist man."
"What are friends for?" Randall said with a slight chuckle. "We will stay with you as support for now, so take the time to do a few deep breathing exercises and relax."
"I'd rather have a cup of coffee," Steven said continueing the joke.
Still, Steven followed the advice and programmed auto-pilot to patrol mode, set the course, enhanced the settings on his sensors, and rested his eyes for a bit.

Emma breathed a sigh of relief when backup arrived, the fight had put her on edge, under so much stress that even her emotions had stopped working. She had been saved by her shields so much during the fight that about thirty seconds before the 'cavalry' arrived, the generator had shorted out and refused to work again, leaving her feeling horribly vulnerable. Now that it had all passed, she curiously checked her computer for kills. 12 kills. half an ace in her first combat. not bad for having lost it partway through. She noted that steven had accumulated twenty kills, and was sure he was more than an ace by now. Raji and her wing had a combined score of 17, almost all were shared kills, as apparently green 6 didn't want to be shown up by green five. A low-priority alert went off, telling her that Green lead went into auto-pilot mode, so she switched her autopilot to follow in formation with him, and went about seeing what she could do about the frazzled out shield generator.

"That sounds wonderful, Sol, patch it through to my pad" Kai said, and, when that was done, the captain studied it, and decided on their route. "Allright, beyond this door is a short hallway that leads into the control room, wich is a big empty space. We want to do as little hurt to the computers in there as possible, so bring out sidearms and put away your Bro's, as those don't have the accuracy we need. Dante, on the count of three, open the door and we'll rush in. keep to one side, we need you alive out here until we take over, allright?" the tall blonde Terran counted down, and at the end of his count burst through the door, quickly rushing down the hall and taking cover in the arch of the entry into the control room, only to find it empty, from his vantage point at least. He called a halt on the soldiers behind him, then whispered to Garrett "got any flash or stun grenades to throw in that control pit?"

"Blast," Thomas grunted, swinging the Bro to his back. He didn't have a sidearm beyond his knife. On the other hand, at the ranges they'd be working, hopefully the knife would work plentifully well.

On the other hand, he was just as likely to break expensive things with his massive, hulking body as with his rifle.

Either way, he charged right after Kai, staying as close as he could without being right behind him. Then Kai called a halt. Thomas drew his knife, crouched down, and gripped his weapon obliquely - blade pointing to the ground, thumb side of his hand towards the sky. With the blade oblique, he could pull off some nasty slashes, and a good stab from on high too. The real question was how much damage would it take to bring down any opponents they might encounter up here? Oh well. He'd have to wing it.

Raji was looking over the kill count as well, with mixed emotions. On the one hand, only greens one, two, seven, and eight had scored more kills than her. This came as no surprise; both pairs had strong teamwork. On the other hand, however, only six of her 17 kills had been counted as her own. The other eleven were 'shared' between her and green six. She had a few choice words to say about that, but instead she sat there brooding. Green six fell off her wing, returning to formation. She gritted her teeth, turning off her squad com and flying off on her own. She hit the outermost perimeter of their mission zone, and set her autopilot to follow it. She pushed her seat back and crossed her arms and legs. She scowled. Yes, she now properly loathed her wingmate. But there was something far more underlying about the encounter that had put her in a dour mood. She wasn't quite sure what.


Fortunately for Dante, he wasn't the only one who had been stuck in a compromising position. Unfortunately for him, however, he was wrong in assuming no one had seen him like that. No sooner had Jack pummeled the door down and set down a hail of fire than his sugar had died with a whimpering fizzle. He spent the entire encounter crouching a ways behind Kai, smacking the damn thing and taking parts off, blowing on them, and putting them back into place. Nothing. The unfortunate truth was that it was, regardless of how far we've come, human technology. Which translated into made to be replaced.

He was so focused on trying to get the piece of crap working again that he was oblivious to the fact that he was sitting in a clear line of fire. He was helpfully reminded, however, when a blast of hot plasma sent him sprawling onto his back. Surprising as it had been, he had to be thankful for it. If the sniper had taken a fraction of a second longer to aim, he'd have cleared the few inches between where the crater in his armor was and where his head had been. It had been so close his nose felt a bit toasty.

Returning to a crouch, he quickly moved himself around the corner to the now-cleared hallway to their side, kneeling down again next to the (pretty cute) girl in the pilot outfit. Still holding the sugar in his hands, he remembered that one of the rookies was a techie. Looking up at the chaos of exploding plasma raining down the hall like a sideways apocalypse, he soon found the kid he was looking for. Of course, it wasn't difficult; he had his back against the wall, staring at the mutilated corpse of the dead marine.

The expression of horror on his face was strangely familiar. For a brief moment he was reminded of another young man, albeit a much younger one, from a time so long past that only a vague wisp of a memory was left. He lost himself, staring at the floor so deep in thought that he was scowling. Instinctively, he rubbed his shoulder, feeling for something under the armor that was no longer there. Fragmented memories that had long since been buried came slowly bubbling up, like gas through tar.

His senses went dull. The whine of energy bolts slowly distorted, until it turned into a slow, steady, mechanical rumble. The hallway dimmed, the bursts of light from munitions hitting walls turning into flying trails of sparks falling like rain. The stark metal walls surrounding him remained, yet were changing. They expanded infinitely outward, breaking into arrays of walkways and steaming pipes. The bright metallic sheen dulled and rusted, making the scene altogether more sullen. The mechanical rumble intensified, joined by the hiss of steam and turbines.

"I got just the thing, kid" Garret said, reaching into his bag and pulling out a small rough sphere. "You might wan't to cover your ears though guys" he whispered to the rest of the group with a gleam in his eye. the twisted the sphere before pressing a short button code, then lobbed the explosive device down into the pit. A short whine later, the thing jumped into the air and rained sparks, loud noises, and bright strobe lights towards the ground before finally exploding in a small shower of shrapnel, which could be heard bouncing off the metal of the control stations. Two Drathonians jumped from the pit, obviously disoriented, and a thud signalling the death of the third could be heard.

Thomas leapt up, ignorant of the possibility of other opposition; if there was some, they'd have too hard of a time tracing a moving, charging target. And if there were he'd shoot them/his teammates would shoot them.

Knife in hand, he tackled one of the disoriented Drathonians, throwing his whole weight, steel plating included, on top of it. Already surprised and confused, it didn't have much of a chance to resist; he stabbed it once, twice, and a third time in the neck. For good measure, he plunged the knife in once more through an eye socket then pushed off of it and readied himself for the second one. He didn't charge it immediately, though; he had friends, and at the very least he'd wait for them to do a little damage. At best, they'd kill the Drathonian and Thomas wouldn't need to do any more.

The sonic boom from down the hall helped Jack phase back into reality, his scarring flashback over. He stood, dropping his junked rifle on the ground, and turned toward the wall. He felt nausious, and had to lean against it for support. His mouth watered for a moment before his stomach let loose its contents. He stood there for a long moment before his world stopped spinning. His head still hurting worse than any hangover he'd ever had, Jack stumbled down the hall after his squad, still leaning against the wall to keep his balance.

