Thomas sat on the edge of the medics table as the Second skin was applied to his wounds, ever grateful for the numbing agent that had been found as a local anesthetic when the planet had been colonized so many years ago. It still smarted a bit at first then slowly but surely all the sensations of pain drifted away. He watched as Asher had his arm reset and was decently surprised when he didn’t holler out and instead just bit down harder into the stick they had given him so he didn’t crack his teeth. That was Asher though, always tougher than he let onto.
It took roughly 40 minutes to get all of their wounds bandaged and get them into flight suits that would actually fit them at least decently well. Because their suits weren’t going to interface with the mechs directly like a normal team they had to try to alter things in other ways. including loading additional AI that was linked straight to Alfred. Since they were going to be fighting for the same unit it was only appropriate and would help the Goldwing team keep monitors on things. Should anything go wrong Alfred could completely take over and land the mechs on a flight deck of one of the retreating ships.
The boys were quickly introduced to their teams that would be aiding them with their mechs. Each having their own Chief Engineer and Lead Mechanic, though for Carbon his Lead Mechanic was newly promoted to the position. Still, the boy felt lucky to be loading into a suit at all and really didn’t care if his entire team had been made up of cadets. There were likely some that would be even better than the team he had from the new advancements that were always being made in the Mech field. It could also just be his nerves talking which was what he was secretly betting on.
Asher rubbed at his shoulder and flexed again and again trying to loosen the tension that had built up. All three stretched and then before they knew it, it was time to load up and into the mech suits. Each went to their respective Mech after hugging one another and teasing Algers a bit. This was it.
“Welcome cadets. This is Alfred. I will be running your AI systems. If you all survive this battle you will be able to customize your own AI that will lync and sync better with your own unit that will be custom built by the team your assigned to. As none of that has been done I expect you all to listen to me in exactment.”
As the AI spoke, systems started whirring to life within the Mech’s Core’s. Screens lit up and Thomas was actually startled when a small screen popped up on his right hand side just outside of where the hand controls sat. His fathers face, complete with its signature visor screen came online and spoke to him,
“This is the real deal Thomas. Listen to Alfred. He’s saved my ass more than once in the blue.” The boys throat caught, this was getting more and more real by the second and while he was absolutely excited he was now also beginning to feel the first bit of fear creep in.
“Thomas look at me. You’re the top of your class, and will rock the skies. Now get out here and give me some aid. Their mechs have started to launch and we’ve got birds in the air that could use the back up. Do you hear me Cadet Rockett?!”
His fathers voice changed from the man that had brought him up to that of the commanding lead of Goldwing. It started Thomas at first but then that part that was fear briefly went away and he felt the surge of adrenaline. Leaning over the seat inside the Mech he grabbed the controllers and felt the small bit of power that connected his body to the Mech surge through him. “Sync coming online….Processing…” It was reading him, his mind sped through his memories and for a moment he became completely disoriented and dizzy. “Apologies young Rockett.” Alfred voice spoke through… “You did better than young Ruffkin…” Carbons voice spoke through the headset, “Shut it AI. Just get us online.”
The three boys recovered from the initial scan of the machines that they were inside and all of a sudden when they pushed the controllers forward the machines lurched and then took a step. For as large as they were the internal systems were actually much smoother than was expected by all of them. They felt just like the SimBay Mechs.
“Alfred this is amazing,” Asher stated finally, starting to try to use the controls to do things like roll the mech’s shoulders, and really starting to feel how the unit would respond to his own thoughts and movements. They were even more responsive than the SimBay.
“There’s certain holds that are placed on SimBay in order to keep anyone from getting hurt or having too much expectation when they are actually out in the field.” Alfred continued as three large mechs each holding one of the young men started to walk out of the Flight Deck, with the cheering of many behind them. Everyone was just excited to have more Mechs joining the fight.
As they left the flight bay three more screens came on inside of each one of the mechs. One showing the docs where the people were trying to load on as fast as they could without trampling one another. Another showed the rate at which the world capture ships were being driven into place, and another still that brought up target visuals and the way that they were actually flying.
“This is CE Telemark to Cadet Rockett. Pilot, you are go for launch.”
“This is CE Rightworth to Cadet Asher. Pilot, you are go for launch.”
“This is Cadet CE Theo to Cadet Carbon. Pilot, you are go for launch!”
