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 Sayber Seven

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PostSubject: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 12:56 am

NOTE: EXCEPTION MADE TO RP FORMAT HERE AS THIS IS A COLLABORATIVE RP STARTED ON ANOTHER SITE


The desert sands rolled by tauntingly slow, though they still somehow managed to out-pace the seconds ticking on the clock. She had no need of a watch--the sun's position indicated that it was around noon. More out of habit, she glanced at the small gadget fastened to her wrist, then continued to gaze lazily out across the gilded dunes. Further out, red stones jutted skyward like runes of an ancient race. The sky was a brilliant blanket of blue-on-white, not a cloud was in view, and the only thing of interest was low hum of the sand skate's motor, and the inaudible words of her fellow new recruits.

Hanaka Ria was sixteen. She was a rather fidgety individual when she sat idly for too long. Her hair was long and a lovely strawberry blond shade. Her eyes glimmered a faint green and reflected her lackluster mood. Her face was straight and focused, but bored. She was beautiful as she basked in the prime of youth. She had the faintest hint of a tan, her white leather suit hugged her modest but flawless curves, and her slightly-diminutive stature was a commanding one. Ria had the look of a woman who would kick a man's ass if he so much as looked at her with interest, sexual or otherwise. Perhaps it was how she kept people at arm's length, and not the massive P44 Magnis pistol in her hip holster.

She leaned on her palm and breathed in a new breeze, one of the rare, cool ones that drifted over the desert landscape. The wind ruffled her otherwise-straight hair, but only slightly, and it soon fell back in line. Again, she took a glance at her watch. It had been her grandfather's, and had died out many years before. She never used it for time management anyway--she was perfectly capable of that by judging the position of the sun or stars. Rather, it had been a memorabilia of the family she once had. On the background of the small piece of machinery, embracing the digital display, was a gold plate embedded with a silver symbol of eternity. In her young age, she never had an appreciation for what it meant.

Somewhere behind her were the shuffling of nervous feet. Other impatient or anxious cadets, clad in a similar uniform, paced about on the surface of the sand-skate. She ignored it, and instead brushed a stubborn lock of hair out of her eyes. Trainees the ship over were anticipating action of some kind. She knew because it drifted in whispers across the deck, and in shouts demanding alertness, bravery, and the less-flattering 'stop-pissing-yourselves'. At that point, it had been more than an hour into the trip, and no incidents had yet occurred. Regardless, Ria's hand never strayed far from her holster.

"Did you see that?" someone behind her asked nervously. "I saw something moving out there."

She wasn't worried as the other cadets grabbed their firearms and hustled to the side of the vessel the cry had come from. All eyes were affixed to the starboard of the vessel as it sliced its way through the ocean of sand. Though she hadn't risen with the rest of them, she kept an ear open as murmurs passed back and forth. Then, she stood, freeing her weapon from its home and gripping it in her hand.

"It was probably an armadillo or something."

"Out this far? No way."

Ria raised her pistol to eye level and walked towards her own end of the skate, taking small, careful steps. Her hands tensed on her weapon. She clicked the first slug into place, ready to fire. A strange clicking-hissing sound rose to her ears.

"Could probably be a vulture. Maybe an osprey has a nest out here, or something."

"Ospreys need water, moron."

"Well, why don't you tell me where the hell we can find naturally-occurring water these days?"

Ria took a breath and edged closer towards the side railing of the skate. She firmed up her arms and peered over the edge of the transport, down below to where the sand met the ship's hull.

"Bet you I can hit it before any of you can."

"Shooting contest!"

Ammunition packs slammed home and clicked into place as assault rifles, handguns, and scoped weapons prepared to fire. Dozens of excited recruits, eager to prove their worth rose their guns and began taking potshots at whatever was out there.

Ria had no opportunity to stop them, as her voice was drowned out next to the roar of gunfire. Instead, she glanced down at a button on the guard rail, raised her fist, and rammed on it.

Before the ship's alarms went off, the first creature clawed its way up silently onto the deck. It was the size of a pick-up truck, and looked like a thingyroach from hell--with arms emerging from its back sporting six-inch claws, and piercing, soulless, ink-black eyes.

A Swarmling. Its mandibles click-hissed together as more of its brethren clambered up to ambush the unsuspecting rookies. Their looks of hunger and burning desire to kill gave way to shock as the alarm rose to life. The beacon lights that lined the railing buzzed to life, scaring the crap out of the confused recruits, who were fortunate enough to turn around when they did, just in time to watch one of their own be seized by one of the massive alien bug's horrendous jaws, and be ripped to red, bloody pieces.




The world inside the transport's cockpit was so shrouded in darkness that anyone looking inside would casually think it was an onboard storage closet and pass it by. Of course, it usually was what with the pilots viewing the outside world through computer-operated headsets resting over their heads like an oversized welder's visor. Supposedly, the idea would allow those responsible for the vehicle's structural integrity to see miles ahead with ease and plot the safest course possible. In this case however, even the "enhanced" viewing failed as the camera-visors outside were blotted by the insectile bodies of the swarmlings.

From the darkness came a voice, whirring and raspy; as though it were being spoken through the damaged speakers of a computer. "I think I just saw it's ass."

"Thank you for sharing that completely unwanted bit of information, dear." a second mechanized voice -female- responded with just the slightest hint of sarcasm.

"Wasn't this trip supposed to be uneventful?"

"Supposed to be, yes. You know Ria though."

"You're saying she plotted our course back to the academy with the intent of running into those damn bugs?"

"No, but she'd probably give us directions to do so, just to annoy the recruits." the female responded cheerfully as the sounds of gunfire exploded above them on the ship's deck. Judging by the pitch of the yelling and frequency of the blasts, she had to guess that someone -probably Ria- had made a bet with the others concerning the swarmling body count.

"Camera's clear." the male rasped back, just in time to watch what appeared to be a human leg -still wrapped in a torn mix of the fabric of Terran military recruits and a violet thong- fall to the sand with a dull thump whereupon it was devoured by the stragglers of their uninvited guests.

"I think this has stopped being a game now." she said.

At that point, there was a creaking noise followed by the short squeak of metal on lubricated metal, signalling that the girl had just stood from her seat and was moving across the darkened thingypit with footsteps whose echoes were drowned out by the resounding melee above. He "sensed" rather than felt the weight of her gloved hand brushing over his right shoulder before the steel door behind him opened and closed faster than the human eye could blink.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 12:56 am

Hikari Kagura stood easily outside the cockpit, blinking her red eyes as they adjusted to the sudden light of the transport's lower level. The skate itself was relatively simple in its design; upper deck on the top, hatch and stairwell leading down below. One might have thought that the lower levels would be holding ammunition, money, or even some high-profile political figure in his personal suite. Unfortunately for the comfort-eager however, the lower level consisted only of engines, a hallway with one row of cabins on either side, and the cockpit in the front which was ironically the most spacious part of the thing on the inside.

Brushing her black hair behind and locking it into a ponytail with a spare bit of wire she conveniently found lying on the floor, Hikari checked the thin scabbards mounted on her curved hips. Unlike many in the military, she and her brother still preferred close-range combat, arguing that mortal wounds were easier to inflict, and even strikes that didn't land on their intended target could still prove fatal.

Eyes fixed ahead on the metal staircase that ran up to the still sealed trapdoor, Hikari unbuttoned the front of her uniform with one hand, somehow feeling freer with the stiff fabric's interior open to the air around her. Breathing in concentration, she put one foot back, bracing her booted heel on the cockpit door before springing into a dead run. Hair streaming behind her, she felt her breasts jiggling in the tight-fitting black tank top she wore beneath and momentarily wished she were two years younger than her nineteen year-old self.

Worry about that later. Just pray that nobody died across the hatch here. she thought, vaulting onto the stairs with one foot and swinging her other leg up in wild kick that connected solidly with the door, sending it flying up with a tearing clang before it halted violently against a swarmling's mishapen head with a sickening crunch.

"You guys started without me?" she whined, pulling both swords out and spinning crazily on one foot towards a swarmling, bringing the blades around and together in an X-shape beneath what probably passed for the creature's neck. She felt a momentary flicker of panic as two of its myriad claws latched onto the sword's blades.

Hikari grinned. The creature's natural instinct when faced with two blades at its neck seemed to be to pull them away. Unfortunately with the metal edges crossed, Hikari barely had to use any strength as the creature's own fear and raw power caused it to slit its own underside. Falling back twitching, it failed to drag the raven-haired girl with it, though the subsequent death spasms did wind up spraying a good deal of blood across Hikari's face and chest, soaking her shirt completely.