Kai had indeed noted Thomas' somewhat insane move, and therefore went for the other Lizard. Although the beast was wobbly and difficult to track, it sloppily moved towards the captain, making his shot on a hulking target an easy one. Blasting it through the weaker chest scales, the Sugar's particle beam vaporized the entire chest cavity, allowing the no longer living body to tumble to the ground with a slightly squishy thump. With a hand signal, Kai ushered the group forward to take the room, which was an easy feat considering that they had just killed all it's occupants. "Private Sol!" the blond man called to his engineer "we need you in here stat. think you can use starship controls?" He then searched around for the rest of the squad; it seemed Jack hadn't come into the room yet, but a retching and slight banging managed to reach Kai's ears, so he went out to investigate, and found Jack, who was looking as bad as the lizards had been. "You okay private?" he asked, concerned.

Garrett had pulled back as soon as he'd lobbed the hi-tech flashbang. Having only a Bro at his disposal, he kept the safety on and his trigger clean. There was nothing he could do to support his team other than make sure Jack was okay. "This isn't like you, Jack. The hell's going on?"

When she saw the Drathonians tear through Private jenkins, a frozen Private Langdon collapsed behind the first line barricade clutching a cold Bro rifle. There was no time to focus on the events on hand and the female pilot knew it, so she did her best to force the image of the corpse from her mind and clamber over the half-wall. Corporal Logan was ushering his five-man squad into the next room now that the threat had been neutralized. He was the last one in, placing a hand on Pilot Langdon's shoulder and giving her a gentle and reassuring push into the next room, but she pushed his arm away and shoved the rifle onto his chest. "I don't want your f&#*ing rifle; I'm not a f&#*ing Marine! Shoot your own damn guns, and make your own kills. I'm not going to be part of this masochistic parade." Seemingly contradictory to her statement, she drew the .45 caliber pistol from its holster at her right hip before striding away from Corporal Logan.

The Corporal let her be, and looked to his remaining soldiers. "Arkasian, Guillamo, Hardin, keep watch on all our outlets. We'll be serving as the rearguard for Captain Nakamura's unit." A union of, "Sirs," and nods were the reply he was given. Meanwhile, Arcadia approached Captain Nakamura. "Sir, excuse me, but I'd like permission to be inducted into your squad temporarily. I was flying defensive missions around this structure and was shot down. And, no offense, but I feel Oscar Element is incapable of providing the proper... environment for an incapacitated pilot." Looking around at the team, she caught Garrett's eye, noticed his smirk, and glared. "Focus on your mission, Captain, not my breasts, or I'll be forced to remove your eyes from your skull, sir."

Garrett chuckled. "Yes, ma'am; when you work up the stomach to stare into gaping holes leading straight to my bloodied brain, visceral vital fluids streaming down my cheeks, I'll be happy to let you blind me." His smirk returned. "And I wasn't staring at your breasts, for the record. I was reading your name and rank, Private Langdon."

The private, realizing her idiocy, sighed and put a hand to her forehead. "Excuse me, sir. This hasn't been a particularly wonderful day." Langdon was still simmering, but the look of anger had dissipated from her face.

"Excused, Private, and I'm sure I can speak for Captain Kai when I say you're welcome within CIU 215. Just don't lose your head, kid, and I mean that in every sense of the phrase." He set the duffel bag on the ground and strode over to the doorway, investigating the control pit. "Clean, sir." He toed the dead Drathonian. "...Mostly clean, sir. I might recommend that Privates Gallagher and Langdon stay out of the room."

"Clean?" Thomas commented, wiping blood onto his pants. He was quite the gory giant. If Arcadia was not feeling like stomaching nasty, bloody, holding-small-portions-of-your-enemy-like-you-intend-to-make-them-into-a-necklace sort of thing, Thomas was not the man to look to; he had indeed pried a few scales off his fallen opponent and was pocketing them - personal spoils of war. He wasn't much into souvenirs, especially those gained from grave-robbing, but Drathonians were tough, and it was because of their scales; turn those into a nice neck-piece and nobody'll be slitting your throat any time soon. Hopefully, anyhow.

"So room's clear, potentially? Are we holding here or not?"

Jack shrugged off Kai and Garrett, leaning against the wall across from the control room. Despite his disposed mental state, he felt a small tinge of offense as Garrett recommended that he "stay out of the room." Jack had thought him to be someone more considerate than that. Staring begrudgingly into the room, seeing Thomas descale the lizard struck a chord. He spat instinctively on the floor, and muttered, "Taking trophies from Drathonian filth is like wiping s**t all over your face." his eyes were drawn to Private Langdon, who was the only thing truly out of place, knee deep in the mud of combat and emotionally incapable of coping with it. Not that he was the one to be talking right now; Jack felt like ripping the knot out of his throat to both satisfy his own pain and desire to kill.

"Umm.. Crap, I think we need a Medic" Kai mumbled, Grabbing Jack's arm and pulling him towards the room, where there were some chairs he could sit in. "Everyone inside, we're taking control of this vessel, and I expect it's current owners won't like that. Oscar element, You guys have the exits, CIU 215 will hold the high ground inside here for now." Kai stomped up to what appeared to be the command chair, which was on a platform above both the main walkway and the crew pit. From here he could see a number of screens, most displaying Drathonian text, but a few still reading in Terran. "Sol, Get up here, and get these screens translated to Terran as soon as you can. Umm... Pilot? Could you come up here and assist Sol if he needs it? Also, I could use your name." Finishing his sentence, the Captain held out his had towards Arcadia, as a gesture of peace towards the obviously upset woman.

***

Already, banging could be heard. Sol's previous efforts had managed to close off many of the doors between the control room and the rest of the ship, but the Lizards seemed to know ways around, and were merely slowed. Every once in a while, the banging would stop, and be replaced by the furious sounds of skirmishes. Sometimes, the banging would resume, others, Not. Clearly, The Lizards knew what had gone on and were not happy.

Garrett took a seat farthest from the entrance for himself, looking rather relaxed in the middle of battle. He knew he should be standing -- something in the back of his mind said that it wasn't proper military tradition to take a seat in the midst of a combat operation -- but his easygoing personality refused to pass up the opportunity.

Stepping into the room, Arcadia managed just fine and was even able to act naturally so long as she kept her gaze away from the corpse in the middle of the room; she was able to do so easily enough. "Yes sir. Private Langdon, sir." She snapped a quick salute, preferring a gesture of respect over a gesture of equality, and then joined Sol by the computer terminal. "Just for your information Private Sol, I fly fighters, not frigates, so there might be just a few intuitive leaps between the two. Don't expect me to be filling in all the gaps."

"If covering your face keeps you alive at some future date, I'd rather get dirty than die," Thomas replied distractedly, wondering if they were gonna get a chance to use the rifles again. He wasn't able to do much good with the knife unless he was charging, and at some point that would become impossible. He couldn't say when, but it would most certainly happen. Without a handgun of any variety, he'd need to be close to do damage. How close could he get from up here?

Dante Walked over to the computer and sat down. As Dante was working he listened to the conversation between Captain Hendlow and the new girl. I'm not in this group for even a day and we got someone else and she is such a b***h.Dante sighed when the captain set her straight. When she arrived he set the recorded straight for her: “Hey, I won't need you unless a giant winds come and blow all this sand off. After I get in, I'm going to remain here and give backup here by controlling all aspects of the ship. I'll be locking up the doors so when that happens either say here or go fight with them. Now...almost...There!” All of a sudden several screens popped up. “Sir, I have the info here."

Kai noticed the hungry look in Thomas' eye. "Hey, calm it down you two. Each to his own, so long as you aren't a damn lizard sympathizer. Since you'll be firing out, you can continue using the heavier weapons" Kai noted, holstering his EV-47 and taking the Sugar off of his shoulder, Priming the rifle and setting a fresh battery into it. He went about attaching a couple half-charged batteries to one another, setting them to fill the one that currently had more power left. he went about doing this sort of thing till he heard Private Sol call for him. The captain walked over to monitor the screens the Engineer had brought up.

