“Sir, we are approaching the Flight Deck. I’ve alerted MCPO Algers to ready Goldwing and get him dusted off.” Alfred’s voice was like a balm to Rockett. He hadn’t had to fight for over twnty years and it was a long time to be out of a suit for more than a couple of flight drills to keep ones skills honed. This was going to be all out battle again. He was hoping he was ready. “Of course we will be Sir.” Alfred said reading his Pilots mind. It was one of the great parts about being an AI program that was in charge of syncing a Pilot to a suit.
“We’re not in Goldwing yet Alfred.” The graying pilot reminded his AI companion as the bullet capsule started to slow down as they neared the flight deck. As soon as it came in two others arrived into the bay. It was two more pilots, but there were far less capsules than Rockett was hoping to see. There should be at least twenty more. Not just four. This didn’t bode well for anyone.
Algers was immediately at the side of the bullet capsule as Rockett stepped out. “LTCDR Rockett, it’s good to see you.” The younger man said with an appropriate salute to the other mans rank. It was good to have the formalities and started to sooth Rocketts nerves even as he looked about the flight deck. A car was coming to pick him up and ferry him over to Goldwing. In the meantime, “Algers, give me the full run down. What do we know so far.”
“Not as much as I would like to be reporting to you right now Sir. We know it’s the Malstari. We know that they are sending large half circle ships this way. Those are the planet lockers aren’t they?” The man said with an edge of fear in his voice. “Yes.” Rockett replied keeping his eyes straight ahead. There was no use looking at the other man and seeing the fear that was so evident in his voice. “So then how long do we have until we can’t leave the planet?” Algers asked.
“We have roughly six hours to get everyone that we can off world.”
“Six hours?! We can’t even get everyone into a major city in that amount of time!” The fear that had filled Algers voice had raised to complete and utter horror. Thinking of the millions of lives that lived rural on the planet and would only now likely be traveling to the nearest city in hopes of getting help. Some families owned their own small flight units, and some of those units could become air born and possibly rendezvous with the larger ships as they started to become air born. It was a long shot…
“Get everyone who can be air born ready. We’ll have one of the ships take off now and meet everyone that they can while air born. It will also help to clear up some of the road ways. We should still be ahead of everyone enough that we can start to have them take off.” Rockett stated with urgency.
“The Tohleran has the largest flight bays. We’ll get her air born immediately. She’ll need a lot of protection if she’s gonna be an air born landing site.” Algers and Rockett stepped out of the car and next to the platform that led up to the loading pit for Goldwing.
“Algers, I trust you can get things squared away from here yes?”
“Aye Sir!” Rockett saluted the other man and Algers switched his radio over to the emergency communications line and hailed the Tohleran. “Yes, Sir? This is MCPO Algers, serving under LTCDR Rockett of Goldwing… Yes… We request to have the Tohleran become airborn immediately and act as an air born landing site for all those trying to evacuate. We are going to be sending out a message to anyone who has a personal flight vehical to head your direction. We will be sending two Birds and a Mech your way to assist with traffic and making sure that order is maintained… Yes… Thank you Sir.. Yes.”
“All good to go Algers?” Not that he needed the answer, Rockett was already looking up the flight of stairs and getting ready to start boarding into Goldwing.
“Rockett you asshole!” A voice rang out from behind him. Turning around he saw his Lead Mechanic Prospur and Chief Engineer Ruffkin coming his way. It was good to see both men and he trotted over to meet them. Turning into the shadow of their younger selves the boys rushed one another embracing with hugs. It was good to know they were safe and the feelings were clearly mutual. “You’re not gonna likely take off without our assistance Goldwing.” Prospur said, ever the realist but none the less trying to be in good humor considering the situation they were all finding themselves in. He moved in again and placed a near chase kiss on the Pilots cheek which was returned in kind by Rockett. Their families, along with Ruffkins had remained and become even closer over the years.
“Truth. Now let’s get Goldwing up in the air.”
“Shit watch out!” Carbon called shoving Thomas out of the way of another piece of rubble that was hurling out of the air towards them. The boys had only gone two miles in Twenty minutes due to the oncoming invasion. In the short period of time they had already seen the skies darken as the rings that would be the world locks started to appear high up in the skies. Thomas knew what they were, as did the other boys. They had all heard the stories from their fathers and the academy had talked about how they were used and what would happen should the locks be put into place.
Thomas was thrown off of his balance by the shove and turned a quick eye in the direction from which he had been flung. Carbon winced as the shrapnel grazed his arm. “Just a cut! Keep moving!” If nothing else Carbon was a great command type. Always barking out orders to the other two boys and making sure that they maintained their focus in a battle situation. This time it was real though. There would be no pause buttons, no time outs to be called by either Seven Gene or Professor. They were all on their own. There’d be no take backs.
Each of the boys felt that sense of urgency and realism as they ran down the path and started to skirt the edges of the city. It would be not only the fastest way to get to the flight bay but would also be less likely to be targeted as a majority of the population would be rushing down the main veins of town trying to get to the evacuation ships. In the distance they saw the Tohleran starting to take off and all of them stopped for a moment to watch the behemoth of a ship start to lift off with its flight decks wide open and extended.