Ew.

Kicking back and away, she ducked behind a recruit, sweeping one sword back and sending a swarmling's limb flying down onto her back. Grunting as she felt the severed claw pierce skin, she rolled with it, sending the leg -if that's what it was- to the deck in a bloody mess.

Now then, where'd Ria go?



The calm, serene environment all around the troop carrier belied the carnage on board. Even as Swarmlings continued to amass on the deck of the vessel, the remaining uniformed recruits mounted an uneasy, but firm defense. As their training kicked in, overwriting the panic they had at first felt, a solid wall of lead began to mow down the zombified race.

Ria was at the heart of it all, assisting her fellow trainees where needed. She ejected the empty magazine from her pistol, slid another in in its place, then punched a hole in the head of yet another bug. It didn't kill the damn thing because there was no brain in the head to punch a hole through--that was located somewhere down in the chest cavity--but the slug left its mark on the way through. The force of the impact ripped through the exoskeleton, sending bloody fragments of carapace showering over her. The creature's eyesight was also annihilated, as the bullet tore through the main nerve leading down to the brain, blinding the thing. The effects were immediate. It howled in pain and rage, lashing out with its back-mounted claws and tearing through the hide of one of its brethren. Outraged, the Swarmling turned on its crippled attacker and pounced, disappearing over the edge and down to the sandy dunes below.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 12:57 am

Ria sighed in visible relief, before turning, then blasting another bug's front leg clean away from the joint down. Blood of an indiscernible color erupted from the wound as the creature lost its footing, howled in agony, and fell silent under a hail of gunfire. The human defenses began to push back against the alien intruders, halting, then reversing the advance.

When a click-hissing came up from behind her, Ria threw a quick look over her should. Clambering up over the edge of the transport's deck was the first Swarmling, the one that had first drawn the attention of all the recruits in the first place. It glared angrily down at her and hissed, its clicking jaws dripping saliva. She quickly pulled her leg up, reached into her boot, and withdrew a massive hunting knife. The Swarmling hissed at her and drove one of its clawed arms at where she stood, with the intent of pulverizing her on the spot. Instead, she rolled towards the creature, leaving the claw to punch a hole in the metal plating and become stuck, and put a deep gash along the creature's eye line.

With blood spewing from what was left of its eyes, Ria threw herself onto the creature's long neck, hugged tightly, then gave a quick twist. She was rewarded with a satisfying "snap" as the fragile neck armor cracked, and its head and mandibles fell limply to the deck. Ria rolled the creature's head to the side with her foot, firmly planting it where it lay, then raised her pistol to aim it at its chest. A loud clap of gunfire ended its attempts to free itself permanently.

Ria cleaned her blade off on her uniform and sheathed it back in her combat boot. Looking around and observing the chaos on the deck, most of the bugs had subsided, and were retreating out towards the desert again. Now the recruits were firing randomly at the fading forms. Every now and again, one of them would blow open in a burst of blood and ichor, then stop moving altogether. Before she allowed herself to relax however, Ria felt a moderate vibration run the length of the deck. She barely kept on her feet as it grew in intensity, and raised her arm skyward.

“Below decks!” she shouted to the confused cadets. She pointed at five of them, “You all go secure the bridge. The rest of you, we’re going to clear out the ship.”

The cadets had long ceased to be terrified for their lives, and their fear was instead replaced by excitement for continued combat. A few even found it in themselves to whoop and holler as they raced for the spiral staircase. The line moved slowly, but eventually, Ria was left alone on the deck. Something felt like it was eating her from the inside out. Perhaps it was the tattered remains of the dozen or so dead squadmates littering the platform. It could have been the faint click-hissing of the angry bugs as they retreated from their better-armed meal.

Regardless, she soon exited her stupor and began to march towards the stairwell. Another click-hiss right next to her drew her attention. A mortally wounded bug, half its legs gone and most of its carapace filled with bullet holes growled and attempted to snap at her with its fangs. She kicked it upside the face instead, sending it to its side. She then pressed her Magnis into its chest, and squeezed the trigger.

Ria sighed and trotted down the stairs, attempting to wipe some of the excess stains off of her clothing, though she knew she’d be getting dirty all over again. Loud shouts from some of the squad indicated that there were still some bugs to be squashed. She ejected her cartridge, clicked a fresh magazine into place, and started down the crew corridor, towards the engine room.

Another bug emerged from a crew compartment just ahead of her. Judging from the sunlight drifting in behind it, some of the creatures had drilled through the very hull of the ship instead of attacking from the top down. In its jaws hung a soldier’s hand, the arm it had come off of nowhere to be seen. The thing’s appetite was apparently not yet satisfied, as it fixed its black gaze onto her. It roared, throwing its mouth wide open and sending the hand clattering to the floor, then charged towards her with lethal intent.

Ria raised her pistol level with the creature’s chest, aimed, and pulled the trigger. When the recoil of a fired round did not come, a chill washed over her body, and her green eyes flared open.

What a time for a weapon jam, she thought as she reached down to her boot again. Her action triggered some sort of instinct in the bug. It howled in rage and drove one of its claws straight at her chest. Ria was quick and had good instincts, but the bug’s claws were quicker. Though she managed to sidestep a lethal strike, the claw shaved some of the uniform from her upper arm and peeled away some of the flesh. She shouted in pain, giving the creature the opportunity it needed to knock her blade out of her hand and send it clattering to the floor. She cursed, raised her pistol, and tried pulling the trigger again, as if by some miracle it would fire. That weapon too soon left her hands as the bug headbutted her up against the bulkhead.

Winded and defenseless, Ria rolled out of the way, just in time to avoid being impaled through the belly. The bug continued to pursue her and click-hissed its mandibles, snapping at her whenever it took a step. She rolled by her blade, plucked it from the floor, and rolled to a knee in a defensive position, causing the alien to pause and consider continuing its assault. It shuffled from side to side, seeming to measure up its opponent, whether it had injured her enough for her to still be a threat to it. Its claw arms twitched with anticipation for the kill, and for its next meal.

When the ship rocked again, Ria lost her balance and began to falter slight. The bug had no such hindrance, and saw the opportunity to dive forward for a lethal strike.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 12:58 am

"Down!" a voice shouted from behind Ria before the seemingly slow motion chain of events snapped forward. One minute, Ria had been half-turned to face a nightmare of an insectoid creature flying at her; bringing its chitinous blades down on her body to make short work of what suddenly felt like a short life.

They came then.

Almost ten years ago, scientists had funded a dig on earth; an attempt to uncover the legendary Saybers and bring them back into use for the future. The expediion had of course, been laughed out of the comittee chambers and its top researchers abandoned.

Dr. Rhotu Kagura was part of the research team, and in his mind at the time; death would have been a more satisfactory result.

"Keep at it!"

"What aobut those rumors, sir? They say that the zombies still live underground."

"Rumors they can remain." Rhotu had said sharply, leaving the crawler to supervise the dig himself.

Behind him, the crawler -a ten-seater cylindrical vehicle with an array of drilling blades at its front- sat, its two remaining occupants peering out the side windows at the work.

"We've got something here sir."

"Armor? Weapons?"

"It's...a puddle of some kind." one of the workers said, lifting his hand away from the sticky liquid.

Then came the darkness, and the screams. Hikari and her twin brother -Hikaru- were leaping from the vehicle and-


The next minute, she was spinning.

Hikari lunged, wrapping both arms around Ria's chest from behind as she dragged the commanding officer down to the deckplates with enough impact to wind them both again and send them rolling away from the swarmling's stabbing claws. Twisting her head out of Ria's flowing hair, she watched as the creature attempted to jerk its metal-like blades from the deck, grunting with exertion.

For a moment, Ria wondered why Hikari had grabbed her the way she had and pulled the commanding officer on top of herself as they rolled across the grated deck floor away from the attack. A moment however, was all she needed to be curious about before she got her answer.

Whatever had allowed the zombies to exist at all, had also allowed them to survive in the caverns, waiting for something just foolish enough to unearth them and satisfy their gnawing hunger. Unrepared and unarmed, the scientists and the dig team were short work for the pouring swarm that descended upon them. Some men fought back, but the years underground had hardened the clay and earth on the creatures' bodies; giving them a unique sort of exoskeleton.

