My Bloody Nightmare

The buildings are all made of white stone.  It’s so beautiful to look at, if it wasn’t for what i had to see.  Cobbled stonework on the streets.  It’s a maze of narrow pathways which my feet are running through.  Tripping, stumbling over things, or my own two feet.  My balance has been terrible since my head injury.  Narrow roads, narrow stairs, narrow doors, all shut tight.  Star shimmering above, and a bright moonlight out.  In any other reality, this would be beautiful.  But not in this one.  Not for me.  It’s horrifying.  I’m trapped in Hell.

Tripping again, looking up, I see a girl.  A look of gut-wrenching terror on her face, with her belly torn open and her innards strewn about.  It almost looked like she was trying to put things back in.  What could have done this?  Have to get up.  Have to keep moving.  I can feel something approaching, and I don’t want to be there when it arrives.  All that matters is getting out of this place.

A maze of narrow corridors, with awning overhead that are grown over with vines.  Is there no way out of here?!  I bang on doors, try to open any of them, but they are either locked, or destroyed.  Fire is pouring out of a window.  Turn a corner, blood everywhere.  Like a person was standing there and just exploded.  Viscera leaking down the beautiful white stone.  This can’t be real.  It has to be a bad dream.  But it feels so real.

There’s the wind on my face.  It’s warm.  So warm.  Salty.  A sea breeze!  That means there’s an ocean!  I have to get there.  Follow the scent, get to the sea, then get the fuck out of here.  That presence I’ve been feeling, it’s getting closer.  I know that it is.  Something is very wrong here, and I can’t be here when it decides to come knocking.

Turning the corner again.  An open area between several buildings.  Three ways to go.  Which one is it?!  That’s when I see something.  A little boy, couldn’t be more than six or seven.  He’s ripped in half, with one half in one place, the other far away.  Did something throw the pieces of this poor kid away?  Like he was a piece of trash.  What sort of person could do this?!  But it couldn’t be a person.  I know that.  This is too violent.  Too ugly.  Some kind of beast had done this.  Claw marks all over the cobbled stone streets.  I know I’m right.  I always am.

Finally, I decide to pick a direction.  If I stop running, whatever did this will catch up.  The presence feels even closer now.  It’s gaining on me!  Everything in my body is aching.  My breath is pouring out with such excruciating pain, like the bellows.  But I can’t stop.  Tripping again.  Over a head!  A young woman, with beautiful black hair.  Eyes wide in fear, like the other.  Pushing myself up, I see a man’s body through the window.  It’s got no head, with blood leaking out of the stump facing me.  So horrible.  What kind of creature would do this?  Was I the only one left?

Going faster and faster.  The smell of the breeze is getting closer.  I can feel it now!  Hope, at last.  Just a little bit, but it’s enough.  All I need to keep moving.  More blood.  It’s everywhere.  Pieces of bodies all over the place.  Slip on an organ, but keep on my feet.  Then I see where a man’s body lies.  He is holding an ax.  Was he trying to fight the creature?  Clearly he lost.  Front ripped open from head to pelvis.  It’s like a dissection from the front.  Can’t stay here.  A little further, and a woman also on the ground.  Was that man trying to save them?  Did he try and fight to buy them time?  There’s a giant hole in her head, like from where a claw would go into, so clearly that failed.  Then the worst of it comes to light.  The body of a little girl.  Looking like she was chomped down on, with the top part missing.  From the chest up, gone.

Now my path is taking me up stairs.  Up?!  That isn’t where I want to go.  But I can’t turn around.  If I do, I’m heading closer to whatever did this, not further.  No choice but to go on this road.  A window covered in blood, from the inside.  Whoever was in there is dead now.  Old, coagulated blood.  What happened to this place?  Up and up and up, with more blood and ripped open bodies.  My body is screaming at me, 1000 promises of pain and horror.  Have to keep going!  Can’t stop!

Then I get to the top of the path, and I see that I’m on a roof.  There’s a cliff in front of me, with the water down below.  Should I jump?  No way.  That water would turn to a concrete floor by the time I land.  But there’s nowhere else to go.  I’m trapped.  Turning, I see across this white stone city.  Smoking coming up, fires burning without anyone to stop them, signs of dead bodies all over.  Was the entire city dead?!  How could a creature do this much damage?!

A noise.  Crashing, smashing, moving.  Claws on stone, slashing at everything.  It was getting close.  Coming up the stairs, faster and faster.  It knew that its quarry wasn’t far.  I could almost feel the giddiness from it, as it was going to get another meal.  Happily bounding toward me, and all I could think about was how fucked I am.  It rounds a corner, and I see hanging from it’s long, spear-like claws are bodies.  Little bodies that are torn open.  It holds its hand up to its head and bites down.  Blood drips down.

There are no words to describe this creature.  I could only see it’s silhouette.  Tall, in a way I had never seen before.  It stood like a man, with such long, gangly arms, along with gangly legs.  It was lanky.  Head, smooth, with a grotesque smile on its face.  On each hand was long, thin, bladed fingers.  Each finger had a new disgusting nightmare of flesh.  Most of it was dead.  There was one that wasn’t fully.  Writhing, trying to get away.  A young man with a look of horror on his face.  No escape for him.  Just horrifying death and pain.  I felt for him.

