Chapter 1 This Dark Earth
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Chapter 1 This Dark Earth






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Chapter 1 This Dark Earth Chapter 1 This Dark Earth Document Transcript

  • Chapter 1 This Dark Earth The walkway was lined with red and yellow roses; leading to the home that was burned into her memory. Above Hailey’s comet hung motionless in the star sprinkled sky that stretched like a tent overhead. She sat on the door step looking up intently. Cold water spilled over the walk way taking hold of her ankles; it then rose up over the roses and her head. It seemed to drown out everything that had been moments before, leaving nothing but a cold feeling deep in her chest. Her hands pressed against glass, caging her in an invisible prison, watching helpless as she drifted away from everything that was her life. Ashleigh Nixx opened her crystal-like green eyes, the only physical attribute that gave away her prior kryostasis. The moon was brightly shining over the Earth casting its glow into her pale skin, giving her its radiance. Her A.S.P (armor suit prototype) sat sullen behind her, the ocean breeze unable to stir his armor as it did his counter parts hip-length hair and green E.R.C (earth resistance core) uniform. Ashleigh’s nearly opaque eyes scanned the abyss that was the night horizon, her hands clasped behind her back resting on her rope of long copper hair. She was too deep in thought to notice the darkly cloaked figure that smoothly creped up to her. “Memories again?” His deep voice asked. The moon was bouncing off of all the medals on the chest of his uniform and defining his long brown hair and flowing cape, Lynx Marques. Why would you care? I hate you. She thought bitterly before answering. “Dreams.” “Don’t you ever give explanatory answers?” Lynx griped. Ashleigh glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. You’re walking on a mine field. “Only when necessary, sir.” Now go away. Lynx turned around, his dark cape fluttering in the breeze, and walked across the glowing titanium holding flat gazing up at her A.S.P. Its broad shoulders were fitted with protective armor that came to a soft point at either end, a Nexus morph gauntlet on the right fore-arm, and large, sleek, Anti-gravity units on his back where shoulder blades would be. He was one of an unknown number of suits designed by a professor at N.O.V.A (north organization of violence aversion) a big group of pacifistic scientists that wanted to rid the world of military just before the pacific incident. Fitted with a synaptic melding system that linked the consciousnesses of both A.I and pilot, the Neuros system, he was the ultimate weapon. Some pacifists, huh? “You’re a work of art, Volt.” Lynx said to the A.S.P. “Thank you Commander Marques.” Volt’s robotic under toned, eerily human, voice chimed with gratitude. ‘Kiss up.’ Ashleigh thought at him. Volt cocked his large Dragonite head, several of the cameras hidden behind the visor-like transparent steel plate swiveling around to focus on her. ‘I have to compensate for your hostility to the Commander and the Hierarchy.’ He retorted so that only she could hear. She turned around and pressed her palms to the cold steel railing.
  • Lynx was practically drooling over Volt. His large intimidating frame was dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of Volt’s presence. All of his power and authority seemed to be flowing into the Mech (slang for mobile armor) in front of him, rendering his threatening persona null, making him an easily overlooked obstacle. “Get some rest, Nixx. You’re new members arrive early.” Lynx said as he walked away. He makes it sound like some kind of glee club!!! Ashleigh fumed inside. He stopped at the hold. “I’m sorry about Jake & Cris.” He said without turning around, he was a mere shadow in the hold’s door way. “Thanks.” Ashleigh heard herself say quite sincerely. Maybe he did have a heart, in the void of darkness that seemed to replace his soul at times. Lynx nodded then disappeared into the shadow beyond the door frame, melting into it so smoothly he almost seemed inhuman. The E.R.C military cruiser the Atilisk hovered smoothly just above the sea’s crystal surface, rippling it ever so slightly. Jet Wilson took in the sight of it with enthusiastic blue eyes. It was a graceful mix between a submarine and a yacht with a solar halo humming over the midsection. The rudder and dorms were, once a beautiful mural of blue and red, faded to the point that you could only make out one or two angels now. The Atilisk was over a hundred years old, one of the first commissioned in the fleet of hope, just before the cataclysm, now it was the only ship in this wondrous era of bio technology still functioning. Jet’s A.S.P was a tank-like model, being one of the latest designed to fight the Jedite its chassis was quite akin to Volt’s, with four missile pods, a gattling shield and the double barrel beam cannon tied to the flight model A.S.P that was carrying him. “Do we have to live on an antique?” Jet’s A.S.P griped. Jet rubbed a hand over his neck, blond hair brushing against it. “Yes, James, this is the only way to do it right. No mistakes this time.” “But, I’ve read up on these old hope fleet ships. Several of them had horrible malfunctions that lead to the entire ship destroying itself in a matter on moments!” He was quite serious. And it was true three of the fleet of hope’s ships did tear themselves to bits during a combat maneuver. “James, you idiot! That’s the least of our problems. We’re getting assigned to the ‘Ender’s. Do you know what that means?!” The pilot of the flight unit yelled over the comm. An Ender is an earth-born human that has never set foot in space, they’re usually outcast by those who associate with or are from space. Ender is also what the Hierarchy calls soldiers that don’t have good standing with them because of any and every reason you can think of. For one day there shall be an End to them and they will be no more. “Calm down Mace, this isn’t any other cruiser. Lynx Marques is the Blue squad commander.” Jet said, as if that meant anything in truth. “Oh, well that changes things.” Mace said, throttling his A.S.P to max. “Finally!” Mace’s A.S.P, Rift, shouted. “With all you’re slow driving I was getting bored.”
  • Ashleigh could see them coming up as fast as Volt would at average speed. Her copper hair was on fire with the sun’s bright morning light and her darn green uniform revealed more of her well shaped figure than she would like. What was left of her team was behind her. Ace Sharp was on her left; he was a full head taller than her and quite well built. He was an Indian by heritage, his hair hung to the middle of his back in a thick black braid. Rush Crimson was opposite Ace; he wasn’t as tall as Ace but he made up for it in mass. He was just about the strongest man on the whole ship in body and spirit, and his military cut sandy blond hair was beginning to turn grey in a few places. Ace put a hand on Ashleigh’s shoulder. “Are you gunna be ok, Ashleigh?” He’d stopped calling her ‘Ice queen’ after Cris died. “Of course she will be!” Rush boomed in with his gruff voice. “Didn’t you see how she and Volt took care of those  Jedite after Cris and Jake were taken out?!” Like that means anything other than I was angry. “I’ll heal” Ashleigh said over the noise of the flight model landing in front of them. It was a very sleek unit with lot of aerodynamic cuts along its limbs, blue and gold paint that was obviously new, and a well balanced light arsenal sporting a sonic blade. “Hoo wee! Lynx sure hooked us up this time! Thank you Lynx! Their beautiful new models with…” Ace continued to google over the new suits. Jet sat in James, eyes on the heads up display as he toyed with the camera, surveying his new unit. Mace, on the other hand jumped down with out hesitation. He was almost the color of Ace’s dark leather vest, with short curly black hair that was almost like wool, every muscle knotted under the skin. He was quite impressive to look at. “You must be the Ender squad. Who’s the captain?” Ashleigh looked to Rush expectantly. He smiled wryly at the request her eyes held in them. “Rush Crimson, at your service kid.” He said extending his hand. “And you are?” “Mace Karsten,” He took Rush’s hand and squeezed. “This is Rift, my A.S.P.” He pointed behind him to the flight model. Its streamlined chassis wasn’t built for anything other than air combat; the way it landed was just one of many testimonies to that fact. But its sonic arsenal was enough to make up for it. Ashleigh looked directly into the ground unit’s main camera when it zoomed in on her. “You’re friend is shy?” She said to Mace. “Oh, no not really, he’s just kinda paranoid.” He said dismissively. The Atilisk hit a minor swell on the sea’s surface, sending a buckle trough the hull. Ashleigh lost her balance and careened into Ace. “You didn’t sleep again, did you?” He said into her ear holding on to her shoulders to balance her. “No.” She whispered back as he pushed away. Jet finally emerged from James’ cockpit. He, too, was well fit, a little broader in comparison to his partner, with a scar crossing his left jaw. “Just hold on a minute, Mace.” He said walking forward a bit clumsily; he’d never been on a cruiser before. “He’s not the Captain.” Mace jerked towards his partner. “Have you lost your mind, Jett?! This whole thing was your idea, stupid!” Jet stopped in front of Ashleigh. Good gods! She’s a Kryos! He thought looking into her crystal green eyes. “She is.” He extended a hand. “Jett Wilson, reporting for duty, ma’m.”
  • Ashleigh smiled, for the first time in three months. “Glad to have you, Jet. I’m Ashleigh Nixx.” Mace’s mouth dropped open. “A woman, the leader of a squadron?!” Ace laughed. “Let’s get you two situated.” The halls of the Atilisk were painted light colors lined through the center with wave pattern boarder. Each unit of operation had its own color (red = infirmary, yellow = cafeteria/ food storage, ect.) so that new comers and the, ever present, diplomats wouldn’t get lost. They were heading down the red hallway going to the barracks when Lynx came up opposite them guiding, yet another, pacifistic diplomat. “Ashleigh, could you stop by my office later, around noon?” He said commandingly. Oh, how I hate thee. “I’ll try, sir.” She said cursing inwardly. Two words, I must be making progress. “Ok, we’ll talk then.” She nodded slightly, beginning to take her leave. But, the diplomat’s son stopped her. “Are you the blue squadron?” He asked eagerly. Rush laughed gruffly. “No kid, we’re the L3 squad, smallest squad in the fleet.” “The Enders.” The boy said, more to himself than anyone present. Ashleigh smiled. “You’ll make a good pilot, kid.” “My name is Darrin. Not kid!” He said. “I’ll be 16 soon.” Ashleigh nodded. “Training starts at 16; you’re observant, and spirited. You’ll make one fine Commander. True Lynx?” You’re asking me? “Yes.” “Don’t grow up too fast, Darrin.” She said over her shoulder as she walked off. “Adulthood has its share of hardships.” The boy couldn’t help but smile at them as they left. Lynx also watched them leave, or more correctly her, until they had all but vanished beyond his range of vision. For the first time she seemed alive to him, not the android-like recruit without a past. And it was odd that he of all those stationed here, with high ratings in the Specials Soleum, the ultimate military group, could’ve missed the change so completely. Ashleigh had run ahead of the others. Jet was to have Cris’ room, everything had been left in it as far as she knew, and she wanted to see it one last time before it was changed. She entered the access code and stepped in quickly shutting the door behind her. Everything was gone, the walls were bare, and his bed stripped of the linens. She stood in the center of the emptiness, alone, again. Ashleigh retreated to the Holding Flat, the very center of the ship, with the monstrous halo hovering above her. She sat on Volt’s shoulder looking out over the sea. The sun rained down mercilessly on her head. Volt’s chipping black and silver paint was hot beneath her, but she didn’t seem to mind. She just kept starring out over the horizon as the sea lulled softly against it like a pool of rocking molten glass. ‘Why did I falter?’ She thought at Volt.
  • A camera swiveled around to stare at her. ‘Not even Kryostasis can warp the soul.’ He responded. Very poetic, Volt. ‘I guess I see.’ “It’s nearly noon!” Ace had snuck up behind her, climbing up Volts dioxis cover on his Vernier rockets. “I know.” She said without stirring. He’s a stupid spacer, child of the Hierarchy, I’m not going. She thought angrily. Ace plopped down beside her. “Go for us. Even Cris knew the value of a little face time with your superiors.” He sighed. “Look if I could I’d bail you out. I know how much you hate the guy.” “It’s not that, Ace.” “You can’t explain it can you? One of those Cris could tell you if he were here things.” Darn you! “Fine,” She breathed to push him off of his soap box. “For you.” Lynx tapped his desk with a pen. 12:30, she’s not coming. He walked over to the open circular window, the salty breeze combed through his brown hair. He was pulled out of his thoughts by two quick taps on the door. “Probably senator Clinton and his boy.” He mumbled as he pushed away from the window and pleasant air. He opened the door then froze. Ashleigh saluted. “Sir.” The look on your face is payment enough for coming. Lynx closed his mouth. “Uh, come in.” He stepped out of the door way. Ashleigh walked in and stood at attention in front of his beautiful dark wood desk. Lynx took a seat beside the one she was standing in front of. “Please sit down.” He said motioning to the chair. Ashleigh nodded, then took the seat. “Permission to speak freely, Commander?” she asked. “Granted.” He said a bit coldly. “Why did you ask to see me?” If it’s for another trap you are so dead! He handed her a folder. “If you haven’t noticed, all of Cris’ belongings were shipped to the main headquarters this morning. This was found among his possessions. I thought I should give it to you personally.” The folder had her name on it in big bold letters. She opened it silently. “Hey you stupid Popsicle!” The letter began. “What gives? I was supposed to hang around till we rid the Jedite from earth. Oh, well, what’s done is done I guess. I have only one request, no revenge; at least not on Lynx, unless of course he reads this. And don’t you dare think about turning back into the emotionless shell you were when we met; doing so would only bring all that I have hoped for to an end. Thanks for making it out Ashes, the others need you.” She blinked profusely to clear her eyes enough to continue reading. “I know this sounds crazy to you but, when I needed you and you were always there. Thank you for that.” Kick their sorry  for me, and undermine the Hierarchy while you’re at it. All my love, Your late friend,
  • Cris.” Ashleigh’s eyes clouded over, but there was no force on earth or from hell that could make her cry in front of Lynx of all people. “Is that all sir” She said emotionlessly after finishing the letter. “Yes, your dismissed Captain Nixx.” Lynx said, expecting her to say more. Ashleigh stood up turned around and made her way to the door. She had her hand on the knob when Lynx’s voice stopped her. “I didn’t know.” He was standing up now, his body blocking the only windows light and illuminating his frame. Is that an apology? “You’re not God.” Ashleigh said softly. “I feel responsible; I shoved the mission on you because…” Ashleigh’s smile cut him off. “Lynx, forgive your self or life will hold no meaning.” I’m starting to sound like Volt! She opened the door and stepped out. “I’ve forgiven you.” She said over her shoulder before walking away. Lynx sat in silent introspection until he was summoned to the awards ceremony that night. ‘Forgive myself…can I do that? I killed my friend and endangered the one closest to him.’ He looked out the window. ‘She forgave me…’ Mace pulled at the high collar of his new green uniform, his rank pin stabbing his neck as a result. “Man this sucks! Do we have to ware these all the time?” “No.” Ashleigh said pulling on her dangerously short skirt. “Thank God.” “Only for ceremonies and if were invited to greet a diplomat.” Ace explained. Ashleigh pulled at her skirt again. “No matter how much you pull on it ice queen it ain’t gunna get any longer.” Rush said stifling laughter. “You look good Captain.” Jet said to try and ease her fidgeting. Instead she cringed inwardly, not at what he said but at being called Captain. Cris was the Captain, Rush should be, I don’t deserve this rank. She stared intently at the ceiling. Cris why did it have to be you? The squad made their way to their seats. Squad L3 was crossed out of the center piece and ‘Enders’ was written in red marker. “Evil” Ashleigh muttered under her breath. “Ooh look, guys the dead decided to join the living.” A member of the Blue squad yelled across the room. “Go back to your freezer and take your sorry bunch Enders with you!” Ashleigh walked over calmly to him and planted a firm hand on his shoulder, boring into him with an emotionless gaze that would stop any Jedite in its tracks. “Why?” He stuttered, the sorry coward, now that she was so close his courage failed. “Speak.” She commanded in an even but venom filled tone of voice. All eyes were on them as he spoke. “I take it back, you can stay.” He said at long last and rather high pitched. Like I need your permission, you disgusting coward. “Thank you.” She let go of him and returned to her seat. Once seated she put her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her hands. “Coward.”
  • “Punk.” Ace added. “” Rush grumbled. Ace smiled at Jet and Mace’s bewildered looks. “It’s a tradition that Cris brought with him. If any member of us is insulted we all call the evil doer a name, just to get our two cents in and show our support to the one hurt.” “Freak.” Mace stated, to prove that he understood. “Jerk.” Jet said with a grin. “I like what I’ve heard about this Cris guy, where did he transfer to?” Ashleigh’s head hit the table with a loud crack, her hands closing over the back of it. “Well, ya’ll see, after the Queen self destructed… They didn’t find a trace of him.” Rush explained. Ashleigh’s shoulders shook for a second. No, none of this, I’ll accept it. He’s gone… Forever. “So you’re the pilot that NOVA sent for Volt.” The young dark haired guy said taking her hand and shaking it. His eyes were almost the color of pure gold, they were unreal. “Yes.” Ashleigh said rather coldly. “Well then, let me show you around.” “Hey Ice Queen how about a smile? Come on I just saw one!” “You’re delusional.” Ashleigh said waving him of. “I’ve forgotten how to smile.” Cris smiled knowingly. What exactly did he know about her anyway? Cris… “If I could have you’re attention, please.” General J. Mill’s voice yanked her out of her reminiscing. She lifted her head up and wiped her eyes with her sleeve. Gen Mill was pushing 80, but was in extremely good health, with next to no hair. “This dinner is in honor of our esteemed supporter Senator Clinton. But it falls on the same night as our annual awards ceremony. Tradition must come first or all will fall to the Jedite scum that have infested our planet.” Gen Mill was also the only active member of the military that fought in the first battle against the Jedite on the coast of Africa. “First we pay our respects to those that have paid the ultimate price for this world.” The Crest behind him opened to reveal a monstrous view screen. As he named those who had died in combat their picture came up on the screen for all to see. Then he came to Cris. Several in the audience shouted ‘Ender’ or ‘what’s he doing up there?’ Gen Mill ignored the disrespectful and continued. “Christian Barton was the last to pay the ultimate price in this long drawn out struggle this year.” His picture was there for all to see, his dark brown hair mussed up and in his amazing golden eyes, wearing that familiar grin that everyone in the room had seen on many occasions. Come to think of it he was hardly ever sad. The night continued and the awards were given. Predictably the blue and red squads hogged the spotlight receiving one reward after another.