"R-Run..." she squeaked, scrambling wildly over the rocks on her way back towards the surface. The light seemed so close in the darkened cavern, and at the same time it was just too far away for her small legs to carry her.

She had run almost half the distance, breathing heavily when she realized her brother wasn't following her anymore.

"Help!"

Hikari turned.


From the far end of the corridor, a stream of diamond-like shells flashed with a deadly hissing noise; slicing into the swarmling and its allies; tearing holes in their hardened exoskeletons like the angry fists of an undisciplined child against a china cabinet. Indeed, the hits did very little against the swarmlings aside from angering them and inflicting dozens upon dozens of miniscule slash wounds.

"Stay...down." Hikari whispered, as though raising her voice would bring the swarmling down upon them.

"You're not really leaving me any other choice." Ria grunted, squinting through the dust and smoke.

Barely visible in the stampede of zombies, Hikaru fell back; his small body in its orange hazard jumpsuit now looking like a doll assembled by someone who had only a vague idea of what humans looked like. In teh swarm's shuffling stampede, most of his limbs were crushed or wrenched off entirely, leaving him unable to move out of the pack.

Stumbling to his remaining knee, the boy began attempting to crawl; reaching out with his two-fingered arm as though stretching could somehow put his bloodied hand beyond the frontrunners and allow him to be pulled to safety.

Hikari herself reached towards him from her spot practically yards away, only to watch as her screaming brother was pushed under the rotting feet of the zombies.

His final scream for help was drowned only by her own.


Hikari was about to reply, when the shards within the swarmling's hide suddenly took on a brilliant red color. In the high-pitched whine of a building charge that followed, the diamonds themselves exploded; ripping the miniscule holes in the creatures' exoskeletons into blood-spouting craters that showered both girls and their surroundings with more ichor than either of them had ever seen in one area.

Unfazed by the smoke came a voice familiar to Hikari personally, but only known to Ria through stories at the academy. Word had spread of the sword-weilder's brother and his uncanny ability to escape from any fight unharmed while leaving anyone in his incapacitated at the very least. Now as Hikari's "brother" stepped through the smoke, the reasoning behind the stories was revealed.

The rescue had gone badly; and indeed HIkaru would never be able to walk, or really do anything himself again. Both legs were chewed off, and one arm was missing entirely while the other lacked three of its five fingers. Aside from scratches, bruises, and a brain-exposing gash in his head however; the boy was able to live on life support. He spoke little, and blamed nobody alive for what had happened to him. Why it was, the doctors never knew.

It wasn't until much later, when the one-limbed victim demanded entrance into the military that therapists and doctors alike were truly baffled.

Still, a little work that time had gone a long way.


Seized under their right and left arms respectively, Ria and Hikari were lifted shakily from their position in the floor by a pair of blackened metallic hands.

"Lucky that time." the mechanized voice laughed.

Ria looked up and immediately stepped back.

What little there probably was of the human Hikaru was now either gone or hidden. Carrying a smoking cannon that would have required the lifting capacity of five strong men, the boy's face looked through a sealed azure visor at the two girls standing bloodied in the mess he himself had made of the swarmlings. Broad chest armored by three distinct metal plates, Hikaru towered over both of them; his face featureless save the fanged grill beneath the blue sheet of transparent metal that made up his visor.

Tilting his head to the side almost curiously, he leaned forward, lifting a lock of Ria's bloodsoaked hair out of her face before recognition seemed to shudder through him, causing him to back away and let the soaked hair slap back into the girl's face wetly.

"Apologies for touching her highness! I shall have myself rebuilt as a self-solving Rubix cube!" he cried out almost sarcastically, throwing a mock salute as a single swarmling started to rise behind them.

Moving almost faster than either could see, the android spun in a tight circle; bringing his left foot higher than would have been natural for a human and swinging it down to not only shatter the rising swarmling's skull, but spray another gallon of ichor on the girls.

"Mission accomplished." he said with a clicking wheeze that was unmistakably the sound of laughter.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 12:58 am

Ria had heard enough click-hissing in the past few minutes to satisfy a week's worth of guard duty in the Canadian Ashlands. Hearing it again after perhaps five seconds of sterile silence made her stomach heave. Hikaru seemed to wear a similar face for a moment--if he had had a viewable human face with which to wear it. His "eyes" widened in shock as a bug seemingly materialized from nowhere, right behind him. The cyborg-boy saw the attack coming, but the claws moved quicker than those that came before it. His cybernetic reflexes responded sluggishly all of a sudden, and the tearing of metal rang through the corridor.

Stillness and stunned silence filled the air between the three recruits and the alien roach. The cyborg-boy gaped in awe down at the claw piercing through his chest plate and out through his back. The bug, if it were capable of sneering, probably would have. Even as it vibrated its large mandibles together and hissed triumphantly. It almost seemed as if it would break out and laugh maniacally at any second, like a psychotic killer that got its highs from hanging people by their own intestines.

Ria and Hikari were both dumbfounded. Neither had seen where the bug entered from, and neither could get past the fact that it had been able to sneak up on all of them, much less, none of them see it enter the corridor. Nonetheless, there it was, hanging Hikaru off one of its claw arms and draining all the hydraulic fluid out of him, drop by drop. Hikari likened the black, silvery liquid in her mind to mercury as it drained from both the entrance and exit wounds. The boy's cybernetic limbs fell limp as he continued to stare dumbly, but not until after the thing's arm came off with a firm yank, still stuck through him.

"Not quite 'mission accomplished', is it boy?"

Ria blinked. Had the creature talked? She had never in her training been told that these things were capable of intelligible speech, yet here one was, speaking in plain English, clear as a bell. Hikaru was quicker on the uptake than the two girls laying sprawled on the floor, as his central processor was similar to that of a supercomputer.

"Madison!" he shouted angrily. Once again, he began flailing freely and yanked the creature's claw arm out of his chest cavity, despite the fact his central driver was screwed, and he was nearly dry. "George Madison, you lard-assed, panty-wearing, sonuva bi--"

A loud, bright "flash" illuminated the entire group, carrier and all, and the world became fragmented and pixelated as the simulation machine ground to a halt. A moment later, both girls sat in a large, gray room together. They were still huddled as they had been before the bug had "killed" Hikari's brother. Both became reacquainted with the few dozen voices of wildly laughing recruits as they taunted the cy-boy's perfect combat performance. And, somewhere else in the building, the fat commanding officer of the base--George Madison--was probably getting a good tickling of the ribs with the kid's reaction to his cheap maneuver. She shivered when she saw the older man's gut jiggling run through her mind.

Hikari winced and shook her head as her brother shot off round after round of insults about the higher-ups and their "low-ass, d**ned, cheating ways of getting ahead in life". She had almost forgotten she still had a hold of Ria in a rather undignified way. She only noticed when the girl she was accidentally groping cleared her throat.

"It's over now," she said irritably. "Any reason you're holding onto me still?"

Hikari bit her lip mischievously and winked at her. "How else am I supposed to cop a feel?" she asked, giving a playful, teasing squeeze.

Ria huffed and got up, storming off in her cute, patented way that still managed to send a signal that she was pissed off. Hikari shook her head with a sigh and stood up, dusting off her backside, then began to wander over towards where the crowd had gathered. One of the commanders on the base had arrived via the circular lift in the middle of the room and was passing off evaluations from a handheld projector.

The leader for the simulation was absent. Ria was still angry that she had allowed her weapon to become overheated during the last minute of the exercise. Every now and again, a few recruits would call out to her, asking her if she wanted to see her evaluation. She would respond only with the cold shoulder.

I already know how I did . . .





Jiro raised his left eyebrow, the only one he had left after the last mission he was on. The same mission that had given him his new rank of Sergeant, and his mechanical right eye. The top-right quarter of his head was now mechanical, as well his left leg. Now he had a spare pistol and ammo stored in that left with a button to eject them into easy reach.

General Madison had made him watch what happened, to show him how much the cadets needed training, as well as the male cyborg apparently. "Well, I guess it's time." He said, lighting a cigarette and heading to the room they were in. The 18 year old had short, white hair and he wore a black bodysuit, large black boots, and a long red coat. As he entered and glared at the laughing cadets.

"War is nothing to laugh about you turds, now all of you who thought this excercise was funny give me 50 pushups...NOW" He spat, taking a long drag on the cig.




"Sucks fer them." the android muttered resentfully, storming across the simulation chamber's main floor past the cadets; some of whom were still standing anxiously and others who were going down for the pushup drill, figuring that Jiro would probably make everyone do it anyway.