Now it was after me.  I could see the look in its eyes.  I was its next victim, and there was nothing I could do.  Looking back, at the sea.  The only way out.  There was literally nowhere else to go.  I could jump and die, or get ripped to pieces by that thing and die.  The choice basically made itself.  I turned back, chuckling to myself, then flipped that fucker off.  That’s when I jumped.

In a flash, it was rushing forward.  I was falling, fast.  Like a stone, headed to the floor.  It’s long, sick arm reached out for me, but as it tried to stab with one of it’s sick fingers, Lady Luck smiled upon me.  I had gone too far.  It screamed in rage as all it could do was watch.  Now I turned to face the water, coming up with speed.  This was it.  I would die.  At least not the way all these people had.

Then, as I hit the water, I wake up.

Until next time, a quote,

“Monsters don’t sleep under your bed.  They sleep inside your head.” – Anonymous

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

A Sad Dream

I had a dream the other night.

It’s late, and I’m in my old house.  The one I grew up in, for the bulk of my life when I was young.  A three story house that my old man built almost entirely by himself.  No joke, he actually did.  Took a few years, but he got it done.  Wicked impressive.  Sucks to see what’s become of the joint now.
Growing up, I always was up early.  Made the old man happy.  I greeted each day with him.  In the morning, in the summer, I remember the damp air.  Birds calling, waking up.  Mosquitoes at my screen over my window.  I remember all of that.
In the dream, I’m waking up in that house.  But I’m not little kid me.  I’m the older version.  To grown up one.  During the summer up here, the sun never really sets.  It can get super dim, but it never becomes truly night.  There is a sound.  It’s the phone ringing.  The old phone with the cord on the wall.  But it was still me as a grown-up in that place, even though that was an eternity ago.  My room was just across from the kitchen in that place.  The phone was on the wall adjoining the kitchen and dining room.
I stumble out of my room and pick it up.
“Hello?”
“Hey, you idiot.”
“C?  Babe, it’s early.”
There’s this pause.  “I know.  I’m sorry.  Just wanted to hear your voice, you know?  I don’t know if I’ll get another chance.”
I’m confused. “Another chance for what?”
“To ask you a question.”
“What question?”
The pause hangs in the air so hard, so long.
“Are you happy?”
Pain grips my heart.  I try to hide it from my voice.  “I get by.”
“That’s not an answer.”
She always had a gift at cutting through my bullshit.  “I know.  Sorry.”
“Just tell me.  I won’t be mad.  Are you happy?”
Now it’s my turn for a pregnant pause.  “No, C.  I’m not.  It’s been so hard.  I miss you every day.”
Can almost feel her sadness.  “I know.  I’m so sorry, Lu.”
Shake my head.  “Why?  It’s my fault.  If we hadn’t been fighting, you wouldn’t have left that night.”
“I don’t blame you.”
“I started that fight.”
“Yeah, but it ain’t I didn’t have it coming.  I fucked up.”
The two of us sat there, not saying anything for a while.
“Wish I could be where you are.  Apologize to you in person.”
“I know.  But you can’t.  Not now, anyway.  You gotta keep going.”
“Why?  Life sucks, C.  I’m not going anywhere.  I’m all alone here.  Everyone has ditched me.  Went off to their own fucking lives or don’t like me anymore.  Or I drove them away because I didn’t learn anything and fucked up their lives.”
“She doesn’t feel that way.  Hell, she was enabling you just as much as you were making her life more difficult.  She’s a grown-up too, and has to take responsibility for her own bad decisions.  So do I, I guess.”
“Yeah, but you won’t.  You’re not here anymore.”
“Sure.  But you don’t actually know that there’s nothing after this.”
“No reason to think there is.”
“Maybe it’s on another worldline.  Like us, right now.”
“Is that what this is?”
“Why not?  It could be.  There’s no way to know for sure.”
I smile to myself.  Takes me back to some of our old arguments.  Hours spent arguing about the nature of existence.  It’s good stuff.
“Is apologizing a waste of time?”
The pain grips me again.  “No.  I don’t think so.”
“Okay.  I’m sorry, Lucien.  I fucked up.  I drove you away.  Forgive me?”
Had to think about that.  “Sure.  I’m tired of being mad, C.”
“I know you are.  I love you.”
“Love you too.”
“Bye.”
“Wait!  C, don’t go!  Don’t hang up.”
“I have to, Lu.  You’re gonna wake up, in your worldline.”
“I don’t want to wake up there anymore.  I don’t want to go back to that dead-end job and my dead-end life.  Please don’t make me hang up.  Stay.  Please.”
“Wish I could.  I really do.  Get a chance to fix what went wrong.  What I fucked up.  Bye, Lucien.”
“C, don’t go!”
That was when I wake up.

She used to tell me about how reality is countless universes running parallel to one-another.  That each universe exists on different worldlines.  She genuinely believed that in dreams, we can occasionally see onto those worldlines.  Part of me always thought that was just silly pseudo-science.  But nights like that, I wonder.  I miss her all the time.

