The Carnival (Part Two)

The day had finally arrived!  The streets were absolutely packed as the Carnival began.  It was beautiful.  The streets were like streams of light.  So many lights, reflecting, shining and glittering on the people and things, the night became a kaleidoscope to see.  Cheering, dancing, everyone was enraptured with the festivities.  Cars with famous guests of the night were arriving.  They were like Presidents from years gone past, driving with the tops of their cars down.  Everyone was getting into the spirit.  Everything was in the air, from spirit to sex.  Couples were getting it on in alleyways, backrooms at clubs and anywhere else that some privacy could be found.  This was the kind of night that few got.  The kind where love was free and everyone was in heaven.  The Carnival went on for three days.  Like ancient Greece, it was three days of feast, sex and freedom.
Which was a security nightmare for Colonel Beckett.  Indeed, trying to keep this place secure was the worst job she had ever had.  Not only was it nigh-impossible to keep her troops from getting in on the festivities, but there were so many things that could be interpreted as breaches that covering it all without anything but a full battalion was next to inconceivable.  Part of her regretted not being able to join in.  It all did look very fun.  Though she was more than a bit old for some parts of the festivities.

From the Fox’s apartment, Harley was smiling.
“Please tell me it’s time, brother.”
“Oh yeah.  Head to the port.  We’ll be getting the party started in two hours.”
She grabbed her eye-patch, clasping it on.  “Hell yeah!  About fucking time!”  Without even waiting for a reply, she was off.  It was going to be a battlefield soon.  She couldn’t wait.  While her brother was a strategist at heart, she just wanted a straight-up fight.  She got that from the person that they called their “father.”  Though they never called her that to her face.  Getting to her car, she headed off in a hurry.  The blood in her veins was singing.

Far from Luna, out in space, there was something approaching.  They were blood red particles of light.  However, they were so few, at the moment, that you could hardly notice.  The shapes were in the shadow of the moon.  Their outline was much the like the battleships outside of the city.  They were waiting.  Among those ships were smaller silhouettes.  Dozens of them.

She arrived at the port to see a young woman with really short hair.  It was pixie-cut and dirty-blonde.  The hair was a little spiky, but not much.
“Harley!  It’s good to see you!”  They hugged tight, running to a shuttle that was parked nearby.  Security was tight here, but they looked unassuming.
“You too, Marta.  It’s been way too long.”
“For real.”  The ran onboard, shutting the hatch behind them.  “I’ve been itching for this for years!”
“Likewise.  After suffering through the Confederation’s occupation of my home, I’ve been itching for some payback!”
“Years of transgressions are going to be solved in one fell swoop.”
The shuttle reached the checkpoint, passing by undetected.  They headed toward the dark side of the moon, and their waiting forces.

Graham was loving his time here.  This was the kind of party he never got to see on Earth.  It was like an Irish blowout, only this had even less reservation.  He couldn’t be enjoying it more.  As he was looking at the events, he noticed something – a light above.  It was hard to make out with all the city’s lights all around.  He could have swore that he saw the light of particle emissions.

On the bridge of an airship, a man in a black uniform stood up.  His skin was almost the same color.  His accent was deep, his face stern, but clearly all the soldiers respected him.
“Sir, we’ve got confirmation that all assets are ready,” one of the soldiers said to him.
“Excellent!  Begin the operation!”

Audra’s second-in-command was on the bridge of their flagship, gently sipping a cup of coffee.  Why do I have to be up here?  It’s dull as shit here on the ship.  The CO gets to go mess around and have fun, while I watch a bunch of nothing.  Just wonderful.  That’s when he saw something.  It was a light in the distance.  It was from a part of the moon close to where they were.
He looked to one of the soldiers.  “Hey, can you get me a visual on that light source?”
There wasn’t time to answer.  In a flash, a particle beam smacked into the ship beside their own.
“All hands, battle stations!  Sound the alarm!”  Across the vessel, the call for action came.  It wasn’t soon enough.  More and more particle beams were impacting the ships.  They were aiming for the smaller vessels.  Ones that they could actually destroy.  Once the particle beams stopped, other shapes were rushing forward.  It was fighters!

Back on Luna, there was a buzz on Audra’s comm.
“Go ahead.”
“Ma’am, we’re under attack!  A large enemy force has appeared right outside of the city and they have opened fire on us!  Our forces are trying to rally, but their bombardment isn’t stopping!”
Her eyes went wide.  Of course!  The Carnival was a diversion!  They never intended to strike at us here!  “Hold the line, Commander!  Have our forces regroup around the Autumn and begin our counterattack!”  She buzzed Graham.  “Snyder, get your ass to the port and mount up.  We’ve got trouble.”
The man smiled.  “Yes ma’am!”  Finally!  Another party I can enjoy!