***
Several security cameras showed fighting, several more showed Drathonians and Terrans alike trying to break through doorwars, the Lizards by force, the Terrans via hacking. Another display showed that most of the internal functions of the ship were active, but all flight functions were completely down. All the dorsal guns read destroyed, but the ventral were all green, if useless at the moment. Communications was up and running, so Calls could now be made more quickly and efficiently outside.

***
"Sol, Herd all the drathonians into as small of an area as you can, and let the Marines toward us. Patch us in with as many Terran commanders as you can, but first Send Command this message." Kai said, Handing Dante his Datapad which contained an encrypted, authenticated Text message which read:
Quote:
Control of Jupiter-class Battleship 'Artemis' is now in Terran hands. Second wave of troops should be sent. Estimated time for eradication of enemy, with reinforcements, 3 hours.


Kai grabbed a microphone, preparing to turn the Artemis' bridge into a temporary tactical command center. Before that could happen however, several vents in the ceiling practically exploded, each depositing a slender red beast which, upon contact with the floor, would writhe to it's feet before suddenly becoming very hard to see. Armed with pistols, the five or so enemies began firing on Oscar Element and CIU 215, The pistols luckily did not have the firepower to break through the armor of a Terran Marine, but several well-placed shots took out the legs and arms of a couple Oscar element soldiers, dropping them to the ground as their comrades turned towards the sudden enemy. Lightning fast however, the situation changed again, with Garret, and Thomas being grabbed, Along with Oscar's leader, the lizards phased back to normal visibility, and formed a tight circle, using the three surprised Marines now with knives to their throats.

Oscar element and Kai were by that time all pointing their rifles at the rabble in the center of the room, but no one fired for fear of hitting the Marines, as well as the fact that trying to kill one of the lizards meant death to the three marines anyway. One of the three unencumbered Drathonians Spoke up, a sick grin on his maw. "SO, Pink filth, You thought you had won? Look at the tables now. We have your men, and we Know you don't want them gone. We don't want our base gone. SO, I have a suggestion. What say you leave now, go outside, where our Brethren can take you into custody. You won't die, We promise. Oh no, We have much better plans than that." The Drathonian continued to smile, licking his jaw in an awkward manner that showed his pure pleasure at this.

Jack grunted in antipathy at Kai's attempt at compassion. He may have been an officer, but he was nowhere near old enough to understand the non-tactical nuances of how to lead in combat. The last thing Jack wanted was to be taken by the arm and told he needed a medic. What was ailing him was nothing that could be treated by any medic. Jack couldn't hold any animosity towards him, however. He was just a kid, after all. The innocence of his youth had disappeared with war in much the same way that Jack had lost his at that age. If anything, he felt a nostalgic sense of empathy for all the soldiers around him. The only other one who was old enough to throw their life away was Garrett, and even he was younger than Jack. He looked at the faces of the youths: Kai's, calm and cool despite the overwhelming responsibility for a boy of eighteen; Thomas', flecked with blood and grimly enthusiastic, hinted at something tender inside that was taken from him far too young; and Dante's, perhaps the least disturbing in its candor, still pale and anxious from experiencing something too far beyond his emotional scope.

He sighed wistfully at the disappointments of the present and the pains of the past, and turned for the door. Jack left the bridge, muttering something about keeping an eye on the hall. The ailments of the body, only a symptom of those of the mind, had subsided. The mental storm still roared in his brain, trying to process an answer to a question that didn't want to be asked. Jack proceeded down the hall, back to where their previous battle had taken place. The air was stagnant with the smell of burnt flesh, and the scene was somehow grotesquely serene in the stillness and finality of it all - as if this chapter of the story had already been closed and forgotten. The muffled clamor of distant combat sounded so completely separate from this scene, it felt to Jack that there was more between them than just layers of ship plating.

Jack walked to the end of the hall, and stood before the remains of the dead marine. There wasn't much left: his head was spread halfway down the hall, a leg lay several feet away, and what was left in one piece looked like a charred, fleshy hunk of swiss cheese. Jack contemplated the corpse for several long moments with respectful sympathy for the deceased. After coming to a hesitant crouch, Jack pressed his hand beneath the armor, beneath the space that the head had formerly occupied. Groping around decisively yet uncomfortably, Jack quickly found what was left of a chain. Gingerly pulling it out from the roasted skin it had been melted to at the edges, Jack removed the remains of the dog tag chain. He gazed at the writing, reading the name aloud. "P2C Daniel Jenkins." He rubbed the dog tag thoughtfully between his fingers for a moment, then reached down to the fairly protected backside of Jenkins' hip, and stuck his hand into the pouch that most marines kept cigarettes in, retrieving a box. He pulled one out, stuck it in his mouth, then dropped the box on Jenkins' chest. He then slid a dog tag off the broken chain, and dropped the other onto his chest as well. He held the tag out to contemplate between two fingers as he took out his lighter and lit the cigarette. "Well, Jenkins," Jack sighed as he fell back on his butt and leaned against the wall, "Wish I could say I'm sorry, but we're all jealous that you get to be in the one place where there's no lizards around to ruin everything." Jack only took a few drags before placing the cigarette down on the dead man's chest, as a kind of offering. He sat back and watched the smoke wind out from the cigarette. He felt like he was at the funeral of a person he had never actually met, and yet was the only one that had bothered to even come. Sitting there in the relative quiet got him thinking about other people who had died hopelessly alone. Silently, Jack sat in the ruined hallway, keeping the dead company.

Clarissa could not get over her feeling of being so distant from the men and women around her; she just felt so out of place and awkward. So she went off to the edge of the room where she felt more comfortable and sat down to clean her rifle; this was more for her own comfort than for nessesity. In the distance she could hear the sound of drathonian counter-measures and she was feeling claustrophobic in the tight quarters. Upon looking up from her dismantled gun she saw that she was not the only one feeling out of place; the female pilot that they had picked up looked as if she were going to have a panic attack, if she wasn't already having one. After further inspection it was easy to tell she was a pilot, she was around Clarissa's age, and judging her flightsuit she was with Green Squadron. If the pilot had not been working, Clarissa would have gone over to talk with her. She would just have to wait for a better time.
Sehene stood near the entrance, peeking out in case any lizards decided to enter the stupid way. The crashing from the roof alerted her, and, startled, she turned around to see three marines captured by the special Drathonian soldiers. Her eyes widened, and she stiffened, but then quickly swallowed back the emotion with a hiss. Her whole body was stiff, her chest rising and falling with the effort to not shoot the lizards in the throat.
Thomas' grin spread slowly, starting as a vague smile and finishing as a full-teeth-revealed sneer of sorts. His knife was still gripped in his right hand, and his knuckles began to go white from holding it - this was what he wanted the scales for, they wouldn't be doing this if he had them. But it didn't matter. These ones were small, probably weaker than him, and anyway the close combat was where he ruled. It would take one grab and a little shrug and he would be free. What they needed was the sniper and someone else who could take a good shot to clear off the others. Thomas tried to point this out to Kai by meeting his eyes and then repeatedly glancing at Clarissa. In the meantime he shifted his weight back and against the lizard so that the thing would have to support him to keep its position - it was a subtle move, but it already put the lizard on the defensive, supporting him instead of being supported. If he could pull it off, a quick move would throw the lizard completely off balance and he could just put a knife through the thing's ribs. Easy.