Until next time, a quote,

“Why are you crying, sweetheart?”
“Because you’re not real.” – Chloe Price, Life is Strange: Before the Storm

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

There Might Be Death

Incoming signals!  So many.  She couldn’t track them all.  Too much input.  This truly was a massive battle.  Protectorate forces were looking to hold their ground here.  No shock.  This natural resource satellite was central to this planet’s defense.  If it fell, their ability to defend this world would likely fall.  It was a battle of will, since the enemy had this entire asteroid fortified and was ready to fight.
Bringing the combat sensors up and her weapons online, Quinn shifted the Killer Bee into combat form.  It was time to fight!  Kate was clicking away on the shield, getting everything ready.  This was going to be one hell of a battle.  All around them, other pilots were shifting.  Vyse was already prepped to go.  No surprise.  The oldest pilot in the Fleet, but still every bit the ace he was when he was younger.  Enemy signals were off the damn chart!
“All armors, the mission is to keep the enemy defenders occupied so our bombers can punch a hole through their defenses.  Understood?!” the Flight Lieutenant asked.
“Aye-aye!” all responded.
Turning off the audio to the rest of the squadron, Quinn smiled.
“Now the fun gets started!”
“Damn right!  Enemy armors incoming!  There are enough of them where we can pick our target and go,” Kate replied.
Immediately she turned to a tight-knit group of armors.  Their proximity was weird.  Why are they so close together?  Anyone knew to stagger and keep distance to avoid not only friendly fire, but what she was about to do.  Bringing her rockets up, she locked on to the whole bunch.  In a split-second, she let loose the barrage.  Even if only 70% of the rockets hit home, they were going to kill every single one of these idiots.  This is amateur stuff.  Lancing lights into the dark void, almost every one of them hit home.  It was a beautiful spectacle that glowed, killed, then disappeared into the void.
Why would pilots be making this kind of amateur mistake?  That was too easy.
Kate could hear her mind.
“They must be desperate for pilots, so they are getting whoever can operate an armor.”
Unbelievable.  Such a senseless waste of lives.  Kids who had never seen actual combat being thrown into a meat grinder.  Looking around, that’s what it was.  Their forces were really making short work of them.  But sheer numbers were having the desired effect.  They would take down ten, only for twenty to take their place.  Quinn suddenly knew what she had to do.  Bringing her close-range blades and guns online, she blasted the Killer Bee off as fast as it would go, into the beehive they had kicked up.
It was such brutal fighting.  Cutting the enemy down, while they seemed barely able to respond.  Every time one of them would go down, the rest would try and back off.  Had they just put the kids in a pilot’s seat and told them which button would shoot?!  What made all of this more unfortunate was the fact that these armors were top of the line.  It looked like they were fresh off the showroom floor.
As before, the numbers were the biggest problem.  They had kicked up a massive hornet’s nest here, and Directorate forces were feeling the heat.  Some Protectorate forces were just rushing them knowing that most of them would be blown to bits but knowing at least one of them would get through to strike a blow on their enemy.  It led to some horrifying suicide runs.
They’re throwing their lives away, Quinn heard in her head.  It was true.  This was such a senseless waste of life.  Their processing system couldn’t make heads or tails of it.  So many enemies that being able to factor in all the combat options was impossible.  Had the enemy done this deliberately?
The view was almost beautiful for how ugly this battle was.  Lances and ribbons of light everywhere.  Rocket explosions on all sides.  The shimmering everywhere in this grim starlight was kind of tragic.

Far from the battle, Capt. Eramire and her XO watched the battle and were in awe of how horrible this was.  It was a battle that was going nowhere.  They had launched several bombardments of rockets, but the enemy just kept coming!  Their close-range guns were tasked to capacity as they had enemies making suicide runs against them.  She wanted to give orders to her subordinates, but there was nothing they could do.  Sending the bombers now would be suicide.  There was a stalemate that was reached simply because this enemy wouldn’t flee.  Nowhere to go.  It was fight or die.
In the back of her mind, she wondered what gave them this kind of determination.  Had these pilots been told that the Directorate was going to glass the planet or something?  That is ridiculous.  Whatever drove them to fight like this, she would likely never know what it was.
A signal from the D.S.N. Cold Calculation
“Are you seeing this?!” the Captain of the vessel asked.
“Yeah.  I’m not sure what to do.  If we send the bombers in now, they’ll be blasted to pieces.  The enemy doesn’t seem to care how many of their people they kill.  And I can’t move my ship in closer because that would send us even more into that maw.  We are barely keeping our weapons going as it is.”  The tactical side of her was frustrated beyond reason.
A pause.  “Alright, somebody’s gotta make the call.  My cruiser is already damaged from the lead-in with their Fleet in Operation Sledgehammer.  I’m gonna punch a hole.”
Realizing what this guy was talking about.  “That’s suicide!  They’ll send themselves right at your guns!  By the time you’re close enough to do damage to the enemy, you won’t be able to attack.”
“I know.  But I can smash this ship into the enemy and take a couple of ships with me.  That’ll open a hole in their defenses.”
It was already coming down to ships having to make a suicide run?  This battle was a clusterfuck in the highest sense of the word.
“Okay.  Good hunting.”
“You too, Violent Retribution.  Make sure it was noted how insane I am for future captains to learn something.”
She chuckled.  “Aye-aye.  Kick ass.”
“That’s the plan.  Over and out.”  The line went dead.  Everyone saw the engines on the other ship powering up and it started its approach.
“Captain, the enemy is converging on them!” the helmsman reported.
Opening a channel to their Battle Group.  “Attention all ships, one of our own is making a run at the enemy to try and open a hole.  The enemy is going right for them!  Train all your guns to clear as much of a path as you can!  Let’s see if we can at least clear some firing vector for them.”
Within seconds, all of the nearby ships were having their artillery aim right in the immediate path of the Cold Calculation.
“All armors, that goes for you as well!  Let’s clear the road for this idiot!”
“Aye-aye!”

