Minna! gomennasai~ a bit late for this late because editor-san being too lazy this week ~(=w=~) anyway without further a do, i present to you guys, second chapter!(applause!)
2.1 Attack on Deimos
The numbers on the panel is slowly counting up. The dim white background colour of the holographic panel is no brighter than the fluorescent lamps that illuminate the steel polymer cage that Rathe was in. A soft chime sounded and swallowed for a second the soft hum inside the lift, when it reached the second highest number on the panel. The double doors slowly open. The lounge of the Leonardo was magnificent; the windows provided amazing view of the stars beyond as the windows provided real-time information via its holo screen.
Julian Forsell was staring down on the red surface of Amaliea, once used to be Mars like a God watching over Earth. The holo panels constantly beeped and changing its diagram, bringing new information every time. Rathe stopped some few meters from the small stage and eased himself.
“Look at the planet. Dusty, cold, and dry, unlike the Earth. Phobos and Deimos was at the horizon, you see, that’s why we are here.” Forsell began. Rathe listened and waited. He can sense the answer for his question coming, the reason he was here.
“Phobos and Deimos were actually a mining facility. I want you to take it.” ordered Forsell. He slowly turned facing Rathe and looked at his confused face. “What mine, sir?” Rathe asked. Forsell held his palm straight up. “The 69TH Fleet is standing by in their position. Use them to take the mine.” Rathe opened his mouth to protest but it was stuck in his throat and asks. “Sir, is this an invasion?” Forsell looked at him like Rathe just said something funny. “Nah, I just want the Energia, that’s all. Now go. We don’t have much time, Lieutenant.” Rathe saluted and turned back at the lift. As he reached the lift’s door, Forsell’s voice called again. “I don’t like prisoners, Lieutenant.”
As Rathe descended in the lift, curiosity was a raging typhoon inside his cranium. Those two meteorites were small, no more than 30 kilometres across. But the presence of 69TH make Rathe think Forsell is lying. The 69TH is the second strongest Fleet of all space-going groups. The numbers of computer calculations, it predicted that the planet wouldn’t withstand a single nuclear barrage, let alone a full scale invasion with Panzers and Blitz. It’s a waste, Rathe thought. By the time he said that to himself, he already reached Leonardo’s hangar.
Panzer was the latest model AMS mass produced for the UN Space Force. Like its name, the AMS emphasises on firepower and armour, but unlike its 20TH century ancestor, its manoeuvrability was exceptional. The small nuclear engine inside each Panzer provides almost unlimited power, but the heavy mechanical parts of the AMS make the Engine last no more than 72 hours. Another drawback was this AMS was designed with creature comfort from a sadist. Simply operating it demanded the pilot has to endure vigorous physical burden like those World War Two bomber pilots.
Rathe already felt uncomfortable when the hatch closes, shutting him from the world only by a piece of titanium hybrid that serve as shield. The underside face of the shield facing him was a large rectangular screen that a bit bent at the middle. Necessary informations were projected on the screen. At his left and right, was set of buttons and control columns. Rathe pressed a button at his right and the cockpit hummed to life; the activation light lighted up, and the screen appeared the degree scale. Rathe held the control; his gloves make a small squeak as the rubber rub against each other.
“Timing to you, sir.” The intercom sounded form the control. Rathe took a deep breath. This is it, UN’s declaration of war, he said inside his mind. But there’s no turning back now. The Fates already laid down the path that cannot be altered. “Rathe Sugiura, taking off” and the linear rail catapult shot his Panzer forward. The rail spurted sparks and at the end of the line, the clamp of the pad unlocked as the Panzer was shot into space. Rathe gunned the boosters and blasted to the rendezvous point.
The space was terribly cold, and the harmonizers inside Rathe’s suit were keeping the temperature warm and adjust to the surrounding. The screen blipped a green dot, he has reached his destination. But the 69TH wasn’t here, visually. His radar was full of friendly contacts, and when Rathe was about to broke the silence, the black space shimmered. Small sparks of electricity appeared out of the ripple, and seconds later, more than 20 silver coloured Panzers appeared. Rathe was left his mouth open in astonishment.