Hikaru continued towards the raised metal platform at the other end of the black-and-red gridlike expanse that made up the holo-training area's floor. Almost showing off, he raised one arm and gripped the edge of the platform raised almost eight feet from the floor. Synthetic muscles bunching, he hauled himself up at such a rate that he actually flipped before continuing across towards the door; tossing Jiro an offhanded "don't kill 'em" glance that he was reasonably sure the other would not be able to see -even with his eye- through the visor. "Sergeant Jiro, keep 'em alive long enough for the next mission." he added as he passed. "Technical Sergeant Hikaru Kagura and Starforce captain Hikari Kagura leaving simulation chamber of sweaty teenagers at 1900 hours."

Ignoring the glance Jiro likely returned at the remark, Hikaru stepped outside the door, slamming it with his metal fist as he stared somewhat resentfully at his chest armor. It still gleamed; polished as it had when he had entered the pilot cabin, and even for a simulation, being caught off guard was still not only embarassing, but frustrating. He knew he could protest Madison's actions, stating that likelihood of a swarmling materializing out of thin air in a deserted corridor, but he still had the itching feeling it would bring command down on his head with lectures on being prepared for any eventuality, no matter how absurd it possibly was.

Next thing I know, they're going to tell us that those damn bugs can kill just by looking at us. he thought over the drone of his computerized mind processing his own musings.

{{the ability for swarm-zombies managing long-distance teleportation to unseen destinations currently ranks low with a 0% chance of ever occuring, even along their present course of evolution.}}

"Guess Madison needs to spend more time in intelligence then." Hikaru said to no one in particular as he continued down the long, cold hallways.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 12:59 am

And that was a sufficient amount of ickiness for the day.

Hikari stood in her featureless cabin that made up only a tiny percent of the 4th North American Recruitment Installation. The four walls were bare metal like the other quarters, and the only features revealing any sort of difference from the otherwise perfectly measured dimensions of the room were a bed that folded out from the far wall and a tall cabinet for clothes, extra food, and other personal items.

The starforce captain reached back to pull the rusted wire from her hair, only to find the black strands already loose around her head. That's right...the wire was a solidified hologram. she realized, making a mental note to wear her hair back more often, as the alternative of a crewcut hardly appealed to her at all.

Eyes now half-shut from fatigue, she stared down at the evaluation again. As usual, they'd sent her another notice about military firearms, along with what felt like a condescending bit of advice that she cease use of archaic weaponry that had "gone out of fashion years ago."

"Right...swords probably dropped off the map around the time one's style of weaponry became a fashion statement." she said to herself, ignoring the fact that they had marked her high for tactical analysis and given the screen her results came from a silver border marking the tackle-save she'd made down below as "saving a fellow soldier's life". Her face was already reddening at their last comment however, saying that "attempting to rape other officers will result in punishment by the Starforce Command council members."

"Oh god..." she muttered, standing so quickly she accidently sent the datapad flying from her lap across the floor where it dinged off the wall; screen casting a faint light on the girl's back as she peeled off the sweat-soaked uniform and tossed it aside with a pile of laundry. Standing in the doorway that lead from her room to the private shower beyond in only a tank top and panties, she shook her head sighed as though the noise of her breathing would fill the silence of her quarters.

Stepping forward and slapping a datapad embedded in the wall, the pilot started the cascading water at a preset temperature.that would have had the Installation higher-ups complaining about wasting the heated water as though it were their very blood. Pulling the last of her clothes off and standing naked under the rush, a slightly kinkier part of her mind wondered what showering in blood would be like. The water hit her, and she felt a tingle.



"Control...." Madison wheezed, his gut shaking in the desert wind like an over-inflated balloon. "Your trainees simply lacked discipline, and you lacked the presence of authority to control them."

The old man was pacing back and forth on an outer balcony overlooking the sandblasted desert around the fortress. Ria stood in front of him, facing away as she only half-listened to what he was saying. She had heard countless lectures from him before, and it was now feeling like the general went out of his way to find something wrong with everyone.

He's probably going to tell the android -what was his name...?- for not predicting that a swarmling would materialize in a closed corridor with full knowledge of how to disable him too. she thought, closing her eyes against the scorching wind.

-"And so, I believe for your next exercise, we shall put Jiro with your group to make sure you do not have such a high casualty count." he said, puffing his chest out knowingly. He knew the two could work together, but he also knew that the blonde in front of him wasn't listening to him.

"High?" she asked, raising one eyebrow without opening either eye.

"You lost a full 45% of your given cadet squad!" he shrieked, face purpling. "You have the charisma, but Jiro has the presence of authori-"

"He also has his own duties to see to." she responded sharply, mind reeling not just at being told off by Madison, but by the general's sudden interest and interference in her performance. Her angry demeanor was not lessened by what he said next.

"Let me know if that girl does anything inappropriate again." he whispered, suddenly sounding like a doting grandfather as he leaned closer and rested a scarred hand on one of her shoulders. "I can ha-"

Ria had turned away, heading back for the entrance door at such speed her hair was fanning behind her wildly even without the wind. Eyes narrow, she carried herself with a barely restrained urge to trip the overweight general and send him plummetting off the balcony like a writhing lump of dough.

His eyes hadn't been locked with her's when he spoke.



Gods, she couldn't wait to transfer out of that hellhole.

Even walking out the door of the general's quarters, Ria barely had the restraint to turn on her commander and plug his fat ass with hot lead. Though her hand got pretty close to her holster at times, and her trigger finger did twitch once or twice as she felt him eying every part of her, she couldn't justify being put on death throw just because she couldn't stand the man. She quickly transversed the stairway down a few levels to where the enlisted made their home. She caught the eyes of a few recruits from the simulation room, but even flustered and infuriated, she was traveling too hastily for someone to see that she was ready to kill something.

She reached her private quarters, a tiny room the size of a storage closet, and quickly disrobed. Her padded leather jumpsuit stuck to her skin, as the simulated heat from the training room had left her soaked. Quickly, she locked the door behind, almost as an afterthought, and tossed her clothes into the hamper. She removed the wrap from around her chest, which relieved some of the physical stress. A motion sensor blipped as she stepped into the shower and poured hot, steamy water over her bristled body.

Finally, a few moments into her soak, she began to relax out of her fury, and instead worked into a spiteful simmer. Instead of focusing on how mad the man made her, she instead looked at the more positive aspect. After all, she was a newly-enlisted soldier going through her final examinations before being deployed to space duty. She was a Private in rank, and generals rarely called a Private to their private chambers. If she was lucky, someone would get snoopy and start poking into the commander's intents. If anything, at least he would be under a lot of pressure if he kept up his disgusting habits.

Then her thoughts turned to her future post. Finally, she would be going from one barren location, to another slightly less barren location. The Vegas Space Center was the hub from which most new recruits left Earth for the first time, took a space taxi to one of the orbital shipyards, and would be placed on one of the UN Space Force's frigates or spacecraft carriers. Her ship, the Song of War, was holding stationary orbit. It was a newly christened carrier, and was scheduled for launch within the next few days. The entire cadet force at this base, and a few other scattered across the former continental United States, were bound to be soldiers to crew the mammoth vessel.

The launch of the Song was a joke though. It would be an operational ship within the next few days, but it would still be a shell of what it was meant to be. Fighters were still being produced, weapon emplacements were still on-order, and the engines required a new nuclear fusion reactor. The one that had originally been intended for the ship was damaged, and had been discarded at the Moon storage facility. Until the ship was completely equipped and ready though, the cadets would all be stationed at Vegas.

Imagining being witness to the launch of a brand-new carrier made Ria excited. She couldn't help but smile warmly at the thought of one of man's mightiest creations moving out of dry dock for the first time, and being witness to it personally.

Five minutes passed in a few seconds, and her reserve of hot water ran dry. Ria was shaken back to reality with the realization that she may as well have been standing under a waterfall in the wintertime, and immediately stepped out. A small mechanical arm leaned out from nowhere and presented her with a nice warm towel, which she wrapped around herself quickly. She laid across her bed and pulled the covers up over herself, her bare skin tingling against the sensual touch of the fabric.

Nothing existed on her ceiling at first glimpse. It was as white as a sheep, as were the rest of the walls. A room couldn't get much more boring than hers. The secret was revealed though, when the bar of light overhead went off with the flick of a switch. Then, the entire room went ablaze with small, green stars dotting every surface. Constellations took shape when one stared at them long enough, and were amazingly accurate.