“What are they doing?! There’d be practically no one on board! The claxons rang out not Forty minutes ago!” Asher hollered, speaking up from the back of the pack.
“Can’t worry about it. We’ve got a mission to attend to.” Carbon answered his brother. The three boys ran harder, their lungs starting to get winded and all thankful for the rigorous training that the academy had put them through in order to be ready for anything. This, was absolutely anything and everything all at once.
Another ten minutes down the path and over half way to the Flight Bay two other older boys stumbled out of the brush and onto the foot path, headed in the same direction that Thomas and the other two boys were headed.
“Hey!” Thomas hollered out right as another explosion went off somewhere in the near vicinity. He tried again, his voice having been drowned out by the noise. “HEY!” This time he caught the ears of one of the boys, likely another Feeler. The blue haired kid turned around. The boy grabbed the sleeve of his partner and together the two paused just long enough for Thomas’ crew to catch up.
“We’re headed to the Flight Bay. There’s still lots of Mechs grounded. We’re gonna fly.” Thomas sort of spat out all at once between breaths as he tried to regain some control of his breathing. Blue hair straightened up. “Yah? That’s our plan too. Names Rickten. We’re two years above you lot. What makes you think they’ll let you fly?” The snide tone of Blue hair sent Carbon’s anger flaring and he all but lashed out, instead closing his fists into tight balls. Asher cut in just in time, his smoother voice and more level tone stopping his brother from saying or doing anything dumb. They were all scared. “Because we fly sims Farrow, Nox and Balthor.” Asher flashed his Sim Mech pin and the other two boys followed suit. While the two boys were older, they weren’t nearly as adept as the the team they were standing in front of. At best blue hair was a second level Seven Gene, and didn’t even have any bars on his jersey.
The other boy, who had simple brown hair in tight curls against his head, finally spoke up after taking full inventory of who they were with. “Hey Rickten, these guys are legit. They whooped your ass at the Fall Flight Comp.” Rickten bit his tongue and grabbed his friends sleeve again. Clearly they were partnered for Rickten and he was likely either the Lead Mechanic or Chief Engineer in training for the boy.
“Look, there’s more at stake here than our own egos. Let’s just get to the bay. We can all help out.” Asher said trying to maintain the peace and civility between the five of them. Together the set of boys took off and pushed as hard as they could the remainder of the way to the flight bay. If one thing was true, the skies were still far too empty for the amount of pilots that should have been in the sky.
“So where’s your pops?” The dark brown haired lad asked generally of everyone. “At the bay.” Carbon answered. Honestly none of them were sure. They were going purely on faith that there families were safe. It was clear in the nods of the rest that they were all holding onto the same hope.
BOOM! A bomb landed close to where the boys were and sent trees, roots, stone and other rubble flying in every direction. Everyone lost their hearing for a moment before a scream shot out from one of the boys. Rickten was laying just off the path screaming in agony. Carbon took stock and found that his right side was scraped from skidding across the ground, his palm raw, but otherwise he was ok. Ashers shoulder smarted as did his upper back. His arm hung limply at his side though there was no odd angles meaning it was just a dislocated shoulder. Thomas has a gash on his forehead that bled more than it was actually injured and he quickly tore part of his shirt off to wrap around his head to keep the wound from getting further full of dirt and to keep the blood from running down in his eyes. The brown haired lad, whos name no one knew yet other than Rickten, laid face down in the grass.
Thomas moved over to check the brown haired lad while Carbon and Asher got to their feet and went to Rickten.
“Fuck.” Asher said looking down at Ricktens legs. One was broken and angled sharply away from the body half way down the shin from a bad compound fracture, and his other leg was nearly flayed. “My legs!” The boy screamed and Carbon pushed him down hard by the shoulders. “NO! You look at me! You hear me! You only look at me!” His voice was harsh and came out as a ragged bark that was much above his actual years. Rickten stopped screaming for a moment and paled. “Asher.” The blond haired boy nodded and using his shirt as Thomas had started to shred it into strips, and then quickly grabbed the heftiest sticks he could find just off the path and in the green. Rickten started to whimper again and Carbon kept him with eyes locked and not allowing the boy to look away at all.
“Thomas! What’s the status over there?” Asher hollered to his friend. Thomas had done a full body scan as best he could and it appeared that the other lad was , “Only out cold! Got some scraps on his hands, nothing appears to be broken. We can carry him.”
“You’re going to have to carry him Tom.” Asher said running over quickly. “Rickten’s useless from the knees down right now. Carbon and I can stabilize him, but that’s about all we’re going to be able to do.”
“Shit… Ok.” Thomas said to his friend before getting into a squat position and tucking his arms under the heavier lads body. Asher stayed just a moment to help load the boy into his friends arms properly and lifting him up and onto Thomas’ back so that way he could carry him ‘easier.’ Once loaded Tom simply nodded at Asher and he started walking down the path. If another bomb went off they wouldn’t be able to fall in any sort of appropriate manner. Making Tom nervous but putting more urgency in his steps.
