Lucien’s First Take: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown – E3 2018 Trailer

Here is a number that slipped my radar during E3 this year, and now that I have seen it, I really want to talk about it.  Something to know about me – I loves me some fighter sim games.  The Rogue Squadron games were my jam on previous consoles, save the third entry.  That game had TERRIBLE third-person shooting segments that were just the worst.  The Ace Combat franchise has a dear place in my heart.  It is a game where they set it in an alternate universe so they don’t have to address real-world politics, but in a universe that has fighter jets in the same way that we do.  Both myself and a girly-mate have loved these games.  For her, it is serious wish-fulfillment.  She always wanted to be a fighter jockey, but after a medical issue that has left her unable to speak, she can’t join up.

Now we have a new entry in this franchise, and it seems I am a little late on the bandwagon because they’ve put out other trailers before now.  Well, I’m here now, and this new trailer has me all giddy inside.  Let’s take a look.

We open on some dark, very Soviet-sounding music.  I like it.  We have a brief shot of a skyline with the sun, and it gets my heart pumping.  This is gonna be good!  It then takes us to a series of hangars, each with a different aircraft inside.  This makes me happy for a couple reasons.  For starters, they clearly want to show off how good their birds look, which is just fine by me.  But this makes me wonder – am I gonna get to have a hangar where I can customize my bird?  I really, really want that.  These games are definitely more Air Force, but since I have a girly-mate who is near and dear to me in the Navy, I am hoping to customize my bird to show some Navy love.

Then we’re taken to some amazing shots of the terrain that I’m sure we’ll be fighting in, and a voice-over comes on to tell us about the score that’s coming in this game.  Alright!  Let’s do this!  She says first that the unit we are with is a penal unit.  Interesting.  So, this nation is getting prisoners to fight for them?  That is interesting.  It’s an unusual premise.  Seeing our birds on the move, and we learn that our character is a nameless new prisoner that this woman believes has a lot of potential.  We also get to hear the commander of this squadron telling me how I have a call-sign for the air, and it’s my prisoner number.  A grim situation.  Getting more giddy.  The birds take off, and we get to see them fly!

Some amazing shots of the sky from the cockpit of our bird, along with a kind of aircraft that is different than the ones we’re flying.  A kind of sky fortress.  That’s cool.  I remember the old boss-fights in these games.  This could be interesting.  But we move to what everyone wants to see – gameplay of dog-fighting in the air.  And this looks amazing!  The visuals are so badass, and it feels like you are right in it.  Some of these fights are at higher altitude, some of them are closer to the ground.  The ones closer to the floor are the ones that freak me out.  A place where altitude is a constant worry and you have to be aware of that and your enemy.  Yes!  I like it.

Meanwhile, we have another voice-over telling us that the slashes on the tail are indicative of our crime level, and that we can work them off over time.  So, this nation gets prisoners to fight for them, with the idea being that if you do well enough, you get your freedom.  Cool!  Lots of things to like.  One last shot of the base, and the person in charge telling us that we’re expendable.  I’m in!  Let’s get in there!  As there are rumors that this game is delayed until 2019, I guess we have to wait until Gamescom to see more.  I cannot wait!

This franchise has never been huge, but the following is loyal.  As for me, getting another chance to jump back into the cockpit is just fine.  Let’s do this!

Initial Verdict
So close, yet so far!

Peace out,

Maverick

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Space Pilots Meet Atmosphere Combat

(In honor of an air show that my Navy girly-mate is helping out with)

The alarm was blaring!  From where they were sitting on the landing deck, everyone looked up.
“All hands, combat alert!  Enemy mechs incoming!”
Flt Lt Frost looked up.  “Well, that ain’t good.”  He remembered the base commander telling him about all their stationed pilots being out on shore leave.  This far into Directorate territory, no one could have imagined the enemy attacking.  It was brazen, to say the least.
Quinn sneered, quietly slipping out the door.  Kate saw her go, immediately following.
As they raced down the halls, everyone on base was moving fast.  Their defensive guns were online, but against mechs that only went so far.  Since this base was airborne, it could only be flight models coming to attack.  That meant they had infinitely more maneuverability than the guns could reasonably handle.
Busting into the hangar bay, Quinn saw what she was looking for.  Four flight model mechs, in flight mode, waiting to be deployed.  Running over to one of them, she hit the sensor to open the cockpit.  The machine recognized her biometrics as military, so it opened.  Cuing up the main computer, she ran through the system.
“Let’s see.  Fuel is full.  Ammunition is full.  Mech is in good order.”
Kate popped into the entrance, giving her a stern look.
“What the fuck are you doing, Quinn?!”
“Checking to see if this thing is fit to fight.”
“We aren’t this base’s pilots!  We’ll get in a heaping pile of shit if engage the enemy with their mechs!”
“Yeah, and if we just sit here, we’re gonna get blown the fuck up!  I’d rather take my risks in the air.  I have years of experience in atmosphere, so I say let’s do it!”  She had that look on her face that meant she was not going to be dissuaded.  In a flash, she was on her feet, stripping.
Kate blushed heavily.  “Why are you getting naked here?”
“Because I can’t fly in my uniform.”
From her bag she pulled out a flight-suit.  It wasn’t a g-suit like they used in space, but it would work for this.
“Dammit, woman!”  Hiding between the machines, she stripped down as well, grabbing her own flight-suit.
“What happened to ‘we’ll get in a heaping pile of shit’?”
Giving her a cold look.  “Like you said, if we stay here we die.”  Heading over to another mech, she also keyed up the system.  “Alright.  Ready to go.  So, smart woman, did you stop to think about how we’re going to get up to the launch deck if we’re using mechs that aren’t ours?”
Quinn frowned.  It was a good question.
A voice behind them called out.  “We get the flight crew to move the mechs up there, then get clearance from the tower to launch.”
Both of them looked to see the Flt Lt there, also in a flight-suit.  They were shocked.
“Lt!  You’re cool with this?” Kate asked.
“Like she said, we’re all fucked if we don’t do something.  You two know how to fly in atmosphere?”
The Killer Bee’s pilot got her devilish grin back.  “Hell yeah!  Years of experience.”
Her more sensible compatriot nodded.  “Not as much as her, but I did some training in sim during my time with R&D.  I know what to expect.”
“Alright.  I’ve got years of experience myself, so we should be good.”
The sound of footsteps coming in behind them.  Sojiro and Windsor came in.
“That’s crazy!” Windsor said.  “There’s a lot of them!  You all are going to get yourselves killed!”
Sojiro looked around the bay.  Something caught his eye.  Ground model mechs!  They were in transit mode.
“We can back you up in those!”
Frost looked at him.  “You have experience with ground models?”
“Yes sir!  At the start of the war I was stationed on the ground.  And these aren’t the relics that I was using.  Those things were damn-near falling apart!  Will be nice to fight in a proper mech this time.”  Sojiro took off his service shirt, tying it around his waist on the undershirt.
Looking at Windsor.  “You?”
“I know the basics.  So long as I can get me a proper gun with some range, I got this.”
Two base personnel came over as well.
“Hey!  We heard you guys are planning on going out.  If you’re gonna do that, we can get you launch clearance.  And I wouldn’t mind grabbing one of the ground mechs and backing you up.  I wasn’t cleared as a pilot, but I know what I’m doing.”
Frost grinned at him.  “Sounds good, son.”  Keying up a display on his band, he motioned for the others.
“Everyone, gather ’round!  I’m gonna go through the mission plan.”
The map showed the air platform base, with the couple airships they have on defense.
“Alright, the enemy consists of eight mechs.  We have four regular models, and four heavy armor models.  They’ve engaged with the airships in support of the base.”  Looking over at the men from the base.  “No offense to your air force, but I’m not anticipating them to last long against them.”
One of them shrugged.  “None taken.  I’ve been saying we might as well have a big sign out welcoming the enemy to attack.”
“Alright, here’s how this is gonna work.  Pierce, you and DeMills are to stay on my wing!  I don’t want any heroics.  That goes double for you!”  He was looking right at Quinn.
“Aye-aye, Lt.  I got you.” She looked annoyed.
“The enemy has us very outnumbered, and I would wager that the enemy knows what they’re doing.  Our tactic is going to be to use our own forces engagement to our advantage.  They’re attacking the defending ships, so we can use that to buy time to get in the air, and once deployed we can keep the fight there as much as we can.  Meanwhile, ground mechs, you will be tasked with taking out any who break away from the battle.  The platform has limited mobility, so you’re going to have to be good at hitting mobile targets while being pretty much stationary.  Coordinate your attack with the base guns.  Only focus your attack close range.  I don’t wanna worry about friendly fire.  Hooyah?”
“Hooyah!” They all shouted in unison.
“Then let’s get moving.”  Looking at the second guy who wasn’t going out on a mech.  “Get the command tower ready.  We can’t afford delays launching!”
The man saluted and took off running.
Kate looked at Quinn.  “Be careful out there.”
Giving her a wink.  “Aren’t I always?”