“Sorry to surprise you sir, 69TH here.” The intercom spoke. Rathe closes his mouth and swallowed a bulk of saliva that stuck at his throat. Cloak technology, no wonder the 69TH gets all the fab. “Who are you?” Rathe asked on the intercom. After a click of static, a voice answered “Private First Class Roy Sullivan sir, at your orders.” He sounds cheerful, as this was a training exercise and Rathe doesn’t like it. “Have you and your team are briefed about the mission?” “No, sir. Our CO told us to follow your command.” Rathe sighed.
“We are going to take Phobos and Deimos, it that clear? Expect little resistance from the workers.” They didn’t reply, but blips on Rathe radar confirmed their acknowledgement. Rathe pushed the throttle lever until it reached green zone and accelerated at the asteroids trailed by the 69TH behind him.
Yukio was zipping up his space suit; overall clothing that covers his whole body until up his neck. The suit was dark red matched with black. The helmet was like that. But Yukio wouldn’t give a damn about colour. He clipped the button on his gloves and picked up his helmet. The ship Interceptor was designed to test the new Veil technology and its primary attribute was a multi-role capability. On the way to the hangar, suddenly, his earpiece voiced. “Come to the hangar, quick!” Ralph shouted at him. Yukio winked his left eye when he shouts; felt like his ear was going to explode. “Relax. What’s the rush?” he said, but noticed he was walking faster. “The UN is launching their invasion!” Suddenly, a long smile appeared on Yukio’s face, and he felt terribly excited, like he had a mountain of fun greeted him. And for the first time, he allowed himself to rush since his mercenary career.
When Yukio reached the door to the hangar, he stopped because of the red neon light at the top of the door. Yukio wore his helmet and with a click and wisp of air, he was safely airtight. He rushed through the pressure doors and floated in zero gravity. Using the walls as ground, he kicked himself to his AMS. But it wasn’t standing up but shaped like a fighter aircraft. Yukio landed on the machine as the magnetic soles of his boots got to work. He fell on one knee and turned a circular handle. The hatch to cockpit slide open and Yukio sat inside and close the hatch back.
“Hey, you say there’s an invasion?” Yukio asked, while busy flipping switches and pressing buttons. “Where is the announcement…I mean alarm?” Yukio’s finger almost reached the activation button when the intercom spoke again. “The UN are cowards, they always cheat and can’t be trusted.” Ralph replied. Yukio could sense that Ralph has hate to the UN from his tone. But Ralph came back as quick as it come. “I’ll designate you as the A-One unit.” he said and Yukio was quick to detest that. “You say this thing used to intercept intelligence, right?” he asked. “Uh…yes” came the slow reply. Yukio pressed the button.
The machine comes to life as the Energia inside its Alternator was changing from crystal into energy. The screen front of Yukio comes beeping with calculations strolling down with radar and other information. The helical grooved ring around the Alternator spun like mad, spewing vermillion particles of energy into the hangar. Slowly, the hangar door of the Interceptor swings open and laid the linear rail for the catapult. “Save this name for this thing” Yukio said to the intercom. “Yukio Junichiro, Eavesdropp, launching!” he announced. At the same time, he pushed the control column forward and the linear catapult surges forward. Less than a second later, Yukio was zooming at high speed in space.
“Ralph, I’m going to push this machine until it broke, so release any constrains you put on this thing” Yukio told him over the radio. “Okay, head to the asteroids. That’s the reason they were here.” And Yukio sped off to the largest one, Phobos.
The asteroid was surrounded by three massive yellow coloured rings that revolve around at bisecting angle of the asteroid. The inboard computer detected unknown craft on its radar and quickly activated its 50 millimetre tri-barrelled machine cannon while sounding off alerts inside the mine. The bullets make the space around the asteroid filled with sea of yellow streaks as the tracer rounds burn. Rathe was caught inside the fire but luckily, the Panzer’s armour held. He himself with a small group of 69TH fired at the asteroid with missiles but smaller guns on the asteroid acted as AWACS and shot the missiles down. The cannon fire didn’t affect the Panzers system, but it racked some points to their pilots, confusion. The asteroid computer followed its programmed protocols and greeted its visitors with swarms of missiles from pods attached to the cannons.