  • At what seemed to be the end Gen Mill took off his hat, his bald head was very shiny. “The L3 squad, most of you sorry ’s call the ‘Enders’, were the only squad in over 10 years to lose a comrade and not suffer defeat.” Rush, Ace and Ashleigh exchanged glances. Where they in the twilight zone? “The L3 Captain Nixx receives the 500+ kill ranking to add to her data, as well as the medal of courage. 1st Lt Crimson as well as well as 2nd Lt Sharp also receives this award. For fighting with a fire and dignity unlike any this force has ever seen I salute you.” He saluted each of them as they came up to accept the awards. When Ashleigh came up he spoke four words to her. “He lives through you.” Ashleigh smiled, sadly and happily all at once. She nodded, allowing a tear to streak her pale cheek. There was no round of applause to meet them as they took their seats. There was no nod of recognition by any of the higher ranking officers, only Darrin seemed to revel in there achievement. Ashleigh smiled down at the skull and cross bones she now could add to the right sleeve of her uniform. “So this is what it’s like being an Ender.” Jet smiled. “I like it.” Mace laughed. “I’m just glad I’m not one of ‘them’... anymore anyway.” Rush laughed gruffly and Ace smiled. “Glad to know you have a heart.” Then came dinner; some one had messed with the food it was obvious, but they traded plates and ate it anyway. It was good, although Ace got a mouth full of cayenne pepper, which Rush was allergic to. As dinner was rapping up and Senator Clinton was getting up for his speech a shudder went through the ship. It was just enough to make the water glasses vibrate for a brief second, but it was all the Enders needed to tell them that company was coming and fast. Senator Clinton stepped up to the podium while the others in the room applauded. He was a haughty looking man with dark hair streaked with grey that was concentrated at his temples. Ashleigh glanced at Lynx; he didn’t look too happy and wasn’t applauding with the others. He caught her eye and nodded. He knows! I didn’t think that… oh, Specials Soleum, duh! She nodded, slightly, back. One of the best things about being an Ender is that your table is usually in the farthest and darkest corner of the room, making it all too easy to escape the diplomats’ cloned speeches. The L3 squad creped away from their table and made they’re way up the stairwell. “Drones?” Jet asked as they ran up the treacherous metal stairs. “No.” Ashleigh said confidently. “Warriors, two legions, closing in fast.” “How do you..?” Mace began to ask. Ace shushed him. “Cris doesn’t, didn’t, even know that.” “Ok, let’s roll kids!” Rush yelled as they broke into the open air. “Grace, bring up Enders 1-5 and make it snappy!” He yelled at the Trafficker. “Keep Ender 3 in his docking clasps.” “But you’ll…” Ashleigh started to argue.
  • “Be a sitting Duck! I know! Don’t start with me Ice Queen! Just get your Kryos @$$ to Volt!” I’m going to pay for that later. He thought when she glared at him before taking off to her A.S.P. Ashleigh tore across the hot titanium that made up the holding flat. Forgetting about how short her skirt was, or how much her arm still hurt, or even the pounding warning going through her head that told her everything she’d ever need to know about those approaching, she honed in on Volt’s open cockpit and jumped in. “All systems at 100% capacity.” Volt reported to his other half. “Good.” She strapped the harness over her chest and small waist. “How many?” She could see Volt’s calculations scroll through her mind. “130 units all flight warriors.” “Right, bring up the others.” She let her hair down. “Jet, Rush you guys are in charge of the strays, nothing gets near this ship. Ace take the water, I think something may come your way. Mace you’re with me, the plan is divide and conquer. Take one section at a time until we’re clear. Got it?” “Roger!” Came the response from all of her team mates. The warriors were in sight now. They were freakish, like dragons with human faces stretched over the top half of their heads. Their wings were little more than a cyborg skeleton with a thick leather hide stretched over it. The rest of their bodies were always different, some were covered with hide completely, and others had spikes and metal clasps in the areas not covered by a thick fleshy substance. It was like an army of Frankenstein’s mishaps had escaped the lab. “Mace weave pattern second row. Watch it they’re acidic.” Ashleigh said coolly. They entered the fray opposite the other and wove through the mass cutting off every other warrior until they exited. They then dive bombed the center. Jet smiled. “Leaving some for us, eh?” He fired his gattling shield in a slow arc, mowing down an entire line of Jedite. Meanwhile, Ace had his hands full. A ‘squiddy’ had decided to try and undermine the defenders by attacking the ship itself while they fought off the warriors. Squiddies were just giant cybernetic squids with a nasty set of fangs and cutlery, a different blade for each tentacle to be exact. “Little help here, Ice Queen!” Ace breathed into his head set. But Ashleigh had issues of her own. They threw spikes; this was a new feature for this breed of Jedite. Several larger warriors honed in on Ashleigh’s position, their leather wings giving them a slight advantage over the turbulent air. Ashleigh sent Volt into a barrel roll to evade the line of fire. An acid oozing spike sailed past Volt’s sleek head and into the sea. “I could vaporize the lot of you!” Volt yelled at the drooling beasts that were on his tail. Rush shot down another then another, but this was all to boring a fight for him. “Ahrg! To hell with this sorry battle!” Rush yelled. “Get out of the sky kids.” Ashleigh plunged Volt into the crystal clear sea just above Ace and Mac. Taking hold of the squiddy Volt tossed it into the sky using the momentum of Ashleigh punching the anti-grav drive to send it higher than the air borne warriors. “Mace drop!” Everyone yelled at him. “Die you mutant !” Rush yelled when Gabriel’s screen lit green with the lock symbol. In a chaotic burst of flame and blue smoke Rush fired every one of the 300 micro
  • missiles that Gabriel carried, knocking every last Jedite (including squiddy) into the once clear ocean below, staining it a dark murky crimson with their blood. Ace pushed Mac’s anti-grav drive to the max to get himself back on the ship. “That was exhilarating to say the least!” Mac said as he happily dried off his red painted cassis in the warm sun light. Gabriel ‘spit’ out the remaining gun powder from his missile pods. “You just had to fire all of them didn’t you Rush! You !” He cursed just as badly as his pilot. Volt settled back into his clamps, as the other squadrons Mecha began to come up from the hold beneath the flat. “For Sora.” He said hitting his chest piece with his fist, sending a hard metallic note through the air. “For Sora.” The other A.S.Ps shouted. Sora, Cris’ baby blue A.S.P, she was just as hyper as her pilot was sincere. She was so much like a child, she even said ouch every time she took damage. She was quite akin to Volt in design, sleek with a visor-like transparent steel plate holding 7 cameras, but she was built more for speed whereas Volt was for versatility. Ashleigh didn’t come out of Volt’s cockpit. She sat silently surrounded by her other half, with every display turned off, tears running down her face. A picture of the squad before Dresden was held tightly in her hand. Cris fell out of his chair. “You don’t know how to smile?!” “I must have known once but, as I said before, I’ve forgotten.” She said timidly. Cris caught her emotion. “Do what I do, ok?” He smiled. “Your turn.” Ashleigh tried, but ended up just bearing her teeth like an angry wolf. “Hopeless.” She said detached from all the feeling she had had a moment before. Cris took her by the shoulders his eyes intently on hers. “Don’t you ever say that! Nothing is beyond hope! Nothing is beyond God, nothing! Not even you, Ice queen.” “Nothing…” Ashleigh sobbed her head in her hands, the picture of the squad floated slowly to the floor. Ashleigh woke up stiff in the morning, the panel controls imprinted on the left side of her face. She stretched her arms as far as they would go; her uniform was wrinkled and very uncomfortable. “Volt, what time is it?” She asked freeing herself from the safety harness. “3:45 am, you should get into your room and get some real sleep.” He said opening the cockpit panel for her. Ashleigh nodded. “I guess.” Jet leaned on the metal railing looking out over the horizon as Ashleigh often did. His slim frame filled out his uniform surprisingly well. The Atilisk was one lucky antique, not even 10 hours ago its very existence was threatened, and yet here it was sailing, unscathed, as smoothly as ever. The breeze was fresh on his face and through his hair; he now understood why Capt Nixx enjoyed standing on the holding flat. The breeze and the mist seemed to melt any trace of worry or care that he had felt the day before.
  • He smiled thinking about Capt Nixx. Of all the people on board she was the most real. Despite the fact that she was a Kryos, she lived more fully than he or Mace had. He was surprised that she’d integrated with society thus far. His father, a member of NOVA’s Kryos investigations unit, had told him that they never get this human on a normal basis. Ashleigh came up beside him leaning her weight on the railing with her elbows. She didn’t say anything just stared out over the sea. “You should be in bed, Capt.” Jet said glancing at her. “Likewise.” She said returning the glance. Jet fidgeted with his cuff. “Hey Capt, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” “No.” She said turning to face him. He glanced over his shoulder across the 150 yards of empty space behind him. “How close were you and Cris?” Ashleigh cringed. You just had to ask that question didn’t you? “Very.” “I see.” Jet said softly. He would’ve patted her on the shoulder if Ace hadn’t warned him not to if he liked having arms. No. You can’t, not truly. “Good night Jet.” Ashleigh said as she turned towards the hatch. “Hey, Capt Nixx?” Jet called after her. “Yes.” She said over her shoulder. “Are we supposed to call you ‘Ice Queen’?” He asked. She smiled crookedly. “No preference.” “Ok, good night Capt.” Ashleigh trudged to her room and fumbled with the access code on the panel beside her door. She walked into the dark room and slid out of her uniform and into bed. She was tiered and, for the first time in 3 months, she wanted to sleep. “So do you have a name?” Cris asked his golden eyes set on his work. “Ashleigh Nixx.” She said matter-of-factly. He looked up from the panel on Sora’s left boost system. “Ashleigh, wow, you hardly ever hear that name anymore.” He looked her over once. “It suits you.” He looked down again and tightened the water seal over his handy work. Ashleigh watched him intently. “Thank you Cris.” She said absently. “Ah ha!” He exclaimed. Ashleigh stared at him curiously, one eye brow raised. “My dad always said that the old person remained in the Kryos, and, like anyone else, was changed by experience. You just proved it.” “How?” Ashleigh crossed her arms over her chest. “You thanked me.” Ashleigh eye-balled him. “You’re odd.” Cris smiled that knowing smile that seemed to cut through Ashleigh’s mental and emotional walls like a knife through butter. What do you know that I don’t? The rays of the sun burst through the crack in Ashleigh’s curtains, waking her, a bit less than gently. She rose from her prostrate position and yawned. The picture of Cris on her night stand, along with the other members of her unit, stared at her. She inhaled sharply. I should be dead…not you.
  • She glanced around her room before forcing herself out of the warm covers. Her bare feet touched the cold tile floor and sent a shock up her spine; she jumped back in bed almost instantly. She got back under the ugly grey blue bed sheets and covered her head. Some one pounded on the door. It was Ace; he came by every morning after greeting the sunrise to make sure that she was up. She pulled the sheet off of her head, turning her hair into a frizz ball. Every thing in her room was a memory, the lace curtains, mismatch furniture, and even the ugly bed sheets. It made it hard to let go of grief. She hopped out of bed and ran over to her slippers; the tile floor was like ice. Walking over to the sink just left of the window Ashleigh looked in the mirror as she brushed her teeth then her long hair. Opening her closet she found a pair of jeans and one of Cris’ shirts, the blood stained one. Ashleigh reversed momentum a second too late. Volt yelled a warning as the Jedite queens spike flew directly into his cockpit. The dragonite casing shattered like glass all around Ashleigh her crystal green eyes turning a murky blood red. She was exposed, but that meant nothing. She kicked the vernier thrust to full capacity and made for the queen’s divide point. Every Jedite has a divide point, a weak spot that when hit with enough force literally tares the creature in half. Volt yelled a warning to his apparently indifferent pilot just before the sonic blade hit the queen’s large plate that adorned her left flank. The monstrous creature let out a howl of agony as it met its end, dark blood erupting from it like a fountain. Volt landed near the others. “Never in all my existence have I ever feared for my circuitry!” Cris hoped out of Sora and climbed up Volt. Ashleigh sat in a pool of Jedite blood the cockpit canopy completely destroyed. Cris leaned over the jagged edge of Volt’s cockpit. “Are you ok, Ice queen?” Ashleigh spit out blood. Jedite blood tastes like a salty battery acid and rancid milk. She nearly puked. “Fine.” She said trying to wipe of her face with her saturated sleeve. Cris pulled off his shirt revealing his riveted figure. Ashleigh found herself staring for a brief moment. He started to wipe off her face but she backed away. “Hold still; let me get the worst of it.” He pulled her out of the blood bowl and helped her down. Once they were on the ground Volt flew a short distance away. Cris smiled. “After Volt dries out we can go home.” “Home?” Ashleigh felt an odd emotion pulling at her heart and emptying her stomach. Cris’ golden eyes were filled with kindness. “Yeah, the Atilisk is our home, seeing as how we’re alone in the world.” He smiled. “But even those who are alone on earth have an ethereal companion.” She knew at once that he was talking about God; he always had something to tell her that included Him.
  • She smiled tearfully at the memory as it pushed to the fore ground away from all the chaos in her mind and soul. Another knock at the door roused her from her reminisce. She slid the shirt over her head and took one last look at Cris’ uniform that hung in the back of her closet before answering it. Opening the door without a second thought Ashleigh knocked it directly into Rush’s head, with a little more force than necessary to open the heavy double plated metal that it was made of. It gashed a three inch long wound vertically over his eyebrow that began to bleed profusely almost immediately after it had been inflicted. And that my friend is for the other day! She thought with and internal grin, one that no one but she could see or feel. Jett jumped up from his seat on the floor. “Oh, my gosh!! Rush are you ok, man?!” Rush smiled a little bitterly and yet amused. Took you long enough to get back at me. “Yeah, kid. Just a scratch.” He squelched the blood flow with his left hand. “Tell her.” Ashleigh folded her arms over the old blood stains on her shirt. “What?” Her tone was so emotionless it sent a chill through Jet, unnerving his courage and bringing his train of thought to a crashing halt. “Umm…. Err …. Well you see we’re recon in….” He couldn’t bring himself to say it, not after what Ace had told him about the place that the hierarchy was sending them, and after seeing what she’d just done to Rush just made it harder. Rush rolled his eyes impatiently. “Dresden, we’re heading out in a few minutes.” Jet couldn’t see a reaction from Ashleigh, only a glazing over of her eyes. “You think you’re up to it, Capt?” He asked to break a long silence. “Give her a minute!” Rush barked smacking the rookie upside the head with his free hand. Ashleigh yelled into the comm unit for Jake to get clear. But he was late in response; his A.SP was impaled by one of the acid covered missiles that looked like spikes protruding from the queen’s hide clasps near its wings, in this case. She could hear his agonizing scream just before his comm cut out in a serpent-like hiss. Ashleigh could feel a fire rise inside her, like it had the first time she’d encountered this classification of the Jedite; and just as before her eyes became a murky blood red. She wheeled Volt around and began charging the beam cannon. “Ace, Rush, get clear of my trajectory. I’ll fire in 2.48 minutes.” She said in her usual even tone. “!” Rush yelped kicking Gabriel into high gear, pealing out the rubber cover on his treads. Ashleigh continued Volt’s backward flight path and took aim, being programmed for over a hundred years in a frozen glass tube had its advantages. She exhaled slowly and squeezed the trigger. In a brilliant flash of light the aerial threat of the dragon-like warriors was eliminated. “Ice queen, check your pace!” Ace yelled. “You’re on a kamikaze rout into the queen’s head!” Ashleigh turned the comm on hands free. “I know.” She reversed thrust at the last possible moment, using the Vernier exhaust as a weapon, blinding the queen with the massive heat it produced. In one swift and fluid movement Volt had the queen by one of its four massive bone tusks and pinned it down.
  • “You and I are like in mind my friend.” Volt said rather cheerfully for an A.I. about to be blasted to smithereens by the queen’s auto self destruct. Ashleigh half smiled at the thought of her and her Mech leaving this world of sorrow and chaos together. But Cris’ voice had to spoil it. “Ashes get out of there! We have to fall back!!” He and Sora yelled at her in unison. Ashleigh smiled at his concern. “I’ll hold it here; just get Jake out of here.” Cris snapped Sora into a direct intercept course with Volt. “That’s an order lieutenant, retreat!!!” He yelled at her. “Fight to the last.” Ashleigh responded. That was the L3 squad’s motto, the words they lived by, nothing was worse than retreat. “You can’t be serious!” Cris yelled, something like agony filled his strong voice. His emotion caught her off guard and for a brief moment she faltered. That moment was all Cris needed to knock Volt off the queen and send him careening out of the blast radius. “Don’t you know how valuable your life is…How much you mean to us?” The queen’s self destruct triggered and in a massive sphere of white hot fire and black smoke Cris, Sora, and the hell spawned Jedite were engulfed. Never to be seen again. Ashleigh sat in silence her throat and chest constricted and her heart felt as if it had been rent in half within her. “Cris…” Then it sunk in, he was gone. “No. I…CRIS!” She yelled in agony clutching at the control stick in her left hand and the pain of her heart with the other. That was the end of it… and the Jedite would pay, with their very existence. Nothing could hold back the rage that burned inside her and illuminated her blood red eyes till they seemed to glow with it. They would all go to hell, every last one of them. “Yes.” She said resolutely blinking the memory away. I can’t hide forever. “Great!” Jet exclaimed. “I’ll run an’ tell Ace to get Volt ready.” He said as he ran down the hall. “Are you sure you can handle this, I mean Cris was your best friend.” Rush asked as soon as Jet was out of ear shot. She nodded. “Yes.” Thanks for caring Rush. The trip by ship to Dresden was slow and boring. Rush lost to Mace in Poker, Ace taught Jet the art of emptying at times of crisis and Ashleigh stared out over the Ocean, like always. Her form calm and still as the sea itself, the salt air caressing her face and sticking to her hair. They landed at about noon, on the deserted beach, and looked out with heavy hearts and dark memories at the desert wasteland that was once the green paradise of Dresden. Pieces of debris rose out of the pure white sand, like grave stones for the innocent. A few tattered and withering roses struggled to hold on to any life still within the dead zone. Ashleigh inhaled sharply as the empty pain in her chest expanded, becoming the center of her being for a brief moment. Ace shook his head. “You weren’t ready for this step yet.” He said softly to her as he walked by. I know. She thought bitterly. But two years ago this would’ve meant nothing. Rush slapped Ashleigh’s back. “Ice queen, ya think you can patrol the out skirts?”
  • “Better than you could, old man.” She said wryly. Rush turned red. “Old! Who’re you calling Old?!” “You.” Ashleigh said walking toward Volt as Rush let out a string of colorful profanities. “That was harsh.” Volt commented to her as she strapped in. She closed the cockpit. “Vengeance.” “Is the Lords.” Volt retorted. Cris had told her that, just before… Ashleigh opened Volt’s sub-router, a small white panel behind the pilot’s seat; it had taken her 4 hours to pry the sucker off. Not including the time it took her to move the 120lb titanium framed pilot seat. A bright pink wire hung loose amongst its black, yellow, red, and blue comrades. Both ends frayed horridly and the plastic casing melted a good inch from the end of the bare wire. She took it between her thumb and fore finger and twisted it back and forth ever so gently whilst she thought. The cockpit was hot, unbearably. Dresden used to be so cool even in the summer now it was a frying pan; slowly cooking the L3 squad into tender morsels for the Jedite. Not to mention that everything in the cockpit was black! Most of it was made of metal, which only intensified the heat. Ashleigh bit the casing pulling it away from the opposite end and twisted the frayed parts back together, securing her handy-work with a piece of electrical tape; that was also black. She climbed out of the oven that her cockpit had become, burning herself in the process. “Hey, Volt?” She asked flapping her loose green shirt up and down to cool off. Volt’s dragonite head tilted down so that one of his seven cameras could focus on her. “Yes my friend?” “When did the wire in your router fry?” His head tilted up again. “Here; four long and hard months ago.” “It’s hard for you, too?” Ashleigh asked as a child might. He nodded, his joints creaking ever so slightly. Rush’s voice barked out of the T-4 com unit on Ashleigh’s belt, destroying the moment. “Hey, Popsicle, ya melting yet?” She could hear Gabriel cursing in the back drop noise. “It’s eminent.” You’ll get it for calling me Popsicle, old man. “News?” Rush folded his sweaty arms across his damp t-shirt. “Nothing. This place is dead. Lynx just wanted us of the Atilisk while the Space trash senator was on board.” Ace pulled the feather talisman out of his damp shirt. “Senator Clinton may be a spacer, but I sensed no hostility from him. Impatience with his son yes, but to us he was indifferent.” Mace’s blood boiled. “It’s all ‘cause o’ last night!” His ASP emulated the same emotion with a surge of excess energy escaping his air vents. “We out did those pathetic mass produced Mech’s in front of the Senator, duh.” Rift shouted. “No.” Ashleigh said into the T-4. “Say what?!” The other Enders exclaimed as one. “Some one else.” She said. “Higher.”