Heading over to the ground mechs, Windsor keyed up the system.
The first guy came running over.  “Hey!  Our system here can change weapons on these mechs in under a minute.  What are you two thinking?”
Sojiro immediately chimed in.  “I need artillery, and lots of it!  Enemy is gonna try and send the heavy armor mechs to hit the base, and they are armed to blast.”
“You got it!”  He keyed sensors on a tablet and overhead machinery went to work undoing couplings and moving the standard rifle and gatling cannon away.  Down came several missile pods.  “You got your choice of heat-seeking, anti-air cluster bombs, and slammers.”
The man grinned darkly.  “If you were a woman I’d kiss you.  Ready to move out!”
Looking over at Windsor.  “What about you?”
She thought for a moment.  “What do you have in long-range weaponry?”
Queuing up the arsenal on his tablet.  “We have M649 Carbines and LSDG Lasers.”
That took her by surprise.  “You can use laser weapons in atmosphere?!”
Sojiro chimed in, “you’re thinking of particle beams!  Those things can’t be used in atmosphere.  Lasers can.”
“But the weapons require pin-point accuracy.  Not joking, you have to be incredibly precise.  They will blast rockets, missiles, and torpedoes to bits, but armor is trickier.  The heavier it is, the less damage the weapon does.”
Windsor grinned.  “Sounds good.  I’ll take them both.”
“Roger that!”  Hitting more sensors on the tablet, and the mechanism got to work.
“Alright, you’re both fit to fight!  Good luck!”  He ran toward the third mech, getting inside.  All three shifted from transit mode to fighting.  They stood not especially tall.  The mechs were squat, for the purposes of being able to change direction on a dime.  On Sojiro’s mech, the missile pods were loaded on to the shoulders.  There was a rifle on one arm, but that might as well have been window dressing.  Both of the Crimson Squadron pilots knew what his weapons of choice were.
On Windsor, one arm had a large attachment that looked like a shield, while the other hand the large Carbine.  On the shoulder where the shield was stood the laser.  A strange weapon, with a very long, yet small barrel.  The power supply seemed to be connected directly to the engine.  Looking at the system, she concluded as much.  Normally that would be a bad thing, but since you couldn’t use barriers in atmosphere, her power supply could take it.  She wasn’t the type to waste shots.
“Control,” the first man said, “We’re ready to go!”
“Copy that, crewman.  Flight mechs are launching now.  Once they’re out, we’ll bring you up.”
Sojiro looked determined, cracking his knuckles.  This was the kind of battle he started this war with.  A lot higher in the air than those days, but still.  Windsor clutched her necklace, praying to the Spirits.

On the flight deck, the mechs were in position.  Kate was going through everything, as she had done before she was the tactical support for Killer Bee.  Making sure all systems were exactly where she wanted.  It had been a long time since the sims.  She took that for granted.  Quinn cracked her neck, eager to get moving.  Frost was his usual quiet and pensive self.
“Alright, pilots!”  It was Control.  “Everything is ready, you are clear for launch.  Transferring timing over to Flt Lt Frost.”
“Aye-aye, Control, I have control.”  He took a deep breath.  “Crimson Squadron, launching!”  In a blast, they jetted forward.  So much like in space, but different.  Getting to the end of the runway, they had to immediately bank up to maintain altitude.
“Let’s hit it!  Straight towards the enemy!  Remember – stay on my wing until we engage, then stay within knife-fight proximity.  And if the enemy breaks off for the base, do NOT give chase!  Understood?”
“Aye-aye!”
“Then let’s do this.”
Looking ahead, it was clear that he was right about the supporting ships not being capable of handling the enemy.  Their faster models were going after their guns, while the heavy armors were going after their engines.  All they had to do was cripple them.  Gravity would do the rest.
Bringing her targeting sensors online, Quinn cycled through her guns.  Her heart beat so fast.  This was the kind of challenge she lived for.  Wind resistance.  It had been so long since she had to factor for that.  Not since her racing days.  Some chop, no worries.  On a vehicle this small, it wasn’t a huge concern.
Frost took it all in.  The enemy was like a swarm.  They were taking on each ship one at a time.  They were putting up a good fight, but this was almost over.  Finally, they noticed them coming in.  Two of the smaller mechs broke off.
“Alright, ladies, this is it!  Keep it tight, but show no mercy!”
“Aye-aye!” Quinn shouted, shifting to combat mode.  This mech had a primary rifle with single-shot capacity, and an integrated four-barrel gatling cannon on the other arm.  Fighting with mechs in atmosphere is tricky.  While they have engines to sustain altitude, those drain fuel much faster.  Any mech pilot worth their salt knows that it’s more about the fighter battle than the mech one.  At least this far above the ground.  She took aim at the first one approaching.  This guy was smart.  Staying in flight mode, moving fast.  They kept gaining and losing altitude.  Clever boy, she thought.  Going back to flight mode, she decided to fight him on his terms.  The gatling cannon .was the primary weapon in flight mode, so she decided to come right up on him.
It was tense.  The two were continually dancing around one-another, each trying to get a bead.  She let loose a volley, but kept it short.  The enemy shifted to combat mode, but she didn’t.  It had a much larger gatling cannon on its arm, with a shield on the other.  Flying right at it, she got within its targeting straight in front.  The enemy would have to move if it didn’t want her to smack into it.  Cutting its stabilizers, it let gravity do the work for evasion.  That’s what Quinn was waiting for.  As it fell, she opened up.  Blasted through both legs, trashing the stabilizers.  When it tried to go back to flight mode, it couldn’t maintain altitude.  He was done.
Meanwhile, Frost and Kate were right on the second.
“DeMills, cover me!”
“Aye-aye!”
He hit the accelerator and went right at him.  The enemy was good, but not great.  Shifting to combat mode, it took some pot-shots at him, but with all the maneuverability in atmosphere, it couldn’t touch him.  Kate shifted as well, blasting out with her rifle.  The enemy saw it coming and moved, but it had to divide its attention.  Flying straight up and stalling, Frost shifted to combat mode and took out the heated ax that this unit had for close-range.  He threw it straight down.  The weapon was like a shot, flying straight down and smashing into the enemy’s cockpit.  Hitting his accelerators, Frost went down, grabbing it and locking it back in place.  He chuckled to himself.
“These kids are good, but we’re better.”
The air forces ships took notice of the odds looking not so grim and started firing with renewed vigor.  Seemingly realizing the strategy, two heavy armor and one regular mech cut off from the battle and went as fast as they could toward the base.
“Dammit!” Quinn swore.
“Let them go!  We have base defenses for that.  Focus on the battle here!”