For the first time, the 69TH suffered casualties. Five Panzers exploded into smoke as the missiles detonated their delay fuse, after digging themselves into the Panzer’s armour. Even Rathe was forced back and used his machinegun to dart the chasing missiles. His Panzer was armed for short and medium range battle but the 69TH were armed with high powered railguns and missiles. Making things worse, Rathe sensors detected AMS coming out from the asteroid.
“Damn it. We’ve fallen into a trap!” he cursed. The mud coloured Amaliean AMS fire their sub machineguns at the invaders, receiving railgun projectiles as return gift.
From a distance, Rathe watched the situation develop in front of him. The 69TH were popping Amaliean Rouges with their railgun and missiles, and there’s little for the 15 year old AMS to fight back. From his eyes, Amalieans fought hard, and caused a couple of silver Panzers to explode with their sonic knives. But it won’t change much, Rouge frames was simply too obsolete to compete with the 69TH.
Rathe glanced at his mission timer, 15 minutes has passed and they haven’t taken Deimos yet, and he waited for the signal from Phobos team. Suddenly, motion warning exploded inside his cockpit, something very small was moving very fast towards him. “No way, a missile?” he said inside his mind, and it was impossible to evade. Instinctively, Rathe closed his eyes and waited for the inferno of explosion killed him, but a terrifying shock his body as it collided with the object. The shock knocked him cold, and caused his Panzer to shut down.
Yukio looked at the Panzer he just fired with particle beam before he dodged, and the sensors tell him it was dead. Yukio scanned the battlespace and quick as thought; his screen was filled with Identification Friend-Foe [IFF] tags. He pushed the throttle, and zoomed into the fight. As expected, UN’s Panzer never saw what’s coming for them. With a push of a button, Eavesdropp transforms from a fighter into slender framed black AMS with custom plasma rifle as the main weapon. Using his momentum, Yukio catches one of the Panzers like an American football player tackle.
“What was that?” a pilot shouted on the radio. With quick bursts from his rifle, Yukio turned his catch into clouds of smoke and space junk. Before they knew what it was, another Panzer exploded. The pilots of the 69TH were shocked, there’s nothing on their radar. One of them tried to contact Rathe, who were still passed out. “Pull back! Pull back!” one of the pilots shouted and moved away while extending a small shield that flicked out from the hand. Slowly, Rouges charged like the pilots were on drugs silver and Panzers backed. But not one, Roy was enjoying himself. His railgun kept spitting out solid metal projectiles and his missile counter was counting down as fast as a race car. He lost it.
In an instant, thousands of 75mm sub machine gun bullets were fired at him. Roy presses a button on his control column, ordering the Panzer to take out its only melee weapon, a long sword with a laser cutting edge. His metal skin took the entire barrage, shaving his armour. Then he accelerated towards the Amaliean suits.
The Panzer entered a group of Rouge, which all pressed the trigger of their sub machine guns or draw their sonic knives. The Panzer sliced the Rouges like a knife cuts through butter. One by one exploded, forming a chain reaction of detonation. Shaken, some of the Rouges escape the frenzy and fall back. “Trying to escape, huh?” Roy goes after them, firing his railgun. The super velocity shell punctured the suits like air. The surviving ones opened fire. With a highly trained as well psychotic pilot on the controls, the shots were either dodged or deflected by the Panzer. Within range, Panzer swings its long sword, expecting a sliced kill. Instead, his blade was stopped by a blade of a sonic knife, wielded by yellow striped Rouge.
“Captain, leave this place! We’ll take him!” the other pilots shouted on the radio. Struggling to keep up with the pressure, the captain shouts back. “Idiots! Retreat! Your numbers won’t make any difference! “As soon he spoke that, streaks of missiles rocketed past his view and exploded at his subordinates. Shocked, he broke the clash and backed a little. Tapping into his frequency, Roy spoke to the valiant with arrogance as the tone of choice.
“Finally, a hero, “he said. “With tragic fit for his end. I longed for this kind of duel.” Roy cackled on the line. The captain didn’t respond although he heard Roy’s provocation. He glanced to his side, and saw a mangled Rouge hand. He pulled out the lifeless sonic knife from the hand and adds to his own. Getting lease of energy from its new owner, the knife whirrs to life as the serrated edge moves.