If Kai got the hint.
"So hostile," Arcadia had muttered in response to Sol's snappy retort. Despite this she had still taken a step away and looked around the room at the other soldiers. She jumped when the ambush occurred and her first reaction was to aim her pistol at the Drathonian holding Thomas. This was not her field of expertise, this wasn't even something she was remotely good at; Private Langdon belonged in the cockpit of a scimitar, several thousand feet off the ground. Today was such a shitty day.

Garrett's instincts almost had him reacting immediately, but he merely tensed, holding himself back from potentially committing suicide. He looked around at his captured teammates, and noticed Thomas trying to communicate by sight. Definitely better to wait. When he looked over to the leader of Oscar, though...

Corporal Logan stood there, stunned for a moment and dropped his S/GUR rifle. Standing there, with a knife to his throat, he looked around. All of his true blue Marines were dead except for Hardin. The pilot he'd found had opted to leave the protection of his squad for another's. Both his techies and the remaining soldier were wounded and down; he could tell that Arkasian wasn't even capable of walking with all those bullets stuffed in his thighs. He wasn't even capable of performing an operation as simple as covering two doorways. "I'm a horrible leader," he whispered to himself, solidifying the idea in his mind. He couldn't take living like this, being an upset and a failure to so many people. He had to do something, and do it now.

So he did. He simultaneously pulled the Drathonian's right hand (that which held the knife to his throat) away from his body and swung his right elbow into the lizard's face. The knife was dropped and the lizard went for his pistol while the Corporal lunged at him. A bullet drained Logan's brainpan and a scaled fist knocked him to the floor abruptly. And that was the end of Jackal Squadron's leader.

At the sight, Arcadia cringed and took a step back, trying to divert her eyes. The world seemed to be going to Hell in a flaming handbasket, and she just happened to be on the ground when it decided to do so. Oh what she would give to be in the flagship or a fighter's cockpit.
Thomas grimaced, but... it was almost as well, sadly. It resolved one of three problems. Only one sniper, and Thomas was strong enough to handle himself. Garrett might be, but hey, there was no point taking chances. Who knew what might happen?

He kept trying to get Kai to get Clarissa to do something - if they could get the knives from their throats, then they'd be able to have the others gun the rest down - no troubles.

Jack wasn't all emotion right then. He heard the shot ring out and immediately knew there was a situation. That was no EV, and definitely not a sugar rifle. It wouldn't be so suspicious if there was return fire, but there wasn't. Standing up abruptly, he realized he still didn't have a weapon. Looking down, he saw Jenkins' rifle laying on the ground several feet away, discarded in a trail of blood. He grabbed it, checking the ammo and safety, then nodded in thanks to Jenkins before quietly jogging up the hall. He got up to the control room door and peered around the corner.

The situation was pretty obvious from what he could see: the idiot Drathonians had hostages and put themselves in a Mexican standoff. One of the Oscar Element guys seemed to have already had his face blown off. That left three Drathonians, two of which had Garrett and Thomas hostage. He looked back and forth between the three targets, sizing it up. He could definitely hit one with a hostage then quick shoot down the one that didn't, but by that time the third would have reacted. From where he stood, he could only see Kai, the pilot, and Dante. None seemed to be in any hurry to end the situation. Jack glanced back over to the Drathonians. They definitely had already proven they weren't smart enough to keep their hostages alive.

With little regard for the consequences, Jack brought his rifle to bear, aiming it carefully at the head of the Drathonian behind Garrett. He didn't much mind leaving Thomas to his own fate... he wasn't exactly the rosiest face in the litter. Besides, Jack had always wondered if that story about the surgeons in the med bay being able reattach a severed had was true. With a quick glance at his second target, Jack pulled the trigger. The second one had a hole through its belly before the first had even tumbled forward onto Garrett.
Well, now worked as well as ever.

Thomas twisted his left arm up to the surprised Drathonian's wrist, pulled it violently away and twisting it. The thing was surprised enough that he could just throw it more or less to the side, then start the process of gutting it. With several quick blows he more or less completely disabled his opponent, whom he proceeded to toss aside. He threw himself aside to give Jack a clear shot at the last man, because he really didn't care to get pegged on his way down.
Quite casually, Clarissa reassembled her hand gun, raised it up to look it over, and aimed. With a small squeeze of her trigger finger the gun fired, and the round struck the last remaining drathonian square in the temple and it fell lifelessly to the ground. Holding her pose for a few moments more she slid the gun back in its holster and stood up to lean against the wall.
Kai stood, looking somewhat paler, he didn't need the extra death of corporal Logan, but the blinding fast pace of the shots coming from every direction as well as Thomas' sudden takedown of his captor was a sight to be seen. Still, He stood stock still. What had made him freeze? was it the fact that two of his men were taken in the blink of an eye, was it that he could do nothing about it? was it the poor Corporal practically commiting suicide? He couldn't tell, but for a few seconds more, he stood there, before he realised that the lack of blood to his head wasn't good, and blacked out. The jolt of his head coming down on the stairs, forcefully ripping the helmet free of his head, brought Captain Nakamura back to his senses. The first sense was aboviously pain, as his forehead now had a nice split across it, bleeding profusely down his face. The tall Terran scrambled partially upwards and managed to get back onto his haunches, and sat down on the steps. "The hell?" he muttered, remembering his first days in the Terran military, when, as a green soldier, he had used similar tactics to drive off Drathonians. The hell indeed. Kai thought, clapping a hand to his forehead before turning to Sol "Have you sent the message yet?" he asked, almost as if nothing had happened.
"Hey, you might want a Band-Aid or something," Thomas chuckled, standing and ensuring his foe was dead with a quick strike to the spinal column and one to the temple - nothing anyone, human or lizard to survive. "So rifles up? And can we like set some explosives or something up there?" Thomas suggested, grabbing his Bro and setting himself up in the trench the lizards had been holding before they had entered. He checked the battery, replaced it anyway, and checked the sights on the doorway - then shifted them to the ceiling. The doorway he'd see first, he didn't want a repetition of what had just happened.
When the Drathonian went limp, Garrett snagged its knife, spun, and slit its throat to ensure death. Some of the blood was spilled on the Captain's jacket before the body was tossed into the corner of the room. Although Hendlow had some concern for his fellow Captain, Kai seemed to prefer the whole ordeal be ignored, so he did the same, leaving Nakamura and Sol to their business. He approached Jack, offering his hand and characteristic smirk. "Nice save, Jack. Glad you could make it in time for the party."

Arcadia could only take a deep breath and holster her pistol with a shaky hand. Carefully she sat down then, elbows resting on her knees, thumbs to her temples, and fingers to her forehead. When she looked up, she was looking at Thomas and then Garrett. "This is why I'm not a Marine. You're all f&#*ing crazy."

Still smirking, the demo expert glanced over at the pilot. "Gotta say I'm quite glad you aren't a Marine, missy. I'm pretty sure I'd be dead if you were. Lighten up. Your a**'ll be outta here soon enough, and then you can go on back and sit in your cozy little plane."