Seeing the enemy coming, Sojiro locked and loaded.  As did their base support man.  Windsor brought her laser up.  Three enemies.  Not great.  Three of them, along with three gatling turrets, and two rocket turrets.  The base defenses opened up immediately.  The armored units shrugged off the gatling rounds.  They moved around the rockets.  Aligning the guns was slow.  Too slow to be a threat.
“Damn targeting sensors!” The base man said.
Windsor didn’t let herself be distracted.  The laser was her ace in the hole.  A weapon the fires at the speed of light, with a round that can blast through most small armor.  Two of the enemy were heavy armor, but they had to have a weakness, right?  Then she remembered – they can blast right through missiles!  Did that mean they could blast through them while they are still in the pods?
One of the enemy opened up its pods, preparing to fire.  Taking a deep breath, she zoomed the scope in.  It would have to be manual.  No way the system could get as close as she wanted.  A little more, just a little bit.  Then, time stopped.  She fired.  Brilliant blue, it lanced out at the enemy.  It was right on target!  Hitting the missile she was aiming at there was a split-second as it hung there.  Then it blew up, detonating the rest of the missiles in the pod with it.  Two-thirds of the mech was blown to bits, with the rest falling to oblivion.
“Nice shot!” the first man said in amazement.
Meanwhile, Sojiro was trying to get a bead on the regular mech.  This guy was daring.  It was dodging and weaving around the base’s defenses, while firing rounds at their guns.  It had taken out one of the gatling turrets, and was looking to go after the rockets.  If it took them out, they were toast.  He queued up the heat-seeking rockets.  This mech was definitely a sight better than his last time on ground.  It had so many rockets that he could cue up several at a time.  That was exactly what he meant to do.  This pilot clearly had enough skill to evade minor weapons fire.  This would take good timing.
Letting loose a volley, the enemy went back to flight mode and immediately shifted to javelin rockets.  Slammers, as they were more typically called, only firing straight ahead.  The enemy was good.  Very good.  It danced around the missiles beautifully.  He took aim.  Had to gauge how the enemy moved.  He could afford to be patient.  Watching, learning the pattern.  Finally, the last rocket exploded, but didn’t hit him.  The enemy would always make a turn to the left when it was going to come about.  That was it!  Targeting just slightly to the left, he let fly.  Predictive powers were a great thing.  As the mech came about, it shifted back to combat mode.  That proved to be its doom, as flight mode it might have had the rocket come in under it.  Instead, the round hit dead center and blew the machine to bits.
The final heavy-armor mech had its sights on the stabilizers.  Just like the other airships, the airbase was even more dependent on them to maintain altitude.  It was trying to fire missiles, but their defenses were keeping it busy enough to not be able to get a good bead.  The enemy was clearly getting agitated, as it was now being sloppier about where it struck.  There were several large holes in the hull near the engines.  Finally, it decided it had to destroy the rocket turrets if it was going to be able to do anything against the enemy.
Sojiro hit the other two up on the comm.  “Alright, here’s the plan – Heather, I need you and the other pilot to coordinate with me.  This guy is too smart to let me blast it with cluster-bombs, so I need you two to push it into a firing zone.  I’ve marked a spot on your display I’m aiming for.  Coordinate base artillery as well!  Hooyah?”
“Hooyah!”
Windsor opened up the carbine.  Its rounds were powerful, but there were only so many before the weapon had to be reloaded.  The first man had a gatling cannon on his arm, which he opened up with as well.  He saw the point to draw the enemy into, keeping the targeting matrix focused to move the enemy.  Base guns also came online.  So much artillery flying, it was a spectacle to see.
Sojiro had his guns ready.  Close.  So close.  He would have to time it so right as the enemy is going to come into his point.  When it has nowhere to run.  It made a boost up, and that was it!  He fired away with several bombs.  They were all around the enemy, seeming to clothe it in smoke.  Even more smoke after a second, as the mech started falling straight down.
“That got him!”
Everyone started breathing again.  Now it was all up to their air support.

The next enemy was blasted to bits.  Kate came from below and hit it with a rocket.  That just left two enemies left.  One heavy armor and one regular.  Quinn was already on the heavy armor.  She came in right at its backside.  The thing flew like a brick, so she had all the maneuverability over it.  It was too thick for her cannon, but she had another idea.  Pulling out her ax, she went right at the engine.  Smashing the arm right inside, it ripped the engine parts out.  Like guts out of a body.  Smoke was billowing out, but the enemy was still in flight.
While its attention was on Quinn, Kate came in from the left.  In flight mode, she went right at it.  The enemy shifted to combat mode, but that was a bad move.  Its eye-piece was right there.  With her rifle, she blasted away, blowing the whole thing to bits.  Now the enemy was blind and could barely maintain altitude.  It broke off.  Smart move.  Quinn decided not to let it run away.  She aimed a rocket at the other engine as it went back to flight mode.  She let fly and it landed.  The enemy started falling to the ground.
Frost was tangoing with the last one.  It was an ugly battle.  This guy knew his stuff, and their dance was all in flight mode.  Above, below, each trying to get a bead on the other.  Neither one appeared to have the upper hand.  Just then, there was a beam of beautiful blue light.  It came from all the way back at the base!  It hit the enemy right in one of its engines, causing smoke.
That was all the distraction he needed.  Frost shifted to combat mode, opening fire with his gatling cannon right into the backside.  It was ripped open, and time stopped again.  Suddenly, something igniting.  The whole thing then blew up in a beautiful shower of sparks and flaming metal.  The battle was over.

Heading back to base, Quinn cued up Kate on the comm.
“Admit it, that was fun.”
Breathing heavily, she smiled to herself.  Was it?  She could feel it.  Lately, every time Quinn was feeling good, it was like she could feel it too.  Like being back in Killer Bee, with their minds linked to the machine.  There were days, when they were close together outside of the machine, and she wondered if she could hear her thoughts.  This was one of those moments.  It felt good.
“Yeah, it was fun.”