Seeing the stars of her dreams appear sent a shiver up Ria's spine, that caused her to smile and hug herself. I'll get there, she thought to herself. I'll get there eventually.

The rest of the room was taken over by the distant sound of overzealous cadets, and her own breathing.

God, she couldn't wait to get out of there.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 12:59 am

Jiro spat as the dissmissed the cadets. At the rate they were going they'd be slaughtered on their first encounter, like what happened in the simulation. He knew that the problem was that everyone was out for themselves, except for the officers. He figured he needed to talk to them before continuing training the cadets. He shouldered his special rifle and headed to the barracks. First he stopped off at Ria's door and pressed the comm button.

"Private Ria, this is Combat Sergeant Jiro. I'd like to request your pressence in the officer's lounge in 15 minutes, I shall let you in once you arrive." he said, turning around without waiting for an answer. He had to reach Sergeant Hikari and Hikaru's chambers as well. When he arrived he pressed the comm on their doors giving them the same message. With that done he headed to the Officer's lounge to get something to eat and drink, perferably something with a high proof.



"Good luck getting the other two in here, Jiro." Hikaru's synthesized voice whispered from the back of the lounge.

The lounge itself was odd in its very shape; looking as though it had been designed by an over-achiever in geometry. The shape of it was a giant cross of sorts, with one "wing" of it bending off at a ninety degree angle into a small alcove of arcade machines. Another wing held a small kitchen/bar where at least one officer always remained to "make sure nobody got drunk."

Glancing at the bar as he stepped out from the video game alcove, Hikaru thought that the excuse should have been "make sure nobody else gets too drunk.

He found Jiro seated at a table inside the far left wing which meant he had to cross the central depression; a square-shaped center that was for some reaosn, built lower than the rest of the floor and usually made anyone forced to stand in it for too long feel small and weak.

Jiro looked upas Hikaru stepped into the light, unnerved by the boy's mechanical body. "I don't think I have to ask; the other two aren't coming, are they?" he said with annoyance.

"Eh, I'm a pilot even if I work well with infantry." the android shrugged. "Technically, I didn't even have to come here, but I figured like the simulation, I needed a bit of action."

"Even setting poor examples for the cadets?"

"Don't lecture me on poor examples without talking to General "Teleporting Bug" Madison first." the android responded, looking over at the screen Jiro had left the messages in. "Hoo boy...wonder what Hikari'll say when she sees that one..."




"It is late evening, I'm naked, and I want to sleep." was what Hikari wanted to respond with on the spot, not caring if anyone else heard her outside and began wondering what the starforce captain was doing announcing such things. She knew Jiro would have something to say about performance, but as far as she was concerned; both she and her brother were out of his immediate jurisdiction in the military as it was and she at least was too worn out to bother with anything else.

Elbowing the switch inside the steamy shower stall, the raven-haired girl exited quickly without taking time to stare at herself in the mirror between her room and the shower. She found her mind resting uneasily back on the thoughts and fantasies from her shower and what else she could do with it. The idea at its most basic seemed apalling where sources were considered, but somehow she found the experience arousing to say the least.

As she stumbled into her room, Hikari yawned lazily and made sure her door was locked and sealed before looking at a small wallscreen and the text version of Jiro's message with some amount of annoyance. Shrugging and brushing her largely uncut hair out of her eyes, she keyed a return message stating that she would show up in the morning when her mind would actually be capable of processing thoughts more complex than "must sleep now".

Tugging on a Starforce dress jacket that she pulled from the cabinet area, she gave another yawn and simply fell back onto the bed with a roll, barely managing to avoid whacking her head against the metal wall. Eyeing the sealed door as though someone of General Madison's caliber would burst through at any second, she pulled her bare legs up to her chest and dragged the covers over her body, causing the jacket to ride up her back and bunch at her shoulders as she slid back and stretched, squirming at the feel of the sheets on her skin.

Reaching out and keying in a passcode, she muted the wallscreen and other datapads completely, shutting them off save any emergency alarms that might go off. No harm in being pepare...preper..prepared. she thought, writhing under the covers again and falling asleep peacefully.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:00 am

She hadn't wanted to hear the com on her door buzz. She hadn't wanted to move from her spot until the following morning, when the officers would knock loudly on her door, then be forced to break in. Of course, it was never a huge deal. One perk of being the general's eye-candy was the fact that he would dismiss her 'discipline problem' as a personality disorder. She would tolerate his wandering eyes a bit longer for the sake of being able to have an extra ten minutes of sleep.

Ria had just begun to doze off too before the call for a conference came. Jiro had made her nuts list in a single stroke with that move. She managed to pull herself up to a sitting position, stretched her achy joints and pulled a new uniform on. She ran a brush through her strawberry blonde hair, tossed it back, and stepped out into a dark corridor.

The hallway seemed to get larger as she walked. Or, perhaps she was getting smaller as the room stayed the same. But, either way, she felt her heart rate increase. Something about the surrounding environment was eerily familiar. It was like something out of a dream—maybe a nightmare—only playing before her eyes like a movie. She gulped, but did her best to remain steadfast as her training had taught her, and strode down the seemingly-endless passage.

She heard footsteps somewhere behind her. For some reason, it alarmed her and sent her into a chilled sweat. Why, she didn’t know. It was more than likely a co-ed seeking his/her night of passionate romance.

Typically, a light or two would be left on in every section of the base. However, the corridor Ria was in was pitch black. She couldn’t see two feet ahead, and felt around in the dark for an aid. Then, she heard the footsteps again. They were closer, and far in between each step, but then every time she stopped to listen, they halted along with her. It could have been her own echo returning to her even. She had no real reason to be afraid as far as she knew. Still, she couldn’t help but sense that something sinister was behind the invisible stalker.

Just to be safe, and for her own self-assurance, she hastened her own steps just a bit, and continued to listen to the other set of feet. When the specter accelerated to match her pace, she broke out into a cold sweat and stopped firmly in her tracks.

“Who’s there?” she demanded firmly. Her voice bounced off the walls and answered her question with her own question. Even as she tried to assure herself that there was nothing, no one there to fear, she heard another step in her direction.

Ria took an instinctive step back, falling a link on the food chain in the process. Who, or whatever was pursuing her sensed her anxiety, and took another two steps forward.

Ria gritted her teeth and felt around for her holster or her hunting knife, but possessed neither. She had left her room with the intent of going to a conference based around her performance, and generally speaking, unless someone greatly disagreed with their rating, or had a little too much to drink, weapons weren’t required in such situations. Still, she was beginning to feel regret, and greatly wished she had deviated from the norm.

“I said who’s there!” she insisted once more, though shakier than she intended.

When the person—if he could be called that—stepped into a small sliver of light, she immediately wished that she had kept moving.

“Have a bad dream, sweetie?”

Ria almost lost her footing when she heard his voice. “Stay . . . stay away from me.”

“Oh, I thought you’d be
happy to see me after a hard day of work.”

“I’ll scream! I swear I’ll scream if you touch me.”

The ghostly face’s eyes took a turn from pleasant and inviting, to downcast and leery. The look made her shiver with fear, and her blood turn to ice water. It was the same thing she had seen in every nightmare since she was old enough to remember.

It was the face of her first lover.

“What’s the matter Ria?” the boy cooed playfully from the shadows. “Don’t you remember how much fun it is to play with your daddy?” Even hunched down, his hands on his knees, he was about her current size. That made her nervous. She remembered what happened in this scenario.

“No,” she shuttered. “It’s not . . . it was
never fun. It’s wrong! It always felt wrong!”

Joseph had been seventeen and she twelve during the first time. He had a thin beard and mustache growing in, and was a good head or two taller than she was. She had barely entered puberty when they met. Her chest was flat, her hips were still straight, and the first signs of an oily complexion were yet to surface.

“That’s not what you said when you let me touch you the first time,” he said with a menacing purr. “You told me you wanted to do it again, and again, and again. You told me you never wanted me to stop.”

“You’re wrong,” Ria said on the brink of tears, shaking her head erratically. “You’re wrong! I told you that I never wanted that again, but you . . . you never listened to me. You never listened. You took me for yourself. You stole me—something I can never have back.”

Joseph smiled, trying to recapture an image he first had on her, something he would never have again. He merely shrugged, “I could tell you didn’t know what you wanted. You were young and stupid, so all I had to do was show you.”

His hand twitched.