Vyse was dealing with so many enemies.  He could barely tell up from down anymore.  It was taking all of his maneuvering skill to keep away from the swarm of enemies that were making a beeline at him.  This strategy was brilliant in its simplicity.  He didn’t have the shield of the Killer Bee.  His kinetic barrier was already falling apart.  A few more hits and it would collapse completely.
Taking a pot-shot that took down two of them, he got the call to assist a ship that was making a run to punch a hole.  How could he do that?!  His sensors were barely able to keep track of where he was, much less where this ally was.  This was madness.  Using the debris from fallen enemies and a frigate that got ripped apart in the original volley, he knew that something had to be done.  Age wasn’t helping in this battle.  Vyse could feel it catching up to him.  He was tired.  It made him angry.  I am not going to let being the oldest man out here stop me!
In that moment, he had some bravery.  Time to take a page from Quinn’s book.  Engaging his close-range blades, he stopped dodging and went right at the swarm.  Slicing and dicing right through them, he cut the remainder of the swarm to pieces.  Every last pilot in there either had their armor disabled or destroyed.  Most of them were likely dead.  Such a waste of life.
He saw Killer Bee making for their objective.  She may be crazy, but Quinn still followed orders.  She just saw fit to break ranks whenever she saw a chance to do something crazy.  The rest of their squadron was coming as well.  Ivaline, Jared, Mako, all forming up alongside them.  No sign of the Flight Lieutenant.  Their wing would have to form on him.
“Alright, we need to punch a hole!  The enemy is likely going to use the same tactics they have on us to go after the ship we’re protecting.  We’re gonna have to get a little creative.  We have to hit these guys right in front of the damn thing.  It’s speeding up, so this is gonna get hairy.  Everyone got it?”
Quinn could be heard laughing.  “This is nuts!  I love it!  Roger that, LT!”  Killer Bee blasted off.  This was going to get messy.  Why was the Protectorate throwing kids into a meat grinder?  Was there no one else to get?

Flying in, Quinn saw the huge silhouette coming towards them.  This cruiser looked so much bigger from this angle.  Her particle cannon cut down a couple enemies, then her close-range cannons blasted through the barrier of another and tore it to shreds.  She knew what they had to do.  Hitting her boosters as fast as she could, she sent the thought to Kate that she would have to make sure to feed her data on enemy position.  They’d have split-second timing to get targets as they moved.
Flying through space, dodging wreckage from armor and busted ships, their particle cannons came online.  Like gun-fu in movies, she was targeting and blasting in so many directions, all without losing momentum.  Jets of yellow light going out all over.  In front of the cruiser that looked like swiss cheese with blue lights trailing after it.  It was so quite something.
Just then, an enemy got brave.  It flew right at her, using wreckage to mask its approach or avoid her fire.  It got right within striking distance.  Kate was frantically pressing away to bring the shield up, but it was right in front of them!  At this range, there wasn’t much they could do.  The enemy pulled out their blades.  Right as it was about to strike, a lance of light went right down from their head.  Quinn and Kate both looked to above their position.  Vyse’s unit flew by.  The two heard his laughter over the comm.
“You gotta pay more attention, ladies!”
“Screw you!” they said in unison.  If this system was good for one thing, it made them damn-near finish each other’s sentences.
“It’s screw you, Flight Lieutenant to you, ladies.”
“Acting Flight Lieutenant!” they again shouted in unison.  This synchronization was perfect.  There were days that the two didn’t know if they were two people or one when they used this machine.  They could feel each other’s thoughts and actions as if it was their own.  So strange.
“Hey guys, they’re coming into range of the enemy ships!  It’s time we get out of here!” Mako said.
“Good thinking.  Everyone, we got them in.  Fall back to our ships.  Let’s see the fireworks.”