Until next time, a quote,

“Okay, so it’s not dull.” – Isamu Dyson, Macross Plus

Peace out,

Maverick

The Incoming Threat

*A friend of mine challenged me to write something out based on a single picture. Challenge accepted*

The room was well-lit, was the first thing he noticed at the doors opened.  Stepping inside, he saw two screens at the front of the room, each with displays being loaded up.  There was a table that formed into a triangular shape, with chairs evenly dispersed among them.  In front of each chair was a name tag.  He saw his – RDML Conrad Mackenzie.  Taking a seat, he took in the rest of the room.  Behind the triangular table were many other chairs.  For those accompanying the people at the meeting?  Every person above the rank of Captain had an attendant or two with them.  Normally he was no exception, but he was informed before this meeting that no parties without Top Secret clearance were allowed in this discussion.  Before coming in he had to pass through a couple checks with armed personnel.  This was important.  Maybe it was just how the room was set up for general meetings.
There was a blonde woman on her tablet across the table from him.  A Navy tablet, synced to the database here.  He had one as well, but it was not a custom to be on those before a meeting.  In his experience, the most useful connections one made were waiting for these things and talking with his compatriots.  This officer, with the name tag ADM Sarah Joliffe, didn’t look like she wanted to be disturbed.  Best not to upset the vibe of a superior officer.
All of this had been so odd.  To be pulled from his command at Lagrange 2 and called back to Earth, this felt very strange.  There was an ominous kind of tone being set.  No surprise.  Things in the Colonies were getting worse and worse each passing day.  Every Colony with a UNSN posting was feeling the heat.  A couple of brushfire fights broke out in a Colony that had a Navy ship docked there.  Keeping the peace was getting harder and harder.  So why had he been called down here?
Several more people entered.  All of them had Admiral decoration on their uniforms.  I immediately stood.  Looking at all the nametags, something struck me.  Next to me sat a man who I was familiar with – Adm Masayoshi Kamina.  His face was every bit the stern, but I knew him to be a pretty amiable man.
“Sir!  It’s good to see you again.”
He nodded.  “You as well.  But please, no need to be so formal with me.”
A snort.  “All due, I think I’m the lowest ranked person at this table.”
Looking around, he nodded again.  “Perhaps.  But since you’re the commanding officer at our chief L2 base, it’s foolish not to ask you to come.”
Leaning in close.  “Does this mean you know why they’ve called this meeting?  Seems a little weird to call me in from space when they could Comm this.”
Also leaning in.  “Word is that something big is happening.  They’re talking about Fleet movement.  Maybe the 1st and 3rd.”
It hit him like a load of bricks.  That was unthinkable.  Moving the whole fleet meant combat deployment.  It would be war, for sure.
“Bullshit!  There’s no way we’d do something so openly aggressive.”
He shrugged.  “That’s just what I’m hearing.  We’ll see what happens next.”
The way that was said, so up in the air, it left him feeling the ton get even more ominous.  His hand started shaking.

After a few more minutes talking with his compatriots, the room suddenly got darker.  The lights were being dimmed.  The door opened and in walked in a woman with a lower rank.  She stood at the seat right beside the head of the table.  It was where the two sides of the triangle met, it was flat and had a space for someone to sit.
“This meeting is classified.  Ladies, and gentlemen, the FADM.”
Everyone immediately got to their fleet.  Before they even came into view in the lacking light, everyone could tell who it was.  One of his eyes was glowing red.  It was a fake.  His strong, dark features came into view.  Crisp uniform, commanding the respect of all who saw it.
“As you were,” he said, taking a seat at the front of the room.  Sitting down, the tension had jumped yet-again.  The FADM was here!  It didn’t get anymore serious.  Which had the Rear Admiral wondering again why he was at this table.  This was the meeting you have for the most senior officers in the UNSN.
Taking a seat, the Fleet Admiral hit a sensor on the console at his seat.  There was an image that came up.  It appeared to be orbit around Mars.
“This morning, at 0400 Greenwich Mean Time, one of our satellites got these images.”  He hit the sensor and it ran through a cycle.  First they saw Mars, but there were shadows around it.  Dozens upon dozens of shadows.  Maybe hundreds.  It was hard to tell.  They were around the Colony orbiting the planet.  The first stop for those looking to make planetfall.  Another image showed the objects in motion.  It was coordinated.  Then another came up showing them breaking off into various groups.  Fleets?  These had to be starships.  The last image showed the same orbit, with everything gone.
“IS believes these to be starships, and has calculated that they were leaving Mars orbit with the trajectory of Earth.”
There was mumbling around the room.  Everyone was thinking the same thing.
“At this time, we do not have an exact calculation of the number of ships.  It’s believed to be over 200.”
Hitting the sensor again, it brought up a list of names.
“Over the past year, we’ve had a series of shuttles and cargo ships leaving Earth for Mars.  Officially, they are part of an engineering team heading to the Asteroid Belt for deep space mining.  But some of the names on the manifest caught IS’s attention.  Among them are people who have been former UNSN Colonial forces from the now disbanded Colonial Navy.  There are crew members, former officers, and pilots.  After the destruction of the Agro Colony, the numbers spiked.  However, after the most recent shipment, they stopped.  There hasn’t been a single one since.”
The image changed again to the Colonial Embassy in the ANNA.  It was completely abandoned.
“This morning, it was also discovered that the Colonies have closed their Embassy in Washington, along with the EU, AUN, and Asian Confederation.  Their staff have returned to space.  All files were destroyed, all consoles wiped.”
You could hear a pin drop with how quiet it is.
“All projections lead us to the conclusion that the rumors of secret bases in the Asteroid Belt for construction of warships was true.  And now these ships are on the move.  It appears that they all did a massive boost, and then had their engines go dark.  The ships appear to be made of black steel to blend in with the darkness of space.  With no running lights to keep track of, and no way to use LADAR until they get close enough to be a threat, it is believed that their plan is to make their approach to Earth as stealthy as possible.  IS ran a projection based on what we were able to get, and said that it is going to be two to three months before they reach Earth’s orbit.  And that is why I have called all of you here.”
The lights came up again.  They could see the Fleet Admiral’s face plain as day, and it was a look of dead seriousness.
“I have called everyone here because I am going to be formally requesting that the UN give us leave to mobilize.  I have the ANNA and EU’s approval, now we just need the AUN and Asian block’s permission.  You all are in command of either the Fleets, or the central Colonial bases at Lagrange Point.  You are going to be the front line of what’s coming.  And I want you all to know what’s going to happen in the following days.  The Colonials have decided to make their move.  I don’t think it should be a shock to anyone that this was coming.  It’s been whispered about for months.”
An Italian Admiral raised her hand.  “Sir, if all of this is classified, then why are we being told about it?  This seems like something we could be open about.”
Conrad thought for a moment.  A good point.  But if they had gotten permission for mobilization and it wasn’t in the news, that meant…
“Because we aren’t going public with this knowledge.  The Fleet is mobilizing under the pretext that increased aggression with the Colonies has motivated us to move to seize control of several key sectors.  Not even a lie.  I am having the 1st and 3rd Fleet mobilize to L2 and L5, while the 2nd Fleet is going to divide its forces between the Natural Resource satellite bases and Luna.  Our statement is that this is to help keep the peace of the Colonies, as brushfire conflicts have broken out at all of those areas.  The public can think whatever they want about the actual reason.  The knowledge about the Colonial forces moving in cannot be made public.”
To keep the peace?
“War is coming.  It’s only a matter of time.  But the longer we can keep the peace, the more time we have to ready our defenses.”
The blonde Admiral looked up.  “Sir, do we have any intel on the enemy’s capabilities?  Is this gonna be another Pirate Colony?  Or do these people know what they’re doing?”
A long pause.
“We don’t know.  We have virtually no intel on the enemy, their forces, or their capabilities.  It will go down in history as the best-kept secret in all of human history.  The amount of resources, personnel, and secrecy required is genuinely impressive.  This must have taken years of work, and there wasn’t a single verifiable hole in their plan.  It scares the hell out of me, trust and believe.”
Nobody knew what to say.
“Everyone, head back to your commands and prepare to mobilize your forces.  I expect a declaration of war any week now.  But while they may have kept this from us, they will NOT catch us with our pants down.”  The man stood up, everyone standing up with him.
“That will be all.  Remember, this meeting is classified.”
As he left the room, everyone was very quiet.  It wasn’t a hustle and bustle of conversation that you’d expect after a meeting.  It was just people heading out.  The ominous tone had gone to a whole other level.  War.  Not a world war, but a war on an interplanetary scale.  The thing everyone had been fearing.  It was finally here.  In that moment, nobody knew what to say.