Being in the constant presence of these Marines was really beginning to wear on Private Langdon's nerves, but she didn't give a retort as would be normal for her; nothing she said seemed to be heard by these men, whether it be neutral information or negative-- she had yet to say a positive thing to them. No, instead she rested her head in her hands again and stared at the floor.
Jack nodded in confirmation to Garrett, walking into the room gingerly. What had he been thinking, not caring if Thomas died or not? Hadn't he just been telling himself that he was only a kid? The mental torrent came flooding back into his brain, but Jack heaved it to the side. No. What happened on Turanis was his own problem, to be solved on his own time. He had a job to do, and if he let the past cloud his mind, more people could end up dead.

And he had enough blood on his hands.

It might have helped Jack to notice that Thomas was completely unconcerned by basically everything and anything. "F!$#ing is the best word you can come up with to describe it?" Thomas laughed. "You gotta have something better than just an explative for that. That doesn't even begin to cover it." He leaned against the trench walls, keeping his eyes on the vents for the sake of safety. "Oh, yeah, anything comes to the door, lemme know," he requested on second thought, in case his ears failed him. He'd probably know, but hey, it didn't hurt.

The pilot sure seemed to be having a rough time, and that was kinda funny. This was easy stuff, the sort of thing you didn't worry about too much. Well... easy might be stretching it. Exertion was not minimal by any means; he'd been doing a lot of running. On the other hand, the resistance had been overcome, and they were holding a secure patch of ground - that was easy from here on out, pretty much. No complaints from Thomas on that.
Kai was certainly acting like he was ignoring it. Truthfully, he was doing a decent job at it; lots of men died on the field, and he'd been in worse spots than that. but for some reason that didn't sit well with him. He supposed it was simply the fact that those men had been taken hostage, and that Corporal Logan had been unarmed and unable to defend himself when he was killed. It was all the more reason to hate these lizards who, for all their stupidity, could be cunning and sneaky, stabbing you in the back when you least expected it. Kai shook his head, angry, a few flecks of blood spattering the floor around him, and realized that Thomas was probably right about the Bandage.

Remaining sitting down, Kai pulled the miniscule medpac most marines carried with them off of his belt, and grabbed a gauze pad and some gauze tape, wrapping the bandage securely around his head to keep the bleeding down. He picked up the helmet and plopped it on his head, moving his bangs out of the way, revealing the large scar across one eye, but allowing him to see a little better. The Captain then set about attempting to latch the helmet on to no avail, the snap had broken, leaving the straps hanging at the sides of his head, so he simply tucked them into the fabric covering the ceramic shell of the helmet.

By now, Kai's message had gone through and the second wave of troops were making their way into the Artemis, breaking through to the lower levels, which they would soon begin to clear out. In the upper levels, where the first wave now was, the Drathonians had begun to figure out they were being herded, and tried other methods of getting about, but enterprizing Terran captains, now with security camera feeds into their HUD's, as well as detailed maps, began hunting down isolated groups of drathonians, as well as a few squads assembling to assault the larger group created through the novel use of a technology known as remote door operation. Nothing more would come to bother CIU 215, or the last few soldiers from Oscar Element. The day was won, but now it was sit tight and wait duty for the two squads that had captured the bridge.
The action happened so fast, that all she could do was watch in frustration, noting the swift actions of her fellow pilots. There you go again Sehene, you idiot, just standing there doing nothing, putting people in danger... She shook her head and turned away from the blood, getting increasingly frustrated with herself.
---

Sehene looked to the pilot whom the Marines were being rather...merciless...to, sympathy in her eyes: the woman didn't look too good. She sighed and made her way towards her, grunting a "Be nice guys..." towards the men, and dropping herself down next to her in what she hoped would be a comforting manor. "Ignore them, they never are too good at socializing." She shot an attempt at a scathing glare towards them, although it failed massively due to her large eyes and childlike appearances. She wasn't trying to be rude, but perhaps lighten up the situation and get them to be a little less scathing. She considered sticking out her tongue at them for extra effect...

Thomas turned to Sehene, crossed his eyes, stuck out his tongue, and stretched his mouth out freakishly. It was impressive; it was almost practiced. Add to the effect the blood spattered on his face and clothing and the crazy positioning of his eyebrows and it was just... wow. Why would the soldier be so good at this? Freaky. He relaxed again and leaned against the wall.

"Are you guys blind!?" shouted Arkasian. "I'm f&#*ing bleeding out here, goddammit!" The Marine had sat himself upright in a corner just outside the control pit, a Bro rifle in hand. He was looking pale and there was indeed a fair amount of blood beginning to pool at the base of his legs. "I can't walk, Hardin's blacked out, and I can't even find Guillamo anywhere. Guillamo! Where the ******** is he?"

Arcadia looked up at Sehene and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "They're being Marines: typical, brutish Marines."

"Quit yer bitchin', I see you, Private Loudmouth," Was Garrett's reply to the wounded soldier as he strode toward him. Without asking for permission, he grabbed Arkasian around the torso and carried him into the control pit, seating him in one of the chairs. "Now you be a good boy and don't go anywhere. I'll find your kid. Someone patch 'em up." The Captain received an ugly glare, but he ignored it, stepping away from the pit yet again to look for the unconscious techie. He was found lying on his stomach with half of his young face in a pool of Drathonian blood. "Beautiful," the Captain muttered to himself. He picked up the unconscious soldier and carried him fireman-style into the pit as well, laying him in the corner next to Arkasian.

Now to find the last one... but where could he have gone? There were no other human bodies in the vicinity of the control room save for the dead Corporal Logan. The two doorways were clear as well; Garrett refused to venture on his own down a hallway he didn't know, so he just took a quick peek down toward Jenkins' death. Nothing. So he jogged back to the control room. Arkasian asked if the Captain had found him. "Nothing." Arkasian looked upset, but failed to find any more words to his liking. Death was leaving a sour taste in his mouth.

"Huh? $#!%, forgot about the rest of Oscar!" Kai chastised himself, snatching up his little medkit and jogging over to Arkasian. "Sorry about that, soldier" Kai muttered, looking at the gnarled mess of the Marine's legs. "Whoo. Looks like you get replacements" Kai said, sarcastic enthusiasm abounding, as he pulled out some form of rope or something and began to Tourniquet off the legs to stop the bleeding. he reached around, grabbing Arkasian's own medkit, and did what he could to clean it up, as well as handing the soldier a few painkillers. He then went over to Harding, and Checked him over, it seemed the Techie was mostly unharmed, he had taken a hit in his armor then knocked himself out by ricocheting off the wall.

At Garret's call, Kai said "Well, Check a little farther, maybe he went somewhere to take a leak when he thought the battle was over or something" Kai finished tending to the two soldiers in the pit before returning to his spot on the steps, and laying back, attempting to relax, but his stiff armor getting in the way.

Garrett nodded and headed toward Jenkins' corpse again, intent on performing a more thorough search. As he strode closer, his ears detected a light clicking on the floor, similar to the Drathonians' claws, but there was something unique about it all: there was a pattern. He crept slowly toward the barricade. Closer, he could hear visceral tearing sounds and a weak wimpering. Ever so slowly, he peered over the barricade ready to pull the trigger, but what he saw shocked him to the core: Guillamo was being eaten, his throat and stomach ripped open... and he was still alive. The Captain knew because the heart had still been beating. He registered all this in less than a second before stumbling away, frightened for the first time in his life.