The three boys leaned forward hard on the controls with their hands, feet pressing into the pressure lifters and hearing the engines scream to life. All at once the three boys lifted off in their giant mechs and into battle. It had begun for them at last.
“Alright Malstari Scum! Let’s see what you’re made of!”
“This is a message for Dastre Rockett, Pilot of Sunspath. Please take your flight skiff to the Tohleran.” The message came from an automated system that was being broadcast to all the civilians that had started to utilize their flight units rather than the world bound vehicles to get to the escape ships that were stationed around the cities and around the globe. No one could worry about what was going on in the other cities and if they too had launched one of their ships airborn in an effort to try to help as many people off world as possible. No one knew if there was going to be enough room. The last census had been nearly a decade ago and Terra had seen quite a few new births and a prosperous time over that period of years.
“I see Daddy! I see Goldwing!” Dastre said with glee that couldn’t be contained. The little girl leaned over in her chair and pressed her hands up against the glass cover of their flight skiff. It was her first time seeing the Mech actually flying, and not just in practice.
Now Goldwing was pulling away from a Malstari Soldier that was in hot persuit, and suddenly Goldwing came to a screeching hault, pounding its feet down and crouching mid air, all of its momentum coming to a stop as the suit condensed the air to a solid beneath it and shoved hard, pushing off harder and faster than it had been going and this time heading straight for the Malstari, “Daddy! LOOK OUT!”
At the last second Goldwing raised its hands in front of its chest and built a large shield out of condensed solar energy. A bright light flashed and the shield was shoved forward, Goldwing leaning into the forward momentum and appearing to crash into and then Through the Malstari. Leaving nothing but dust and ash in its wake.
Dastre in the front seat sighed and turned harshly. Goldwing was in the wrong direction of the Tohleran and she was just in a simple skiff. There was going to be no way that she would be able to aid him at all and getting any closer to the line of fire would put her and Katarina in more danger than they already were. Already the skies were alight with lasers and she was very thankful to have Alfred tapped into the skiff’s systems. He had come online just a short time ago and had remained silent as Katarina had a habit of asking him far too many questions which always nullified the reason for his work and distracting the rest of everyone as he answered the young girls every query. In doing so the AI had learned that simply remaining quiet allowed him to work under the rader. Dastre smiled at the small cam that linked her to the system. Knowing that he was there.
Looking down at the cam and consol Dastre felt her breath cath. Instead of just one star moving about the screen that signified Rockett in Goldwing, there was a second smaller star on the screen and two crescent moons flying in a formation that she was all too used to seeing… in competition.
“ALFRED! What in the ever living SUNS and burning Skies is on my screen! Katarina don’t you dare even start.” Dastre said not even turning back to her daughter and knowing there was a grinning 8 year old that would be suddenly distracted from the chaos if she got the attention from the AI that she always craved.
“That’s your son Thomas and the other children of the Goldwing team Ma’am.”
“I. Can. Not. Believe you allowed them to fly!” Her anger was red hot and her foot found its way further and further onto the pedal of the metal skiff. The small unit surged forward and nearly ran head long into a laser shot. Alfred seized the controls and jerked the small bird hard to the right, throwing Dastre from the controls momentarily. But it was enough to be missed.
The skiff started into a downward spiral and both driver and passenger screamed as Dastre tried to regain control of the bird. “Damn it Alfred!”
Jerking the controls back Dastre released the stabilizers normally used only for landing and the ship started to slowly level out. They had lost almost all altitude and cut hedges on the top of a building garden before being able to settle back out. In the city they were more vulnerable and had to watch out for falling debrit. Dastre worked to get the skiff as high as possible as quickly as possible. Katarina in the back just holding onto her seat now and staying as quiet as possible. Tears going down the small girls face were the only thing that let on to how she was feeling. She tried to hold all of it back.
“Honey you’re being so good. We’re going to get to….” A piece of shrapnel cut through the glass and lodged into Dastres neck and shoulder. There wasn’t enough air for her to scream, or move, or do anything. She was pinned.
“Al…” was all she managed. The small skiff once again started to descend towards the city and the tops of the buildings started to get closer and closer.
“Katarina! It’s your turn now!” Alfred popped online. The small girl shook her head, paralyzed with fear. She wasn’t a feeler and she knew it. She couldn’t fly. She was a thinker. She built things. “Katarina you need to do this now. I have limited ability. You need to get to the ship. You have to keep going and get your Momma there. Your Dad believes in you.”