  • Ace closed his eyes and smiled. You have no idea how much Cris lives on through you, Ashleigh. “Let’s go.” She said huffing from securing the seat into its preordained spot. “The Capt’s right, this is a waste of time. James and I are coming in.” Jet said entering the conversation for the first time. Mace sent Rift into a tight aerial flip. “I second. Anisa and I were planning on practicing together at the range.” ”Well I third it!” Gabriel shouted over the system. “I want out of this  heat now!! My missiles are going to overload if I stay out here much longer, not to mention the  sand is eating my tracks!!” He then let out a string of curses on the Jedite, the sand, and Lynx. “Not yet.” Ashleigh said. Ace laughed. “We’ll take our time coming in, Ashleigh, no worries.” Dresden once housed over 2 million people. Most streets were lined with trees; there were several large parks and even a field in the heart of the city for festivals. You know the whole white picket fence thing. Then came the Jedite. For some reason those sorry mutant cowards attacked the most peace loving and defenseless areas of the planet. Ashleigh jumped from the cockpit and into the sand sinking almost knee deep. She pulled herself out and wiped off some of the sand that stuck to her glistening skin. There was nothing but white sand, black knurled tree skeletons, and ruins as far as the eye could see. She looked for a long time at a white rose plant that was doing its best to survive in the shade of an old keg. Ashleigh bent over it, remembering fondly what Jake had told the group about what the flower symbolized in his home country. As if by magic the ground beneath her began to shake so violently that she was knocked onto her rear. The earth itself began to shift, sand poured into the unseen gulf that had suddenly appeared. Before she could regain her footing a queen Jedite had risen to its full height, and she was on top of it. Ashleigh jumped to her feet before feeling her brain freeze, no brilliant plans, no reactions, not even an adrenaline rush, she just froze. One of the queen’s acid oozing spikes popped out of the cybernetic clasp holding the thick hide onto its back. The force of its protrusion stirred the air around her violently whipping her hair around her face and bare arms. Acid borne upon this current spattered her right arm, melting through it almost instantly. Not even the pain registered! Was this the reason that no Kryos had ever reintegrated with society successfully, did they just shut down like a piece of old Mech? Then something within her stirred a force from the deepest and darkest regions of her slowly surfaced. Slowly she began to reconnect with her senses, first the pain, then the sensation of the warm thick blood pouring from the wound and dripping off of her fingers at a quick tempo. The final feeling being that of a rush of energy, strange and familiar, coursing through every part of her being. As if she’d willed it the air around her began to stir, slowly at first, then faster and faster until it was nearly a twister of considerable destructive capability.
  • The blood from her wound entered the fray in slender crimson ribbons that swirled in an intricate pattern of intertwining strands. Ashleigh closed her eyes for a moment, unsure if it was really her that was in control of…this. When at last she opened them they were no longer the crystal green that shinned but a murky blood red that seemed to see through everything while exposing nothing itself. The storm around her was indeed under her control, though how and why, at this moment, it chose to show itself was beyond her comprehension. A few streams of blood hit the queen’s hide slicing through it like butter and leaving the surrounding area of the cut sizzling as if rent by acid. The queen screamed in pain and began to reinforce the hide that had been scathed. Ashleigh wanted down; heck she didn’t really even want to come in the first place. This only made things worse. Before she knew what was happening her subconscious sent the majority of the blood that was caught in the storm around her to the queen’s hull. It melted through everything; cybernetics, hide, and bone, as the Jedite’s acid did the Mechs that the ERC used. The monster screamed louder and began to buck and twist, anything to get whatever it was out of her. Volt watched in disbelief, the fact that his pilot had such abilities was quite a shock, and yet some how not. Ace was the first one in visual range, he just about fainted. There was no sign of Volt in the dust storm that the queen was kicking up. “Oh, crap! Rush, Ashleigh’s got company!!” He yelled into his com unit. Rush cursed very loudly. “Why didn’t she call for help?!” He fumed over how well Volt and her took out over half the Jedite army just 4 months ago without needing much help. “Mace you’re the fastest, get your sorry Spacer carcass over there and help ice queen!” “Roger.” He responded a little too happily. Ashleigh felt the armor plating beneath her give way as her blood did its handy work; she slowly slid through the opening into the creature itself. A rancid smell met her as she entered. It was a mess of wires tangled around muscles and joints, a few bone stubs protruded from the burned areas like large white branches. A small voice inside her head was speaking to her without words, keeping her calm and, most importantly, sure. In using this otherworldly ability she felt complete. Instinctually, with a flick of her wrist, she sent a stream of blood through the wall of tissue in front of her like an arrow as she hit the halfway point. She felt the creature buckle; she must have hit the nervous system. She sped up in her decent in a minor panic and ended up falling through it a little too fast. She hit the sand below with a muffled cry of pain before scrambling out from under the queen’s collapsing 40 ton frame. She’d killed it, all by herself, no Volt, no weapon (unless you count the very thing that kept her alive) nothing. She spun on her heel and sprinted to Volt. She felt confusion grab her by the throat while clambering up to the cockpit as fast as she could.
  • “Volt, what just happened?” She whispered sliding into the cockpit. A panel behind her rotated revealing a first aid kit. A spindly robotic appendage took and gave to her. “The Dr. in charge of your kryostasis must have altered DNA some how.” Volt said, his third arm handing her a roll of gauss for her arm. Ashleigh took the alcohol out of the med kit and saturated a cotton ball with it. Pain shot up her spine as she pressed it to the sand infested wound. She held her breath while she cleaned it out. He must have seen this coming. She thought, trying to keep her mind off the pain. How could he? I mean that would have to mean… Mace’s voice pulled her out of her thoughts. “Hey, Ice queen, this is Mace. You ok?” “Fine.” She said into her T-4 Ace visibly relaxed as soon as he heard her voice. “Why didn’t you call for backup?” He said in mock anger. “No time.” She said, wrapping the acid burn with gauss. “Call up the researchers Ace. They won’t want to pass this up.” Mace said over the com his voice was weak and his dark face was incredibly pale. Lynx ordered the retreat, but there wasn’t much left of his squad. The new type of Jedite had proven to be more than just a mere upgrade in their technology, it was the next step in the annihilation of the human race. They were just as fast on land as in the air with large feather like wings and some kind of propulsion system on either end of the shoulders. Their legs were powerfully built and could lift them 10 meters into the air with a single leap. A shock of white hair ran from the peak of their aerodynamic heads that had 5 eyes set in a visor pattern around it. The worst part being that they had both acid and sonic capabilities that put a halt to all assaults attempted by the blue squad. The leader was a dark blue, while the others were the typical red or death grey, and seemed to let the three remaining squad members escape. But Lynx could sense something, what was it? A nagging feeling of dread wouldn’t release his mind or soul. He spun around just in time to see the dark blue Jedite pull open its stomach piece and charge something inside him like a particle cannon or beam weapon. “Oh, ! Evasive action!” He yelled to his comrades. But it was too late the beam of charged particles flew at them with blinding speed. Lynx pushed his Model 7 thrusters into reverse protecting all the critical systems but exposing the cockpit. The beam caught the canopy and ripped it apart, sending the chest piece to oblivion, reducing its left arm and nexus cannon to a molten stub, and sending shards of titanium scrap into the left side of Lynx’s body. He cried out in pain as he maneuvered the Mech 7 toward the Atilisk and sent it into motion at maximum speed. Rush stood with his mouth gaping beyond what any one had ever deemed possible. Ace and Mace stood beside him emanating the same shock through their and posture eyes, which nearly fell out of their sockets.
  • Jet was the last to arrive; seeing as how he was the farthest away. He jumped out of James and ran over. “Holy crap! How’d you and Volt bag her without destroying all the critical systems?!” He said in awed. James had scanned the area several times and had come up with a reading that puzzled him to the point of short circuiting. “There is no sign of any beam or particle weapon fire within the radius of my sensors.” He fumed; he really hated not knowing what was going on in the battle area. Ashleigh withdrew inside herself behind the wall that Cris had nearly destroyed. “A side effect.” She said emotionlessly.  Kryos scientists! She yelled in the silent corner of her mind. Ace placed a hand on her shoulder. “We don’t have to know, but you know they will ask.” Ace was the only one present who could touch her without getting punched or side stepped or (even worse) the glare of eminent death. Maybe it was because his wife (girlfriend at the time) was the one who’d found her broken stasis tube and saved her life. I should’ve died, three times now. She thought bitterly. Jet started to pat her on the back but she shut him down with an emotionless glance in to his blue eyes. Mace kicked at the queen’s tusk, then stared up at its elephant-like head and sharp fanged mouth. “Dude, this sucker is one ugly mother!” His dark skin contrasted greatly with the ivory colored tusk that was ten times his size. “And this is one of the prettier ones.” Rush said with a grin at Jet’s reaction. Ace looked around for Ashleigh but she was nowhere to be seen. Don’t shut yourself out, kid. It only makes things worse. He thought to himself Ashleigh had left the group and sat on Volt’s shoulder. Her hair was unbound and limp on her shoulders and back. Cris scratched his head disarraying his dark hair in the process. “Um… well the Jedite are ugly, leather covered, cyborg lizard-things. I think they could be mutant fish.” Ashleigh frowned. “That’s not a very good description, but I can pull a rough sketch from it.” Cris smiled. “Ok, my turn!” He thought for a moment. “How old are you, were you?” Ashleigh looked down deep in thought. “I think I was 18 or 19. I’ve been out for a few months so I really can’t say for sure.” She sighed heavily. Cris tilted her head up till her eyes met his. “Don’t be ashamed.” He let go of her chin quickly. “My mother couldn’t remember everything either.” His smile returned. “But one things for sure, once you regain almost all your humanity I’m going to have to beat the guys off with a stick.” “Why not with Sora?” She asked innocently. Cris laughed. “Yeah that’d do it, huh?” The research team in the area arrived within an hour after Rush put in the call that a partial queen was available for study. Most of the scientists were students, due to the fact that there were several partial queens (more like several jars of queen jam) were being studied by the professionals.
  • Every last one of them was in a state of pure ecstasy at getting a specimen like this while still a student or teacher, and every single one of the 400 of them had a million questions. Few of which got a clear answer. Ashleigh sat in Volt’s cockpit with her arms folded across her chest eyes closed to the few students who refused to leave without asking her at least one question. She drowned out their voices with music from her era. Suddenly the music cut off. “Captain Nixx this is Commander Lynx Marques, I request your presence on the research vessel Kandis.” The com system boomed. She rolled her eyes. Just great. “Roger.” She said reluctantly starting up Volt’s anti-grav drive. She picked up her T-4. “Guys, hold down the fort. I’m going to see Lynx.” No revenge, at least not on Lynx. What ever you want Cris. Rush grunted in distaste. “Give us a ring if the sorry  tries anything.” “Right.” Ashleigh answered as she lifted off. Lynx paced the holding flat, it was so tiny compared to the Atilisk, it could only hold a maximum of 5 Mechs and was rusting in all the rivets. His long brown hair snapped at the nape of his neck. His always well pressed uniform was shredded and the left sleeve was completely missing. His arm and side was bandaged and bleeding. Volt landed in front of him with a single low click from his dragonite heels. Ashleigh paused for a moment looking at the damage her Commander had taken in the view screen before she jumped out. “Commander.” She saluted. Her eyes rested with sympathy on his left arm. “You asked for me, sir?” He nodded. “Several members of the hierarchy have, well, they know you’re a Kryos now, and wish to have a talk with you.” He paused to monitor her reaction. There was none, if you discount her tilting her head slightly to the left. “Its best we not keep them waiting.” You sneaky under handed weasel! She thought in a brief moment of anger, but then it passed as she saw how much his movement hurt him. He lead her down a long gloomy corridor that was cold and dimly lit; a red carpet had been hastily laid down the entire length of the hall from the holding flat to the room that they were now headed. Ashleigh rubbed her own bandage. “How’d you get injured?” She asked glancing out of the corner of her eye. Lynx blinked for a moment as if to stifle tears. “We ran into a new Jedite mutation.” He was very solemn. “You’re the only survivor.” She stated. He nodded again, before he unloaded. “We didn’t stand a chance! Ambushed and 3 to1 as we were, Red squad came in as backup, but that didn’t do anything but get more people killed…They told me to warn the others or their deaths would mean nothing…” He stopped walking and there was a long silence between them. Then he spoke after about five minutes of staring at the red carpet. “I was injured while retreating with two others. Half my Mech7 and the other two men were blown to smithereens.”
  • She briefly touched his unhurt right arm, her eyes held more encouragement and sympathy that could be expressed in mere words. This changes things Volt. She thought to her ASP. Indeed. He responded. They are adapting to a higher level than we anticipated. Lynx stopped before an ominous looking door at the end of the carpet. He looked straight into Ashleigh’s eyes. “There are three Hierarchy members inside, one for you, one against you, and one neural. This is a trial of sorts. I’m sorry you have to go through it.” Ashleigh smiled inside. You know for a sneaky underhanded hierarchy puppet, you’re ok. She thought as they entered the room. The room was filled with the smell of smoke and perfume. A vase of peach roses in the center of an old wooden table in the far corner was the only cheerful thing in the bare white room. The Hierarchy members were seated around the typical steel square on legs that served every one on every ship in the fleet as a table. There were two men and one woman each seated on their own side of the table, the woman was on Ashleigh’s right, one of the two men was in front of her staring into her eyes, and the other was seated on the left. Lynx stayed outside, Ashleigh had hoped that he would be present; a little familiarity would help in this situation. Ashleigh saluted upon entering the room, and held the salute until the man on her left, a younger man about 27 with silver hair, an all black outfit, long trench coat, and nice gun, saluted in return. The first to address Ashleigh was the woman; she looked like the average secretary from Ashleigh’s time, tall, slender with blond hair in a tight bun and wire frame glasses. “Captain Nixx, we have been looking over your data wile overseeing the selection of a new Blue and Red squadrons.” She said heartlessly. “And have come to find out that you’re very presence is a direct violation of statute 463b paragraph 8 line 2 in the Kryos bill that was adopted in N.C. 3309!” Ashleigh showed no reaction. Still standing at attention, she nodded slightly to acknowledge that she had in fact heard the woman. The man in the black trench coat admired the fact that she was still at attention. “At ease Captain Nixx.” He said smiling only slightly. “Your record also shows that you are quite the soldier. Just last month you were awarded the 500+ kill badge not many soldiers can brag about that, or live that long.” Again she acknowledged the speaker with a slight nod. The woman shook an accusational finger at him. “Zell you know good and well that the military report means nothing to the Hierarchy! She should be placed back into stasis for observation; her psyche just can’t handle anything other than military procedure!” Wow, now that I no longer despise Lynx, God gives me you. “Permission to speak freely, sir?” Ashleigh said emotionlessly. The older man directly across from her nodded his distinguished graying hair, the decorations on his light blue uniform catching a glimmer of true light that cascaded through the smoke near the window. “Granted, Capt. Nixx.” “If what the lady says about my psyche being able to handle nothing but military procedure would it not be to the military’s advantage to use the Kryos in the war against the Jedite?” She paused. “With everything and every one that was once our life now
  • gone, we are expendable and as far as the scientists are concerned we’re already dead.” Her eyes rested coldly on the lady. “She raises a good point Ms. Greenage.” The older man said, Zell nodding in agreement from across the table. Ms. Greenage was resolute in her opinion. “Guile, she cannot be allowed to stay with any squad, let alone the Enders! Her psyche is volatile at best, she could snap at any moment!” Ashleigh heard a bit of a laugh escape her lungs. “Right; just like any other front line soldier.” Zell clapped his hands. “Well said, Capt. Nixx” Ms. Greenage fumed; this was not going her way. “Did you feel anything when your comrades Cris Barton and Jake Aadland died 4 months ago?” Low blow. “Yes.” She managed to say through a constricting throat. Mr. Guile leaned on his elbows in interest. “What were they, can you put a name to them or did you just feel it without understanding?” I hate you! She thought bitterly, the anger helped drown the pain. “Rage.” Damn the Jedite to hell. “Pain.” I just lost the only person who believed that I could become something alive. “Incompetence and guilt, how could I have been stupid enough to let them die?!” Her last few words were barely audible. Zell looked across the table at Ms. Greenage with an ‘I told ya so’ smile on his lips. Ms. Greenage burst into a rage. “The first one was a fluke!! Dr. Nicosia said that if she hadn’t of gotten pregnant that she would’ve snapped.” She nearly yelled, rising slowly from her uncomfortable metal chair. Ashleigh raised an eyebrow. Zell smiled at Ashleigh’s reaction, perfectly human only inaudible. “Her name was Lauren Sims.” He said as Mr. Guile flipped through his folder. “She married a Grey Barton and gave birth to a son, his name was Christian Barton, and died of cancer 12 years later her husband following only 2 years after in the Red Tide.” Ashleigh took note of how he was a little nostalgic when he said was Christian Barton. “Just look at her! She needs to be evaluated at the very least!” Ms. Greenage’s voice hit a new pitch with those words. “Please explain the extent of the evaluation.” Ashleigh said her eyes alighting on Zell for a moment with one of Cris’ knowing glances. Mr. Guile smiled. “It’s only a week with a Psychologist following you around.” He turned his attention to the dejected Ms. Greenage. “Your request to reclaim her for the Kryos study facility is denied. A simple evaluation will be enough.” Zell stood up and offered Ashleigh his hand. She took it gladly. “Keep up the good work, Capt. Nixx.” He said as Guile waved her out of the room. “Yes, sir.” She said before she left the room. Lynx escorted her back down the length of the dreary hall once again. Ashleigh glanced at his arm. The bandages were soaked through and dripping blood all over the red carpet. They emerged from the white hall of doom and blinked fiercely upon entering the sunlight. Ashleigh rolled her eyes. Volt, could you bring me the med kit? The thought was involuntary, hence the eye rolling.