Until next time, a quote,

“War is fear cloaked in courage.” – William Westmoreland

Peace out,

Maverick

For Love of Tiger, and Family

Taking aim was easy.  The red hull of her target was easy to spot in the darkness.  The enemy was close enough to see.  Her copilot was taking care of their defense.  Now it was up to her to win the fight.  It was a challenge she was up to.  Precise aim.  A maneuverable enemy.  The flashing lights all around.  Such a fierce battle.  The Protectorate was putting up a good fight.  But the Directorate was pushing hard, and cracks were starting to appear in the armor of the enemy.  A defense line of countless battleships, fighters, bombers, armors, and even the asteroid that they were fighting at being turned into a fortress.  The sole base of a planet that was central the Protectorate’s ability to continue their war machine.  If they lost here, it was all over.
Focusing on her target, the red armor danced around with everything it had.  This pilot had skill.  But whoever it was, they knew that their time was running short.  She was right on them, and there was nowhere to run.  Sending out lances of particle beams, a smile grew on her face.
“Stop running and fight, you coward!”
One last particle beam, right into the leg of the enemy.  It blasted it open, sending the armor spiraling out of control.  Now she had it!  Aiming her cannon at the machine desperately trying to right itself, she changed firing mode.  Switching over to the physical ammunition, she send rounds right at the body.  Ripping open the synthetic muscle and machinery, it was a twisted mesh of red and black metal, with red circulator fluid flowing out like blood.  Then it struck the cockpit, and the enemy stopped moving.  A round straight through the cockpit, whoever the pilot was had to have been blown to bits.  Nothing but red chunks inside.
“Too bad he didn’t fight,” her copilot said.  “Maybe he would have lasted longer.”
She shook her head.  “He was dead before this started.  Just didn’t know it.”
On to find a new target.  That red color, with the black metal, it brought memories back.  Of speed, and who she used to be.  The memories were a harsh feeling.

The danger was unbelievable.  The track was suspended 200 stories up.  It was built on the most elaborate skyscraper of all time.  A palace for the opulent, who came to bet on the most dangerous race that has ever been.  If you fell from this place, you died.  It wasn’t a question of if.  It was a mathematical certainty.  There was no way to survive an impact from this height.  Fear was in the air with all the people with any sense.
To her, it made her feel alive.  When the light went green, and she slammed on the accelerator, this was everything she had dreamed of for so long.  The racers all blasted forward at speed that made you barely able to comprehend what you were saying.  A beautiful, sunny evening.  So much ambiance.  It was amazing.  Setting sunlight shimmered on the red paint on top of her racer.  Tiger was its name.  A racer that had passed down through her family for three generations.  Listening to her father talk about it with her and her brother, it was her legacy.  A legacy which stood with her now, as the machine blasted forward.
There was no guard rail.  Just gravity plating that kept them suspended and on the track.  Blasting forward, it was tight.  Every racer knew the score.  Whoever took this race took home the Platinum Cup.  The last race in the season.
Flying forward, she banked through turns.  This course was tight, and with no guard system, any onboard navigation assistance was good as useless.  She never turned that on anyway.  It was her racing skills that were going to carry this!  A voice in her ear, telling her about the track and the position of other racers.  Her crew.  Every racer had one.
A purple racer came up beside her.  It smashed into her side.  So that’s how this is!  She snarled and took the hit.  A turn was coming up.  It was trying to edge her out to get close to the edge and keep it tight on the inside.  Or push her off and kill her.
It made another move to edge her out, when she did the unthinkable.  Suddenly hitting the brakes, it aimed over, flying right off the edge.  That’s one piece of competition out.  Whoever that pilot was, he had a good 30 seconds to really think about how dumb that was.  Smashing the accelerator again, the g-forces hit her like a load of bricks.  A couple racers had pulled ahead, but no matter.  These guys were amateurs.  Hence why she had gotten ahead of them before.
Second lap, and now it was tighter.  The lead racer was a black and green machine.  It got into a bad battle with a very robust blue machine.  A muscle racer.  Not at all like hers.  Made for handling and speed, it wasn’t made to fight it out.  This could be trouble.  The green machine was made exclusively for handling, and had some muscle.  Enough that the two of them were fighting it out at the front.  Coming up behind them, she looked for an opening to make a pass.  Don’t play your hand yet.  Let them fight.  Let them damage one-another.  Her time would come.
That’s when it happened.  A yellow racer was taking the same approach as her.  It had an opening!  Right as she was going to pull ahead, the racer swung on the inside.  Not even made for handling, this tiny thing was built for speed alone.  A glass vehicle.  Taking a clear lead, she swore.  Now her chances were down.  Second place?  The second place purse was no slouch.
No!  This wasn’t how the legacy of the Tiger and her family was going to go down!  Third lap.  One more after this.  Green racer couldn’t handle the pressure anymore and decided to drop back and let the blue racer pull ahead.  Smart move.  The blue vehicle was a monster.  This track had so many turns, though.  Muscle vehicle had to sacrifice speed during the dangerous curves.  Got her closer.  But too close and it would turn its eyes on her.
Meanwhile, the yellow racer was losing some lead.  It didn’t have the handling to take these insane corners and risk falling off the edge.  This pilot was good, but not brave enough to go the distance.  Blue racer was much moreso.  These two were a risk.  At the top of the track again, now a winding way down for the final lap.  She knew this had to be it.  Either she would do something daring, or fail.
Seeing a curve ahead, with a path right below.  She knew what she had to do.  In a flash, she disengaged the gravity controls.  Her pit crew was screaming at her, but that didn’t matter.  This was it!  She steered right at the edge!  Able to hear the crew screaming, she began a swift descent almost straight down.  Seeing the endless abyss below, if she hadn’t timed this right, it was a fact that she’d be dead in 50 seconds.
“Fuck it!” she swore.  Hitting the accelerator, her boosters kicked on.  Just a little further!  Down further and further, then hit the gravity controls.  The machine damn-near smashed into the track, but she made it!  Dropping a Naseel Crystal into the engine, the machine roared back to life and took off with a mind of its own.  This was it!  No one even close to behind.  But that wasn’t enough.  Not just to win, but to fly through that finish line and have the entire Directorate seeing what a master she was at this race.
This level of g-force was crushing her chest.  It was blazing through her entire body.  If it wasn’t for the g-suit, this would surely be killing her.  Keeping the blood flowing.  The Tiger was barely able to be controlled.  It had a mind of its own!  The speed was beyond the ability of the cameras recording and broadcasting the race to keep up with.  Her pit crew was pissed at her.  Who gives a fuck?!  In that moment, she didn’t just feel alive.  She knew she was.
Last leg.  Blue fire coming out the back as the Crystal made its way through the engine liquid.  The final segment was the blaze down the last wall of the skyscraper.  A straight shot down.  So freaky to see the ground coming up at her so fast, but the gravity plating guided her up at the last second.  Through the finish line, blazing through in a way that blasted over all of the spectators and announcers there.  It was chaos!  Sliding in to the winner’s circle, her racer came to a stop.  Smoke and steam was pouring out of every single linking compartment.  The Crystal had done so much damage.  Pushed the machine well past what it was capable of handling.  She didn’t care.
Breathing so hard, the yellow and blue racer tied for second.  It was a perfect tie.  The judges couldn’t call it for either, so both had to be given the second place purse.  But the trophy and Champion’s purse went to her.  Opening the cockpit, she stumbled out and hit the plating, unable to stand.  Her pit crew ran to her side, helping her up.  Taking off the helmet, her ears were greeted to the thunderous applause of the crowd.  Everyone was in awe of what they had just seen.  Announcers could be heard saying this would go down in race history for both the most dramatic finish, and the most insane stunt ever pulled.  The name of the racer was being shouted into screens everywhere – Tiger.
In that moment, her father and brother could be put to rest.  It made her smile.