From the bridge of the Violent Retribution, Eramire watched.  They’d done it.  All of the ships had stopped firing.  Cold Calculation was out of the range of their guns.  It was headed right for a Battleship-class vessel.  It’s guns were tearing through the hull, but they kept on going.  Zoomed in on the monitor, their ship looked so beaten.  Like the kid who is going up against the bully after the bully has turned their face into hamburger.  It was admirable.
Then, for that split-second, it smashed into right into the hull of the enemy.  Didn’t even slow down.  A sudden flash of blue light, growing larger and larger.  The core was detonated!  So the plan wasn’t just to smash into them, it was to blow them up.  So he actually was talking about punching a hole in their defenses.  The explosion tore the battleship to giant chunks of white-hot metal.  Bet they never saw that coming.
“All ships!  Concentrate fire on that area!  Take out all the nearby vessels!  Let’s widen that hole!”
From there the stars lit up with huge beams of particle energy and javelin torpedoes.  The armors got out of range.  The enemy armors were falling back.  They knew that something bad had just happened.  But the fight wasn’t over.  Likely they would form a new defense line closer to the resource satellite.  It was a smart strategy.  Would give them time to regroup.  Several more ships were destroyed in the barrage.  The hole was widened.  Their defense line was falling apart.  More and more ships broke off to head inward.
Several vessels saw the chance to seize the day.  For Violent Retribution, she ordered their armors to come back in.  They had done enough.  Hours of fighting, and they had pushed the enemy back.  Time to get them back in, restocked, recharged, and then they could rejoin the Battle Group and go back into the fight.

Quinn got the order, and as much as she wanted to give chase to the dogs who had tucked-tail and ran, she could hear Kate in her mind, saying she didn’t want to stay here.  All of these kids who they killed today.  It didn’t feel right to her.  Not that she agreed, but it was time to go home.  They learned one thing today – the Protectorate was scared.  So scared that they were getting any kid who they could give basic training to, and putting them out front and center to die.  Such an ugly war.
Looking around, now the stars were littered with something else – rotting carcasses of vessels, armors, bombers, you name it.  Whole sections of vessels that still had air flowing out, showing that something inside was still alive, waiting to die or hoping to get saved.  Such an ugly war.  So much beauty in space, but these battles left it just a little less so.  Changing back to flight mode, they jetted for home.  They’d be back out to join the fight again soon enough.

Until next time, a quote,

“When you cling to life, you live in fear of death. And that fear will cloud your judgment. But once you get free of that, you can go on fighting to the end of the world.” – Rebecca “Revy” Lee, Black Lagoon

Peace out,

Maverick

Mr. Smith Signs a Birth Certificate, by Lucien Maverick

*As read by Charles R Poindexter*

Once upon a time, there lived a man named Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith was a man who liked to get the most out of life.
He did this by consuming copious amounts of alcohol.
Him and all his friends would drink and drink until all their jokes were funny and their bellies fat.

One day, he got so drunk that he made love to a very pretty woman.
At least he thought she was pretty.
The more he drank, the prettier she got!
It was a very good night.

A long time later, he got a piece of mail in his mailbox.
Heinous villains at Child Support told him that the woman he had made love to now had a baby.
What’s more, he was named the father.
Mr. Smith immediately went into action.

He called the Child Support villains, to right this wrong.
Told them that he was not the father of that baby.
Said there was no way it was him.
Lastly, that he wanted a paternity test.

But the EVIL Child Support customer service representative told him no.
Said that his name was on the child’s birth certificate.
And this meant that he would have to contest this in court.
Mr. Smith gasped!

Seeing the injustice, he informed the EVIL Child Support customer service representative that this was all wrong.
Told him that he was very drunk the night that he signed that birth certificate.
So drunk that he didn’t even remember doing so.
This meant that he couldn’t legally be responsible for what happened that fateful night.

After hearing his genuine honesty, the EVIL Child Support customer service representative told him that wasn’t true.
Said that it is a legally binding document, and only a court order could contest it now.
Mr. Smith was appalled!
He knew just what to do!

Once he had several swigs of his joyous drink, he filed a motion in court and got the judge to hear his case.
He told him of the injustice against him and how he wanted to put it right!
Why should he have to pay for a child that is not his!
The judge heard it all, and said back to him, “are you fucking kidding me?”

But Mr. Smith got his order to contest paternity!
He strolled into the EVIL Child Support office and got genetic testing
This cruel insult would not stand!  He would show these devils!
Maybe when he proves the baby is not his, he would sue these monsters for all the trouble!

Then the results came back positive, and Mr. Smith had an arrears balance of $2,000 and a monthly support amount of $200.
Mr. Smith decided that he needed consoling, so he went to the joyous bar for more joyous drink.
There was a pretty lady there.
In fact, the more he drank, the prettier she looked…

Until next time, a quote,

“Dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb!” – South Park

Peace out,

Maverick

Is Duty a Value, or an Escape?