  • “Let me see your arm.” She said to Lynx as they stood in Volt’s shadow. Lynx raised an eye brow. “Sure, I guess.” He said holding it out to her as far as the pain would allow. She unwound the gauss, and nearly gasped at the state of it. His arm was shredded, there was barely any skin left on it, it was more the shrapnel than the weapon fire itself that tore it up. “Good night in the morning!” she said under her breath. Volt’s joints creaked when he inclined to hand Ashleigh the med kit that he held gently in his 8 foot long black dragonite fingers. “Here, Ashes.” He said to bring her attention from Lynx’s arm to the med kit. “Oh, Thanx.” She said to Volt, then turning to Lynx added. “I think you should sit down this may take a while.” The white garbed scientists loaded the dead queen onto the Kandis with their out dated mining Mech2’s and set sail within two hours. Rush stood on the shore as they retracted the loading ramp hands on his hips and a scowl on his brow. “Hey! One of our squad members is on board!” He yelled at those hanging around on the deck. His face began to turn red when they denied him an answer. Ace patted Rush’s back. “No worries; Volt’s just a better flyer than any airplane.” He grunted and shoved pass Ace and Jet. Jet looked to Ace for an explanation. “Why is he so up set?” Ace put an arm around Jet’s shoulders. “It’s a long story, kid, but I think you need to hear it.” They walked towards there Mechs, Jet silent and attentive, Ace very careful that Rush didn’t hear him. Ashleigh’s T-4 squawked to life. “Ice queen! Where the bloody hell are you?!” It was Rush and by the tone of his voice he was in a foul mood. Ashleigh had her hands full stitching Lynx’s arm. She looked at him expectantly. “You want me to answer?!” He exclaimed. She held up a bloody hand. “Yes.” Lynx reached around with his good arm to get the T-4 off of the other side of her hips. “It just had to be over there didn’t it?” He thought as he finally snatched it. He cleared his throat before answering. “This is Lynx; Ashleigh is indisposed at the moment. But I’ll be happy to relay a message to her for you.” “I don’t give a flying ! I want to speak with her NOW!” Rush yelled back. Ashleigh rolled her eyes. Rush you’re such an idiot sometimes. “Hold it to my mouth.” She said to Lynx after tying off the last stitch and grabbing the gauss to wrap up her handy work. Lynx held it near her and pressed the button. “Calm down, old man. This had better be good; I’m tending a serious wound.” She said rather sternly, smearing salve over the burn before wrapping it. “Oh, sorry…” He was rather subdued in tone. “Volt can get you home right?” “Rest assured, sir.” Volt said from behind Ashleigh. “Ice queen out.” She said securing the bandages. Lynx put the T-4 on the ground. “I can’t believe they gave you these old T model com units.” He said more to himself than her. “Finished.” Ashleigh announced wiping off her hands.
  • “Thank you.” He said looking at his freshly tended wound, the pain had subsided greatly. “How can I ever repay you?” Ashleigh slammed the lid to the med kit down hard. I really, really, really want to hurt you for that. “What?” She said without turning to face him. He could hear the hurt and anger in that single word, then regretted saying anything at all. “I’m sorry…I just…Am very sorry.” He opened his mouth to explain why he thought that way then closed it without saying a word more. Ashleigh looked into his dark eyes. There was more to him than she’d ever cared to look for, but it still didn’t change the fact that he was a Jack Ass. “The Hierarchy.” She said reading the unsaid confession in his eyes. He nodded. “My life among them anyway.” He looked up at Volt as he often did. “If only I could break free of their shadow.” He breathed quietly so that he was the only one who heard it, but the wind foiled his plan and carried it directly to Ashleigh’s ear. Her heart broke at the fact that she was so cold to him. “Need a lift home?” Wow, look how nice I am, stupid! “Uh, you don’t mind?” He said unsure if saying anything would help or hinder his situation. “Your Mech7 was pushed too far, its scrap. It doesn’t look like you have much of a choice.” She said clambering up Volt’s leg. “Besides, I wouldn’t have asked if I cared all that much, idiot.” She lost her footing as she heard the words escape her lips. Oh, this is just great. She thought while she hung by her arms from a piece of Volt’s dragonite armor. I’m losing control. Cris turned a bit red. “Did I just say that out loud?” Ashleigh laughed. “No you said it silently, idiot.” “You were just sarcastic, I heard it!” He indicated her with a poke to the arm. “Oh, no you don’t, silver tongued devil! There will be no shifting of the spot light for you my friend.” She said wagging a finger at him. He laughed heartily. “I’m glad you’re loosing control over your heart.” She tensed up visibly. “Loosing control?!” She stood up and began to walk away. Cris started after her. “I said the wrong words.” She ignored him and continued to walk. Ashleigh sat up in bed, the throbbing headache still present from the events of the previous day still nagging at her. She looked at her clock and told herself that 3am was no time for her to be awake. But that didn’t do much good. So she tore out of bed to pace the deck, like she’d done several times before to rid herself of insomnia. Besides the Ocean’s rhythm seemed to ebb away the pain that just wouldn’t leave her soul. She slid out of her room and crept down the hall and up the stairwell. Her bare feet made no sound on the cold metal floor. Once she emerged from the darkness that enshrouded her in the stairwell the moon lent her its radiance, saturating her silken night gown with its light. She took a deep breath of the crisp mist laden night air that blew through her ankle length gown without resistance. She leaned against the cold dew covered railing. Closing her eyes she felt her cares fly away from her into the darkness of the night and the far corner
  • of the universe, or was it her soul that fled into oblivion’s silent peace? It didn’t matter she was content and painless and that was all that mattered at the moment. A pair of warm hands on her shoulders rent her sharply from her ecstasy. She spun around instantly. Why didn’t I hear him walk up? Lynx?! What the heck was he doing up and out here? Come to think of it why haven’t I twisted out of his hands yet?! ”You should be in bed you know.” He said softly. She twisted out of his grip and planted her hands on the railing. “Yes.” She said berating herself silently for lack of vigilance. “Cris was my only true friend.” Linx said more to the air than her. “I hated myself more than anything when he died; I still can’t let it go…” He inhaled raggedly. Ashleigh felt her heart break inside her. “Sleep eludes you because of guilt.” She finished his thought. “Life begins to mean less with every passing day.” He added. It was as if they were thinking as one. “God is the only thing that keeps you from longing for death.” “Revenge consumes the mind the moment sadness or the memories shrink from the fore front of your thoughts.” “And then the strength that once was caves in beneath the weight of a mournful soul. Then you stand alone in the emptiness, a million miles away from the light that once walked beside you on this narrow path.” They said in unison staring over the silver tipped ocean waves each nursing a loss that the other felt keenly. Ashleigh felt tears stream down her face and fought sobs gallantly, but all that had held her together escaped the desperate grip of her soul, and she succumbed to the pain that she had fought so long and cried. Lynx pulled her into a hug and held her to him, for he too was overcome by the sheer weight of the moment and had begun to cry as well. For the better part of an hour they stood on the holding flat each holding on to the other for strength and comfort. For both were scarred by the departure of their only true friend. Lynx pulled away and wiped the tears out of his eyes with his sleeve. Ashleigh did the same with her hands. He could feel the air’s icy bite through his uniform and cloak. He just now noticed that Ashleigh was only in her night gown and shuddered to think that she could catch her death in such a wind. He pulled off the heavy flowing white and blue cape, the one that Ashleigh hated so, and wrapped it around her shoulders. “Come; it’s too cold out here, I’ll take you to your room.” Ashleigh sniffled and wiped away the last of her tears. “Ok.” She awoke the next morning as the rays of the midmorning sun alighted on her eyes through the veil of light that was her lace curtain, she was still wrapped warmly in Lynx’s cloak, what was that thing made out of any way? A savage knock on the door pulled her out of the limbo one experiences just after wakening from a deep slumber.
  • She walked across the cold floor pulling the cloak snugly over her shoulders. “What?” She said drowsily as she opened the door. Ace and Rush exchanged glances. “Is that Lynx’s cape?” Ace asked. She looked down at it briefly. “So?” It was warm and could cover her from head to toe, she liked it now. “Oh, !” Rush howled pulling at his hair. Ace ignored Rush. “Some psychiatrist is coming to take you to a ward, or something!” “I’m having a psyche evaluation.” She said drowsily. “Did you not hear me; he’ll take you away for the evaluation!” Ace reiterated. “But this is my home!” She protested. Rush was kicking the door jam and uttering profanities under his breath. “What’s wrong with Rush?” Ashleigh asked taking note of his behavior. “Just ignore him. It has something to do with Ami-Lii.” Ace said handing her a large manila envelope. “Here you should read this. Lynx sent it.” She looked at it a moment before taking it. “I’ll be out in a minute.” Lynx braced himself to meet the psychiatrist on the landing flat. He had Ashleigh’s records in his hands; the edited versions. The psychiatrist stepped out of the vintage ’01 military helicopter and made her way towards him, smiling. “Are you Commander Marques?” She asked. For a moment Lynx couldn’t find his voice, he was so in awed by her. She was slender with generous curves, average in height with shoulder length black hair and grey eyes that mirrored the early morning mist, and a milky caramel complexion. “Yes, ma’am.” He said once he recovered from the initial shock. He had come face to face with Venus herself. “Nice to meet you, I’m Keilah Prang. Nova sent me to evaluate a Captain Nixx.” He nodded silently. “She’s out at the moment, but I have her file if you would like to review it before meeting her.” Keilah smiled politely. “I never read my patients files until after my initial evaluation. It tends to put them on edge and makes it harder to see them for who they really are.” Lynx was falling deeper with every passing moment. “That is very honorable of you.” She blushed. Lynx felt his heart race into his throat. “Thank you, Mr. Marques.” He thought about saying ‘please call me Lynx’ but that was just a little to cliché for the sneaky little weasel he was. “I do have a question though.” “Go ahead.” Her voice was soft and smooth. “Are you going to take her to a Ward?” He asked motioning for her to follow him into the Atilisk’s interior. She thought for a moment. “I don’t have very good instructions as to those proceedings, sir. But I would like to just shadow her here in her life situation and talk with her every now and then.” She laughed to herself. “I actually got two sets of orders on this case. One demanded that I see her in a Ward the other was more standard protocol and had Nova’s new seal on the front. So I really don’t know, yet.” Lynx smiled. “I’m sure that you will once you meet her.” “You’re quite confident in my decision making abilities, Commander.” She said with a laugh.
  • He drank in the sight of her with his eyes like a thirsty man drinks water, impressing her image into his mind’s eye so vividly so that he might never forget. “I’d rather be optimistic.” “As expected of any good Commander, Mr. Marques.” She said as they came up to Ashleigh’s room. Ace was still standing out side the door and Rush was sitting beside him. Rush mumbled a profanity upon seeing Lynx and Keilah approach. Ace rolled his eyes. So much for distracting her, he’s more distracted than Rush’s youngest daughter at a foot ball game. “Commander, is everything ok?” He said trying to hide his anger. “Yes, quite. Is Ashleigh up yet?” He responded. Rush grumbled to himself. “On a first name basis now,” He finished with a string of profanity that was quiet enough that no one could make all the words out. “So, ya taking her to a Ward?” Ace asked rather hostilely. “I haven’t decided yet.” She said kindly. “Each patient is different.” Ace visibly relaxed. “Good!” His voice was saturated with relief. Keilah smiled. “I’ll take that as a compliment. Are you a member of her squad?” Ace nodded. “The grouch, too.” He indicated Rush. “Then I’ll be asking you some questions about your friend, you know standard procedure and all that garble.” Rush looked up at her with a bit of contempt before leaving the group, with another of his famous profane groans. Ashleigh leafed through the manila envelope. It was mostly news paper cut outs about a Dr. Nixx, the head scientist in NOVA’s Kryos investigation unit. Her long copper hair was bound in a tight braid that hung over her shoulder. She was quite absorbed in the column she was now reading about his arrest. She didn’t even hear Lynx knock, the first 8 times. When she finally did hear him she quickly shoved the envelope in her desk and slid some clothes on. “What?” She said upon opening the door. Her eyes landed on Keilah instantly. Lynx cleared his throat. “This is Mrs. Prang, your evaluator.” Keilah extended a hand. “I’m glad to meet you.” Ashleigh took it, never turning her angry gaze from Lynx. “Right now it’s mutual.” She looked at Keilah when she spoke to her with a detached emotion, but then turned her venomous glare back on Lynx. “Do you mind if I speak with my Commander privately?” “Not at all.” She said a bit interested in the situation. Ashleigh pulled Lynx in by his collar and shut the door; her rage filled eyes ever on his love struck ones. “What did I do?!” Lynx asked all innocently. Ashleigh was too angry to say anything for about a minute. She just stood there hands on her hips trying to keep her torture training out of her mind. Oh, how I hate you right now! “You abandoned the plan.” She said at long last. Lynx looked unabashed. “I don’t follow.” Ashleigh felt like screaming, if what Cris said about loosing rein over certain emotions was true then was this one of them that you had to keep under wraps? “You don’t
  • follow?!!! Look you self righteous...” The warning sirens cut her off. “AARRGHH!” She stalked out of the room, blowing right by Keilah. Ace jumped into her train. “You’re in a bad mood, why don’t you take care of ‘em on your own? I’m sure I could get Grace to find a problem with the launch elevators.” He smiled. Ashleigh kissed his cheek. “You’re an Angel!” “Just don’t get killed!” He called after her a sly smile on his face. Ashleigh got to the holding flat in record time. Grace waved her through before shutting down the port unit over the doors. Volt was waiting for her; he seemed to be excited (even though ASPs technically don’t show emotion). “Flying solo?” He asked as she jumped into the harness. “Oh, yeah.” She said enthusiastically. They took off at a blinding speed rivaled only by Sora, who was 20 seconds faster. The mutation wasn’t a new one, just your basic warrior flight model that attacked the Atilisk every two to three weeks. She smirked. Piece ‘o cake. Volt’s Nexus morph gauntlet took the shape of a mace with a 17 foot diameter and 20 foot chain; Volt liked the feeling of it as it flung his enemies into the vast depths of the sea beneath him. Rush paced the holding flat, his burly arms folded across his chest. He was in a foul mood, and Ashleigh taking off to beat the living daylights out of the Jedite without him didn’t help much. Lynx slinked up behind him. “Is Ashleigh always that volatile?” Bad opening move. “You’re just lucky you’re a superior officer, if I was in your boots I’d already be deep fried and in an urn.” He spun on his heel. “Not that I blame her, I mean, just ditching the plan when a pretty face just happens to walk of that Helicopter!! You deserve to have your  kicked by the one you betrayed!” Lynx was about to say something nasty in return when Volt locked into his docking clamps. Now both men were in a foul mood. Ashleigh walked right passed them towards the dorms. “Wait on freaking minute, ice queen!” Rush boomed. “Who the  do you think you are taking off like that?!” Ashleigh turned around swiftly thrusting forward, throwing all her weight into a jab aimed at Rush’s shoulder. Rush’s burly frame flew a few feet from her fist before skidding across the smooth surface of the holding flat. Lynx opened his mouth to say something. “Do you want to join him?” Ashleigh said with a fierce gaze. He closed his mouth. He was thoroughly subdued with that single sentence. If there is one thing that all his years with the Hierarchy had taught him was that Hell hath no fury to that of a woman. Keilah emerged from her place in the shadows near the group. She had a note pad in her hand and was scribbling away.
  • Ashleigh folded her arms. “I think you’re supposed to stay hidden until you finish snitching on me.” She breathed in her direction. Keilah smiled and stuffed the note pad into a leather bag that was slung over her shoulder. She was no longer in the impressive business suit but a knee length jean skirt and a western style green top. “I think that’s called insubordination.” She said sarcastically. Ashleigh glanced at Lynx and shook her head. “I know.” Keilah walked up to them, Rush was still contemplating if he should just lie there or get up. “Do you do this all the time?” Ace came into the fray from some unknown angle. “She rarely ever gets angry but when she is, the expanse of ocean that surrounds us becomes very appealing.” He smiled, having put in his two cents, and walked over to help Rush up. Keilah smiled. “I see.” She looked intently into Ashleigh’s eyes. “Feel better?” That was the last straw! Mercy at that point was forfeit. Ashleigh hammered Jake into the dock with a well executed kick to the groin. Cris jumped in front of her, his eyes intent on hers. “Feel better?” Ashleigh huffed. “No.” He took her by the shoulders, she didn’t twist away. “Why?” She turned away from him. Yeah, why don’t I feel better, I got my revenge right? So what’s missing? She shrugged. “You lost control, you felt something. You should feel better, or is it that you feel guilty?” Ashleigh nodded. “It was a bit of a low blow, huh?” Cris smiled knowingly. “He’ll live.” Ashleigh blinked away the memory. “Yes.” “Right then, now that you’re feeling a bit better do you mind if we talk a bit?” Ashleigh rolled her eyes. Right, the evaluation. “Let’s get it over with.” The weeks rolled by in the slow monotonous fashion that seems to bore the life out of just about everyone. First one, then two, the next thing anyone knew was that it was three months ago that Ace had gone to see his wife and he still wasn’t back. Ashleigh stared out over the sun colored evening tide, her shadow beside her. She and Keilah had become quite friendly over the time they spent together. At first Ashleigh hated her guts. Who the heck was she waltzing in and pretending to be her friend? Then there was that odd feeling, and something she couldn’t really ignore, maybe she wasn’t so bad. Ashleigh thought back on everything as she stared out over the seascape. “I’m quitting my job.” Keilah said breaking the companionable silence. Ashleigh blinked at her, the question in her eyes. “I’ve sent my report and I like it here. Besides the doc needs some extra help and so does Grace, I could be useful in this fight that until now I have only viewed at a distance.” Ashleigh smiled. “As long as you’re happy with the decision.” Keilah nodded. “I am.” Ashleigh nodded, turning back to the sea which was now a pure gold with red tipped waves.
  • Rush strolled up to the girls. “Hey, Ice queen.” Ashleigh turned around, placing her weight against the railing on her elbows. “We gotta mission coming up in two weeks and Ace still isn’t back.” He was just making small talk; there was something more urgent pressing upon his thoughts. “You can say it in front of Keilah; she just resigned and is going to work here now.” Ashleigh smirked at his reaction. “You mean Shadow girl is going to be here all the time?!” He exclaimed. Keilah rolled her eyes. “Shadow girl has a name you know.” Rush was about to say something profane in response but Ashleigh stopped him. “Out with it Rush!” Rush folded his arms. “Specials Soleum was just calling for your records, they want to recruit you.” His face took on a sour grimace. “They say that another Kryos would be an advantage, seeing as how they are in the most concentrated area for Jedite activity.” Ashleigh swallowed hard. “Was it Colonel Zell?” Rush and Keilah laughed. “Zell is his first name, his last name is Maxwell.” Keilah said putting an arm around Ashleigh’s shoulders. Rush turned back into the herald of death. “Yes, it was. He’s coming to talk with you after the mission is over.” Ashleigh bit her lip until it bled. I’m caught between two worlds. “Don’t do that Ashleigh!” Keilah exclaimed. Ashleigh licked her lip. “Oh, sorry.” Keilah sighed. “I think you need to get some rest, all this studying his getting to you.” Ashleigh nodded. “You’re right.” Rush huffed something about teen age girls and walked ahead of them into the dorm entrance. He stopped at the heavy metal door. “What studying?” So, it was doomed to be discovered. “About Kryostasis.” Rush rolled his eyes. “Ok, kid, get to bed. We’ve got work to do tomorrow.” Keilah rubbed her temples. “What work?” Rush grunted. “My wife’s coming for a visit.” “Some one actually married you!!” Keilah exclaimed. And that did it, Ashleigh walked to her room with the name slinging ‘cat and mouse’ behind her bashing each other with profanities. Keilah climbed into bed, her dark brown hair was wet and dripping off the edge of the mattress. Ashleigh followed suit, the hand welded bunk bed creaked as she hoisted herself up. “Ashleigh?” Keilah whispered. Ashleigh hummed to show that she was listening. “Who is Rush’s wife?” Ashleigh smiled. “Her name is Angel, and God knows that she deserves that title. She is beautiful, kind, understanding, and faithful.” Keilah looked up as if to stare through the mattress above her. “You look up to her.” “Very much.” Ashleigh laughed. Keilah yawned. “I look forward to meeting her then.” Ashleigh blinked as she groggily came to. “Cris?” why the heck am I… Crap!