At the awards ceremony, the pilot of the yellow racer went over, eager to meet who had won.  This girl was so cute.  Naturally blonde hair, a product of genetic engineering.  Hadn’t been a natural blonde in three generations.  The girl gave her her number and told her to call.  Sounded like a good idea.  Why not celebrate with a gracious loser?  No point letting that perfect body go to waste.
At the end of the day, the pit crew was taking Tiger back to their base to begin repairs.  Everyone was talking about how after this they’d enjoy some time off.  No other races for months.  Heading up to the apartment above the garage, a voice called after her.
“Can we talk?” her chief mechanic said.
Looking over, she let out a sigh.  “Sure.”
Heading into the office, he poured her a cup of coffee.
“What the fuck was that today?”  It was clear there was barely-contained rage.
“What was what?”
“You know what I mean!  That stunt you pulled on the track!  What the fuck was that?!  Were you trying to get yourself killed?!”
She shrugged.  “It was the best way to get ahead.”
“Bullshit!  You could easily have waited and then used the Crystal to get a last boost on the final leg.  At that speed, you easily would have passed the two from where you were.”
“Maybe.  And maybe that muscle racer would have smashed me to bits as I tried it.”
“No way!  Nobody is that crazy.  Not at the speed you’d be going.  It would have fucked up both of your vehicles beyond repair.”
Another shrug.  “I guess we’ll never know, will we?”
“Spirits, woman!  If you’re looking for a way to die, there are much easier ones than this!”
Looking him right in the eye.  “I was looking for a way to win.  I just didn’t care that I was risking my life.”
“Yeah, and that scares the hell out of me!  There are a lot easier ways to kill yourself than this.  What if you had died?  What would happen to the Tiger?  It’s legacy would be the last racer in your family destroying it in a foolhardy stunt!”
A cold look.  “But it wasn’t!  Its legacy is to go down as the racer the won the Platinum Cup from a pilot who has no sponsors.  Tiger will go down in history!  So will I!  I should have died doing that.  Now, dozens of pilots are going to get themselves killed trying to outdo me.”
He walked away, shaking his head.  “And what will it be next time?  When the next race comes up, what insane stunt will you try?!”
Looking out the window.  “There won’t be another race.”
Genuine shock.  “What?!”
“I’m done.  Me and the Tiger are retiring.  I just did something that should have gotten me killed.  There’s nowhere else to go from this.  I can retire easy on the Champion’s purse, even after paying for repairs for Tiger.”  A little smile on her face.  “You gotta know when to bow out.  I’m gonna go out on top.  Forever have the respect my dad always wanted.  That’s fine by me.”
The mechanic thought for a moment.  “So it was go out on top or die?”
She nodded.  “Yeah, pretty much.”
“You’re insane, you know that?”
A little chuckle.  “I’d rather be known as insane than weak.”

Breaking the news to her crew wasn’t easy, but they took it better than she expected.  A lot of them liked the idea she had.  They would be known as the pit crew for the greatest racer who had ever been, on the best racer ever built.  That was a phenomenal thing to put on a resume.  They’d have no trouble finding jobs after this.
There was a fairly epic party planned to go out on.  Retirement for the now-legendary Tiger.  A call to the cute blonde who had given her her number.  Time for some fun?  Heading over, she took that woman and did things to her that she’d remember forever.  All fun and games.  Getting back home was hard.  Would she see her again?  Why not.  An offer was made for next time she was on this planet to come have some fun.
Saying goodnight to Tiger, it was a slog up the stairs.  The tiredness hit all at once.  Her head hit her pillow at what she assumed was mach five.

What woke her was the blast that sent her and her bed careening toward the wall.  The impact brought her to her senses in a millisecond.  What had happened?!  Getting to her feet on wobbly legs, she looked out the window to see impacts happening everywhere.  An attack?!  Who would attack the Directorate on a core world?!  It was madness!  Then the thought came to her – the Tiger!
Not even putting on pants, she went running toward the garage.  Slamming the sensor to open the door, she was greeted with flame pouring in.  Inside was a twisted mess of burning metal and destroyed parts.  No!  Peering through the burning metal, she saw Tiger.  Or at least what was left of it.  The last legacy of her father and brother.  All that remained of them now.  Tiger was torn up and burning.  It hurt her.  Charging into the fire to reach the last remnant of her family, using her jacket to try and wipe the flames away, she desperately ran to her machine.
The torn parts, broken glass, and hot oil on the floor was murder on her feet, but the pain didn’t register.  It was all about getting to the machine.  There had to be a way to save it!  Coming out of the fire, it was a clear path to it!  Like a demon possessed, she charged toward the cockpit.  The damaged was all on one side.  The one facing the exit that was blasted open.  Could it be saved?!  A dream.  The only dream that mattered.
Hitting the sensor, she brought her regular vehicle online.  All she had to do was hitch Tiger to it and get the hell out of here!  The seconds that the car came over were the longest in her life.  It came in, stopping right in front of her.  Grabbing the gravity tether from the back, she attached it to Tiger’s cockpit block.  Once it was secured to the back of the car, it was time to go!  Running for the entrance, time suddenly stopped.
She registered the rocket right as it impacted at the entrance.  The force hit her like bricks.  Lifting her off her feet, it was blind, stupid luck that she just happened to be right in front of the office door, which opened as soon as it detected her coming.  Sliding along the floor and smashing into the desk, her crumpled, broken body went unconscious.

Her eyes opened in a white room.  She looked over to see flowers on the table by the bed.  Were these real?  That sure was nice of whoever it was who bought them.  There was a screen playing the news.  It talked about something, but she couldn’t focus.  Mobilizing?  A call to action?  That was all so distant.  Black again.
When she woke up this time, there was a voice.  “The whole crew got this.  We had to dig through the rubble of the garage, but we got it.  Figured you’d want it here.”
Her eyes saw metal.  It was the Tiger’s insignia!  Why was that here?!  Where was Tiger?!  That’s when she realized, they had to dig through the rubble to get it.  Tiger was destroyed.  The legacy of her family, destroyed.  Pain gripped her heart, agonizing.  Then she was out.  In her mind, there was a little voice – the people who did this are going to pay!  Oh yes, they would pay.

Three weeks later, she stood at the entrance to the Directorate Naval Enlistment Office.  Still with a limp from the work they had done to fix her legs, she walked inside.
A young man in uniform sat there.
“May I help you?”
“I’d like to know who I talk to about signing up.”
“That would be me.”  His eyes went wide.  “I know you!  You’re-”
“So it’s you I need to talk to.  Good.  I’d like to enlist.  Figure you need pilots.”  The anger was a dull, burning rage.  On her arm, there was a tattoo.  It was the Tiger’s insignia, with a line underneath.