“Let’s end this!” the captain said through the radio. The Rouge accelerates, pointing twin knives at its target. The knife at the left hand was stopped by sword, cutting it away. “That’s all you get?” he yelled. The other knife went straight to the torso, there’s no time to evade, but Roy wouldn’t have to. As the tip of the knife touches the blade, massive surge of electricity went around the Rouge, electrocuting the pilot. The captain’s agony filled the radio frequency.
“Arrrgh!” his scream echoed inside Roy’s helmet. Roy enjoyed and laughed as if he was enjoying a very beautiful music. “Enjoying right now, aren’t you? Hahahaha!” Roy laughed loudly, accompanied by the captain’s scream. The Rouge’s whole body jerked, except the hand that touches Roy. The mono-eye main camera exploded, hydraulics spurted. Suddenly, without warning a particle beam hits the Panzer’s body, shaking the Rouge off from torment.
“What?” The almost invisible aircraft zooms past, jetting out luminous vermilion light. “A plane shot me?” Roy said. The plane turned, accelerated at blinding speed while firing high speed beam shots, burning Roy’s armour. As it was closing, Roy prepared to swat it off the sky like a fly until suddenly the plane transform into thin framed AMS, pulls out a sonic knife and clashes blades face-to-face with the Panzer, producing bluish white lights and large sparks of electricity.
The rest of the 69TH gathered behind Roy, watching the duel like watching a baseball match. “Roy!” one of his team shouted. “Don’t interfere, this is…” Roy replied, gritting his teeth to keep up. “But this is the first time we’ve seen a suit like this!” Roy looked at the suit he was fighting. Amaliean suits were crude and no better than shit by their standards, but… “Don’t tell me the Amalieans have…!” Roy broke away from the clash and instantly charged. “How could those putrid Amalieans have that kind of technology on par with us?” Roy thrusted his sword straight but Eavesdrop pushed the sword aside and sidestepped. Roy quickly backlashed, and the suit vanished.
Then, the suit come from his top, lashed and quickly cut Roy’s left hand. “It’s fast!” in moment notice, Roy recovered and clashed blades again. “This guy…” he muttered, sudden realization came in “This guy eliminated Turik’s units…” then Yukio’s voice suddenly filled the channel. “So you know about it already… wanna have a taste of your own medicine?” The Eavesdropp extends its right hand and engulfed the Panzer’s head in his fingers.
“Sorry, but I’m going to ruin your day, soldier.” A push of a button, vermillion light exploded from Eavesdropp palm. Swiftly, the Panzer body parts swells into bulges like being stung by thousand bees. Inside the cockpit, intense heat destroyed the controls and Roy was bleeding out of his nose. “What the hell is this?” he shouted in pain and disbelief. His screen became fuzzy and distorted; a small window popup appeared on the screen. “Roy, eject!” Roy didn’t try, his eyes entirely focused on the black AMS. “How could I do that…the enemy is right in front of me…”
A cloud of silent explosion filled the space. Yukio retracted his hand, smoke was whispering out from the superheated radiator at the centre of the AMS palm. “Those Amalieans…this is impossible…” the pilots murmured. Suddenly, a voice came out from their internal speakers. “All units, retreat, retreat!” Rathe spoke to the radio. His head still ached from what he just saw.
Everyone in the remaining 69TH retreated but Yukio wasn’t happy letting his prize go away. He pulled a barrel segment from Eavesdropp’s back and connected it with his rifle. “Don’t run, you pest!” a light glowed from the cannon’s muzzle, reaching the maximum input, Yukio pressed the trigger. A large beam shot at very high speed aimed for Rathe’s Panzer. With his head still foggy, he doesn’t have any chance. The beam burned through the thick armour and the reactor until it came out from his back.
Another silent explosion filled the space. Yukio takes off his helmet and looked at his radar. The UN forces are retreating from Amaliean space. He looked at the asteroids, Rouge debris littered everywhere and smoke was flowing out from the ports at the mines. A single beep got his attention. With a last look, Yukio turns back to the Interceptor.
Forsell clenched his fist. How could he lose to the Amaliean forces? The 69TH had lost half their strength, thanks to the Amaliean Shapeshifter, as what Forsell named it. Now they are full speed back to Earth, Forsell sat in his seat and opened the latest news broadcast. The news channels were buzzing with news about the asteroid assault, and Forsell’s agent did the covering up. Everyone asked, why he wanted the Amaliea, and he had a damn good reason to.