She was fighting to keep up with her pilot.  It was so insane.  This girl was so driven!  Their partnership was one of practicality.  They had to depend on one-another, after all.  It was up to her to keep the armor running, and everything working just so.  Especially the most important part – the shield.  This armor was designed with something none in its class had ever had – a sector shield.  By being able to focus particle energy on ejector panels, they could move the shielding around to any part of the machine.  This kept the power draw only to what they needed.  Instead of a kinetic barrier on all sections that could be worn down fast with enough fire, they could focus it specifically on where it was needed, which meant keeping the shield active for hours longer than any barrier before it.
Their time in battle could be upped to 200% more than any other armor before them.  But keeping this system running was brutal.  It required someone who could keep track of an endless amount of information about the enemy and attacks coming in at once by a system that was incredibly demanding on her mind.  Funneling the data directly to her.  It was so much, most days.  But that’s why they were a team.  They could process the load together, so her pilot would be able to use the data on where to go and who to target, while she could use the data on where to defend and other systems in the armor.  The first two-person armor.  A design like none other.
This battle was madness.  Over a giant natural resource satellite in orbit around the planet.  If this place fell, they would have no problem taking the rest of the planet.  Local military was no match for Directorate might.  All they’d have to do is move in and crush any local resistance and leave occupational forces to keep watch while the Fleet moved.
Explosions everywhere.  So much carnage and death.  An allied armor ripped open from a massive particle beam.  The pilot would have been vaporized.  Worse ways to go.  The beam was from an assault cruiser coming around some wreckage.  Bad move.  They were moving too far out from their defensive position.  An attempt to make a break?  Couldn’t be that.  The Fleet had them surrounded in all sides.  This battle was about attrition.  Either they would wipe out Protectorate forces, or they would hold out until reinforcements.  So much rode on this.
But that was besides the point.  She focused her attention on the cruiser.
“Move out of the firing range of that thing!”
“No shit, genius!”  Ever the angry one.
“I’m not talking about the guns.  I’m talking about getting away!  Bombers are coming in from point 52 tac 87.”
“Aye-aye!”
Weird to be treated like a superior officer from the one at the controls, but it was true.  She was her superior, not that she’d ever lord that against her.  With all they had gone through together, that would be cruel.  It wasn’t something she wanted anyway.
Coming about, they decided to watch the show.  Several bombers had used the wreckage to mask their approach the same way the cruiser had done.  It worked both ways.  By the time the guns of the ship could come to bear, they had already launched their payload.  Blue lasers jetted out among their bombs, taking out several, but they were too close.  The stars lit up red and yellow as they hit home right on the engines.  Plumes of blue fire went bursting out.  An overload!  Such a beautiful color, for something so awful.  The flame spread further and further, until it was pouring out all over the ship.  The crew was likely being cooked beneath the hull.
“Bad way to go,” the pilot whispered.
She had nothing to say back.  It was so captivating.  Then the core ignited, and the whole thing blew open like a soda can in below zero weather.  The fire burst out, then exhausted the oxygen it had, and extinguished.  The crew never had a chance.
Seeing the fire, it brought back memories.  Had it only been two years??  Maybe a little more?  Felt like an eternity.  In another life.

The sound of the waves crashing against the shore greeted her.  Sunlight was just starting to come through the window.  Was it really that early?  Too early for any decent person to be up, but she really had to pee.  Stumbling down the hall to the bathroom, it was a sad state of affairs for how dead she looked.  Didn’t help that saying she was indecent was putting it mildly.  Too early to care about that too.
After finishing, she stumbled back to her room.  There was a sound from the hallway.
“I am totally scarred.  Could she at least put on a robe or something?!”  Kid brother!  That registered enough for her to feel more than a little ashamed.  Whatever.  She had to see him getting dressed for blitzball.  That scarred her for life too.  So the little creep could take it!
Mornings like these were the best.  Still another hour to get some sleep, she was going to make the most of it.  Once dawn broke, she knew where she was going to be.

The smell of the waves was so inviting.  From the bow, at the controls, she brought the boat out of the harbor.  Another catering gig.  The catch was likely to be pretty substantial.  This year had seen a real boon to the fish numbers.  Some real monsters coming in.  Calm waves today.  No headwind, just little whitecaps.  Almost made it boring, but best not to complain.  This many patrons today, it meant good money, regardless of what the catch was.
Poor kid down below had to actually deal with these people.  He was a nice guy.  Had some very cool tats of all the places he had been.  Never been off-planet, but had been to everywhere on it.  No longer a colony world, they were part of the Directorate proper now.  Over 2,000,000 people lived here.  From ports to the farming communities, this garden world had developed into a popular tourist attraction for those seeking to escape the bustle of the big cities on their own worlds.  Or those who wanted freedom from the endless regulation of the Directorate.
Now out of the port, she accelerated to a nice pace.  Couldn’t rush too much with these off-world types.  They got jittery.  But you also had those who would bitch at you to go faster.  No pleasing everyone, right?  Best to hedge your best on something gentle.  Would mean the vast amount wouldn’t bitch as much.  She looked down at the company jacket she wore.  Hated it.  Such an ugly color.  Another day.  Straightening her company hat, she opened the window and let the sound of the seabirds and the salty breeze greet her.
Taking a look at the scanner, she saw that reports were coming in of a good haul coming in 70 kilometers to the south.  Nice!  A close one.  Maybe they could catch their limit before midday and she could go home early!