Ria wiped her eyes clean. “Stay away. Just get away from me. I don’t want to see you ever again.”

“You’re lying,” he said rather roughly. His hand reached forward. “Just let me show you again. You don’t know what you want anymore.”

“Stop. Leave me alone. I hate you!”

Joseph’s “nice-guy” face melted away again. “Stop saying that!” he ground as his hand lurched forward. Ria blocked with her arm, but instead, he grabbed her and pulled her up against him roughly. “I’m gonna show you again. I’m going to show you that you love me, that you love this.” One of his hands traveled downwards, rubbing over her chest and causing her to hiss.

“Don’t . . . please.”

He firmly shushed her, and began violating her further. “Just shut up Ria. Shut up. I’ll make it fun. I promise.”


“No!” Ria found herself gasping. Once again, she found herself standing in a dimly-lit corridor. As the shock from the memory wore off, she leaned against a wall and tried to catch her breath. She wiped the sweat off of her brow, taking in long gulps of comparatively cool air. Trying to calm herself, she was convinced that she could probably use another shower before heading to the conference.

In her mind though, her thoughts kept returning to the night she was raped by the boy she had once trusted so much, and she couldn’t help but wonder how many of them were the same way.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:01 am

"Hikaru he's a GENERAL, it's his job to be a prick!!" Jiro yelled in frustration, smashing his cigarette into the ashtray. "It's OUR job as Sergeants to be the role models for our men, and to train them so that they don't get killed five minutes into battle!! Don't let your ego get in the way!!" He finished, standing up and lighting another cigarette.

Taking a long drag off it to calm himself, kicking the chair he was sitting on. "This is why I voluntered for this. Your cadets are a laughingstock. Sure they have the combat skills, but they don't have any discipline. They joke and don't take things seriously. They need to learn to take even training seriously, and who has to teach them that?" He explained, waiting for Hikaru's reply.

He never got a chance to get one when a woman's scream ran though the officer's lounge. It was faint and he couldn't understand what it was, but he instantly ran to the exit and shouldering his rifle.




"Jiro....I'm going to remind you once about this; those cadets who ran a guantlet today aren't even under my command." Hikaru said evenly, not particularly caring whether or not Madison's job was to be a prick.

"And that excuses you to do whatever you want?" Jiro shot back, almost inhaling the cigarette clenched between his teeth in frustration. "You're here, set an example and deal with it."

"Again, tell it to the general before me. He's higher up and thus has more people supposedly looking up to him." the android shrugged. "Besides, while we can both agree none of these cadets will pass if their superiors act like babies, I think we should both agree that swarmlings do not have the ability to teleport. I think if you were in a training simulation and your enemy suddenly gained the ability to kill you just by snapping his fingers, you'd be equally pissed with the general."

Won't matter much longer anyway. Hikari and I were down here for the piloting side of this because no one else was leaping at the chance for running the sand-skate over bug territory. We'll see if she's got her eye on any potential pilots over the next few months and be back in space.

One eye zooming in on the smashed cigarette, he took a few seconds to watch the ashes dim. "Hell, we're not even in the army division of the military right now. If you're going to yell at the infantry commander," he added as the faint scream was heard. "Ah screw it. Read me your riot act, but make sure it's about my cadets; not someone else's." He is right though, he thought. This was a bad simulation. Did Madison set those cadets up under Hanaka without even giving her the damn details?

Jiro had already stepped out into the hallway, rifle held loose but ready in case it was only an officer being surprised by a few undisciplined cadets. Doesn't hurt to check, anyway. he thought, fingering the safety. He momentarily wished it was an actual intruder, as it would give him a chance to vent some amount of frustration without getting discharged or worse. He knew that Hikaru probably had an ego stuffed somewhere inside his body, and that as long as the android was around the other cadets, he should work on setting an example.

All the same however, he did wonder how many filed and signed complaints it would take to get Madison transferred to some place very far away.



The shout had woken Hikari, despite its relative faintenss through the sealed door and walls of her cabin. Groggily, she sat up in bed rubbing her eyes and staring through the pitch blackness. She twitched in surprise as the rumpled jacket she wore slid down her back silently as though someone had snuck up behind her and decided to have some fun.

I'm getting too paranoid. the girl thought, swinging her bare feet out over the floor and standing shakily as she attempted to work some feeling back into her legs. Wriggling her toes over the cold floorplates, she momentarily wished she'd thought to back slippers or soomething other than her boots. Naturally, I figured since this place is in the desert I'd never worry about the cold anyway.

Getting up and stretching with a yawn, Hikari half-stumbled over to her door, sliding it open a crack to see Ria standing outside in a spare uniform and looking as though she'd just spent three hours in the simulation chamber with safeties removed. As if realizing herself, she pulled the jacket over her chest, holding it with one hand and stood there, thankful it was a full size too long for her.

"Ria?" she asked, blinking the sleep from her eyes in the harsh lights of the hallway.

Ria jumped once at the sound of her voice, and again when she noticed Hikari, head sticking into the hallway with her black hair hanging around her face in such a way that the other girl realized she probably looked like something out of a horror film. "Dammit.." she whispered hoarsely.

"Sorry." the black-haired girl muttered sleepily. "Just woke up, that's all."

Further discussion was stalled however, by the sound by the mismatched footseps echoing from around the corner. Ria listened sharply, hearing what sounded like two feet -far heavier than a normal human's- and a disjointed step that spoke of two different sorts of footwear.

"It's your brother and the nutshead." Ria said with annoyance as she turned in the other direction. "Tell Jiro if he still wants to talk he can wait fif-"

"Let him wait until morning." Hikari said idly, leaning back into her room. "It's getting late and those of us who ran the simulation earlier today need sleep, not stress."

Shutting the door, she left Ria standing alone, suddenly wrestling with a decision carrying two results that sounded good at that point. Chance to loose some frustration upon Sergeant Kunibert now, or put it off until I'm kicking with all cylinders?

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:03 am

Even as Ria splashed a wave of cold water on her face in attempt to wake herself up, she had been convinced of the fact that what she had just gone through was not a simple nightmare during sleep-walking. It had been far too real, far too accurate for her to believe otherwise. Nonetheless, she had put up a front to avoid revealing too much. She dried her face before turning away from the sink. She crossed the officer's area, heading from the small kitchen to sit at what might have been considered a small den.

Jiro's face had the look of a man who had limited patience, and from the looks of it, someone had already been chewing on his last nerve. That honor likely belonged to Hikaru, who had his head stuck in the fridge. She had no idea if he were still able to eat or not, or if he were just repairing the burnt out light bulb plug.

The sergeant across from her had a manila folder clutched between his thumb and index finger. He peered at it with a look of irritation, would narrow his eyes every now and again, then go back to quietly reading the information. He had been that way for the past fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. Some of his looks didn't bode well, while others indicated a note that either impressed or surprised him. It was a rare look. She had only seen him make that face once or twice, while he narrowed his eyes every few seconds.

Apparently, she had been right before. She had indeed been able to predict her own evaluation, if any of his looks indicated her score at all. She wished he would get on with his lecture though, and stop biding his time.

"What do you see here?" Jiro asked, flipping the folder down onto the table and sliding it over for her to interpret. Her eyes followed it as it slid to a halt right in front of her. It fell open and confirmed what she suspected. Sure enough, right in front of her, was her progress report and overall standing. Neither were impressive, especially next to the group average.

First to meet her eyes was her progress. A D-rank. Her ability to think in a combat situation rated almost as abysmally at C. Ria skimmed down the list through the ability to lead, efficiency, strategy production, teamwork, preparedness, all rated in at D. Her combat abilities were at the top end of the class though, which allowed her to barely remain in the program in the low average end. She flipped the folder closed and slid it back across the table to Sergeant Jiro, who slid it into a bag with another set of evaluations. "It looked like the same thing I see after I go through an exam."

"You're happy with being a mediocre soldier? You want to be a beat stick, a faceless soldier in the Armed Forces? If that's what you're after, then I advise you to keep going down this road, because that's where you'll end up."

Ria was silent, further irritating the sergeant. Though she had no love of the man, she had no leverage on him like she did with the general, and thus was at his mercy on the matter. Nonetheless, she kept a cool head, even as Jiro's fingers began to tap the tabletop noisily and impatiently. She had no intention of getting herself expelled from the military, by mouthing off to someone she wasn't on even ground with. She could see he knew it, and exploited her weakness.