  • Keilah woke up to a massive crash that came from the bathroom. She flew out of bed and was in there within nanoseconds. “Ashleigh!” She yelled finding her caught in the shower curtain rod upside down and perpendicular to the tile floor. “How did you?” Ashleigh’s arms were folded. “Your better off not knowing.” She huffed. “Help me down, would ya?” Keilah smiled as she untangled Ashleigh. “And Col. Maxwell thinks that you’ll be an advantage.” She teased as Ashleigh straightened out her shirt. “Har har.” Rush stood on the holding flat brimming with anticipation. In a matter of minutes Angel would land, he could see the helicopter on the horizon. Ashleigh burst out of the Atilisks interior and into the sunlight then made a bee line for Rush. “Two point seven six minutes and counting!” She exclaimed giddily hopping up and down. Rush smiled. “Well, you seem happy.” Cris could see the helicopter on the horizon. “So she’s coming then?” Rush laughed. “I visit her every month; she said it was her turn.” Cris saw Ashleigh out of the corner of his eye, she was at a dead run towards them. She came to a sliding halt beside him, her eyes as wide as a child’s at Christmas. “Is she here yet?!” She exclaimed bouncing up and down. Jake rolled his eyes. “Stop that, you look like a freak!” Dream wrecker. Ashleigh stopped bouncing and resumed her usual emotionless state. Ace knuckled Jake in the head with a growl. Cris smiled at Ashleigh. “There’s nothing wrong with it.” “Why?” “Why not?” Ashleigh shrugged then smiled brightly when she saw the incoming aircraft come nearly up to them. Again with his knowing grin. “I like it when you’re happy.” “I’m happy?” This feeling, this is happiness? Cris laughed. “Well, you seem happy.” “I am.” Ashleigh said with a wink. Keilah accompanied by Jet, walked up to the duo. “Hey Ash, have you seen Mace?” Jet asked as he came beside her, his bright blue eyes looking at the aircraft with a curiosity that rivaled that of a cat. “Did you ask Lt. Anisa Walters?” Ashleigh said as her happiness rushed inside her like the swelling water from a broken dam. Jet rubbed his temples. “I should’ve thought of that.” Keilah put an arm around the two of ‘em. “Forget Mace, he’ll be happier if we leave him alone with her.” Her eyes got that intense light in them that made Ashleigh wonder about her friends up bringing. Ashleigh nodded.
  • The helicopter landed rather clumsily on the holding flat with a loud clunk. Ashleigh and Jet covered their ears as the engines powered down and the propellers slowed to a screech. Rush ran up to the door of the craft with reckless abandon. His hand gripped the handle and wrenched it open just as the propeller blades ceased their screaming, the shiny dark blue paint of the exterior reflecting his expression of utter delight at the face behind the window. Angel, a well aged woman in her early 40’s sat in the leather seat with a loving smile on her face as her husband opened the door for her. Her hair was a silky light brown streaked with grey that hung to her waist in a loose braid over her shoulder. Her eyes were the perfect picture of a life well lived, a misty grey green that seemed to capture you and hold you in a place of total peace. Rush plucked her out of the helicopter and swung her around, stopping to pull her into a kiss and a long embrace. Keilah smiled almost tearfully. “She loves the sorry  that’s for sure.” Jet and Ashleigh laughed after exchanging glances. The pilot’s door flew open and out ran a young woman about 19 years old, her hair was light brown with blond highlights cut even with her shoulders and layered so that the ends flipped out about an inch or so. She ran into Ashleigh, arms enveloping her almost instantly. “You stopped writing me!” The girl exclaimed as they embraced. “Sorry, Cora.” She managed to say. Cora looked up into Ashleigh’s eyes; those golden brown eyes seemed to hold so much of her mother in them. “Dad told Mom, Mom told me. The cycle goes on forever.” She winked. “You’re too smart for your own good, Cora.” Ashleigh said as they touched foreheads. After introductions were out of the way they all retired to the cafeteria for some sweet stuff that none of them really needed. “Seven months ago.” Cora stated as she and Keilah were in line for seconds. They clicked at once and were immediately telling each other their life stories. “And it still is a source of pain?” Keilah gasped. Cora nodded. “If you think about it everything around here is a memory of that year they spent in the same squad. She can never get away from Him. It’s almost like being haunted.” She grabbed the custard off the ice. Keilah nodded thoughtfully, her hand on her chin. “I wonder why she’s stayed here; I mean soldiers can transfer right?” Cora rolled her eyes. “Think of it as Shakespeare and you’ll understand her reasoning.” She grabbed another slice of chocolate cake and placed it beside the custard on her tray. “They were closer than I’ve ever seen anyone, he believed in her and she was there for him, would you really want to leave the place that you spent most of your time together? Would you really want that person to disappear so completely from your life that you have to think purposefully to remember him after 6 months?” Keilah shook her head. “I see now. It’s all so tragic.”
  • “Yeah, well, Ash hates it. She says soap opera’s are stupid and that life goes on. She’s like a sister to me and I feel helpless watching her from out side as she suffers within. But, that’s life,” She sighed. “Why can’t it ever be good to those that deserve a break?” Ashleigh smiled at Angel as she was telling how hard it was to keep track of everything this past year. The way she spoke the graceful manner in which she moved, her hands, arms, the way she walked, oh how she longed to be like her. Rush leaned on his elbows entranced by the woman who had chose, 22 years ago, to be his wife. It seemed to him that she hadn’t aged a single day. “So Ash, how has everything been lately?” Angel said before taking a bite of her custard. “Confusing.” She said. “Ah, still using one word answers I see.” She winked. Ashleigh gave her a knowing grin. “Any up coming missions, my love?” She asked her husband. Rush nodded. “In two weeks were heading out to London, seems they’ve got a roach problem.” He smiled grimly. “And the Specials Soleum has decided to take Ice queen off our hands afterwards.” Angel’s eyes bugged out and she nearly choked on her food. “They want my little Snowflake?!” Ashleigh smiled at the old nickname. “I’ve thought it over and I’ve decided to try it out. They’re supposed to be the elite.” “I know that. But did you know that the survival rate is only 15% of all who join!?” Ashleigh nodded a mischievous grin on her lips. “I wonder what Cris would think.” Ace said coming up behind them. “Ace!” Every one at the table exclaimed. “When did you get back?” Rush barked. He rubbed his thick neck. “3 minutes ago.” Ashleigh got up from the table, her wall thoroughly in place to hold back the flood with in her. She thought she got away without anyone noticing. But one of Angel’s grey-green eyes was always on her. Wanting so badly to help the girl out of the in between that seems to throw every simple decision into a life altering change. The darkness that seemed to be in her Snowflake’s eyes pained her deeply. If only she would’ve found out before…
  • Chapter 2: Change Ashleigh looked out the window, her forehead pressed against the cold glass. She silently stared passed her reflection on the glass to the scenery that moved by. Slender white and black aspens with light lit leaves dotted the wood on either side of the vehicle as it sped along the road. Open fields of wild flowers appeared for a brief moment allowing a glimpse of sweetness before they passed it completely. Ashleigh fidgeted in her seat, the leather squeaked against her new uniform’s dangerously short black leather skirt. Whoever designed those things was a pervert! Her rear had gone numb from sitting in the car for 4 ½ hours. She unlocked her seat belt and turned around to stare at Volt on his Platform truck. She sighed. Volt would’ve had them there hours ago. The driver looked in the rearview mirror. “Hey! Why aren’t you sitting down?!” The man sitting in the shotgun seat laughed. “She won’t answer you. She’s a Kryos.” Ashleigh stuck her upper half between the seats. “Can’t this thing go any faster?” The driver smiled. “Woman you haven’t seen fast yet.” Ashleigh heard the challenge in his voice and jumped back into her seat fastening the seat belt once more across her chest. You’re a pilot. She smirked as he floored the pedal. He handled the little coupe masterfully around the corners. Ashleigh’s hair swished around her face as they flew around them at an insane speed. The guy riding shot gun was pasted to his window as they hung a sharp left near a ledge. “You’re going to get us killed!” He shrieked. Ashleigh laughed. “That’s a new concept!” Her voice dripped sarcasm. The back right tire hit the edge of the drop sending a shower of pebbles and dirt down 300 feet into the river valley below it. He hit the gas as the road became strait once again pushing the little car to its max. The trees and other forest fauna was nothing more than a green grey blur out of the corners of their eyes. A large group of trees appeared in front of the speeding car, almost like a wall, as they rose over a hill. “Ah, ! Over shot!” The driver exclaimed as he hit the breaks and turned the wheel sending them into a spinning slide. Ashleigh laughed at the sensation of all her vital organs getting pressed to the left side of her body.
  • The car stopped mere inches from a massive concrete building, a toneless grey paint concealing the majority of it. It was surrounded by trees; that’s why it looked like a wall as the car came into visual range. The initials SMH (superior military headquarters) were grafted in gold on the front door. Ashleigh rolled her eyes, now there’s a dead give away. If an enemy is confused about his position all he has to do is read the sign on the door! Is it possible for anyone to be land-sick? If it is then Ashleigh was, she felt disoriented as she hopped out of the car and walked around to the trunk. It could’ve been a side effect from doing thirty 360’s in a matter seconds, too. She leaned against the car; everything was so strange to her. She’d always been by the sea or on it; here there was no rocking motion or waves breaking on the shore or themselves. The breeze wasn’t the constant flow of cool, damp air in her face and through her hair; it was sporadic and smelled… odd. The driver walked around to where Ashleigh was leaning on the car with her bags next to her, arms folded across her chest. “How do you like it so far?” He asked. She shrugged. “It’s different.” He smiled. “My name is Karsten McKammy.” He held out a large hand towards her. She took it and squeezed firmly. “Capt. Ashleigh Nixx.” The passenger stumbled out of his seat. “If you ever do anything like that to me again, I’ll kill you and make it look like an accident. And you know I can!!!” Ashleigh looked into the other man’s eyes without a hint of feeling. He was Middle Eastern by heritage and quite handsome, shiny grey eyes glared fiercely at Karsten, his build wasn’t too bad either. He was nowhere near as toned as Cris had been or a big as Rush or Karsten, but it was a good build. “Oh, shut up you pansy!” Karsten boomed. “Did you just call me a ‘pansy’?” He fumed. “That’s it!” He rushed Karsten and knocked him to the ground. Ashleigh watched from her spot beside the car and her luggage as the two rolled around in the grass and fallen leaves. About 25 minutes after mortal combat had ensued the big SMH door burst open. An older man around 50 came out with a large wrench in his hand. “Karsten, Tyson, you two show some respect for the lady!” He said crowning the both of them with one swing of his wrench. “Now you two pathetic excuses for pilots get your sorry butts inside and show Capt Nixx to her bloody room!!” The two of them exchanged glances and began to walk towards the door. “And take these with you!” He said hurling both of Ashleigh’s suit cases at them knocking both of them down from behind. “Welcome to the Specials, is it Miss or Mrs. Nixx?” He said extending a hand. Ashleigh smiled. “Miss, but I’m not used to it.” “Well, then, Capt Nixx. I’m Grey Pendragon, I’m the head tech for your squadron.” He said as Karsten and Tyson waited dejectedly by the door. “After you, milady.” Grey said motioning to the door. Ashleigh looked in the direction of the road, where was the platform truck? She wasn’t used to being this far away from Volt. She wasn’t used to change.
  • Cris leaned on the cold metal railing. “Can you handle change?” Ashleigh came up close to him. “Why are you asking me that?” His eyes were filled with the dread his face hid. “People change, situations change, everything changes nothing is what it once was. Not even you.” Ashleigh copied his posture. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out when it happens.” Cris smiled. “You’ll do fine.” His smile was so confident, so knowing; just what did he know that she didn’t?! Ashleigh got up to walk away. Whatever you say Cris. Grey led her through the SMH building much like she had Mace and Jet only 9 months before. The place was color coded just like the Atilisk, but was nothing apart from a dreary windowless bunker with an out of place bluish metal hand rail lining every hall. Grey opened a large door, blinding her with the sunlight. “This is the complex.” He announced proudly. Everything was different from what she was used to. The high barbed wire fence, rows of burnt grey, green, and dun painted cement buildings, and the military vehicles that sped along the streets. The earth was too still; she hated it, the lack of motion the absence of salt in her hair. The only thing that moved was the wind rocked tree leaves. The complex was nestled next to a large mountain range. Snow capped the peaks all year round, and several ion cannons were anchored in the solid land mass. Grey opened the passenger door of a nearby vehicle; Karston and Tyson were already in back. “Do you know how to drive?” Karston asked. Tyson growled. “She’s a kryos you idiot!” “No.” Ashleigh said glancing at them trough the mirrors. Karston extended his hand toward Tyson. “You owe me 5 bucks.” Grey drove them directly to the mountain side and through a large iron barred gate topped with barbed wire, Karsten and Tyson bickering the whole 10 minutes there. “This place is huge.” Ashleigh commented quietly. Grey nodded. “What ship were you stationed on?” “The Atilisk.” She responded looking at the complex that now stretched out behind her. “Mary mother of…!” Grey started to swear. Ashleigh’s glare of eminent death stopped him in mid sentence. “I mean, that old junk heap is still running around dealing damage?!” He amended. She nodded. “It’s still the fastest in the fleet.” Grey pulled into a parking garage inside the mountain. Before Ashleigh could unfasten the unfamiliar belt Grey was around the car. He opened the door for her. “This way Capt. Nixx.” He said motioning for her to follow him. “The rest of your unit is most likely in here.” He led her down a large yellow and red lined grey hall until they came up to a 14 foot high blast door with the designation ASP771 painted on it in large yellow characters. Grey took out a gate key, which looks like a credit card, and swiped it through the slot. The heavy metal door began to grate open; Ashleigh’s heavy sigh was strategically hidden by the horrid noise.
  • He and the others entered a massive room; all the walls were lined with metal and gleamed in the light of the hanging florescent light fixtures. “This is where the ASP’s are stored and repaired.” Grey said waving his wrench forward. The room was monstrous. Ashleigh looked over the waist high railing. The ground was at least 80ft below the balcony on which they stood; the room itself looked to be at least a half mile in length and a good quarter mile wide. Ashleigh suddenly felt caged in despite the open space around her. “I’m your squad’s handy man.” Grey said with a smile. “But I’m not under your command, at all.” Ashleigh smiled. Volt’s gunna love you. “Are the dorms near here?” Tyson glanced at Grey. “No they’re near the front of the compound; it’s a 10 minute drive.” He waited for her reply. She only kept staring over the rail onto the scene below here. Even the ASPs looked small. “I trust you have good procedures in place if this base were to be attacked.” She said at last. Idiots! Yeah let’s put the gear and the soldiers apart, real bright. She fumed silently. A rattling beside her caught her eye. A young man wearing glasses came up the near by ladder gasping for breath. “Karsten do you think you and Tyson could settle your differences long enough to beat up Sifer?” He pleaded between breaths. Karsten and Tyson exchanged worried glances. “Sifer?!” The young man looked to be no older than 16, his green eyes full of dread, he nervously combed a hand through his ash brown hair. “I am so dead.” “What did you do?” Grey asked readying his wrench. “I told him that our new member was an Ender.” He stated. “Aw, Bane!” All the men cried in unison. Ashleigh looked over the rail; a figure was racing up the ladder that Bane had just scaled. He is so dead. She thought with a crooked smile. Sifer jumped over the side of the rail and landed in front of Bane, his super short black hair glistening with perspiration. He was huge, still human but huge none the less. He laughed evilly. “Time to die, Bane-y boy!” Ashleigh stepped between them, eyes emotionlessly resting on Sifer. He laughed. “You must be the Ender ” He said with an air of control. “Back down.” She slowly annunciated her words as an insult. Sifer growled and threw a quick jab at Ashleigh’s face. Ashleigh side stepped him taking hold of the pressure point behind his elbow. “Slow.” She taunted releasing him. His anger hit a new level; his attacks came faster as did his breath. Ashleigh laughed as one of his punches connected with her torso. She expertly twisted the attacking arm till Sifer was vulnerable and slammed him into the metal floor. “Enough.” She said walking away. He rushed at her back eyes gleaming with rage. Ashleigh languidly turned around and slammed her fist into the center of his chest. The force of the blow sent a shock through the air. Sifer’s heavy, powerfully built, body careened through the air hitting the floor, with a loud thud that shook the platform, and skid a good 8 feet before creating enough friction to halt.
  • “You killed him!” Bane shrieked. I should have. Ashleigh thought to herself. It would save me future trouble. Grey whistled as he measured the distance between Ashleigh and Sifer. “Jesu…” “Please refrain from blasphemous statements of shock.” Ashleigh said quietly so that only he could hear. “Yes ma’am.” Grey said quickly. Ashleigh extended a hand towards Sifer, sly smile on her face. “ Kryos!” Sifer said taking her hand. “A girl too.” He said in despair. “The Mighty Sifer Cross defeated by a female meat Popsicle!” A sixth party said from behind the group. Let me guess you are another member of this nameless squad. She thought looking over the new comer. Her heart failed her, it was a blonde Cris! His blue eyes shone mischievously beneath tendrils of golden hair. His looks were akin to Cris he had the same straight nose, happy eyes, broad build that was toughened by the day to day life style of a soldier. “I’m Collin Frith.” He said extending a hand. “I’m sorry about Cris; he was my cousin so I know how you must feel.” Ashleigh felt surprise take over her facial features. Collin laughed. “Yeah, we don’t talk about each other much.” She could feel a similar aura around Collin. This is gonna help and hinder a lot of things. She thought gravely. Volt, can you hear me? Affirmative, what’s wrong? His voice chimed in her mind. I just met Cris’ cousin. She sighed thinking about it. “You must be tired.” Grey interjected. “I’ll take you to your room.” “I’m fine.” She said quietly. “I just want to be near my friend.” “Cris?” Bane asked. “No, Volt, my ASP.” She clarified. “I’m not used to being more than 3 minutes walking distance from the holding flat.” “You say a lot for a Kryos.” Bane observed. “Do you have any metabolic deficiencies, or blood related problems?” If you count my bloods affect on Jedite mass a problem. She thought wryly. “No.” Bane thought for a moment. “We should run a full DNA analysis just to be on the safe side.” Ashleigh cringed inside. Oh, yay. ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Jet looked at the empty space on the holding flat, his back to the rail, arms folded across his chest. “I miss her already.” Mace and Anisa walked passed him, hand in hand laughing. Jet followed them with his eyes. The only thing that is certain is change. He reminded himself, closing his bright eyes. Rush and Angel walked quietly beside him. Both very concerned for the state of the squad. “How are you holding out Jet?” Angel asked placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. “It’s been 3 months since her last message.” Rush barked.