Kill Everyone Now

Until next time, a quote,

“Kill everyone now!  Condone first degree murder!” – Divine, Pink Flamingos

Peace out,

Maverick

Women Should Be Discouraged From Serving in the Military…?

I saw this rather terrible review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi that made me cringe a little.  It hated the movie as much as I did, but their reasons for hating it were just ridiculous.  It made these huge assertions about what the film promotes that just blow my mind.  I hate the film because it is a dumpster fire that butchers Luke’s character, has the biggest Mary Sue ever, and decided that instead of making a film that follows the plot from the last film, it is going to just go its own way.  Along the way we’ll get Leia Poppins and Tumblrina captain.  Great work.

But the video I mentioned had this weird contention that it said The Last Jedi was promoting – the idea that more women need to join the military, which the maker of the video said is wrong because women are weaker than men, on average.  To be fair, biologically that is true.  We are a sexually dimorphic species, and women are weaker than men on average.  Here’s the thing – how does this invalidate the idea that women should serve in the military?

One of my favorite women joined up with the Navy last year.  She is going into intelligence work, and her stories about life in the military fascinate me to no end.  Just makes me wonder what might of been had I not busted my skull open when I was 14.  I am immensely proud of her, and listening to her talk about her career with the military never stop being interesting.  She was telling me one day how she read an article about how the Navy SEALS were letting women join up.  She was skeptical of this for one simple reason – the physical requirements to be a SEAL are insane.  She broke it down for me, and to hear about that told me that unless these women were Olympians who train every day for it, the odds that they will meet the physical requirements to get past the initial phase that weeds out those who can’t measure up is ridiculous.  What’s more, she expressed the desire to not see the Navy lower their standards for women, because to be a SEAL, you need the physical conditioning that they require.  I totally get that.

Here’s what bothers me about this idea that women should not join the military – does this guy think that people see female soldiers as Black Widow from the Marvel films?  Yeah, in the regard it sounds ridiculous.  Seeing a woman who weighs very little taking on a ton of guys who would throw her against a wall is kind of silly.  But here’s the thing – that’s fiction.  And anyone with sense knows that.  Real combat, especially in the modern era, is so much different.  The reality is that you will hardly ever see combatants like in a CoD game shooting each other at damn-near point blank range.  In war you typically have combatants exchanging fire over huge amounts of distance and firing a ton of shots with very few hitting home.  Real war is messy, and complicated.  This isn’t Hollywood, and people know this.

But when you hear stories about the Kurdish women fighting ISIS and scoring real victories against them, or how women in Eastern Europe are forming militias that can stand up under fire, it really makes this argument that women should be discourage from serving not only sound kind of stupid, but more than a little sexist.  Can’t wait to see who calls me an SJW for that.  I said that an opinion someone has is sexist.  It’s true.  And I believe it too.  This guy is a sexist idiot who can’t look at reality and see that things are not as simple as rejecting the stereotypes in Hollywood.

Now look, I do firmly believe that the military shouldn’t lower their standards for women.  If you want to serve in a combat role, then you damn well should prove that you can measure up.  That’s only fair.  Demands for those roles are high, and those who want to take on that responsibility should have to prove themselves.  But while there are going to be less women up to the task than there are men, I whole-heartedly know that such women exist.

The real thing that irks me about the attitude of that guy is that that is part of the reason that the military has such a huge problem with sexual assault.  Sex crimes in the military is a fucking epidemic.  I can’t disclose what I have been told about what they tell women who join up behind closed doors about how to protect themselves, but it is scary stuff. Now granted, there are plenty of guys in the military who have just as much respect for the women they serve with as men.  But it’s like the cops.  You have a job that promotes gung-ho male toughness, you’re gonna get a lot of dumb-shit masculine guys with more penis blood than brain blood.

But the tide may be turning.  Now that women are being allowed into combat roles, things might get better.  For the women looking to serve, just make sure when you go places, you never go alone.  Build up a network of people you can trust.  It’s only smart.  See, unlike the people who say we need to tell men not to rape, I tell you to take sensible precautions because you are in a field where there are plenty of guys who only think with their cocks and leave their morals at the door.

I honestly would love to see the guy who made that video say that shit to one of the Kurdish women fighters.  They’d probably punch him in the dick.

Until next time, a quote,

“We have women in the military, but they don’t put us on the front lines.  They don’t know if we can fight, if we can kill.  I think we can.  All the general has to do is walk over to the women and say, ‘you see the enemy over there?  They say you look fat in those uniforms.'” – Elayne Boosler

Peace out,

Maverick

The Night Before Deployment

They gave me a new uniform.  It was so strange, to be looking at myself in uniform again.  The worst part was getting my hair cut.  Looking at myself, with hair like a pixie doll, it was strange.  I spent years growing that hair out long.  It had become part of my identity.  But I was a pilot too.  That’s how it goes.  The bucket hat that I was wearing, in this black getup, made me feel powerful again.  Getting into uniform was fun.  I was glad that somebody remembered that my hips are wider than other girls.  Jack used to joke that I was “a white girl with a big black booty.”  Always acted annoyed, but you can’t fight the way your body is made.  It has only been an inconvenience when getting pants and getting into uniform.  G-suits are made to squeeze around a body, so they fit loosely when you first put them on, then tighten when you hit the sensor.  Since men and women pilot, they knew to keep the design open to different body types.  I respect that.
Pinning the last of my medals and rank identifiers on my chest and arms, I was ready to face him.  Jack was sitting in the other room.  He told me he was stoked to see what I look like in uniform.  The old uniform I had was blue, back in my days serving alongside the Earth Forces Navy.  My outfit was the part of a special Colonial section.  This new uniform was black, with red on the trim.  It was imposing, and a sign of Colonial solidarity.  The fatigues were black as well, but without the red.  I would have to wear those on the ship.  Told Jack I would model them for him next.
“Geez, honey, you ever coming out of there?”
Snapped back to reality, I groaned.  “You try putting on a uniform and tell me how quickly it goes.”
“Don’t know if I would fit in yours, babe.  Care to find out?”
I rolled my eyes, but still felt good.  He was trying to be positive, so I didn’t worry.  I love him so much.  The idea of leaving him to go fight in a war, it scared the fuck out of me.  But then I remember what it was like, watching that Colony explode when the Earth Forces attacked.  What if that had been here?  What if Jack had been one of the bodies that I saw floating up into space?  Couldn’t breathe, couldn’t handle the thought.  That is why I am fighting.  If there was a chance that I could watch the man I love be that person…no, I wouldn’t.  I will fight, as hard as I possibly can, to keep him safe.  He’s my man.  Mine.  No planetside fuck is going to take him away from me.  I laced up my dress boots, straightened my hat, and walked out.
The look on his face, mouth agape, made me blush a little.
“That good, huh?”
He smiled at me, raising his Band and snapping a pic.  “You fucking know it!  Holy shit, babe!  You look incredible!”  Getting up he came over.  Looked me over, felt weird.  Then he ran his hand over the name insignia on my chest.
“Pilot Barnes.  Awesome.  That uniform is so fucking hot on you.”
“A pity it’s a dress uniform.  Wouldn’t mind being peeled out of it.”
A wink.  “Well, maybe we’ll get to find out what that’s like yet, Pilot.”
“Yes sir!”
“Now, go change into your fatigues, Pilot!  I want to see how it looks!”
I snap to attention.  “Sir!”
Heading back into the bathroom, he pinches my ass.  I wheel around, looking indignant, but he just grabs me and kisses me.  This commanding officer role-play could be fun.  He seems to be enjoying himself.  Plus, given how nervous I feel, this makes me feel a lot better.
“Snap to, Pilot.”
“Yes sir,” I whisper, pulling back.