It took another twenty minutes for Thomas to reach the Flight Bay. Thankfully when he arrived there was an entire squad of Birds launching and two Mechs were walking out of the flight bay.
A seaman recruit, just out of the academy and driving a run about spotted Thomas carrying his load and drove over. “Wow! Where the hell are you coming from?” The SR asked, “Just north of South Rennix. By the bridge. My friends are just down the path. Please. You have to go get them.” Thomas implored of the kid, who was maybe only three years his senior.
“Kid I…” The SR was hesitant to leave his position, “They’re sons of Ruffkin and Prospur. You had BETTER go get them!” There was no room for saying no as the names of Goldwings team were dropped. The SR’s jaw dropped nearly half a mile down to his chest. Thomas, who still had the other lad on his shoulders grumbled, “Help me get this guy off my shoulders asshole!”
There was a reason only Seven Genes flew. Thomas thought to himself at the good intention but slow wit of the older lad. He knew it was rude to think, and he dared not say it. There was already a division between Seven Genes and everyone else. It was the last thing anyone wanted to bring up in the middle of a crisis.
“Shit! Right!” The SR finally jogged his brain into gear and came around unloading the lad into the back of the car with the aid of Thomas. “We’ll drop him off at the bay and then I’ll go get your friends!” Thomas nodded and hoped in the front passenger seat of the small run about.
The SR dropped Thomas and the injured boy off at the Bay before immediately loading back up into his rig and setting off in the direction of the foot path that he had seen Thomas coming from. Provided that nothing else had befallen the boys, they’d be there. Hopefully Rickten would still be alive… Thomas had seen his legs as he had carried the other boy off. Carbon and Asher were doing their best….
“Hey! Boy! What’re you doing here? You need to report to an evacuation ship!” MCPO Algers was headed towards Thomas who straightened to his full height and turned around to the familiar voice.
“Algers!” Thomas said as brightly as he could, completely disregarding the mans rank and instead just calling him by his last name as a sign of familiarity.
The man stopped in his tracks a moment of shock on his face. Before even taking a step further his hand went ear, “Sir?…. Yes Sir. You’re son’s right here.”
The Goldwing was just starting to fire up and Alfred had started to scan the area, picking up the boys signature from his lapel on his jacket.
“That’s my boy!” The voice boomed out of the Mech. Any other time Thomas would have been completely embarrassed by being called out. Now, amongst hearing the entire Goldwing crew holler in excitement he could only feel an upwelling of pride.
Now just over the com to Algers, Rockett gave the order. “There should be two other lads with him. Asher and Carbon. They’re Ruffkin and Prospurs sons. Get all three of them in suits. The boys are the top Seven Gene adepts from their Academy and have been first ranked in the entire area over the last season. I want them fighting with us.”
Algers balked and swung around from where Thomas was walking up to his side to face Goldwing which was now starting to walk towards them from its place against the wall in the Flight Bay.
“Sir you can’t be serious! The boys have never been in anything but Sims.”
“That will be more than fine MCPO Algers.” Alfred responded, “I’ve brought up their profiles and loaded them in. They’ll be flying the Torrent, Cicero, and Turgon. Those Pilots are still no where to be located. Make sure Asher get’s in the Turgon. He’ll sync nicely with the pyrotechnics in that unit. Carbon needs to be in the Torrent, his speed and reaction times will work well there. Thomas needs to be in the Torrent, it mimicks his sim suit the Nox well enough.”
The Goldwing suit saluted Thomas and Algers as it walked by and Thomas couldn’t contain himself. He’d seen the Goldwing often enough stationary and had watched enough footage to grasp what it was like, but seeing it now was even better. He let out a whoop and jumped into the air. For a moment forgetting any of his injuries. “WOO! HELIOS YES!”
His hollars were answered by two others and Thomas turned around to see Asher and Carbon running into the bay now. “Tom! Tom it’s Goldwing!” Asher said stating the clear obvious and being far to excited to care. Asher clutched his arm close to his body so that it didn’t just flop about which made running a little more difficult, but not near as much trouble as Carbon was having due to the pain of the abrasions he had sustained in the blast.
None of them were in the best condition and if the circumstances had been otherwise they would have likely been grounded. As none of the boys injuries affected their mental capacities and would only need to be scrubbed and bandaged with Second Skin, they’d still be placed to fly. Alfred was going over all of this with an increasingly annoyed Algers who was still not grasping the rules that were being bent every which way due to this disaster.
“Hey, what happened to Rickten and the other boy?” Thomas asked the other two boys as they came over, “They’re getting treated by the med team. That other kid is finally waking up. Apparently his name is Theo, he’s a Perception Seven Gene. ” Asher replied nodding his head in the direction of the medical bay.
“By the Sun, come on boys. Gotta get you cleaned up enough to fly.” Algers said through nearly gritted teeth as he approached the three young men.
Carbon blinked in a moment of disbelief, “You’re letting us fly?! Really?!”
The MCPO responded gruffly. “Goldwings orders. Nothing I can do about it. I just hope he’s right. You better be worth your weight in metal.”