Nice dreams always crash and burn the hardest.  For the first hour, they were catching like crazy, but then it died.  Their patrons were annoyed.  She keyed into the scanner, but nothing was coming in for good hits.  Just a lot of dry runs.  Hitting up a couple contacts she had at the port and ship captains, she got a tip for a good hit 120 kilometers to the east.  Worth a shot, right?  After having the patrons get their lines in, she gunned it.  A little fast, but they were getting antsy.  It sucks when things are going great for a while, only for them to suck.
The next place was also another pretty good haul, for about an hour or so.  Then it all dried up.  But she did get to see something pretty cool.  There was a school of fish moving, with scutter sharks coming in and nabbing them up.  All the thrashing and churning.  Had some patrons wondering if they could try and hook a shark, but their attendant pointed out what a horribly bad idea that was.  Scutter sharks were no joke,  They could easily bite through the lines they had, and even if they hooked one, the chances of getting it in was minuscule.  You’d need a harpoon and some rope for that kind of haul.  One guy actually asked if they had that.  She smiled.  This guy has vision.
Well past midday, she got one last tip for a decent haul further south.  Once the patrons got some lunch in them, it was a better afternoon.  Their last stop was not too bad.  Slow at first, but things picked up.  An hour to evening, she pulled the boat back into port and docked it.  Now her and the attendant had to unload all the coolers filled with fish.  Some of the guys were talking about what they would be cooking.  One dude said he wanted to weigh his fish.  Her role in this ended at tying off the boat and unloading stuff.  After that, the boss gave her her pay and she went home.

Getting back, the family was already talking to her brother about his next game.  Being related to a celebrity sucked.  Barely an acknowledgement of her existence as she came in the door.  Heading over to the fridge, she pulled out some local fruit and took it to her room.  Now to another monotonous night of reading Net articles and watching meaningless vids to kill time.  This was her life.  What her life would likely always be.  But there was a story in the news.  Another brushfire conflict with the Protectorate.  More and more of this was in the news.  Not that she cared.  Or at least, she thought she didn’t.  The reality of the fact that their world was close enough to the Protectorate for the war to come here pretty fast if peace talks failed did strike her.  Did her parents know?  Did anyone?  Who here knew what danger they were in?  But she put it out of her mind.  No one would look for a fight here.  This world offered no strategic value to anyone.  The military forces were a garrison at most.  No big natural resource satellites to acquire, no big factories or shipyards to take over.  All this world had was farmland and fishing boats.  They wouldn’t have even joined the Directorate if it hadn’t been impressed upon them by the representatives who came to visit.  They didn’t want to risk this world going to the Protectorate.  They’d gotten visits.
She shook her head and keyed out of the system.  This wasn’t her problem.  It was never her problem.  Not like she wanted to be part of any of that anyway.  Being the helmsman on a fishing boat paid the bills just fine.  Or at least it would, once she got out of the house.  One step at a time.  For now it was just getting something saved up, and building a resume as a future boat captain.  Once she had her own boat, then she could make her own money.  No more getting wages and commission based off of the haul.  One can dream, right?

Another day, another trip out to sea.  Today was looking to be no more interesting.  Three hours into a good spot, there is a call that comes in.
“Come in Blue Angelray.”
She grabbed the controls.  “I read you, Yellow Jacket.  How are things with you?  Good haul?”
“Fuck that!  There’s a fight going on in space!  Right above the planet!”
The world suddenly dropped away.  “What?!  How?!”
“Got word that a Directorate ship is under attack.”
The thought made her heart stop.  The Protectorate was here?!  Was this the start of a war?  She didn’t want to focus on it.  It was too ugly to even consider.  Keep to what is happening now.  The rest can come later.
Half an hour goes by, and reality comes crashing down.  Or at least several hundred tons of it.  There is a huge blaze of blue in the sky above.  Everyone looks up, and so does she.  A massive blaze of blue light, shimmering everywhere.  First one, then another.  Finally, a trail of smoke that is heading down.  Drifting forward, toward where they are!  The crew is getting nervous.  So are the patrons.  Blue fire and black smoke, plummeting from the sky.  Kind of beautiful, in a twisted way.  It is coming forward, and getting lower and lower.  The navy blue metal is shimmering in the sunlight as it comes down.  At first it was wondering where it was going, now she realized, it was coming down towards them!
“Everybody, lines in!  We’re out of here!”
Nobody had to be told twice.  The patrons were too scared not to listen.  The crew and ran to secure everything, while she brought the engine online.
“Now get your asses inside and strap in!”  The crew ushered them inside and she didn’t wait to hear if they were seated.  There was no time.  She hit the accelerator.  A couple of fishing poles went flying off the back, along with one of the patrons gear.  The smoke was now so close!  They could make out the size and shape of the vessel that was crashing towards them.  A smaller ship.  A cruiser.  A vessel for recon.  So many holes blasted in it.  Billowing smoke and fire was everywhere.
She powered the vessel towards the shore.  It wasn’t close, but that ship was going to hit the water soon.  And when it did, it would create a massive wave that they had no chance of outrunning.  Not in a fishing boat.  That’s when the wind from the crashing ship hit them.  Everyone was thrown around as the boat was pushed over so far that it nearly capsized.  Once she got it sitting right again, she powered the accelerator as fast as it would go.  They’d have a matter of seconds to beat the worst of it.
The shore was a magical place that had never looked more distant in her life.  In the distance, there was an explosion.  The ship had finally impacted.  Daring to look toward the horizon to her backside, to the left, she saw a massive plume of blue fire rising towards the sky.  Fear gripped her.  Heart pounding.  If they didn’t get there in time, get to high ground, everyone in this ship would be dead.
That’s when they smashed into the sandy shore.  Without a second thought, she jumped off of the helm and opened up the compartment inside.
“Ditch your shit and run!  Head for high ground!  Now!”
It was up to them if they listened or not.  Some of them looked hurt.  She wasn’t about to wait and find out.  Like a demon possessed, she took off running.  The crewman from yesterday caught up and outpaced her.  The sound of everyone behind yelling after them.  The dunes down the way got pretty high.
Chancing a look back, the crewman’s eyes got wide.
“The water’s receding!”
“Shut the fuck up!” she snarled.  There was some agreement behind her.  Just keep running, she told herself.  No matter what, keep running.  Even if you have to go until you die, don’t stop running!  All the endurance working on a boat was finally paying off.  Up and down the sandy dunes.  A sound from the distance.  A crunching, twisting sound.  The wave impacting their boat?  It propelled her faster.  Got everyone else behind them moving too.
Minutes passed,  Up and down dunes and she didn’t even know how far she’d come.  Finally, she could go no further.  Crashing to the grassy dune, her legs gave out.  Everything did.  Breathing harder than she ever had before, she just laid there.  Finally, she willed herself up to look back at the ocean.
It was beyond description.  The water was so close, but it had stopped.  It was heading back out to sea.  The boat was smashed to shit on one side.  No way was it going to be salvaged.  But the radio may work to signal where they are.  She knew this part of the shore.  Too far from anywhere to walk, but close enough to get rescue.
The real show-stealer was out at sea.  In the distance, the blue flames were still pluming, then, in an instant, withered away.  She’d heard about reactor explosions, but this was something else.  Those who had kept pace with them stared with her, in awe and horror.  Most of the crew and patrons made it, but they were talking about people they didn’t see.  Bad way to go.  Now to begin the long, slow walk back to the boat, to see if they could get a rescue.