With most of the fossil fuels gone except the precious uranium, Earth was on the verge of power collapse. The solar field and other renewables were doing a great job, but it wasn’t enough. Now, Rathe is dead and he had explanation to do, as well the rest of the 69TH. Forsell pushed a button on his desk, and seconds later, a small screen slides out from his table. “Where is he?” Forsell asked. Using a voice scrambler, the sound that came from the contact was impossible to distinguish by gender.
“He went out and hasn’t came back yet” it replied. Forsell turned, his back facing the screen. “He’s dead. Do what you have to do. “He said. No reply, but the screen sunk back. Forsell looked up, gazes upon the space which full of brilliant stars, with a tiny red at the edge. He has started the war, his people believed in him. But he has taken the wrong feet and he had to prepare himself. For some reason, it reminded him Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour, and the will of the Americans to fight back, but he’s not going to suffer the same fate as the Land of The Rising Sun do in 1945.
His army was large and well equipped. But Gradz was another story. Mark Brussels was a man with a few words, especially about defence related matter, and he needed to tell him, somehow. Forsell tried to reach a receiver at the corner of the table, but it was ringing by the time he got it. Forsell pressed the answer button. “How was it?” the voice asked. No one saw it, but Forsell’s expression change when he heard the voice.
“Quite a battering you got there, Forsell. Said taking off on a wrong foot.” Brussels quoted. Forsell tightened his grip on the receiver. “How the hell you…” he said. “Let’s just say I saw you back there. No publicity but I’m staying out from this war.” Suddenly, Forsell burst into laughter and wiped tears in his eyes. He was expecting Brussels to say this. “Quit the pacifist theme, you Limey. A Gradz soldier was dead and Amaliea was sure to involve you too.” Brussels was quiet for some seconds.
“Well, who was it? I’m intrigued.” He calmly asked. Forsell was smiling as wide his lips let him. The fish has taken the bait. “Rathe Sugiura. You know who I’m speaking about.” “I’ll see about it.” Brussels said. But he was talking to a dead line. Forsell put the receiver down in satisfaction. The war was on and he wasn’t fighting alone. The Gradz will be the ultimate distraction while he aimed for the big prize; Energia.
2.2 A Weird Dream
The door’s lock clicked and opened. Nao hung his jacket away and went to the washroom. A quick bath and a can of soda did the job quenching the tiredness of work. The apartment was dark and only the table lights was on, bringing dim light that shone on Laura’s face. She was sound asleep on the couch and haven’t realised his return. The illumination makes her skin look pale and calm.
Nao lands a sheet of blanket on her as she hasn’t changed since she came. “You’re going to catch a cold if you sleep like that.” he said. Nao kneeled down to tidy the sides and he saw a small video pad. Out of curiosity, he picked the pad. The pad’s edges were full with cute stickers and the cover itself was light pink, a girl’s taste. It was locked and password protected. Nao places the pad on the coffee table and went to sleep.
“The pulse is normal and adrenaline is okay. We are ready, doctor.” The nurse reported. Nao opened his eyes, white light blinded him and quickly closes his eyes back, adjusting to the brightness. The people are dressed the same like the room. The ‘doctor’ was wearing a surgical mask and a pair of latex gloves. “Give him anaesthetic, 50.” The people inside the room were encircling him. “What are you doing?” he shouted. They ignored him as they didn’t hear anything. He looked down, to his body lying flat on the operation table. His hands and feet were strapped and he heard something zing in his ear.
“No. No, stop!” Nao shouted as the circular saw closing at his right arm. At the dimmer distance of the theatre, nurses were hugging their pads while looked at their subject. At the same time, another saw was closing to his left by a mechanical arm that followed the doctor’s movement. Nao shouted louder and louder every time, telling the doctor to stop, and before the saw touches his skin, it suddenly stopped.
Nao lets out a storm of sighs. They finally heard him. A weak smile carved on his face despite the exhaustion. “Give the saws more power. We’ll need it when we cut through the bone” he told the nurses. The fragile smile drains immediately from Nao’s face. After a rev check, the doctor starts the saws again. Hopelessness was taking him away and the saws bought in tremendous pain into his brain. Nao shakes his body but useless by the straps. He shouted loudly in agony until a sudden shock stopped it.