  • Jet nodded. “I didn’t even know her that well and I’m worried to death that something might have happened to her.” Angel tossed her grey brown hair out of her face. “I’m sure she’s fine. It’s Ami-lee I’m worried about.” Jet laughed at Rush’s change of tone and the color his face turned. “Ami-lee?! Why should I be worried about my delinquent daughter? After all the mighty Dorian Hawkins is looking out for her now!!!!!” He growled before stalking away. Angel sighed. “Well, I guess that settles that argument.” She said lightly, winking at Jet. Jet smiled. “James intercepted a transmission the other day, I was planning to show Rush but…” “You want me to take a look at it?!” Angel said quite shocked. Jet shrugged. “If you don’t mind, Mrs. Crimson.” “Why would you want me to look at it?” Jet looked at the sky. “Because you know what Cris looks like… and, well, that transmission is dated the day that he and the queen were destroyed.” He looked at her very seriously. “And that’s not even half of its odd qualities.” ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Ashleigh stood in the rain, her black Specials uniform drenched, long hair dark and heavy with it. Another lighting bolt thrust into the near by mountain side with a deafening crash and a burst of sparks and flying debris. Everything was grey and slick with the pouring rain, what light there was glinted off the water’s surface in sharp silver patterns. “Alfa One has gained consciousness.” The com unit on her belt squawked. Ashleigh looked at the gathering shadows in the valley 10 miles from her position. “Head count 35 warriors, 20 ground units, and one destroyer.” She said into the com. “Detonation in 5 minutes.” It responded. “Withdraw.” “Roger.” She said climbing down the ledge of the stone spire she’d ascended two hours prior. Volt extended his left hand for her to jump down on. She gladly did so and slid down his arm and into the cockpit. “Ready.” She said fastening the safety harness. “How many destroyers?” Volt asked. “The lightning storm is screwing up my sensor relay.” Ashleigh took mental note to fix that, then answered. “Only one.” “What happened to the regiment that pinned us down here?!” Volt asked; it was amazing the amount of emotion he could display at times. Ashleigh sighed. “That has nagged at the back of my mind since they disappeared.” She confessed. “There will be more than one new mutation on our tails before this ends.” Volt seemed to think over that last statement before asking. “How do you know?” Ashleigh’s mouth opened then shut again. “I…I don’t.” She said at last. ”Dr.Nixx was a brilliant man, so was his partner, and even they, the geniuses that they were, could not see the repercussions of their DNA projects.” “Are you chastising me?” Ashleigh whispered. “I didn’t mean to sound…” Volt interjected. “Just be prepared for anything, my friend. Anything.” Collin spotted Volt. “Ok, everyone. Move out.” He ordered. “Roger.” Came the resounding reply.
  • The unit lifted off the ground in formation heading towards the checkpoint when a spike went sailing into Alfa One’s Left thruster tank, causing a ball of flame to engulf Collin’s ASP for a brief moment before the rain doused it into oblivion. Ashleigh whirled Volt around, there was nothing behind them. “Keep moving.” Collin ordered. A thick tension took hold of the unit’s spirit, creating doubts, and illusions in their mind’s eye. Every wisp of shadow was an enemy, the bolts of lightning potential weapons fire. Ashleigh evened her breathing and closed her eyes. “Volt, you take over driving.” She asked softly. “Red 7 get back into formation!” Sifer’s voice trilled over the comm. Ashleigh flicked the off switch and held her breath. ‘There’ She aimed and gently squeezed of two rounds with Volt’s (standard) Machine cannon. A sharp shriek tore through the air only to be cut off by a mighty thunder clap as a bolt of lightning surged through the remains of a destroyer. Ashleigh pointed one of Volt’s cameras upward, as an odd feeling rushed into her, a voiceless knowledge that she heard but could not understand. “What was that?!” Bane cried into the comm. Collin tore his eyes away from the pile of wet ash that was once an enemy. “Withdraw. We have less than 2 minutes until detonation, and I don’t want to be around when 4 tons of explosives rips through that Jedite infested valley.” Every one was silent. They all knew why, and the reality of it happening again at this range was very real. “Then what are we waiting for?” Karsten exclaimed throttling his ST-Mech to max. “I don’t want to be a pile of scrap yet!” He took off for the rendezvous point down range. Everyone followed, Sifer cursing the whole way. A violent quake shook the earth below and the air around them, even the rain drops seemed to change trajectory several times. The pitch black clouds above lit up with bolts of lightning that never left that dark shroud. Ashleigh’s adrenaline spiked. “Collin move!” She yelled turning her vernier output up a notch, colliding with Collin and spinning into the trees just as lightning struck Collin’s previous position. The ball of lightning hit the ground with a mighty crash sending an aftershock through all the remaining units. Like ripples of a deadly light; it continued to pulse as it diminished into nothing. Leaving only a charred sphere in the rock that dominated the landscape. “We’re easy targets in a group.” Ashleigh said into her comm. Collin stared into his front display at the ASP beside his own. Volt’s cameras swiveled around assessing everything. “You heard her guys. Get to the rendezvous point ASAP, stop for nothing we have less than a minute till detonation!” Collin ordered. Volt took hold of Alfa One’s central support skeleton. “I’ll take him from here.” He said to Collin’s ASP. “Much obliged.” She chimed. Helen knew that Volt out classed her by a long shot, but never spurned him or the upgrades that he and his pilot had done for her. Ashleigh saw Collin’s face in the corner of the heads up display. “What?” “Can I talk to you alone when we get to the base?” He asked.
  • Ashleigh knew what it was going to be about by his tone, and the look he gave her. She’d hopped that it would never come up… But it was inevitable. Ashleigh slid down the banister in the center of the interior stair case. Alfa One glared at her when she made contact with the floor boards again. She rolled her eyes and continued on her way. Alfa One the first registered Kryos to be approved by the earth government to enter military service. His Crystalloid blue eyes held nothing in them, except anger and arrogance. Another bolt of lightning struck the ship rocking it violently, sending Ashleigh careening into Bane. “Are you ok?” He asked rubbing the new knot on his head. Ashleigh nodded getting up; she extended her hand to him. “You?” Bane smiled and took it. “Collin said that you and he had a talk.” He stated. “I really think that you should listen to what ever he told you. He may seem like a dork but he’s actually pretty smart.” Ashleigh smiled. “Sure thing kid.” She waved as she walked towards the landing flat of the ship. “Where are you going?!” Bane asked tagging along beside her. Ashleigh motioned to the window. “You’re smart.” Bane nodded. “Yes I did notice the strange weather pattern. Even the clouds are off by…” Ashleigh cut him off. “Mutation is occurring more rapidly than ever.” Bane frowned. “What do you mean?! No living creature can control the weather!” Sifer came up behind them. “I just talked to Grey.” Ashleigh ignored him and continued walking. “You stupid ender! What do you think you’re trying to pull?!” He yelled at her. She turned around. “Nothing.” “Don’t you know that an Ender can’t do this stuff?” He said condescendingly. Ashleigh continued walking. Watch it Sifer or I’m gunna have to hurt you. “Enders are nothing but expendable…!” Ashleigh spun around, rage in her icy green eyes, and sent him to the deck with a swift kick to the head. “What would you know you thrice blasted spacer!!!?” She cried before running down the hall, disappearing around the corner. “She’s gunna kill you someday, you know that Sifer?” Bane said before bolting in the same direction as Ashleigh. Ashleigh secured the last of the cables to Volt, the wind whipping at her hair and drenched clothing. She slid and nearly fell off of Volt, grasping the restraining cable she managed to right herself. Be careful. She heard Volt’s voice in her head. She clung to his armor. I am. She returned. A third bolt of lightning hit the deck of the transport ship sending a whole lot of electricity along the cables. We have to do this now or I’m going to become toast! Ashleigh thought glancing at the burn on her arm out of the corner of her eye.
  • Volt opened his cockpit. New targeting sensors in place, three electro anomalies in range. Ashleigh fastened her harness out of habit once inside. She checked the charge on her beam weapon. “Here goes nothing.” She breathed as she squeezed off three deft shots at the anomalies. A brilliant flash of red burst through the sky as an electrical shockwave roared over the water’s surface and tipped the transport cruiser dangerously to the port side. Ashleigh was stunned for a few moments. “Anything?” “Negative.” Volt responded. “They seem to have shielded themselves from the beam energy.” “Crap.” She moaned. She thought as hard as she could. Nothing… Bane’s voice came over her private com channel. “That was amazing they must have E.M shielding capabilities!” “Can a metallic object penetrate an E.M field?” Ashleigh asked looking around at the potential projectiles that littered the thrashed deck. “Hypothetically, yes as long as the magnetic pull isn’t the same as the shield itself. Why?” Ashleigh laughed. “Hey Volt, it ain’t gunna be fast but would you mind going along with me this once?” Volt groaned an affirmative. Ashleigh had Volt pick up a sharp spear-like pole near them and hurled it at the first anomaly. There was no explosion this time. A spark, like that of a short circuit, was seen on the horizon illuminating a small area of the menacing black cloud above. “First anomaly neutralized.” Volt announced victoriously. Gen. Heinen screeched over the com. “What the hell do you think you’re doing Red 7?!” Ashleigh rolled her eyes. “Neutralizing anomalies, sir.” “Cease and desist at once, that’s an order!!!” He yelled. “Sir, yes, sir.” She said emotionlessly. Volt groaned a warning as Ashleigh began untying the support cables. “This Heinen man, he has no spirit of leadership. Nothing but a Hierarchy puppet, yet puppets must be feared because of who is controlling them.” Ashleigh nodded in agreement as she unhooked the last cable. Gen. Heinen got up in her face as soon as she turned around. “Who do you think you are, Queen Delaina?!” “Who?” Ashleigh said quite seriously. “Alright you asked for it!” He motioned to the soldiers behind him. “Take her to the brig!!!” He screamed. Collin arrived a moment to late. “Where is she?” Volt would’ve rolled his eyes if he had any. “Where do you think, Mr. Frith?” The brig had taken on water when the E.M blasted the starboard side skyward. So not only was the brig dark and cold but full of water. Ashleigh sat on the water saturated cot in the corner, her back against the icy steel of the wall. Her eyes were closed serenely as if she were asleep or in prayer.
  • Collin waded through the knee deep water up to her cell and leaned on the bars. “They said that the storm has lessened in intensity and is getting weaker by the moment.” He said to her. She opened her eyes. “I don’t suppose I’m going to leave here any time soon.” Collin shook his head dismally. “Not if Heinen has anything to say about it.” Ashleigh nodded somberly. ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Angel choked on her own spit. “This can’t be!!!!” Jet leaned on the outer shell of James’ cockpit. “Was I right?” Angel climbed out of the cockpit, accepting Jet’s helping hand. “We need to show this to Ace, Rush, and Lynx. Then run tests and data analysis…” Angel’s voice trailed off. “But it has been nearly a year and a half since then… What if..?” Rush let out a bitter string of strong profanities upon reading the W.M (wirecom message). “Who is this Collin Frith guy?! Messaging us on behalf of Icequeen!!!” He roared to Jet as he stood away from the screen. Ace shook his head. “Should we tell her?” “Tell her what?!” Rush growled. Jet looked across the whitewashed room and out one of 4 round windows that overlooked the starboard horizon and the shore of North America. “She deserves to know, Rush.” He said solemnly, his blonde hair overshadowing his eyes. Ace nodded in agreement as did Mace and Angel. Rush looked at all of them. “And reopen a sealed wound?! I don’t think so!!! Icequeen deserves some solace!!!” He shouted before leaving the room via a short metal enforced door pounding a dent into the frame as he passed through. Angel sighed. “I’m afraid he’s right. At the moment we can’t tell her, not when she’s so far away from home. Not until she’s with us once more, but Jet is right… She deserves to know the truth about Cris.” ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Ashleigh slammed her fists onto the metal railing, sending a resounding ‘ping’ through the hangar and denting the metal. She forced herself to breathe as she cleared her mind of violent images. Bane looked up from his work. “Scan request denied?” She nodded and sat beside him, putting a hand to her head. Bane continued drawing schematics. “You couldn’t feel them like the others?” Ashleigh shook her head. Bane dropped his pencil and looked up at her in utter shock. “Why not?! I mean you’re so efficient at…err… scanning them at a distance before!” Bane pulled out the computer from the red backpack beside him. “Have you seen the new mutation?” Ashleigh, again, shook her head, then something dawned on her. “Do you have an image?” “Even better, follow me.” He said gathering his stuff. Bane lead her down a few corridors that she’d never cared to enter and into a door marked ‘biohazard’. It revealed a dim stairwell that twisted a good ways under the complex.
  • “When you fired those volleys into the thunder head just about everyone thought you’d ‘berserked’ on us on us.” He said when they reached the bottom of the long stairway. There was that word again, what the heck was a berserker anyway? She thought as she scanned the hall that stretched out before her. It was lit with an orange-ish yellow light that seemed to soften everything into a hallucinatory reality. She shuddered. “I don’t think you would’ve been released today if the scouting party hadn’t had a dead Jedite literally fall out of the sky. It was lodged in the G14’s connection rod and the anti- grav port.” He said as they walked down the hall. He opened the 12th door down and motioned for her to enter first. The room was well lit, unlike the hall, with a large cylinder tank in the center. Ashleigh blinked fiercely to rid herself of dreams and memories. Computers and various other scientific equipment lined the walls around them. The thrice blasted Gen. Heinen stood staring into the tank at the Jedite remains. It was a wing-like object attached to two appendages, one like that of a spider’s that came to a sharp point, the other like that of a crab’s attached to a large human hand with only three digits, both connected to a butterfly shaped shoulder blade to which the wing was connected by a strong set of muscles and a tough tendon. Ashleigh stepped up to the tank slowly and pressed her finger tips to it, it was cold. An image flashed through her mind for a brief second. She jumped back chest heaving with quick breaths. She covered her eyes with her hands and wiped them down over the rest of her face. “What is it?” Bane asked. “Second of three wings, the lower arm a conductor of sorts… is the opposite of a lightning rod, the upper arm is…” She shook her head. “I don’t know…” She looked at the tank like a deer caught in the head lights of a truck. Gen. Heinen looked her over with disgust. Bane put a hand on her shoulder. “Let’s go back to the hangar. I think that we’ve accomplished what we came to do.” Ashleigh nodded dreamily and let Bane lead her out of the room through the hall and into the hangar. “Are you sure that you’ll be alright?” He asked concerned. She nodded. “I’ll just take a nap.” She said waving over her shoulder as she walked away. Alpha One stopped her in the hall way. “You deviated.” “I didn’t.” She said with a yawn. He stepped in front of her when she moved to walk around him. “Not now.” Ashleigh said with a sigh. Alpha One raised a nearly nonexistent eye brow. “When? Now is never with you.” Ashleigh rolled her eyes. “Take grammar lessons.” “Listen, ENDER, I am…” He began. Ashleigh interrupted. “Alex, I’m tiered, hungry and in a bad mood.” She said looking directly into his eyes. “Stand aside or get thrown aside, your choice.” Alpha One gawked at her. “My name?” Ashleigh rolled her eyes and took advantage of his bewilderment. She looked over her shoulder before disappearing around the corner. Alpha One stood silent in the hall for a long time after Ashleigh had gone.
  • Sifer looked over his hot oatmeal scrutinizing it for any flaw, dark eyes scanning every inch of it as he stirred it with his large spoon. Ashleigh slumped over the table, head on her arm, eyes closed, her half eaten waffle on a paper plate quite near her face. “Is she really asleep?” Tyson asked waving a hand in front of her face. Karston shrugged as he stuffed his mouth with egg. Sifer finally looked up from his breakfast. “Where’s Alpha One?” Every one, except Ashleigh, looked around the huge café. Collin shrugged. “Maybe he’s sick.” Bane shook his head. “That seems highly unlikely due to his exorcise and eating habits.” Ashleigh stirred, then continued her normal breathing. Collin pointed at her. “Nixx is NEVER drowsy, always alert, super girl in every meaning of the word. But just look at her, she fell asleep before she even finished her waffle! Maybe Alpha One is sick!” Sifer laughed hysterically. “She’s just a Stupid Ender!” The next thing he knew his oatmeal was in his face. Ashleigh rubbed it in for a second then let the bowl drop. “Oh, really?” She said slyly before picking up her tray and leaving the table. No one said a word. Jet sat at his desk, it was nearly 2 am, a blank sheet of paper in front of him. He rubbed his eyes. “This is so crazy.” He said to himself. “I want you to know… we all do.” He sighed. A knock on the door tore him from his dreary thinking. “Come in.” Ace opened the door. “I can’t sleep either, would you like to join me on the flat?” Jet smiled. “Where she always stood?” “They.” Ace corrected. “In perfect silence, they would stand side by side. At dawn they were there waiting for us before a mission, at midnight they were there when I was nervous about being a father. Always, it was as if they never slept… the very presence of the other person was strength enough to keep them awake till the end of the world.” Jet smiled. “I would’ve liked to have been here then. You all talk about it so fondly.” He sighed again. “I wanted to write her, to tell her what we found. But Rush’s words keep repeating in my head.” Ace nodded, dark eyes full of understanding. “You want t’ get some air?” “Sure.” He said at last. “I’m sooooo bored!” Collin sung as he paced the platform around Helen. “I could eat card boooaaard!” Ashleigh checked and rechecked the connection to Volt’s new scanning system. Collin’s off tune voice echoing through the hangar and grating on her nerves. “Stop that horrible death squeal!” Karston cried from the door way. “We can hear you clear down the hall!” Alpha One nodded in agreement. ”You’re no fun.” He said sulkily climbing down. At last! Volt thought. For a second I was hoping Sifer would pound him.