The port was buzzing with soldiers loading up on shuttles.  Graham got there and ran through the chaos.  He was headed toward a fighter.  It was almost completely-white, with blue stripes going down certain places.  The cockpit opened as he approached, with the machine powering up.
“Damn insurgents!  I was going to be getting my drink on, too.  This isn’t how it was supposed to go down!”  In the back of his mind, he was admiring their tenacity.  They were able to catch their forces completely off-guard and turn the tide in their favor in seconds.  It was pretty impressive.
The fighter took off, almost-immediately being head-first in the fight.  The enemy was keeping to the dark side of the moon, except for their Variance Fighters.  These machines were a new weapon.  Fighters that could shift from a flight mode to an attack mode.  These modes varied, depending on the kind of weapon they were.  Some of them were unique.  Like Graham’s.  The machine shifted fast, becoming like a bee.  Its wings let loose, sending volleys of energy at some of the nearby fighters.  However, something was off.  The blast took down quite a few, but not nearly what he was hoping.  The enemy’s machines were incredibly mobile.  The reaction time of their pilots was incredible.  For the first time, he was beginning to wonder if his skills would be enough.  The tail-section came online as well, sending a particle beam lancing out at the ships that were still in shadows.
“Who the hell are we fighting here?!”
It was then that something happened.  All of their fighters, like perfectly-coordinated stunt-pilots, suddenly broke off.  They headed toward the darkness, with the particle field growing and moving.
“What the hell was that?!”
“All ships, do not pursue!”  It was Audra.  “The safety of Luna is our top priority!  Head back to your ships and await further instruction.”
He pounded the wall of his craft.  That’s when he saw it.  It was a fighter, completely black.  It had glowing red sections that almost appeared to be eyes.  He only saw a split-second of it before it changed and became a fighter again.  In that moment, he could have swore that it looked human.  Only, there were blades on each limb.  He was scared.  Something big was happening, and he didn’t like it.  But orders were orders.  He changed his fighter back as well, heading toward the Autumn Rising.  Their casualties had been massive.

The captain on the airship in the shadows was smiling.
“It was a successful mission, sir!” his Executive Officer, a young woman with a dark smile on her face, said.
“Indeed it was.  This Fox character may be worth following after all.  The enemy has seen our strength.  If Fox’s tactical forecasts continue to be accurate, then Earth’s next move will come soon.

Indeed, at the Third Orbital Block, which served as the head of Red Guard, there Fleet Admiral Leonard Plamondon sat.  There was another man with him.  He had a very cold look.
“So, it seems that the colonials have decided to make their presence known,” the Admiral remarked.
“A foolish choice.”  The man stood up.  “Sir, I am formally requesting permission to lead our counterattack!  Let me show these pathetic space-rats what it means to pick a fight with Earth!”
The Admiral stroked his chin thoughtfully.  “If we go about this the wrong way, then we will push the people of the colonies right into the insurgent’s arms.  I don’t want that, Archer.”
“Of course, sir.  My response will be a measured one.  I will simply show them enough of a display of force to make them think twice about joining up.  Please, sir, I ask that you entrust me with this mission.  Beckett is too soft.  This kind of work has to be done by someone with the stomach to handle the ugly parts.  Sir, I can do that.  I ask that you entrust me with this mission.”
After a few minutes, he nodded.  “Alright, but remember – it’s your ass on the line, here.  Don’t fuck this up.”
He stood at attention, saluting.  “Understood, sir!  We will obey your orders!”
The Admiral saluted back.  “Dismissed, Archer.”
“Yes sir!”  There was a dark smile on his face as he walked out the door.
Meanwhile, the Admiral looked nervous.  Dad, what would you have done?  What can I do?  What can any of us do?  Why did this have to start now?

Harley got back to Luna on the shuttle.  There was a smile that she just couldn’t quit.  Marta was with her, also looking pleased.  The Fox was waiting in a car.
“Nice work, you two.  We’ve let the Red Guard know what we’re made of.  Now, we have to start planning our next move.”

“It don’t get it, ma’am,” McAvoy interrupted.  “It’s a foregone conclusion that the Confederation forces will win.  I mean, we have them outnumbered, outgunned and we have all of the colonies locked down tight.  What can they hope to gain with this uprising?”
Graham had been very quiet through all of this.  “With all due respect, sir, I think you’re wrong.  I got to see their forces in action today.  Man, you wouldn’t believe!  It was like they could see my moves as I made them!  They had such precision, such grace.  These aren’t ordinary pilots.”
“They’re Coordinators,” Audra replied.  That got everyone quiet.
“So that’s how it is,” their pilot echoed.
“They can feel their machines, like they are an extension of themselves.  The colonials have finally figured out a way to fight us on equal footing with less forces – by having better pilots and often-superior weapons.  This fight has been years in the making.  They’ve been preparing for this for as long as I have been stationed out here.  Today was a message.”
“A message, ma’am?” McAvoy asked, very confused.
“Yup, the message was – we can fight you on your terms.  Your move.”  Everyone was silent as they stared out on the city below.  Carnival was barely interrupted by what happened up there.  To the people of space, this just made them party even more.

That night, Harley took Marta back to her place.  She was so pumped, so alive.  She didn’t want to spend it alone.  Meanwhile, the Fox was hard at work.  He felt alive too, but alone.  His loneliness fueled him even more.  Both of them were so alike, but so different.  And yet, there were times when they could finish each other’s sentences.

Until next time, a quote,

As they say, death is the high cost of living.” -Envy, Fullmetal Alchemist

Peace out,

Maverick

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