“Are you okay?” Nao opened his eyes, it was dark. He was breathing and sweating heavily. He remembered to set the air conditioner at the lowest temperature, but it felt like a desert sun was scorching his skin. Laura was at his side, her eyes showed concern, like a mother worried about her sick children. “Yeah, I’m fine” Nao replied. “That dream again” Nao said to himself. “You were shouting just now, it looked… painful” Laura said. Nao didn’t said anything, the dream seemed so real and the pain was really there, a lot less painful now.
“Were you having trouble sleeping because of this?” she asked. Nao didn’t take denial as answer. Nao glanced at digital clock beside his bed. It was very late. The dream has the worst timing; coming up when somebody’s in the house and let them knew his secret. “Go back to sleep, Laura. It’s still early” Nao said while rises off the bed to wash his face. “What was it like, the dream?” Nao was quick with a reply. “Look, let’s not talk about this now. I don’t feel well”
Obediently, Laura walked out from his room and locked the door. Nao sighs when he turned the chromed tap. The water filled up the sink quickly as it gushed out. A handful of it rinsed his face. Nao was looking at himself on the mirror and at his hand where the pain was.
It was vivid like the dream itself but Nao never had operation in his life, as long he could remember. Laura found out a part of him he didn’t want anyone to know and he couldn’t deny it. “Couldn’t get any worse than this, it’s just a dream” he assured himself, keeping the optimistic spirit inside alive. Lying on his bed, Nao just stared at the ceiling.
The morning was a slow one. Nao managed to get short nap before his alarm go off. He got dressed and looked at his watch. It was 7.30 in the morning when he opened the door. The sunburst penetrated the vinyl curtain with flower pattern. He got no lecture today, but he doesn’t know about Laura. Before he’s going to ask anything, he went to the kitchen. A sudden scent of hydrated food filled his nose and Nao found it stacked on the table.
“I’ve got lecture today, so I’ve prepared you breakfast. Make sure you eat it” a Post-it note tacked on the plastic pack. Trough observation, the pack wasn’t from his fridge and the side were clear signs of wear. She was recycling packs. Nao opened one and the chow was surprising. She cooked them herself early in the morning, like his mother would. A sudden thought rushed into his mind. Nao quickly looked for his phone to see any messages from his father.
‘No new mail’ the screen says to him. It’s been two days since the last message and his father wasn’t an absent-minded guy. He never missed a day, let alone two. Nao wondered about the matter at the living room and sat on the couch. He grabbed the TV remote and scanned all the channels. Most of it was news or documentaries that failed to get Nao’s interest. But something on the table managed to.
“Maybe she forgot about it” Nao picked the pink pad and touched the screen. The black background changes into a picture of several people with Laura in it. Some has a face almost like her and the elderly was in it. Her family? Nao asked himself. His fingers meddled with the screen and finally found the Games folder. The games were boring but better than none. His phone doesn’t have any. The Brick Breaker wasn’t so bad, and Nao was busying himself with it until a popup screen killed his focus. He failed to catch the ball and failed the level, but the new message word was captivating.
“Have you told him?” the message said. The sender’s name was replaced with several question marks. One of her friends? Nao thought. It was boring and he decided a little joke wouldn’t do any harm, so he sent back a message. “Not yet”. Seconds later, the reply come, but it was a long way from Nao’s expectation. “You better tell him now or…you know what I’ll do”. It sounded angry, but Nao decide to play along a bit longer.
“What are you going to do?” Nao asked. That was the last straw for the other side. “Don’t play dumb with me, Laura! Tell him Rathe is dead or your family dies!”
The pad fell and clattered. He felt heaviness tightening in his chest. He was wheezing, breathing unsteadily. His heartbeat was audible in his ear like a steam engine blowing its valves off. Suddenly, his head feels lighter, his vision blurred. “Tell him Rathe is dead or your family dies!” the words repeated over and over in his mind. Nao started to shiver like a hypothermic person. Images flashes in his head, all the things he has done with his father since his mother was gone. The pad! Nao looked at it. It was Laura’s. She knew all this time, hiding everything from him.