Hours later, the ship that picked them up docked in the harbor.  Her parents came running to meet her.  Even her brother embraced her in a big hug.  Her boss came down as well.  A portly, balding man, but with a kind heart.  He gave her a hug, and talked with everyone who got back.  Nothing but nice things said about her.  How she had done everything she could to save their lives.  That was nice, if not a little untrue.  Her own life had most definitely come first.  Being able to save everyone else was an afterthought.
That’s when she noticed all the emergency ships and shuttles coming in.  Drop vessels came into dock at the spaceport.  From where they were, they saw men and women being dropped off.  They looked terrible.  Coated in grim, burned to a crisp, or ripped to pieces.  It was horrifying to watch.  She didn’t want to think about it.

Triage was set up in the park outside of the government building.  Prefab buildings were immediately set up and wounded people were taken inside.  The wave had hurt a ton of people.  It had demolished a seaport on the other side of the bay.  Their cove thankfully was spared the worst of it.  Dozens of people killed, hundreds injured.  Whole ships and their crews were swallowed whole.  It was blind, stupid luck that they didn’t get caught up in the wave.  But the worst of it was the Directorate military servicemen and women who were brought there.  So many horribly maimed, burned, mutilated, or the blind few who got off lucky with a few scratches.
She walked through it all, having to give a statement and identify the bodies of a couple of people found at the wreckage of her boat.  One was a patron, the other was a crew member who was trying to help her.  It seems she had a broken leg and couldn’t run.  The crew member did everything they could to help, and died with her.  So awful.  Broke her heart to think about.  As she stepped through that place, listening to the screaming and crying, there was a cold, numb feeling inside.
That night, she had a dream.  Of being on that ship, in uniform, seeing the ocean coming up and being trapped.  In it, she died in a hundred ways.  She drowned in a cabin that filled with water.  In another, she was burned to death in blue flame.  Then her body was slowly crushed by the hull.  People all around, begging her to help.  What could she do?!  The only thing open was to wait and die.  Waking up in cold sweat, it occurred to her what she had to do.  There was only one option.

It had been a long argument between her and her family about this.  It was a journey she made alone.  Even her brother seemed unusually angry at her.  He was a sports star.  What did he care?  But she knew the truth – she couldn’t let this happen!  To anyone!  All of those hurting and crying people before.  How many of them wouldn’t be here if she had been there?!  How many mothers and fathers wouldn’t be checking to see if their families were on the casualty list if her skills to helm a ship were put to better use being able to fly a fighter, or a starship?
If they wouldn’t stand with her, then she’d walk this path alone.  They hadn’t seen what she had.  Her skills on that boat saved the lives of almost everyone.  Now she would save the lives of her fellow men and women in service to the Directorate.
Stepping into the Directorate Naval Enlistment Office, an older woman looked up from the desk.
“Can I help you?”
“Yeah.  I’d like to enlist.”

Until next time, a quote,

“A man who neglects his duty as a citizen is not entitled to his rights as a citizen.” – Tiorio

Peace out,

Maverick