The clicking pattern changed to something much more rapid, seemingly urgent. He heard a few guttural growls. What he had seen, and what he was hearing were definitely not Drathonians. "s**t," he whispered out of surprise. A third pattern arose. Something was wrong here. Garrett was working on the assumption that it was a form of communication, but he had no clue, honestly. What he did know was that Guillamo was dead. Garrett was walking back toward the control room slowly. He was halfway there when the clicking stopped and one of those things hopped over the wall. It was one ugly son of a b***h, a sandy brown color with darker clawed feet. It didn't have any eyes Garrett could see, and it was so low to the ground he couldn't even tell if it had arms, although he guessed they were on the underside. The thighs, on the other hand (excuse the horrible pun), were thick as any bodybuilder's, rippling with muscle. They were long, but bent at the knee and stood out on both sides of the body, like a frog's but to a much greater extent. It had a mighty set of fangs peeking out from its jawline, but the beast wasn't showing them off; it seemed to let its jaw naturally hang half open. Either way, it was extremely intimidating and the demolitions expert continued to back away slowly. It seemed to react to every move it made; perhaps it had some other method by which it saw: perhaps infrared or something.

When he was in the door again he called quietly across the room. "Sol, get this door closed now! Don't ask questions, just do it." When he looked back to the hallway, the creature froze, tapped on the floor in a quick pattern with what must have been clawed hands, and then leaped down the hallway, almost landing on Garrett. "s**t!" he shouted.

And then the s**t hit the fan. Two more came jumping over the barricade that had once kept most of CIU 215 alive, and the one in front of Captain Hendlow pounced again. He pulled the trigger and every single shot from the bro tore through the creature's soft underside, but not before the beast clawed Hendlow's chest, leaving three minor gashes. Momentum carried the beast into a flying tackle that landed on the demolitions expert. He shoved away the carcass and regained his footing as quickly as possible, gun trained down the hallway.

Thomas looked to the Oscar element's various survivors, tried to feel really deeply bad for them, and felt a glimmering of pity, but immediately instinctively shrugged it off. Who knew? They might be dead tomorrow. They might be dead in five minutes. The point was, they weren't strictly speaking dying, and Thomas wasn't a medic anyway. Who was he accusing? Thomas was still even coming down from an adrenaline high - these things happened.

Then Garrett started requesting the door to be closed. Thomas stood up, cocking an eyebrow in suspicion. He sounded... urgent. What was going on? And... a shout? Gunfire? Thomas came up over the trench, ran to the door, and came around. What the...? "Go, go!" Thomas advised Garrett, patting Garrett's shoulder to tell him to go, raising his Bro, and unleashing a hail of energy onto the frogs - covering fire, basically. "Get yourself safe, I'll cover you!"

With Thomas covering his back Garrett scrambled into the control room and fired from around the doorway. "Back it up, Thomas! We'll bring 'em to us!"

That is indeed what they were doing. As soon as Garrett pulled the trigger, the little beasties were leaping down the hallway with their powerful legs. They covered the remainder of the hallway in two leaps and were preparing their next jump for Thomas, or so it seemed to Garrett for they were positioned to lunge right at him. "Get back, Thomas!"

Well. So much for suppressing fire. Oh well. He gave up on shooting them temporarily to throw himself into a roll away from them, hoping that the door would shut; he didn't count on it, bringing himself up to a knee and reloading then preparing to shoot at them if they came through. "Hendlow, what do we do if they come through?!" he grunted, preparing to blast... whatever they were.

Thomas Needn't have asked. As soon as he was inside the room, Dante closed and sealed the door, making a nice barrier between the squad and the... things. Kai stood up, his Sugar rifle ready to go, and looked at the door, which now made occasional banging noises. "What the Hell was that?" The captain asked the other two men, looking bewildered at the scrapes down Garrett's front.

***

Outside the doors of the control room, within the bowels of the dirt-bound starship, the battles continued to rage between Drathonians and Terrans, but it was eerily quiet where they were, as the battles were moving away. that tapping was still heard. Elsewhere on the ship, Terran squads encountered the same kind of creatures, but, being in the full swing of battle, the creatures mostly fell before having a chance to show off their talents. Still, the tapping continued, but now, it was joined by tapping from the door on the other side of the bridge. Quickly, that too was closed and locked, and Kai started looking up again at the broken open ducts.


SirBayer Wrote:
Thomas turned to Sehene, crossed his eyes, stuck out his tongue, and stretched his mouth out freakishly. It was impressive; it was almost practiced. Add to the effect the blood spattered on his face and clothing and the crazy positioning of his eyebrows and it was just... wow. Why would the soldier be so good at this? Freaky. He relaxed again and leaned against the wall.

Mr. Blackbird Lore Wrote:


Arcadia looked up at Sehene and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "They're being Marines: typical, brutish Marines."


"Ehhh...?" Sehene recoiled from the insane facial expression of the marine, wondering how in the galaxy he could do that. She looked to the pilot and nodded, "I think that one over there just broke the laws of physics..." She frowned in his direction again, and then was distracted by gunshots, and the sudden movement of everyone. She stood up, gun in hand, "What was that?" Her voice returned to the stern and mechanical sound it held earlier, the presence of danger switching her back to 'fighting mode' so-to-speak.

Arcadia couldn't help herself; she gave a borderline hysterical chuckle. "This mission really is going to Hell in a flaming handbasket, and I just happened to be the pilot decommissioned in time to join you all on this one way trip!" She stood and took another deep breath. Desperate times were calling for desperate measures from the pro-pilot turned rookie Marine. She clenched the pistol tightly, knowing it would soon become the key to her survival. "What the hell were they, sir?" Her gaze was curious and intently focused on Captain Hendlow.

Garrett peered down at the wounds on his chest. "Well s**t, my guess is they're either indigenous or Drathonian pets." He gave an irritated sigh and crossed the room to take gauze and wrapping from the medkit owned by the unconscious Marine still sprawled in the corner. Unfortunately for his squad and fortunately for the Captain there was no simpler way to do this than take off his jacket and shirt and request assistance; there was no way for him to hold the bandage in place AND wrap the gauze around his chest. So he began removing the two layers. "Could I get some help putting this bandage on? Preferably from one of the beautiful ladies in the room?" He offered his characteristic smirk yet again, looking mighty hopefully at the few females in the control pit.

Arcadia again couldn't help but blurt the first thing that came to mind. "I knew it! You are one of those men. You were staring at my chest, you lying b*****d!" She shook her head. "There's no way in Hell I'm helping you. Sir!" She folded her arms over her chest in defiance to emphasize the point.

Garrett chuckled. "Aww c'mon. I wasn't staring at your chest. And it's just a quick little wrap. No big deal." It was useless trying to convince Arcadia otherwise, though, so he asked Sehene. "How 'bout it Private Sehene: can I get a little help?"

"Are you on drugs??" Arkasian asked from the corner, still a little hyped from the previous encounter. "Those jumpy little motherf&#*ers are still outside, tapping their little codes, possibly climbing around in the f&#*ing vents, and you're tryin' to get some chick to dress your wound? Get serious, man! Make it quick! F&#*, I'll do it if I have to!" Despite the Marine's vehement claims, Garrett ignored him entirely.
"Oh, just do it already," Thomas snapped. "It's not like you could even hit the broad side of a barn from the inside, you're the one who's available." He swiveled his rifle up to the vents again - if they came through the vents they wouldn't have much warning and they'd be in a lot of trouble. "We need to cover those vents right now and make sure they don't come undone. Can we like scrap some metal from the walls of the vessel and nail it on? Anything at all? Explosives, I mean..." He trailed off, biting his lip a little nervously.
Well... those freaky toady things certainly looked creepy as hell.

