by R. Frink
An epic tale of 5 soldiers involved in a war between humanity and a powerful alien race.
Chapter X: Before the Storm
Hero’s Legend – Briefing Room
0631 – May 19, 2107
All eyes laid on General Alverdine as she approached the front of the room. Behind her, stood a large screen that glowed brightly with a map of Zone 2. She faced the young pilots with a small remote in her hand. With the click a button, the screen showed the current location of the Hero’s Legend.
“Our next mission is to destroy the Taetren ship, Purgatory,” Alverdine began. “We know from our last battle that our enemies are not lightweights. So my plan is this.” Alverdine pressed a button on the remote and the screen behind her zoomed out to show the border of Sector 1 and Sector 2. “There’s a small asteroid field in the outskirts of Sector 2 that’s known to affect the transmission of Taetren ships. We are going to lure them there and use the confusion as an advantage. Karna and Meri, your Dragoons will be equipped with Battlecruiser assault cannons. Your role is to get close enough to take down Purgatory itself. Everyone else will fight to create a distraction. Any questions so far?”
Uri raised his hand and the general acknowledged him. “Why can’t we fight them here? We defeated them the last time without too much trouble.”
“I have reason to believe they weren’t fighting at full strength and get the feeling they probably learned a lot from our last encounter. The same tactics won’t work twice. In addition, we’re much too close to commercial spaceflight. A fight in this area needlessly risks civilians,” Alverdine explained. “Any more questions?”
She was met with silence. “Alright, then. It will take us several days to reach our destination. During that time we will continue to train. Today’s session starts in 5. You are dismissed.”
Hero’s Legend – Training Zone
The group gathered in the training area, their focus once more fell on General Alverdine. She stood in front of the young group with one hand on her hip. “Today, we are moving on to a new lesson. But first, we will start out with a quick spar. Everyone partner up!”
A determined look formed on Phoenix’s face as he made a beeline towards the oldest member of the team. “I want a rematch.”
Karna raised a thick brown brow, but shrugged. “Fine, kid, just don’t go crying to General Kyros when I beat you.”
Before Phoenix could make a retort, a soft voice called out his name. The young pilot turned around and went to Kyros’ side. Karna folded his arms as he watched Kyros lean forward to whisper something in Phoenix’s ear.
“You’re in for it now, Karna,” Fiammetta said, tapping the man’s shoulder as she and Lucius walked by. “He’s getting tips from the pro.”
Karna rolled his eyes and watched Phoenix nod his head a couple times before approaching him again. For a moment, Karna’s eyes met with Kyros’. The general gave him a small smile that sent shivers down his spine.
“Let’s do this!” Phoenix announced as he shifted into a fighting stance. Karna followed suit.
Phoenix’s world went white, only his opponent and he mattered. His eyes watched Karna’s motion closely. He heeded Kyros’ advice when Karna moved to strike.
Let your speed be your greatest ally. Let him waste his energy trying to hit you, and then take advantage.
The younger pilot tilted his body to the left to avoid Karna’s tight fist, then moved quickly to the right to escape Karna’s second strike. Karna swiped his leg to knock Phoenix off his balance, but Phoenix jumped safely over the attack. Karna tried to land a kick against Phoenix stomach, but the younger man rolled out of the way. Frustrated and little out of breath, Karna shifted back into a fighting stance to regroup. Before Karna could catch his breath, Phoenix was already rushing towards him. The blonde crouched and slid into the older man’s legs, knocking him off his feet and onto his back. Karna managed to roll away and jump to his feet before Phoenix could pin him down with his knee.
Phoenix saw another chance and swung a fist towards Karna’s face. His eyes widened when his hand was caught in Karna’s larger grip. For a small moment, Phoenix glanced back to Kyros. Those violet eyes were watching and a surge of confidence rushed through him. He would impress his teacher. Phoenix gathered all his strength. Using his free hand, he clasped underneath Karna’s arm and began to pull him forward. Gritting his teeth, Phoenix managed to throw Karna over his shoulder. The older man landed onto the floor with a grunt.
“That’s enough, everyone. We still have work to do,” Alverdine announced. The other pairs stopped what they were doing and gathered near Alverdine. Phoenix walked to Karna and offered his hand.
“Not bad for a kid, right?”
“I don’t need your help,” Karna growled, slapping Phoenix’s hand away. He got to his feet and walked past his teammate. Suddenly, he stopped. “Yeah, not bad.”
Despite Phoenix’s efforts, a wide grin spread across his face. He locked eyes with Kyros, who gave him a nod of approval with an almost prideful look in his eyes. The boy joined the others as Alverdine began to address them.
“I’ve studied your progress and I wish to test your abilities. Each of you will spar with me one on one,” Alverdine announced. “Any volunteers to go first?”
The pilots remained quiet and everyone stayed in place until Meri stepped forward.