"I have no problem with tossing soldiers like you into a Swarmling pit with a nuclear detonator attached to your back--I don't care if that's reserved for drones. You know why? Because, people like you make me sick. You see war as a game so far, because all you've been in is a damn simulation. You have no idea what real war is like, so you don't appreciate the sacrifices."

Hikaru stepped in on that note, dropping a canned alcoholic beverage in front of his fellow soldier, and did his best to imitate a smile. "Well, if she didn't get the point before Sergeant, she probably does now. What do you say we give it a rest for the night? My battery could use a zap."

Jiro rolled his eyes up to Hikaru. "Then leave already. It's not like you're participating in this discussion anyway."

The cy-boy sat, causing the chair to groan. "I'm here in spirit. Look, Jiro, I think you've made your point to our little soldier so far. She has areas to improve in, so she'll do a better job of it next time. Am I right?" he asked, throwing glance towards Ria. "And besides, she at least backed up her squad a little bit. I think the ratings on her evaluation were a little harsh, don't you?"

Jiro squeezed the bridge of his nose and sighed, cracking open his beer and taking a sip off of it. "Rating's aren't everything Hikaru. You're a ranking soldier--I thought you'd know that by now. The point of this meeting is not what she needs to improve on, but whether or not she has what it takes to be a marine."

Hikaru would have raised an eyebrow if he had one, but instead, only the clicking and buzzing of his processor made noise as it privately, automatically calculated the odds that Ria had a chance of obtaining her dream. His CPU whirred, beeped, and fell silent, causing him to blink, rise from his chair, and return to work on the lounge's refrigerator without a word on the results. Jiro and Ria continued to stare down one another, neither gaining any leeway in their contest to see who would blink first. She, however, was the first to avert her eyes.

"I don't care what your damn ratings are. I couldn't care less what you or any of the upper-echelons think. I have my reasons for being here, and that's good enough." She stood and eyed Jiro coldly. "So, you can keep your numbers, and ranks, and percentages and shove 'em . . . sir."

Hikaru's hard drive buzzed as she left, and he glimpsed what appeared to be a smirk forming on Jiro's face.

"She's spirited."

"To tell you off like she did, she really MUST have a reason to be here."

"Of course she does. I just wanted to know whether or not that reason was real enough for her to fight for it. I got my answer from what she said. It'll be hard for her, no doubt in my mind, but she's stronger than what she looks on the outside. She just needs fine-tuning."

Hikaru shook his head and screwed in the bulb for the fridge. "Eh, you Army types drive me nuts with your psycho-crap."





"And he said he wondered if she had what it took infantry-wise?" Hikari asked, red eyes focused straight ahead through the shuttlecraft's viewport as the distant grey hulk of metal neared.

"The point of this meeting is not what she needs to improve on, but whether or not she has what it takes to be a marine." Hikaru buzzed in a perfect impersonation of Jiro, right down the cigarette-induced rasp in his young voice.

Shivering in her cushioned seat and taking her eyes off the view of terran space, the pilot faced her brother fearfully. "That is probably the scariest impression I've ever heard you do."

Not missing a beat, Hikaru switched.

"I..I could be persuaded to stop then..." the android said in a heavy, panting voice complete with the disgusting sound of a saliva-coated tongue licking over chapped lips. "F-for a few fa-"

"Shut up!" the girl laughed, squirming away at Hikaru's impersonation of George Madison. "I think they want us to avoid crashing this thing."

"Easier done than said." Hikaru shrugged, bringing the sleek boarding shuttle closer to their destination.

They were in a training simulation again, heading towards a space station that had been reported to have been infested with swarmlings in a previous attack. The crew was dead and all power was offline, but restorable. Hostile lifesigns were reported to be zero, but armament was suggested in case the aliens returned. Which they would in this sort of thing. Hikaru thought. Why else would the general have us go in armed to the teeth?

Naturally, Madison had ignored the fact that the bugs destroyed everything human in creation and origin and that by any stretch of common sense, there shouldn't be anything left of the outpost to salvage, much less repair. The space station ahead of them was practically derilect; multiple levels and decks torn open at various points to expose the inside to cold space. The darkness within those holes was disquieting, and Hikari heard multiply gulps of worry from the troop hold in the back over the speaker system.

"Don't worry." Ria said, putting on a brave front despite worry of the-

Dark hallway, faint candlelight

The ghostly face';s eyes took a turn from pleasant and inviting, to downcast and le
aring the docking port! Hanaka!" the mechanized voice shouted.

"R-right." she said, shaking her head amidst the puzzled glances of the other soldiers. She had been put on temporary promotion to Corporal for the simulation as a way of noticeably distinguishing her from the rank of "private". She knew Jiro would never have moved for such an action even for a simulation, and had the nasty feeling Madison was attempting to prepare himself for another favor-request after the training was over.

So why did she have to feel that creeping tingle in her mind again?

The hatches outside rotated and clicked; sliding together in a uniform pattern that recruits often joked was a shuttle's way of kissing the starbase's ass.

It was a crass and stupid joke, but at that point; any sort of humor gave Ria a slight boost in her morale. Sitting back, she watched a third of the cadets take off into the airlock, securing their helmets and pressure suits. It was one thing she had to credit Madison for when he spearheded the development of Starforce pressure suits; the things were flexible and fit comfortably enough to the point of allowing full mobility.

Unfortunately, the female cuts always seemed to cling so tightly to the body that anyone looking closely could see what style of underwear was being worn underneath.

And people questioned her decision to wear a shred-proof litemail skirt over the lower half of the suit. At least the helmet and chest plate kept her bust size from looking twice its normal size in the clinging fabric.

The hatch clicked shut menacingly and the shuttle moved on silently through space.

It was like something out of a dream -maybe a nightmare- only playing before her eyes like a movie. She gulped, but did her best to remain steadfast as her training had taught her, and strode down the seemingly-endless passage.

She heard footsteps somewhere behind her. For some reason, it alarmed her and sent her into a chilled sweat. Why, she didn't k
now your stop's up soon, right?" Hikari asked from behind Ria, one hand on the girl's shoulder as though shaking her awake gently.

The hatch moved into view and locked as it did before, sliding open into darkness. Hikari clicked her helmetlight on and scanned the darkness, looking for some sign of where they should move once they passed the airlock. Unfortunately, the details beyond were barely visible in the stampede of zombies, Hikaru fell back; his small body in its orange hazard jumpsuit now looking like a doll assembled by someone who had only a vague idea of what humans looked like. In the swarm's shuffling stampede, most of his limbs were crushed or wrenched off entirely, leaving him unable to move out of the pack.

Stumbling to his remaining knee, the boy began attempting to crawl; reaching out with his two-fingered arm as though stretching could somehow put his bloodied hand beyond the frontrunners and allow him to be pulled to safety.

Hikari herself reached towards him from her spot practically yards away, only to watch as her screaming brother was pushed under the rotting feet of the zombies.

His final scream for help was drowned only by


Ria yelling back to her from the airlock.

"Now who's running slow?" she grinned wickedly. "C'mon...I don't want the higher-ups filing reports on us for taking our time napping."

Hikari blinked, glancing back quickly at the thingypit where her brother sat.

Both legs were chewed off, and one arm was missing entirely while the other lacked three of its five fingers. Aside from scratches, bruises, and a brain-exposing gash in his head however; the boy was able to live on life support. He spoke little, and blamed nobody alive for what had happened to him. Why it was, the doctors never going to get anywhere if we nap around; you're right there." she said, leaping after Ria and four other recruits into the airlock, sealing it behind them. She was confident now, though as the faint tingle from standing so close to Ria again after last time rose, she wondered what was going on. Simulation or no, I still don't like this.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:04 am

Most of the station's outer decks had been rendered a vacuum due to large holes being punched into the station's outer perimeter. As Ria walked by one of the large, unnerving penetrations, she saw the drifting remains of several space-faring Swarm creatures, whose bodies exploded violently upon ramming solid objects. They "flew" through space by expelling gases from their backsides, propelling them like a rocket or jet, and would gleefully careen blindly into the Navy's capital ships, disabling them and seeding them with spores. The spores in turn would turn any surviving occupants into mindless servants of the zombie hoard.

Ria had heard horror stories passed down from the higher-ups to motivate the younger soldiers. She couldn't tell whether any of them were true, as there had never been any survivors--human at least--confirmed in the reports. She could only suppose that that was why the details of the mission had been few. It would probably be yet another mission with an end-lesson in mind, so she remained as alert as she would outside of a simulation.