Jack sighed heavily and threw his sugar rifle over his sugar, then walked up to Garrett. "Sorry I'm not a pretty young lady, but I do have two hands. Gimme that." he said, taking the medical bandage from Garrett and wrapping it firmly around his chest. "What about that missing kid? He's probably out there with the toad things." He finished patching Garrett up and looked apprehensively at the door. If one of them almost got Garrett, he'd hate to see what they could do to a rookie who'd wandered off on his own. He looked over to his somewhat surprised commander. "Kai, I think you should send an alert message out. Command wasn't expecting anything... special."
Garrett's smirk faded and he raised his arms to allow Jack room to move the gauze. When Gallagher was finished, he began dressing and spoke in a mellow tone. "The kid's dead. They ate him alive. I'll refrain from going into detail for everyone's sake." His shirt and jacket back on, he picked up his rifle and took a look up at the vents. "So... where's the nearest ventilation access? You think they'll be able to figure out how to get here through there? They didn't look like they had that kind of intelligence, but what the hell do I know? I just make s**t go boom." He knelt by his duffel. "I have four packages left, none of which I have the proper tools to make traps with. I do have two that operate via remote detonation.

"What the hell is with that tapping? Are they communicating or something?"

"That's my guess, ma'am," answered Captain Hendlow.

Arcadia was rather surprised to hear a respective word come out of the Captain's mouth that wasn't uttered with a sarcastic overtone; the fact that he could be this serious increased her respect for him just a little. Meanwhile, Hardin was coming to.

"What... what the Hell happened?"

Arkasian chuckled. "You were knocked the hell out, that's what, Chuck."

"Charles," Hardin corrected him.

"Just making sure you're not too banged up, Hardin."
"Those aren't Drathonian pets Sir." She nodded, turning to him, and giggling lightly at the gratuitous fanservice, and his attempts at getting some action whilst on the job. She would have helped, but was also rather concerned at the creatures, and he seemed to be getting along just fine..."It looks as if you are doing just fine with another man bandaging you up..."
"Hendlow, you send out the report, you've as much credential as I and you actually saw the f&$%ers." Kai replied to jack, training his own weapon at the cieling as well. He walked towards the center of the room, taking a look at the hole in the ceiling the now dead drathonians had come through. Kicking one of the brown blooded corpses out of his way, he surveyed the room, and it seemed secure enough. "Sol, you better be ready to relay all internal communications going on inside this ship to command, we've got a stronger signal than they do. We are going to have to just sit tight until the ship's actually secure anyway, so might as well sit tight."

The formerly scared marine engineer Sol, now closer to his element, was feeling better, and busily went about acquiring as many signals as he could and rerouting them to command, where they would be seperated and figured out. though not a communications officer, the techie was doing a decent job, and soon, he had nearly every squad within the Artemis tapped into wirelessly, and ordering issues and alerts would be easy.
Garrett smirked at Sehene as he approached the console. "Oh c'mon, don't play me like that. I'm straight as an arrow. Jack's hands are too calloused for my taste anyways. No offense Jack, but I prefer a softer touch." Then he was standing in front of the console and Sol gave him the go ahead to relay his information.

"Information on the new critters: they're about 3/4 of a meter tall with legs twice as long as their body on either side and a tail twice as thick as their body and just as long. Powerful jumping legs, and a nasty set of teeth. They remind me of overgrown lizards that can jump like frog. They've got two itty-bitty arms on the underside of their body, and as far as I can tell they don't have eyes. They seem to use the talons on their arms and legs to tap on the surfaces around them. I don't know if it's some sort of communication, but I'm pretty sure it is. We've been able to detect a pattern here and there. That's about it." Garrett stepped away from the console and looked at Kai. "Just sit?" He took a slow breath. "Okay."

"This is the part where we all sit down around the dead bodies, get all buddy-buddy, and talk about our lovers and children back home." The sarcasm was blatant, but that was Arcadia for you. "Twenty says Captain Hendlow has neither."

"Guilty as charged, missy." He smirked. "Perhaps you could help me rectify the problem?"

"For a moment there, I thought that just maybe I could respect you, but after that horrible attempt at flirting, I can't. I simply can't."

Garrett just laughed and looked up toward the vents. He was hoping something would happen, just to keep the pace. He couldn't stand sitting around doing nothing, and he knew too long and someone would get hectic.
Jack rolled his eyes at Hendlow. He hadn't seen this side of his friend since he'd come on board what seemed like an eternity ago. He walked over to the sealed door, and kicked it. Bangs and scratches replied from the other side. Jack turned to the others. "Y'know, somebody's going to have to kill these things sooner or later. And I'd hate for it to be some greenskin rookie like we've been seeing all day. Why don't we just pop the door open and shoot anything that comes through? It's not that difficult with such a small choke point." He kicked the door again, and a distinct guttural gasp could be heard coming from the maw of the creature on the other side. Having nothing to do was making him nervous. He needed something to distract his mind from........................ other... things.
"I'm with Jack on this one. We need to make sure anyone headed our way doesn't get an ugly surprise from the welcoming committee. They aren't very tough creatures I've noticed, just quick. Pop the door, put some bullets in 'em, close it again. Or..." He sighed. "We could just sit around here."

"I hope they pounce on that pighead first," Pilot Langdon mumbled under her breath.
"Sounds like a plan" Kai agreed, switching his Sugar to Full auto. While lacking the ROF and spray of the Bro, this mode on a Sugar should do well against creatures that weren't shooting back. "Sol, on my mark, open the door. Marines, get ready to fire when or if they come in. Okay. On my mark, three, two one! GO!" With that the door opened with a rush, a hiss of hydraulics escaping from the cieling. For the first few seconds, nothing happened, then, slowly, the cretures began hopping in, some waddling awkwardly, others just jumping in. All were tapping or making noises of some kind, trying to locate the Marines within the room. Kai opened fire on the first one, catching it mid-leap and blasting a hole straight through it. It flopped to the ground due to the force of the hit, and then began twitching oddly, the contents of it's stomach emptying to the floor in a bloody mess. just after it, however, more began to burst through the door, it seemed about ten or fifteen of them had congregated on the door, guided by the noise of battle and the sound of boots on the metal floors.

Quote:
Garrett smirked at Sehene as he approached the console. "Oh c'mon, don't play me like that. I'm straight as an arrow. Jack's hands are too calloused for my taste anyways. No offense Jack, but I prefer a softer touch."


Sehene gave another giggle, and stuck out her tongue, not really able to think of any good comebacks. She was defeated, for now.
Quote:
"Sol, on my mark, open the door. Marines, get ready to fire when or if they come in. Okay. On my mark, three, two one! GO!"


She cocked her Sugar and made sure it was ready for firing, and pointed it at said door. She paused a moment when the came in, they were so...strange...she shook her head and focused on shooting, managing to shoot the leg off one, before it dodged out of the way. She made a frustrated sort of sound, and attempted to shoot it again, this time getting it through the stomach, and she watched in mild fascination as it attempted to still make its' way towards her, before finally dying. She took aim at another...
"Woahsnap," Thomas yelped as the door flew open, squeezing the trigger to the front of the handle, and let loose a hailstorm of energy bolts, bringing at least one and hurting a few others. He tried to back away to keep himself clear, just sawing left and right to keep everyone and himself safe. His eyes also stayed on the others in case something went wrong - if something did occur he wanted to be ready to do something for them.