“I will go first.”
Alverdine smiled. “Excellent.” The two women distanced themselves from the rest of the group. Alverdine moved into her fighting stance. “Ready?”
Meri made the first move, rushing towards the general and attempting to kick her legs out from under her. Alverdine executed a back flip to avoid but Meri shifted the direction of her kick. Alverdine blocked the kick with her arm as she landed. Meri pushed her weight forward, shoving her fist towards the general’s face. Alverdine ducked and landed a blow to Meri’s abdomen.
“Impressive,” Alverdine commented as Meri held her middle.
Meri stood straight and charged at the general once more, this time flipping over Alverdine’s head, landing behind her. The Dragoon pilot moved to incapacitate her general but received a blow to her nose by the back of Alverdine’s head. As she cried out in pain, Alverdine flipped her over shoulder by arm and watched as she landed on her back.
“A daring move,” Alverdine began as she stood over Meri and waited for her to gain her senses. “It would work better if the opponent did not see you run towards them.”
Meri said nothing as she slowly rose to her feet holding her bloody nose. Her light brown eyes betrayed her silence as they wavered and filled with tears.
"Your skills are quite sharp but not without need of improvement. However, I'm pleased with your progress."
Despite the pain, Meri’s lips pulled into smile at the compliment. “Thank you, ma’am.”
Alverdine nodded towards Kyros. "Take care of Meri’s injuries." Kyros nodded and ushered Meri to the small room in the back. The general turned to the others. "Who's next?"
The remaining pilots looked at each other hoping for a volunteer among them. When none emerged, Alverdine turned to Phoenix.
"Phoenix, why don't you show us some of the moves Kyros has taught you."
The youngest member of team gulped and took a step back. “I…I still have a lot to learn.”
"What’s the matter, hotshot?” Karna teased as he shoved Phoenix forward. “Lost your nerve?”
With his usual confidence absent, Phoenix approached his general. She circled around him, eyeing his form.
“Clear your mind." Alverdine began. "A cluttered mind is no state to fight in."
Phoenix took a deep breath and tried to recollect all the lessons Kyros had given him.
"Ready?" Alverdine asked as she rolled her shoulders, stretching out the muscles.
Phoenix nodded and readied himself as well.
Alverdine made the first move. As she dashed towards Phoenix, the world seemed to slow down around him. The young pilot dodged the first punch, then the second but before he could counter with his own attack, Alverdine jumped back to put distance between them.
“You’re getting better, faster,” Alverdine commented, stretching her neck until there was a small cracking sound.
The woman closed the distance frightfully fast. Phoenix dodged the first punch aimed for his head but Alverdine’s second punch clipped his shoulder. Distracted by the pain, Phoenix didn’t see Alverdine left hook coming. The blow caused him to stumble backwards but he managed to replant his feet before losing his balance.
It was at this time that Kyros and Meri returned from the infirmary. Meri's nose, while reddened, had stopped bleeding and was looking a lot better than before. Phoenix turned to face his mentor. The distraction earned him a blow to his side, expelling a pained grunt from his lips.
“You cannot let yourself be distracted,” Alverdine criticized. “Your enemies will not hesitate to use it to their advantage.”
Despite himself, Phoenix thought of Ice. When the pain subsided enough for him to move, Phoenix approached Alverdine, his moves were sluggish and Alverdine easily threw Phoenix to the ground.
“You’ve fought well. Kyros–”
“I’m…I’m not done yet,” Phoenix mumbled as he strained to rise. With some effort, he was on his feet. Alverdine raised an eyebrow and readied herself for Phoenix’s attack. Phoenix staggered his way towards her. With his remaining strength, he threw his fist in front of him. Alverdine caught his arm and shoved him back. Phoenix braced himself for impact of the floor but instead felt his body being supported by someone behind him. Phoenix didn’t need to look up to know Kyros had caught him.
Phoenix relaxed into Kyros’ grip and let the older man prop him up onto his feet. He turned to his mentor and uttered a thank you. Kyros nodded and motioned for Phoenix to turn his attention back to Alverdine.
“Your training is coming along nicely. Keep it up,” Alverdine praised.
A large grin split Phoenix’s face as a sense of accomplishment washed over him. Alverdine approached the remaining pilots who immediately began shifting nervously.
Joshua – Observatory
Fawn’s long body stretched across the sofa in an almost cat-like pose. As her mouth opened to let out a mighty yawn, her brown eyes lingered over the hunched form of her fiancé. Behind her was the vast blackness of space behind a large thick glass window. She shifted her body for what seemed like the umpteenth time for a more comfortable position.
“How long are you going to sit at that computer?” Fawn asked after a heavy sigh.
“Until I’ve finished this simulation,” Data replied without ungluing his eyes from the large flat panel screen. “Bored, love?”
“Yes!” The woman exclaimed as she sat up. “It’s so dull up here, no action at all.”