Back in the bathroom, I am very gentle about removing the dress uniform.  Not going to risk it getting wrinkled.  You wouldn’t believe it, but proper folding is something you learn in basic.  Among all sorts of nit-picky bullshit about the service.  I hang the uniform back up, and then turn to see where my fatigues are sitting on the counter.  It’s then that I catch sight of the implant modulator.  Like most women, I have an implant that I use as birth control.  I can automatically refill it.  It is dry.  Jack and I had been talking about having a baby for months.  Looking down at my hand, I see the engagement ring.  The wedding was supposed to be during the summer cycle.  We had it planned out that we could celebrate being pregnant at the same time as getting married.  Cut down on celebrations.  So many friends had already asked if I was carrying.  No luck yet.  But things had changed.  Now I was back on active duty.
I couldn’t risk getting pregnant now.  Taking out the modulator, I insert the end into skin where my implant is.  Part of me feels real shame.  Not only was I putting my wedding on hold, I was putting all of our plans on hold.  Even if we won the war, how long would I still be on active duty?  When would we get another chance to start a family?  It killed me inside, but it is what it is.  A pop, and the birth control injection is complete.  Another three years where I don’t have to worry about getting periods or having babies.  I’m sorry, Jack.  I’m so sorry.
Getting my mind back on more positive things, I open up my fatigues.  The pattern, so familiar, but just in different colors.  My name is on these as well.  Much easier to put on than my dress uniform, I slip in.  Should get into the issued-underwear.  That’s right, you have uniform underwear in the military.  It’s weird.  And a touch uncomfortable.  Oh well.  I’m doing this outfit, and I want to do it right.  Once I get everything situated, again I look at myself in the mirror.  It’s so strange.  This is some other girl.  Some girl I don’t know.  We’re just meeting for the first time.
“Hey you,” I say into the mirror.  “What’s your name?”  The girl just stares back at me.
“You say something, B?”
“No.  Just mumbling to myself.”  This girl and I would get very close, very soon.

I step out of the bathroom, and once again he is in awe.  Takes a pic on his Band, then sits on the edge of the bed.
“You look incredible.”
“Thanks.”
His eyes pierce right through me.  “You scared, babe?”
Don’t want to admit the truth, but I can’t lie to him.  “Yeah, I am.”
Then came a response I didn’t expect, “so am I.”
I look at him in shock.
“It’s not that I don’t think you’re a good pilot.  I know you are.  You’re gonna kick ass out there.  But wars are complicated.  All it could take is one thing going wrong and the wrong time.  Of course I’m scared.”
“Doesn’t help that if we lose, I’ll probably be taken to a military prison.  Or at the very least, lose my wings.”
“Yeah…”
We are there in silence for some time.
Finally, he looks up at me.  “Come here.”
Quietly, I obey.  He suddenly grabs my arm and throws me down onto the bed.  Pinning my arms above me, He gets on top of me.  My breathing is so fast.
“All we have is tonight.  At 0400, you head out, right?”
“Yeah.”
“Then let’s peel out of this uniform!”
A grin comes to my face.  “Yes sir!”

I wake up in his arms.  Naked, sticky, with my uniform and regulation underwear all over the room.  That was incredible.  I haven’t had sex like that in years.  Jack was an animal, but not once did I take issue.  All we had was tonight, and he made the most of it.  Still a little tingly.  Guess the orgasm didn’t fade just yet.  Ride the high, as it were, right?  Girls have it so much better than guys in this regard.  Pleasure is a different thing for women than men.  Get us into enough of a mood, and every part of our body is basically like a sex organ.  Our entire body becomes sensitive and reactive.  Erogenous zones become a none-issue.  That’s what happened to me just now.  Amazing.
Still, I won’t be able to go back to sleep.  Gotta do something.  Maybe a run will help.  I grab a quick shower, to get the sticky off.  Some places are just going to stay sticky for a while.  Can’t get up in there.  But it still feels good.  I throw on a tanktop, sweats, and my Colonial Navy sweater.  They gave us exercise clothes too.  Thought of everything.  Lace up my shoes, then head out.  It’s still cool.  The weather cycle is still in the morning.  I see my breath in the recycled air.  Still dark, too.  The night-time filter is still active.
I take off.  Moving at a gentle pace, the rhythm of running helps to calm my nerves.  It feels so good.  As I move down the dimly-lit pavement, I think about what Jack said.  He’s right.  Wars are unpredictable.  Anything can go wrong.  Everyone keeps telling me what a kick-ass pilot I am.  They might be right.  But I can’t go allowing myself to think that way.  The moment that I allow myself to start thinking that way is the moment I die.  I’ve watched far too many pilots get swept up by their own ego.  They stopped being cautious and careful.  And they paid the price for their arrogance.
Each step, I can’t help but notice that I am heading toward a destination – the port.  Why?  It then hits me – there is someone else that I need to say goodbye to.  A girl that I am not going to be seeing for a very long time.  Depending on how this plays out, maybe ever again.

She’s right where I left her.  The marks from where I was dodging impacts are still there.  Time was, I would already be here, around the time that I will be heading out, working on getting her back up to shape.  I’ve had some dangerous run-ins with meteors and other space weather.  Since the only person who touches my bird, outside of the crew who does replacements of hull plating, is myself, I took repairs very seriously.  Would test the girl after I was done, just to make sure everything was running smoothly.  Part of me couldn’t wait to be doing that to my new bird, whatever it would be.
My rig looked very sad, sitting there.  Like a wounded pet that you have to abandon.  That’s how I felt.  Like my dog got hurt and I had to leave it for a few years.  Yeah, kind of felt like a piece of shit.
“I’ll make sure she’s here waiting for you, when you get back.”
I turned and saw Red, standing there.
“I knew you’d come in to say goodbye to her.  I don’t care if we are back-logged to the point that ships have to wait outside, I won’t be moving her.  Hand to god.”
Walking over, I put my hand on his big, old, bushy beard.  “Thanks, Red.  But I don’t know when I’ll be back to see her.”
“Don’t matter to me.  If you never show up again, she’ll be right where you left her.  So long as I’m tending this dock, that’s how it will be.  And I’ll make sure that whoever replaces me knows it too.  The Queen Bee ain’t goin’ nowhere!  But I know you’ll be coming back.  Might be parking a fighter next to your girl, but you’ll be back.”  His big, gentle smile from beneath the gray hair.
I hug him tight.  “Take care of yourself, Red.”
“You too, Queen Bee.  Go kick ass out there!  Make those planetside bastards pay for the lives they’ve taken.”
Pulling back, I nod.  Time to get back home.  It will be a much longer jog back.

When I arrive, I see that the lights are on.  A familiar scent greets me as I get to the door.  What a man, I have.  A miner, and a cook.  When this is all over, he’s going to make one hell of a father.  That’s the plan.  After the war, no more modulation of the implant.  I want a baby with him.  First thing after I get back, we get married.  Then, we get pregnant.
Opening the door, he looks up at me.  “Welcome home, B.”

Until next time, a quote,

“Do your duty as you see it, and damn the consequences.” – George S. Patton

Peace out,

Maverick