Dante sighed after the Drathonian attack. Having the him scared shitless was not on his to do list. After relaying the message and data feed. Dante took a small break: getting up and stretching. He looked around the computer and did some quick maintenance. Drathonians don't know how to take care of Terran goods. At the sound of Garrett's voice Dante sprang up and hit his head on the computer. “God damn I...” At the sight of the creature the sound escaped his voice as he ran over to the computer and shut the door as fast as he could. “You know you could have shut it yourself. I just have to lock it.” Dante started typing up an SOS signal as and awaited for the orders. He gathered Garrett's description of the beasts and sent it to the Hymn. At the mark Dante opened the door and started a scan of the vents.
Creepy as the critters were, they were nothing more than charging targets in a space-age shooting gallery. All of the dozen or so toadies that had come hopping into the room were summarily vaporized. The last one went down with a shrieking moan. Jack approached the field of corpses and kicked one. The only response was the squirt of flesh sucking in on his boot. Jack leaned down and picked up what looked like the remains of a toothy head. "Hey Peterson, you like souvenirs, right?" Jack tossed the goopy mess of flesh into Thomas' arms, chuckling to himself.
Kai likewize kicked at a few of the smallish corpses. "This is some freaky s**t.." he mutterd, to no one in particular. It was like the b*****d child of a frog, pirrhana, and a deep-see anglerfish. Without further ado, Kai asked Private sol to close the doors again "Sorry we're kinda treating you like a doorman, But i'd appreciate it if ya closed and locked the hatch there." Okay guys, It's sitting time.
Dante let out a small sighed as he shut the door. “You know, would it kill you to use a wall panel? I know it doesn't go by voice commands but most of you are over there and someone can press the button. Besides I was doing a vent scan to make sure none of those whatever they are weren't in the vents: looks like were clean." Dante turned his attention to Garrett, "Hey Captain Headlow, if those things weren't discovered yet then you get the right to name them. So, what would it be?”  
Arkasian and Hardin were in the corner discussing lost comrades in quiet voices now that the threat was gone. For what it was worth, they considered themselves strangers among CIU 215 and kept to themselves. Arcadia Langdon was sitting in a chair once more, glad to have that all done and over with; she was tired of having to play Marine with these lunatics. "That's f&#*ing gross." She was commenting on the passing of fragmented body parts-- still fresh with visceral fluids and gore-- for the sake of a joke.

With the enemy dead, Garrett flicked the safety switch and set the bro on the ground. "Heh, I never thought of that. Hell if I know. They hop like frogs and look like lizards. Call 'em frizzards for all I care. And please don't give me credit for that. I'm not the kind to come up with pretty words." He sighed, glad to have a slight moment to relax, and dropped into the other chair.

"So much for Chivalry," Pilot Langdon jibed at Garrett.

"I'm all for Chivalry," he responded, patting his thighs. "I have two warm and cozy seats available for any ladies that need to take a break." Again, that smirk of his appeared. Arcadia was beginning to really hate the sight of it.
Once the frogs were taken care of, Thomas relaxed, switching on the safety at long last and hanging his rifle over his back. At Garrett's comment, however, a strangely gleeful grin spread across his face and he turned towards Garrett. The grin spread and turned from gleeful to absolutely hideously malicious. At this point, he started sprinting towards Hendlow, bootfalls enough to inspire a little bit of fear, a full-on charge worse.

At the last moment he stopped himself (halfway) and dropped on Garrett like an over-sized steel plated brick, his grin again shifting from malicious to just plain silly.

Still sitting on (and basically hiding) Garrett, Thomas looked to Kai. "So... what did we accomplish here, precisely, again? I mean, we're in control of the ship, but I heard you guys saying something about what it was. And I have no idea what any of that means." History was not Thomas' strong suit, even though some of it was really fascinating. "So what is this ship, when does it come from, and what's it's huge significance?"
"I think I've heard of this class of ship somewhere before, actually." Kai mused, before continuing, "But I think that it's just the UTR's need for more ships. This huge hulk can probably be turned back into a fighting machine in a few weeks, especially with that huge drydocks we captured. I'm guessing we accomplished getting our Military a foothold closer to Drathonian space, where we can both build and repair big stuff, such as the Hymn or this Relic" Kai kicked a panel of one of the console to prove his point and, sure enough, it knocked off it's mounts, falling to the floor with a clang. "Okay, maybe a bit more than a few weeks" He conceeded, walking over to Thomas, attempting to push him off of Hendlow, who could not be comfortable in that situation, and said "Now knock it off, moron, we're still on duty. Fanservice can come later"
Jack let out a bit of a cackle at Hendlow's naming skills. "Speaking of pretty names, I've got a better one fer ya. Call 'em ******** ugly." He then delivered a clear 'WTF' expression at seeing Thomas pounce on Garrett like a horny pilot chick on shore leave. He laughed a bit to himself as he glanced over at Arcadia, but quickly went back to his original 'WTF' train of thought.
Garrett shoved Thomas off his lap. "I said ladies, not hideously overgrown musclemen. Chivalry does not include offering such kindness to males of any kind anyways, so bugger off. There are much more important asses that require the service my comfortably-sized thighs have to offer." He smirked. "But if, somehow, you were to go back those many eons and somehow rewrite the Code of Chivalry... I might be able to let you sit for just a few minutes, Private."

Arcadia met Jack's gaze. "Is he always this inane? Please tell me it's not so. I don't know how much longer I can stand it."

"You're just pissy because I'm perfectly comfortable with myself, and you don't like it. I have to say you're one of the most commandeering and dominant women I've ever met and it's unnaturally alluring." Inside, Garrett was trying not to laugh.

"Captain, if you so much as think about coming within a five foot radi--"

"--Too late," he interrupted, and could hold back his laughter no more. "Seriously, you need to lighten up. I know this is war and all, but you don't have to be a serious, uptight chick all the time." Captain Hendlow incurred no verbal response from Private Langdon, but did receive a glare before she dismissed him with a turn of her head.

"Ah, come on. It wasn't like you had much of a choice for most of that," Thomas told him with a grin. He stayed in the seated position on the ground. "Oh, and you can have this," he added, tossing the head from his arm to Garrett's lap. "It might be female," he finished cheerily.

"Oh, inanity keeps you sane, actually," Thomas told Arcadia happily. "War is, ya know, prone to get you down, what with the people dying and everything. A healthy dose of insanity prevents you from thinking about any one dead person too long and so you're fine. Work for you?"

He meanwhile decided that the fighting was probably pretty much over and now was as good as any time to start cleaning up his rifle.
Indeed, there wasn't much more fighting to be had, within the next four hours, the Artemis' Bridge became a sort of mini-command center, relaying orders back and forth between high command and the commanders inside. throughout that time, the area also became a backup medical center, squads dragging their wounded over to the realtive safety of that room and it's nearby chambers, which included several barracks and a small officer's mess. Eventually, CIU 215 was relieved of manning the stations when several communications specialists and higher officers came through, and had to wait outside, cleaning their guns and watching the constant stream of men going back and forth. The Drathonian bodies, Ugly frog thing bodies, and the few Terran bodies were eventually removed, Enemies to be dumped in a hole outside somewhere, Terrans to be identified and sent to any relatives to be buried with honor.

The total body count of the battle of the Artemis turned out to be 4,000 Drathonians dead, 237 Terrans Dead, 352 Terrans Wounded, and an Unknown number of tose nasty frog things dead, as they had a habit of exploding when shot. The battle had begun with 4,000 Drathonians versus 1,500 Terrans.

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