“It was your idea to accompany me,” Data answered with an amusement. He paused and moved his fingers across the screen until the words “Initiating Simulation” appeared at the top. “I believe you wanted to spend some time with your ‘soon-to-be-hubby’.”
“I do,” Fawn began. “But I thought we would run up against a few more enemies than this.”
Data turned his chair to face her with a raised eyebrow. “You wanted us to get attacked?”
A sheepish smile split Fawn’s face as she held her thumb and pointer finger about a centimeter apart. “Maybe just a small skirmish.”
Data’s lips pulled into a wide grin and let out a fake sigh. “What am I going to do with you?”
The woman stood and sauntered over to her fiancé. Her smoldering gaze held his as she straddled his lap and draped her arms loosely over Data’s shoulders. “I can think of a few things.”
Data let his body and mind relax as Fawn drew him into a kiss. His hands slid to grip her waist to bring her closer as he lost himself in her touch. A loud beeping noise killed the moment and Data’s focus returned. He swiveled in his chair to face the screen, his eyes frantically going over the results of his experiment.
“Damn!” He swore, his fist slamming against the console.
“What’s wrong,” Fawn asked as she twisted her body to look at the screen.
The young man shook his head. “I discovered a new energy source capable of powering the Dragoon units at 10 times the efficiency than the current source.”
“It’s radioactive and too dangerous for the pilot. I have to find a way to lower the risk to the pilot,” Data explained, rubbing his temples.
Fawn stroked his hair and placed a kiss against his brow. “Don’t worry; I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
“You don’t know that!” Data snapped. “I have to work faster, harder. I won’t let this war claim you and Phoenix like it did my parents.”
Fawn slid off of her lover’s lap and began to walk out of the room. “I’ll leave you to it then.”
“Fawn!” The woman stopped. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound like that.”
Fawn sighed. “I know, but–”
The phone rang and Fawn moved to answer it. An image of Phoenix’s face appeared on the screen and the woman’s previous anger melted away from her face.
“Hi, Sis,” Phoenix greeted.
“Phoenix, how are you?” Fawn asked.
“I’m fine, is Bro there too?”
“I’m here,” Data answered as he approached the video phone.
“Good, I just wanted to let you guys know that I’ll be out of reach for a while so you won’t worry.”
A wily smile formed upon Fawn’s face. “Top secret mission, eh?”
Phoenix laughed. “Something like that.”
“Just be careful, ok?” Data said, stress still lingering in his voice. “Remember your promise.”
“I will, I haven’t forgotten,” the younger brother replied. There was a knocking sound on Phoenix’s end. “Oh, that’s probably Kyros. I better go.”
Kyros?” Fawn questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, General Kyros is giving me private sparing lessons. Cool, huh?”
“Cool doesn’t cut it. You’re learning from one of the best fighters in the world. I hope you’re making the most of this opportunity.”
“I am, Sis.” There was some more knocking. “I don’t want to keep him waiting. I love you.”
“Love you too,” Fawn replied, blowing him kiss. Phoenix made a hand movement to simulate catching the phantom kiss and placing it against his cheek.
“Love you, stay safe,” Data said.
“I will, see you later.” The video call ended leaving an awkward silence in its wake.
Fawn moved to leave but Data caught her wrist in his hand. “Please stay.”
“You mean it?” Fawn asked with an incredulous expression.
Fawn smiled and caressed her fiancé’s cheek. “Then I suppose I can stick around.”
Purgatory – Bridge
As Elteo entered the bridge he let a soft sigh escape his lips upon seeing Ice sitting in his seat. “The Hero’s Legend is leaving Vinci I,” Elteo remarked.
Ice waved his hand dismissively. “I’ve already been informed.”
Elteo eyed him carefully before asking his question. “You have a plan?”
“Yes, we’re going to follow them and monitor their behavior.”
Elteo nodded and placed a hand on Ice’s shoulder. “Ok. Are you feeling better?”
“Chosa spoke to me,” Ice began. “I’m sorry about earlier. Some painful memories resurfaced.”
Chosa was right, Elteo thought. He patted Ice’s shoulder and whispered, “It’s that pilot, isn’t it?”
Ice responded with a slow nod and Elteo did not push any further. Instead, he inquired more about Ice’s plan. “When we catch the Hero’s Legend, what we will do then?”
“I will lure the Kedalion away from the others. You will lead a team against the rest. They rely on teamwork so the key to victory in this battle is to keep them as spread apart as possible,” Ice explained.
“Yes, Commander. What are you plans for the pilot?”
“When I have lured him away, I will kill him.” The dark look on Ice’s face did not go unnoticed. A part of Elteo was happy his commander had come to his senses but the look on his comrade’s face left him uneasy.
“Understood,” Elteo replied. He lingered next to Ice for a moment before excusing himself to return to his quarters.