  • Ashleigh laughed quietly. “Any word on assignments?” Tyson asked as the others gathered around Alpha One. He shook his very blond head. “Crap man! We’ve been on the compound for, like…eternity!” Collin exclaimed. Sifer nodded. “The idiot’s got it. We’re not meant to stay put like this. Unit 1 should be out socking it to those %$#@ Jedite 24/7!” Ashleigh hung upside down off the edge of Volt’s cockpit. “You’re still human regardless of rank or unit.” Volt said. “And even us ASP’s require rest after continual strain.” Helen nodded her blue accented head. “True.” Sifer and Alpha One snorted simultaneously. Bane was still absorbed in his work, what ever it was. “You have a restricted item in your quarters.” Alpha One said to Ashleigh changing the subject. Grey keyed in on that. She felt like blowing him to oblivion. “What?” Irritation obvious in her voice. “An old Atilisk uniform, manufactured for male soldiers.” He stated like a robot. Ashleigh rolled her eyes and hoisted herself back into Volt’s cockpit. Feel like starting a mutiny? She asked Volt. Just say the word. He responded quite seriously. Tyson looked up at Volt’s open cockpit. “She’s really got a guy’s uniform in her room?!” Bane looked up from his stuff. “You shouldn’t have gone through her stuff Alpha One.” Everyone turned their attention to him. Alpha One raised an eye brow, challenging him to explain why. Bane glared at him. “Would you like me to go through your quarters while you’re out?” Everyone nodded and mumbled in agreement with Bane, everyone except Alpha One. “Why do you have an old rusty gun on your drawer?” Ashleigh asked pulling her knees to her chest as she sat on the floor. Cris handed her a lace curtain and a rod for it. “It was my father’s, it reminds me of him every time I look at it.” She nodded to herself and began to slide the rod through the curtain rings. Ashleigh rummaged through her closet and found the old uniform. An image of Cris in the suit painted itself painfully clearly in her mind’s eye. She looked it over to make sure that Alex (Alpha One) hadn’t done any thing to it. Satisfied she folded it neatly and placed it in her bottom drawer under some books. We’d better get an assignment soon or I’m going to permanently injure Alex’s man hood! She thought angrily as she changed the pass code to her dorm room. The blocky grey box was stubborn, but in the end, thanks to Bane’s lessons, it bended to her will. Bane looked over her shoulder. “What’re you doing?” “Precautions.” She said softly, glancing at the 17 year old out of the corner of her eye. He smiled. “I’ve been doing some research on my own based on the data from the Jedite in room 26 and your blood analysis data.” He said luring her into a conversation like only he could. “And?” She coaxed.
  • This is going to be harder than I thought. He noted to himself before continuing. “Your blood has an extra element to it and your genetic structure is a bit on the mutated side.” He said carefully. “I’m a Kryos; it’s bound to be on the mutated side.” She stated replacing the last screw and turning to face him. Victory! “But I checked over the Jedite data… You were right about the electrical appendage; a nerve test blew the tank to hell… and found something very, um disturbing.” He waited for an exclamation of shock or a curse from Ashleigh. He was disappointed when she didn’t respond. She simply entered the new access code and motioned for him to enter. Zell paced the confines of his office at headquarters, Unit 1’s last report on his desk. The thought of a new mutation filled him with unparalleled anxiety. Collin had told him not to sweat it or he was going to get old, but this was beyond just worry. If what the report said was true then this war was going down the toilet and taking the human race along with it. “Cris… You should’ve come here when we called you.” He despaired verbally. Ashleigh could feel his indecision when she reached the door and decided not to bother him. But before she could turn around he said something that caught her completely off guard. “It was her wasn’t it?” He said loud enough for her programmed skills to pick up. “You couldn’t just leave her like that. It cost you your life!” Ashleigh hung her head and leaned on the door. Volt did you hear that… it is my fault. Stop that this instant! Volt chided her. It was his choice; no human could see this coming. But that didn’t take away the hurt she felt. She looked up to Zell. He’d been on her side since they first met. Now she wondered if it was only for Cris’ memory that anyone cared for her. She pushed off of the door and walked aimlessly down several halls. Loosing her way and walking around without a feeling breaking free of the newly reinforced wall around her heart. A man in a white coat ran into her. “So sorry.” He said apologetically. “No problem.” She said absently continuing to wonder. He looked over his shoulder and watched her for a minute. “Are you a kryos?” She stopped in her tracks and nodded with out even turning around. “Great! Could you come with me for a moment?” He asked full of excitement. Ashleigh nodded. Sure, whatever. He lead her down a black lined hall and behind a door marked ASP*82. An ASP hangar? She thought following the young man into the large room. It was almost completely empty, their footsteps echoed along with a low hum that seemed to come from every direction. The grey walls were made of cement and not the steel of Unit one’s hangar. Only a large 14 foot long 10 foot high dividing screen could be seen on the floor, several power cables and tubes came down from the ceiling to rest somewhere behind it. Ashleigh raised an eyebrow. What on earth? The young man smiled brightly. “I am Dr. Phonon Raffiniett (French: pronounced as Raffini-ay) and this is the most important piece to my work.” He said a bit sheepishly and
  • motioned for her to follow him behind the curtain. Ashleigh’s crystal green eyes widened involuntarily. A large glass tube was bolted to the floor; it was about 6ft. in diameter. A very bright object resided inside; fragile white limbs attached to a slender white body, three pair of demonic webbed wings sprouted from its back, they were also white. A pair of green eyes quite like her own looked back at the Kryos. Ashleigh couldn’t find her voice, or her breath for that matter. “What do you think?” Phonon said interrupting both creatures’ thoughts. Ashleigh stepped closer. “Amazing.” The creature in the tube put its hand on the glass, it didn’t have a mouth but it did its best to smile. Ashleigh stepped close enough to touch the glass, and hesitated. A hundred years of nightmares was enough to make her never want to see let alone touch a cold glass tube again. She forced herself to put her hand over the creatures, the glass between them. Hello. She heard inside her head. Uhhh, hello. Ashleigh responded. What are you? A laugh like that of a bell rang through Ashleigh’s consciousness. I am Rhiannon; you will see in time, kryos. A hint of a smile lit her face. You’re beautiful. Rhiannon moved her hand away from the glass and bowed. Phonon leaned against the glass. “What did she say?” “Hello.” Ashleigh responded. That night Ashleigh sat on the roof top of the dorm building looking out over an ocean of moonlit trees. The night was cold and dark; the breeze carried the promise of ice. Ashleigh pulled the old jacket tighter around her neck to keep it out. She hated it there, Volt couldn’t be with her in the fresh air, everyone was so stupid (with the exception of Bane and Grey) and being so far away only amplified the pain she felt deep inside her being. ‘What is lonely?’ Ashleigh asked looking up at Cris from the earth. ‘The feeling of being alone; even if you’re in a room full of people.’ He responded looking down from his place on the rooftop. Ashleigh looked out over the port town. ‘That’s illogical.’ She stated turning her back to him. ‘I never said that it was.’ He smiled at her change in posture. ‘Especially when God sits beside me.’ He watched her walk away silently. ‘I wonder… is pain a part of loneliness?’ She thought aloud to herself. A hand touched her shoulder. Ashleigh grabbed it and flung its owner over her shoulder and onto the small piece of roof between her and the edge. “Nice to see you too.” Sifer said sarcastically. Ashleigh let go. “What is it?” She asked. “You don’t like small talk do you?” He taunted. “I don’t ask unless I care.” She said emotionlessly, folding her arms.
  • Sifer glowered at her for a moment. “4 units from various ships have been destroyed by an electrical storm, or something similar to what we encountered not to long ago.” He stated quickly. Ashleigh nodded before sitting down. “And?” His eyes widened with both shock and anger. “What do you mean ‘and’?! I’m telling you that you’re right and all you can say is ‘and’!!!” Ashleigh looked at him curiously. “I thought that you where going somewhere with the statement, seems I was wrong.” She said. “My apologies.” “You’re so…” Sifer’s mind failed him. Ashleigh took the opportunity. “Have you exhausted your supply of insults already?” He mumbled a profanity and stalked up the roof. Ashleigh looked up at the crescent moon. ‘I wonder… who was I before?’ She thought. “Sifer.” She called after him. “What?!!” He bit poking his head out of the trap door. She hesitated. “Do you think Alpha One remembers anything before he was frozen?” “Why?” He said coming out of the opening, curious as to why she was asking him anything after dissing him so completely. She shrugged. “He seems so angry, brooding, and bitter at every one around him. It’s like that’s all he can feel.” Sifer looked up at the star blanketed sky. “Why’re you telling me this?” “A unit who hopes to make it out of this war in one piece needs to trust the other members, where one is weak another is strong. I’m sorry.” She replied softly. Sifer looked from the sky to her and then to the open trap door. “Don’t you ever sleep?” She shook her head. “Not really.” “You’re such a pain!” Ashleigh heard as she walked by the officer’s dorms. ”It’s logic.” A cold emotionless voice responded. Ashleigh recognized it at once. “Why won’t you just listen to me?” the other asked frustration evident. Ashleigh peeked around the corner. Alpha One stood, back against the cold cement wall, with an officer she’d yet to encounter. He was taller than A1 but with hair and build akin to the Kryos hell spawn. She continued to walk. It really wasn’t her business. Grey stopped her in the hall on the way to breakfast the next day. “We need to talk.” He said taking her aside into an old storage room full of ancient cleaning supplies and devices. Ashleigh leaned against the unstable, grey, metal frame shelving unit beside her. She nodded for him to continue. “Alpha One turned down a mission, one that included the electrical storm phenomenon.” He said. “This may not seem to mean anything to you, but…” “He’s always angry.” She stated. “But I did not anticipate this move.” Grey nodded in agreement. “Do you really think that you should live this life?” Ashleigh smiled sadly. Grey put a hand to his forehead. “You’d better get something to eat. This next mission’ll be a doosey.” Ashleigh did as instructed and found her unit after acquiring the odd substance they served at the café and dared call ‘food’.
  • “Morning.” Bane said as she sat beside him. She smiled slightly. A1 glowered at her from across the table. She forced herself to swallow one of Rush’s Jack @$$ comments along with a bite of quiche. Collin decided to strike up conversation. “A whole freaking month on the base! Another day’ll kill me for sure!” “At least you’re not singing anymore.” Tyson responded. Karston laughed. “You’ve never had to deal with him this long. Now come the practical jokes and other things to liven this gloom filled cellar.” Ashleigh felt a sharp pain drive through her skull. “ One day you’ll begin to remember. It may just be a single thing, but the past will catch up to you.” Cris said in answer to her comment. “Impossible.” She said lightly. Cris smiled to himself. “And it’ll hurt like hell.” She clutched her head and fought the tears that jerked at her eyes. Is this what he meant? She thought as the anguish intensified. The moment that thought crossed her mind nothing else could make it through the violent bursts of images familiar, yet totally alien. Without warning she fell off of her chair. ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Rush looked out of the smoking hole blasted through the new weather tower. “So much for that worthless piece of .” He mumbled. Gabriel cursed. “What’s going on?” “Probably a new mutation.” James answered from his place in his holding clamps. The pouring rain hindered any effective movement on the massive metal holding flat. Mac and the other amphibious units were in the water, every other suit in holding clamps. Jet fidgeted. “This isn’t good. IF just one Jedite gets into our ranks we’re toast!” Mace and the other flight type Mech’s hovered over the Atilisk. “Oh ye of little faith.” He said to Jet sarcastically. “If you were Jesus it wouldn’t be an issue.” Jet retorted. Another bolt of lighting rocked the Atilisk’s hull into the water. It’s swift pace diminishing greatly. “We can’t take much more of this!” Mace called over the com unit. Lynx rubbed a hand over his face. “It does seem rather hopeless.” He moaned. “Incoming data from Specials Soleum!” A voice said over the com frequency they were using. “From who?!” Ace asked looking at the screen he’d added to the over head unit above his heads up display. “2nd Lt.Bane from unit 1.” The voice responded. “Unit1?!!” Everyone exclaimed in unison. ~*~ ~*~ ~*~
  • Bane looked down at the unconscious Ashleigh after placing his computer on the nightstand. His eyes were concerned, but not worried. The large hollow wooden door swung open with a high pitched creak. Collin entered the dimly lit, white washed, box of a room and stood beside Bane. “How’s she?” He asked. Bane tried not to sound uncaring. “Except for the wave anomaly in her brain patterns she’s perfectly fine.” He said. Collin nodded his gold crowned head. “And ya know she’s only been out for about 30 minutes.” Bane reminded him. Ashleigh sat up. “What happened?” She looked around. “Where am I?!” Collin looked very grim. “You’re in a hospital on the Mainland.” “Where’s Cris?” She looked out the window. Another flash racked her skull. “Oh, right.” Alpha One picked the lock and code on Ashleigh’s door. A sly smile lit his face as he entered the room silently; keeping to the shadows despite the fact that Ashleigh was out of commission at the moment. He quietly opened her closet searching for the old uniform. Tyson wheeled Ashleigh to her room, after a brawl in the parking lot, which neither of them won. She leaned back in the chair, eyes closed, mind reeling with all the new feelings and perceptions that had awakened in her blood. “Here we are.” Tyson announced. “Home sweet home.” She opened her eyes. She could feel A1 but it wasn’t strong or distinct like Tyson was behind her. She jumped out of the wheelchair and opened the door. Her room was dark and empty, but… She spun around and opened her dresser. “Oh, God no.” She whispered. “Where is it?!” She tore through the dresser throwing books and other objects out of her way. A1! She thought with disgust. Just wait until I get my hands on you! Tyson tried to stop her only to get shoved out of the way and into the door jam. She ran up to the training ground, a large strip of field between the mountain and the end of the west side of the base separated by a chain link fence; it was open although the hours were over. She gritted her teeth and ran towards a thin wisp of smoke. The damp earth and wet grass cushioned the impact of her footsteps. She stalked up to the lone figure in the far corner of the field. He was hunched over a small fire, a pile of green cloth beside him. “I hate you.” Ashleigh said, poison clear in her words. A1 jumped. “Capt. Nixx. You’re back.” He said stone faced. “Obviously.” She bit. Leaning down she picked up the old jacket, pain radiating through her head at that angle. She rose stiffly and thrust it into his face. He didn’t look at her. “Why?” She asked quietly. Alpha One began to walk away, but Ashleigh stepped in his path. The wind kicked up, the sweet scent of rain was in the air, it tossed her loose, copper, locks over her slight form. Alpha One stopped. “Answer me Alex.” He turned away from her; rain began to sprinkle softly over them. “I’m not Alex.” Ashleigh pulled the unburned uniform top over her shoulders. “You’re mistaken.”
  • He jerked around and glared at her. “I am…!” “Alex Schorn. Not Alpha One.” Ashleigh closed the gap between them. “You have a soul.” The rain began to fall; steadily coming down on top of them. Alpha One looked at her at long last; the rain had soaked her hair to a deep maroon red, and dripped off of her dress. “Why’re you saying this?” “Because it’s true.” She said without hesitation. Alpha One walked away, this time Ashleigh let him go. The wind howled and tore through her clothing and Cris’ old uniform jacket. The cold ate at her insides and every part of her was numb with pain. The world reeled beneath her as she stumbled out of the intensifying storm. She registered the stairs and tried to walk down them, but faltered and careened head first towards the bottom. She heard a small cry of surprise escape her sore throat. She twisted trying to grasp hold of the hand rail, her cold wet fingers slid off of the metal railing without even registering that they’d even made contact with it. She closed her eyes tightly. Ashleigh stumbled down the steps as the ship was rocked by the sudden collision. She tried to catch hold of the hand rail and missed by a centimeter. A pair of strong hands caught her quite unexpectedly. She cocked her head back to see who’d saved her from a good amount of bruising. Cris’ unearthly gold eyes met her creepily crystal-like green ones. “You alright?” He asked pushing her upright. She nodded. “Fine. What’s happening?” Cris looked out the circular window behind his left shoulder. “I don’t know, but my guess is that we had a couple stragglers follow the Atilisk in after we crossed the channel.” “Will we deploy?” Ashleigh asked feeling something rise in her chest. He smiled his disarming smile. “What do you think?” Ashleigh braced herself to meet with the hard, steel capped, cement steps that lead into her dorm block. A wave of intense agony ran through her as she landed on her shoulder and felt the rest of her body flip over her head, her left knee struck first, her right knee followed grinding it’s twin even harder into the stair edge. She slid the rest of the way down on her hip and lower half of her rib cage, left arm trailing helplessly behind her. She hit the floor with a muffled thud and sat slumped for a few moments. Tears rolled down her cheeks. There was no one there to catch her, Rush would’ve, Ace would’ve, even the cocky new guy Mace. But here it was cold, always. Here only Bane and Grey even came close to understanding and even they were so far away. Here there was Alex, a thorn in her side. The light over her head flickered and died with a resounding pop that echoed down the empty door covered hall. It hurt too much to move all she could do was cry. At first the tears were silent, a few quiet sobs made there way out of her, then without warning she screamed in an agonized voice. “WHY?!” It echoed mercilessly down the hall, waking a few occupants along the way. She covered her face with her hands and sobbed quietly. “why?” Silence engulfed her, darkness surrounded her, and despair ate at her insides. No one could hear her scream, or they just didn’t care. She sat at the bottom of the steps quite literally broken and bleeding, crying out to God. A God that she’d known for a long
  • time but never really leaned on; and a small semblance of peace wove itself into her frozen spirit and her tears stopped. ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Rush read over the report. He narrowed his eyes. “Of course you all know that this is a load of….” Very colorful phrases began to pour forth from the abundance of his heart. “Yes the world is just one big conspiracy; so you’ve been saying.” Keilah rolled her eyes. Jet rubbed his hands together. “But it could hold some truth.” “Where the heck is Mace?” Ace said looking around. Keilah rolled her eyes. “I honestly don’t know how…” She abruptly turned to Ace. “oh, Mace is with is girlfriend” then when right back to her thought eyes honing in on her target. “…Angel puts up with you Rush!” She looked over the document. “Its official, that’s all there is to it. So what if no one told any of you, maybe they didn’t think you could handle it. I don’t blame them.” Lynx looked out over the port town. He laughed wryly. “I knew.” He turned around and leaned against the wall all cool like. Keilah wasn’t impressed. “No duh, you’re their commander! You have to know these things! Good Knight!” Jet looked over the document. “Hey guys…. Look at the date on this thing.” Ace choked on his spit. “No way!” Rush was at a loss. “Is it even humanly possible for us to be looking at this document right now?” Jet whispered to himself. “Apparently.” Lynx said in awe. “But how and why… those are perfectly good questions.” Every one nodded dumbly. ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Phonon finished taping up her ribs. “That should do the trick.” He said proudly. “Thank you.” Ashleigh said pulling her shirt back down. He winced as she did. “That was one nasty fall, are you sure you’re really alright?” “Yes thank you.” Ashleigh said sliding off of the examining table. You’ re lying. A voice said inside her head. I can see it clearly. But I also see… very good you’ ve taken the first step, I’ m proud of you little one. Ashleigh looked at Rhiannon. “Little one?” Yes… I’ m over a hundred years old.She laughed. Even Phonon could hear it. Ashleigh looked at her hands, and then to Rhiannon. “I see.” She smiled. “Good night, both of you.” Phonon waved. “Good night.” Rhiannon winked. No worries, what doesn’ t kill us makes stronger. Ashleigh smiled and nodded. “You’re absolutely right.” Phonon looked from Ashleigh to Rhiannon, then sighed. “It’s not fair that she talks to you and not to me.” Ashleigh smiled sadly. “I’m sorry you can’t hear her.”