Aflred went against all protocol and patched his daughter through immediately to her fathers system, quickly explaining the situation to Rockett as best he could without adding the gravity of his wifes wounds to the situation.
“Kat… Darling, you need to do this for Momma ok?” “Dad I’m scared!” The girl screamed trying to pry her hands from the seat and finding them stuck. it was too hard. She wouldn’t be able to do it.
“you know how you always best your brother? I bet you could land that skiff better than he ever could. Land it just inside the barrier of the Tohleran. The one with the big flight bays. You know the one.” Rockett was doing his best to coax the girl and it took her only seconds to accept the challenge. Dastre blinked, trying to hang onto consciousness as the girl crawled into her lap. Luckily all the controls were done by hands because the woman had no movement from her waist down and minimal movement of her arms. The shoulder that wasn’t pinned was used to place a hand on the girls lap once she was seated.
As soon as she was in place Katarina yanked as hard as she could on the skiff controls and with the stabilizers already out the small unit jerked hard and back up into the air.
“There you go Kat! That’a girl!” Rockett cheered across the com system all the while trying to keep his eyes on the skies. They were too far out of range for him to be of any help and it hurt everything inside of him.
The scared girl held tight onto the controls as she maneuvered the ship up and up an up. The Tohleran had gained a lot of altitude with how many times the small skiff had been knocked down out of the sky. For a moment it didn’t seem like the ship was getting any bigger or closer. “Daddy it keeps getting farther away!” The girl cried, panic starting to creep into her voice as she tried to hold off a sob.
“Beat Thomas. Show me you can beat him!” Rockett pushed, trying to encourage his daughter as best she could.
Without any visuals or explanation, Alfred tapped Thomas’ suit and put the soundbite of Kat through to her brother.
“Are you flying Kat?!”
“Dad says I have to…” The girls voice wobbled, it was getting harder for her to see. Tears were clouding her eyes but she dared not let go of the controls. Her mothers hand on her leg gripped it just a little tighter, trying to reassure her.
“Oh look at you go! Kat, you’re flying so smoothly! I’ve never handled the skiff that way!” It was a lie and a good one. Thomas couldn’t see anything of what the girl was doing and was just taking prompts from Alfred. Together Thomas and Rockett urged the little girl forward. As the ship approached Rockett heralded the Tohleran and let them know to have a med team ready right inside the barrier as well as a tow team.
“Dad I’m almost there!” The girl cried,
“Hold it Kat! You have to be the steadiest you’ve ever been. Break Tom’s record. Remember when he landed on the roof? Out do him!” The sense of competition was a small thread that all three of them were hanging onto. The flight deck was in her sights now.
The engine on the small skiff was wide open as Katarina steered towards the flight bay. All at once as soon as they were roughly 1000 yards out Kat threw the switch on the power and flipped all the nods for the flaps on the small birds wings. It threw them sideways and Dastre winced audibly in pain, grabbing her daughters leg hard enough to make the girl cry out.
“Mom!” The skiff decelerated quickly and slammed into the anti grav barrier that was present on the Flight Decks as they were nearing the atmospheric barrier of the planet. They came in right as Katarina had guided and right as her father had challenged. Inches above the flight deck and as it landed it bounced only once before coming to a dead stop.
For a moment nothing moved. Katarina brought her arms down from where she had thrown them up in front of her face, and looked at where she was sitting in the front passenger seat. She had been thrown from her mothers lap and against the other side of the cabin.
“Mom…Momma….” Kat called after her mother and looked across the cabin to where Dastre was sitting very still. The wetness on the young girls back now matched the stain of blood that was running down the front of her mother and the shard of metal that had come through the window and pinned them still shown like an ugly spine sticking from the wound.
Motionless and unable to move all the girl could do was stare on. The systems for the ship had completely shut offline, leaving the girl in a moment of silence that seemed to last forever.
All at once the ship was being pried open and Katarina was pulled from the ship and away from her mother. “Mom… Momma! MOM!” Her cries intensified as the med team removed her from the cabin with some trouble as the girl tried to fight the hands that were holding onto her.
“Calm down honey we’re here to help.” A voice said somewhere behind her. “MOM!” Kat would have none of it and fought and clawed wildly until her arms were held and a sting shot through her shoulder. The impact and sudden pain snapped something in her brain and hit the replay button from her mother getting hit. Over and over again it was all she could see. The rest of the world going black and dark around the edges. All she could hear was screaming and she was completely unaware that it was her own…