  • Cris and Ace tightened the gears on their bikes. Ace finished his long braid and waited for his companion to find his other glove. “I guess I can ride without it.” He said with a shrug. Ashleigh came up beside him. “Where are you going?” Ace leaned over his handle bars oblivious to her presence. Cris turned his head. “Oh, into town, I need some clothes.” Ashleigh nodded and waved a farewell before walking back towards the Atilisk. She said good bye, but Ace was still unaware of her. She sat on the railing of the gangplank until sunset. It was a pale pink and orange; one of those sunsets that never really make much of an impression, do to lack of dramatics. Chris and Ace returned and loaded their bikes back up. “Welcome back.” Ashleigh said. Ace walked on by her. Cris stopped and sat next to her. “Thank you.” He noticed how she glanced back at Ace. “Don’t worry, he just can’t hear you like I can.” He smiled brightly. “Look, I got you something.” Phonon waved a hand in front of Ashleigh’s glazed eyes. “You really need to see a medic.” Ashleigh shook her head vigorously. “I’m fine.” She waved and made her way quickly out of the room. She walked quietly up to her room and entered her new code. “You’re out late.” A voice said behind her. She looked at the speaker. “Sifer?” “Yeah, it’s me. What’re you doing up at this hour.” He asked. Ashleigh gave him a sidelong glance. He shook his head. “I hate it when you do that. I couldn’t sleep that’s all.” Ashleigh nodded. “I see.” Sifer rubbed his hands together. “I thought maybe you’d be up to go and see Volt.” Ashleigh looked into her open room, then down at her damp clothes. “No.” Sifer nodded sadly. “You’re welcome to go see him yourself.” She said softly. “He likes the company.” Sifer smiled. “Thank you, this means a lot to me.” Ashleigh just slid into her room and shut the door.
  • CHAPER 3: WAKING UP…. AGAIN Ashleigh opened her eyes. Sun light struck them with all its glory, blinding her for a moment. Turning away she rubbed her eyes and carefully opened them once more. She found an odd orangish-pink grass beneath her that was softer than anything she’d yet encountered. “Ashleigh?!” A startled, very dear familiar voice gasped. Ashleigh looked up. A pair of gold eyes met hers. “Cris?!” Tears invaded her vision, she hid her face. “I’m sorry.” She choked. “I killed you with my…” she looked at her hands. “stupidity.” Cris’ hair was longer than she remembered; it cascaded over her as he wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “You didn’t kill me. Stop thinking like that.” “It’s the truth.” She opened her mouth to say more, but a hand covered it before she could. Cris gently tilted her head so that their eyes met again. “The path I chose was my own. You’re not to blame. Don’t make my sacrifice into a sin.” Ashleigh’s heart broke. “I’m sorry…” Cris lifted her up and held her close. “There is nothing to forgive.” Ashleigh buried her face into his chest. The medic struggled with the new door code. “I can’t get in, she’s changed it some how.” “Gee I wonder why.” A ridiculously young colonel said glancing at A1. Tyson and Karston came up the hall, bickering as usual. A1 motioned for them to shut up and come to him. Karston rolled his eyes. “Yes master.” He mumbled. A1 motioned to the door. Tyson’s mouth dropped open. “I’m not going to break down the door!” Karston nodded. “The buttmunch is right. These are blast doors there’s no way we could pull them off the hinges without an ASP.” “Pound on the door dipsticks.” A1 one said curtly. Karston looked at Tyson. “Yeah dipstick.” “HEY! He was talking to you too moron!” Tyson shrieked back. The door slid open. “Shut up.” Every one stared at the dark, light rimmed, feminine silhouette in the dimly lit door way. “Captain Ashleigh Nixx, I presume.” The ludicrously young colonel said; still a little shocked at the unmistakable aura that surrounded her. “Correct.” She said turning on the light. “I’m Colonel Leon Turner I’m here to supervise a couple of routine tests.” He stated his grey eyes a little wary. “Permission to speak freely sir?” Ashleigh asked. “Granted.” Zell said instinctively. “What for?” She asked. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.” Leon said strongly. Ashleigh smirked. “In that case you’ll need an army to move me.”
  • Karston and Tyson went rigid, and covered their eyes as Leon reached out to grab hold of her. Alpha One watched in horror. Ashleigh took hold of Leon’s outstretched arm and flung him into her room. A loud chorus of shrieks, the sound of falling furniture and a broken pain of glass carried into the hall from the open doorway; then all was silent. Ashleigh appeared in the doorway, Leon over her shoulder. “Major Maxwell.” She said handing the unconscious man to the frozen Zell. “I don’t feel well.” She mumbled before closing the door. Karston leaned over to Tyson. “I don’t think we should tell her about our next mission.” He whispered. Tyson nodded. “I’m with you.” Both of the slinked away before A1 could take notice of them. Zell glanced over at A1. “Has she ever…?” A1 shook his head. “Not to a superior.” Zell nodded. “Right, then. Leave her be until tomorrow.” A1 nodded. “Sir.” He said with a salute. Ashleigh combed her fingers through Cris’ long black hair, his golden eyes closed with contentment. She could feel His deep voice rumble in his chest before it escaped his throat. “It’s good to see you.” He said. She raised an eyebrow “Your eyes are closed.” He smiled. “Good to feel you then.” He opened one eye and peeked up at her, the bright moonlight cascading over her through a small window on the left. “More beautiful than ever I see.” Ashleigh laughed. “I thought that the glory of heaven would’ve erased me from your mind.” Chris got up unexpectedly and turned to face her. “This is all the “heaven’ I know.” Ashleigh’s smile faded. ‘What do you mean?” A siren blast tore Chris away from her. She landed hard on the floor and scrambled to her feet. Throwing on the nearest items of clothing she fumbled around in the dark and nearly bit it. Grabbing a hair band she pulled her hair back and took off like a shot. What she’d failed to realize was that her bed was still made. The cold, usually empty, hall in which her room was placed was crowded with scared female scientists, soldiers and engineers all struggling to get out. Ashleigh yelled over the crowed. “What?!” She was met by an unexpected voice. “Nixx!” Alpha One pushed through the crowd and took her by the arm. “Jedite, a new mutation.” There’s got to be something in the water. Ashleigh thought as she allowed herself to be hauled away. They had a hard time of it, the women were panicking and some of them even tried using others as leverage to get to the door faster. After about 10 minutes of struggle Alpha One and Ashleigh made it to the surface. They took off in a dead run towards the parking lot just up the way. Tyson, Karston, and Bane were waiting in a Jeep marked ‘Sephirothe’ “Where’s Sifer?!” Ashleigh called. Alpha One shoved her into Tyson’s arms. “No time.” Ashleigh held back the torrent of rage the welled up inside her. “So you’re just going t’…”
  • A1 turned and faced her resolution and duty in his eyes. “We have to deploy.” She bit her lip. “Fine!” A1 nodded and jumped into the passenger seat. “Hurry!” The jeep took off screaming as Karston speed off towards the bunker. The sky was still full of night, the air crisp and chill, by the smell of the air dawn was only a few hours away. Chaos echoed through the atmosphere and tension hung on every breath. People, mostly scientists, came running and screaming into the vehicle’s trajectory. Karston cursed loudly as he swerved. Another flock of raving humans came up on that side as well. Karston cursed even louder and hit the breaks just in time to skid away from them. He floored the gas and the jeep lurched back into action. “NO! Stop let me out!” Ashleigh yelled over the turmoil around them. Karston was too busy dodging civilians and debris to even hear her. “What the Hell is going on?!” He cursed again as the jeep fishtailed narrowly missing a light poll. Ashleigh rolled her eyes. There’s only one Jedite. So what’s making everyone act this way? The mist began to thicken; the clouds were heavy and dark, promising rain. Why was the mist so suffocating? Karston’s breathing began to quicken, then become irregular. His knuckles gripped the steering wheel till they were white and popped under the strain. “Alex!” Ashleigh shouted over the confusion. “Take the wheel from Karston.” A1 stiffened. “I’m your superior!” Ashleigh stopped any other comment by slapping him full across the face. “Do you want to kill us all?!” She cried. A wave unseen and unfelt by regular senses washed over her. There you are. She climbed out the window and held on to the roll bar. A large shadow hovered, like a behemoth, in the mist before her. She bit her lip and a moment of hesitation crossed her mind as she sized up the creature. It was huge! Almost a ship of its own. Blood trickled down her chin, the droplets cutting holes through the curtain of mist was they fell. Pollen? An airborne hallucinogen? No… could it? Ashleigh poked her head back through the window. “Alex, please get Volt down here as soon as you can.” She said with a nervous smile. “What’re you planning?!” Bane asked his voice cracking. Ashleigh jumped off of the jeep and landed rather roughly on the earth. “Nixx!” A1 yelled, fear seizing him but for an instant. He quickly set his resolutions back into place, as Ashleigh disappeared into the thick fog around them. A1 coaxed Karston out of the driver’s seat; by coax I mean to say that he grabbed him and tossed him into the back seat, taking the wheel just in time to doge a flock of frightened people. The jeep skid dangerously to one side, threatening to throw the passengers out, but A1 righted it and continued to their destination. The ASP hangar loomed over the mist covered chaos like a massive laughing mouth. The jeep tore inside with reckless abandon only to wreck into a stack of empty crates that littered the hangar’s entrance. The resulting thunderous crash was nearly buried by the tumultuous uproar outside. Everyone jumped out of the Jeep as fast as humanly possible. Karston was still breathing funny and wasn’t quite moving right. Tyson came along side him as they ran for the
  • slowly opening blast door before them. “I like your driving better.” He laughed as they slid down the rail to the Mech floor. Collin slid a finger across Helen’s armor. A clean streak followed along the path his finger drew. He glanced around and eyed the air suspiciously. Taking the kerchief out of his pocket and tied it around his mouth and nose. “Good thinking.” Helen said once Collin had gotten in. Collin laughed. A1 checked all of his systems and started up the anti-G drives and rockets. She’s not here? Alex, did you leave her? A voice said inside his head. As a matter of fact. He retorted. She jumped out of the Jeep. A metallic laughter filled the cockpit. Shut up Owen! A1 bit quietly. Tell Volt to deploy along with us. Another snicker rang through the cockpit. Ashleigh slithered around the buildings, slinking quietly closer to the monstrous Jedite. She peeked around a corner and nearly froze. She gawked up at it like a child would a very tall man. It wasn’t bulky, rather smooth and flowing curves gracefully intertwining to create the creature before her. It was light lavender, unlike the others she’d ever encountered. The upper part of it flared delicately into an oval with what looked to be half of a hand carved bridge/throne at the halfway point. The lower half was wide and stable; three long irregular, but nonetheless smooth, tentacle-like appendages made up the base, sweeping forward from the point at which they were attached to the oval. It was surprisingly breathtaking to look at. Ashleigh kept close to the wall as she watched the large Jedite make its way through the camp like a ghost. Gliding on silent waves emitting a pollen like substance from what looked to be curved vents cut into the sides of the towering oval panicle. A flock of frightened people ran into the alley crazed for no reason they could comprehend. Several decorative clasps on the sides of the Jedite came alive and exploded toward its victims like silver claws attached to a grapevine. Without a second thought Ashleigh pulled the knife out of her pocket and slit her hand open. As soon as the wound was open shafts of blood raced into the attacking appendages. The immense Jedite shuddered and reeled to the side for a moment as the senseless humans continued to run aimlessly through the compound. Ashleigh caught a hint of movement on the bridge’s throne thing. Was she seeing it correctly? The throne was not throne at all but the form of a woman attached like a symbiote to the Jedite being. Several of the discs on the creature’s hull opened revealing creepy unreal eyes, each one different from the others. Ashleigh cringed under the glare of the monster. The skin on the tentacle closest to her began to split and ooze as a flap of it tore itself away from the rest of the surface. It curled back and a section of muscle also split, but not on it’s own it looked as though some bone structure was pushing up underneath of it. The last of the muscles gave way revealing a set of 12 nasty looking spikes. The last to the right on the second row began to shake violently before being launched directly at Ashleigh. She dodged as quickly as she could, getting tossed to the ground by the tail end of an explosion at her back.
  • Missiles?! Ashleigh moaned as another came at her. She moved around expertly but couldn’t keep going much longer. The last of the spikes flew directly at her midsection and nearly got her, tearing the fabric of her shirt as it screamed into the building directly behind her. Ashleigh pulled blood from all of her cuts and held a crimson orb. This had better work. She pulled her arm back ready to throw it like a ball when a pore near the woman shaped piece of Jedite opened and spit out a tiny pod, about the size of a soft ball. Ashleigh tried to dodge but it followed her every move she let out a cry of frustration and held the orb ahead of her and closed her eyes tightly. She was knocked on her but, covered in her own blood, but in one piece. She heard another pod being spit at her and jumped up as fast as she could. Every part of her protested, she had almost nothing left…. What would happen if she kept using her blood, could she kill herself? She cursed and pulled a crimson shield up just in time to take another blow. This time it didn’t shatter but held against the impact. She sighed. Looks like I’m not supposed to go just yet. Alpha One looked at his screen hopelessly. Are you worrying about her? A voice said in his head. A1 shook his head fiercely. You know better than that Owen! A laugh echoed through the cockpit as the small group of Mechs made their way through the ghostly wraith of the base. “Why aren’t the SP’s evacuating every one?” Tyson asked over the comm. Bain messed with the handkerchief over his nose and mouth. “Looks to me like they’re affected by the pollen as well.” A fifth suite joined the group. “Good job, smarty pants.” Came Sifer’s voice over the frequency. “A1 what’s our plan of action?” Alpha One looked over the base. “Tyson, Bane, and Karston evacuate all you can. Sifer you come with me.” “Sir!” Came the response as the team scattered. Ashleigh was thrown for a loop when her crimson shaded shield gave way. The explosive little pod burned her skin on her fore arms and the shrapnel cut her up good. She blinked passed tears and saw fireflies swirling around in her vision. This Jedite was purely organic; she couldn’t find a divide point. She looked at the Jedite and burrowed deep into her mind, her new memories. The world began to float away, she’d lost too much blood, and she knew that it was only supposed to be a last ditch course of action. She laughed to herself as the world slipped away from her. That was stupid. She opened her eyes one last time… Everything went black. Cris smiled down at her. “You over did it.” Ashleigh put a hand to her aching head. “Where am I?” She looked around at the surreal landscape. Silver trees wreathed sparingly with indigo and burgundy wine colored leaves, soft moss covered the ground where the cyan grass failed. She turned around and nearly screamed. A large glass tube topped with a silver cap was encased in a graceful ice crystal. Inside resided a vision of herself with full black angel wings wrapped around her body. “Oh, God! I’m dead!”
  • Chapter 4 Home Sweet Home Rush glared at the ship beside them in contempt, all the fancy gadgetry coated the hulls like great square warts. The ugly green color made it look more ‘military’. Military my , more like a giant frog swallowed a shoe box. He thought as the drums for the ceremony started playing. He glanced at his mates beside him. Ace solemn as a rock, poor little rookie Jett looked like he needed some serious R&R, and Mace the cocky flyer was a little on the mellow side. Lynx and Keilah walked up behind them. They looked at the other ship as the new recruits came out on deck. “It’s almost scary looking at all those kids.” Ace said under his breath. “You just want to save them.” Rush growled a string of colorful phrases. Angel put a hand on his arm. “We know love.” Keilah sighed. “What about the document?” “What about it?!” Rush bit. Lynx looked out at the instructors, their students all ablaze at the idea of seeing real combat. How many of them would live through it I wonder. His mind was so far off he couldn’t hear the uproar next to him. “It has to mean something!” Keilah yelled. Rush pounded his fist into the railing. “It means ! That’s what it means you psyco wench!” Keilah flushed with anger. “Wench?! That’s not even a real word!” “Actually.” Jett piped in. “YOU STAY OUT OF THIS!” Both arguing parties shouted at him. Jet walked away. “Alright then.” “Maybe it was a possibility.” Ace chimed in. Lynx was torn out of his world. “What?” Ace turned away from the academy ship and looked at his ‘team’. “What could’ve been what might have happened if… something was different at some point?” He waved a dismissive hand. “Nah, never mind.” Lynx nodded. “Seeing as how things have gotten weirder and weirder, I don’t think that you’re too far off base.” The drums on the other ship stopped and the gangplank was connected. “Oh and by the way.” Lynx said as he walked away. “You have a rookie on your team now.” ”!” Rush stalked away, anger swirling around him like a tangible whirlwind. Keilah looked over at Angel. “How do you live with him?” She laughed, so did every one else.
  • The ceremony was stuffy and boring. Not one that would go down in history books, and if it did it would be only to torment the already suffering students in the class. One of the MSgt’s (Master Sergeant) in charge walked up the L3 squad. His gait was quite cocky despite the fact that they out ranked him by a long shot. He gave a half hearted salute. Rush was already halfway to the hold by the time Ace looked around for him. “Yes?” “Are you the Leader of the L3 squad?” MSgt asked. Ace nodded. “For now.” MSgt raised an eyebrow before continuing. “Young Airmen Clinton has requested to join your squad over the others available. First I need to be sure that you’ll grant him permission to switch with the Airmen first assigned to you.” Ace smiled knowingly. “Of course it’s alright.” He began walking over to the line of rookies. “I’ll go tell him myself.” MSgt sighed under his breath and followed after Ace. Darrin smiled brightly. “Ay— er, Lt. Sharp!” Ace smiled. “Hey kid, looks like you made it through training alright.” He winked. Darren saluted. “Ready for duty, sir.” Ace saluted back, keeping his laughter in check. “At ease, Airmen Clinton.” He glanced over his shoulder at the others. “Follow me I’ll show you to your quarters.” Darrin followed him, excitement almost oozing out his ears and dribbling on the deck as they walked to the hold. Rush slammed his empty beer mug on the table and sighed in delight as the bitter aftertaste lingered in his mouth. “That’s better!” The small round table was in the back of the room under the only flickering light in the room near an emergency exit, whose alarm had long since died. L3 sat around it in celebration of their newest member. The veteran members laughing and telling stories of past battles and of getting drunk soon there after. Ace laughed, long black hair bouncing as his shoulders rose and fell. “I’d say, you getting plastered would serve for some peace around here.” Mace put a hand through his thick black hair and then rubbed it over his dark face. “Untill another one of them damnable storms shows up on our tail.” Darrin stopped munching on his pie. “Storms?” Jett shook his head. “All ways half empty, Mace?” Mace snorted a foul worded retort before tipping back a shot. Ace smiled at Darrin. “You’ve heard about the new mutations springing up all of a sudden right?” The young man nodded, grey eyes intense. Rush laughed. “The little buggers are weather inducers.” He looked longingly at his empty beer mug. “The squiddies don’t come around any more… maybe it’s that they’ve been replaced with better soldiers.” Ace frowned. “I don’t think they have much of a mind on their own.” He looked at the curious Darrin and smiled. “Of course, let me explain.” He straightened his back and cracked his neck. “You remember Nixx of course?”
  • Darrin nodded. “Not too long after she left for the specials. About 4 months or so this strange storm hit us out of nowhere and seemed to be following our ship.” Ace said. Jet smiled. “Lucky for us 2nd Lt. Bane sent us some radar and sensor calibrations.” Mace beamed, the amount of liquor he’d consumed brightening his cheeks. “Blasted them rotten boogers to hell!” He said triumphantly. Everyone around the table couldn’t help but smile. Lynx put a hand to his head. “I’m sure there is a duty somewhere that I’m shirking.” He laughed. Rush nodded. “Be gone with you, High born moron… Oh and bring me another beer would ya?” A sly smile lit his face. Rush and Lynx laughed heartily. Darrin smiled to himself as he ate into his pie. There was no place he’d rather be, happy here among the tipsy members of L3, basking in their comradery.