Her shoulder still tingled a little bit from Hikari touching her, most likely due to the fact that she wasn't a very touchy-feely person. Over sixteen years, Ria hadn't developed a huge knack in that area, and would just as soon not be felt at all. Nonetheless, the notion was comforting somehow, knowing that she wasn't in the situation all by herself. Hikari had since developed a quicker pace and was near the front of the group. Ria had decided to bring up the center, with another couple of people on each side of her. Lights shot up and down in every direction with every creak and groan of their suits meeting the metal floor-plating, illuminating the worst of the wreckage.

"Jesus," said one of the cadets, eying a suffocated, frozen body of a marine. Despite it being a hologram, it was obvious the boy had never seen someone with their eyes drifting in weightlessness, free from their sockets. The pale flesh had cracked in places like a wax doll dipped in liquid nitrogen, and he couldn't tell if his body was the one drifting several dozen yards off in space.

"Here's the access point," said one of the tech-savvy of the group. He immediately pulled out a decryptor calculator and plugged it into the nigh-ancient terminal. It beeped and flashed green a few seconds later, causing one of two steel doors to slide open. All six stepped into the small, rectangular repressurization room, and were showered in an instant-dry alcohol mist once the doors closed behind them. "Man, this thing must be old," the recruit said with a smile, "since it only has one layer separating the inner deck from the outer one."

Hikari nodded numbly. "Fascinating," she said disinterestedly. "Can you open the door now?"

"I'm checking to see if the sensors are picking up any leaks on the other side. If we walk in there with no helmets on, we'll end up like that one guy back there without a shot being fired." He inserted his pad, punched a new set of coding in, and caused it to beep green. "Well, it looks like the sensors are still active at least, so the main reactor's still operational."

"Think you can fix it?" one of the cadets asked.

"Why do you think they brought me along?"

"Hah! Good point! You're not much good with a gun anyway, are you?"

The rest of the two's little quarrel was--thankfully--drowned out by the screeching of the massive iron door grinding open. Ria was more inclined to think that it needed a simple shot of grease at all corners and there would be no more issues. However, the door got half-way open, then started screeching again as it caught on something.

Hikari yelped in surprise when a Swarmling's claw came crashing down right in front of her. It would have pierced her boot if she hadn't jumped back. A loud bang of a P44 Magnis met her ears as quick as the bullet that caused it pulverized the creature's central cavity--or what was left of it.

The rest of the cadets lowered their weapons after Ria thrust her arm down to her side. "It's okay," she announced, "It's dead."

"Dammit," Hikari muttered, shaking herself free of the startling moment, and the jitters she had. "Madison must be pissed at somebody to pull off this horror movie crap. Whatever his deal is, I am definitely not laughing."

"Sure you are sis--on the inside."

"No more unnecessary conversation Hikaru. We're here with an actual goal this time, so the sooner we get it done, the sooner we can leave."

She cut the link and removed her helmet, choosing to keep her forehead-mounted light on. She had a feeling that they wouldn't just be fighting dead Swarmlings.



"Cut the chatter" was all Jiro said as he squeezed past the group to the front, the glow from his mechanical eye piercing through the visor on his helmet. He nodded approval to Ria and the tech-savy cadet then slipped inside. Once he saw that the room was clear and waved the rest of the group inside. His suit was not as complete as the others, for it had to left leg to the suit, just a tight seal-like device around his mid-theigh. This was so that he could access the devices stored in his leg.

He shouldered his custom rifle and gestured for the cadets to spreadout and search the room thoroughly. Then he moved so that he was near Ria and Hikari. He hit the private channel so that the cadets wouldn't hear. "Who knows what Madison has in store for us, so keep your cool and your eyes peeled....and stick together. We'll pass this with flying colors if we back each other up."

"Alright, we've reached access." Hikari said grimly as the cadets filed into the spacious chamber, eagerly pulling the helmets free of their suits' clasps and looking at one another with mixed expressions of elation and apprehension. Good, boost the morale, but keep the mission in mind... she thought with some satisfaction until she noted Jiro looking concerned.

They had made it into environmental control without much incident aside from the twitching bug and were already safe within a one-room bubble of artificial atmosphere. As far as most of them -even Ria- were concerned, things were going just as planned. The station seemed quiet and stable despite its condition, as though all they would need were a few more minutes before the simulated place would be habitable.

"Hikaru?" he asked into his headset, mechanical eye whipping around the dark corners of the room and other doorways.

"--Right here.--" the android's voice buzzed. "--We're up in the primary command chambers working at getting forcefields and armor plating activated so the entire place can be brought back online. You guys?"

"GOT IT!" the door-hacker cadet whooped, drawing stares from his fellow students and a glare from Jiro. "All airlocks except 2A, 6B and 4F are operational and working." When this failed to draw any sort of encouragement, he coughed awkwardly. "The station's relatively secure from the inside now. We can begin re-airing the place in ten minutes."

"Good then." Hikari said, not missing a beat. "Jiro, keep a third of the cadets here and work on securing the rest of the station for re-pressurization. "Ria, you and I are going to bring the computer cores online and get those three airlocks fixed."

"Sure..." Jiro said, fiddling with his rifle as the two girls latched their helmets on and exited the room through a set of curved doors. This is too perfect...where are Madison's usual unpredictabilities?


Ria stood uneasily in front of Hikari in the close-quartered elevator as its thick metal doors rattled shut and sealed with a hissing noise, leaving them in total darkness momentarily.

Ria shivered, backing into the other girl nervously as the elevator was plunged into a suffocating darkness. I don't like this... she thought. Too dark...it's just like-

The swarmlings in the cave. Hikari thought as the elevator descended with an unnatural rattling noise. "Um..."

"Sorry." Ria said quietly through her helmet comlink, stepping away slightly as the chamber slid to a halt noiselessly and a second pair of doors in front of them creaked open; beckoning the girls into the darkness. Immediately, they reached up and activated their helmet lights.

They wished they hadn't.

The corridor they were now in was wider than others, perhaps enough to allow four broad-shouldered men to move side-by-side with room to spare. The walls and floor -whatever color they had been- were covered in the dried entrails of both humans and swarmlings with bodies lying motionless in the zero-gravity of the area before them. Directly in front of them however, was a male body; uniform torn open to reveal a vacuum-frozen chest that had been slashed open with multiple vital organs drifting silently in front of his painfully surprised face.

"I think I'm gonna be sick." Ria said quietly.

"--You girls find something?--" Jiro asked over the comlink, startling them both as they had forgotten about the connection.

"Bodies..." Hikari whispered hoarsely. "or what's left of them at least." she added, nudging the corpse aside with the sheathed blade of a new sword.

Behind them, past the bodies and blood in another part of the forked hallway, a panel crashed, causing the two of them to whirl, lights shining down the path away from the elevator.

"--What was that?--"

"Loose panel." Hikari said with some relief, lowering the sword.

That was when the flashing mass of necrotic muscle, bone, and blades hit her with a silent shriek.

Thrown backward by the force, Hikari brushed past several bodies and was soon coated in entrails that tangled her with the swarmling in mess that would not be easily pulled apart. Grabbing two of the creature's talons in one hand, she managed to keep it from slashing her apart before she realized she didn't have her sword.

"RIA!"

Ria stood motionless, stunned at the swarmling's appearance. It was brown-skinned like the others and looked more human than the ones they had met in the last simulation. Unfortunately, it had lost none of its taste for humans, and the bony blades ripping through its leathery skin at odd angles looked more than capable of slashing even a spacesuit. Almost in slow motion, she raised her rifle and fired several shots, causing the creature to arch its back in pain and turn on her. Ria was about to squeeze off another round in hopes of finishing it when the swarmling tilted its misshapen head and dragged Hikari in front of it, chitinous jaws clicking mockingly as though it understood the dilemna it put her under.

Then she felt it bump against her leg, something hard and round. Eyes glancing downward frantically, she saw the sheathed blade Hikari had been carrying earlier. She must've dropped it earlier... she thought, starting to reach for it with her gloved hand. She was no expert in fencing and made a mental note to ask Hikari for lessons if they -no, when they got back- she corrected herself. This is only a simulation.

Responding to her move, the creature shrieked and bent its arms free of their sockets, tearing skin and whirling its shoulder blades down in front of Hikari's neck quickly.

Ria could already feel the sweat pouring down her neck from worry. Madison, that's just too far. she thought, suddenly wondering how the general would react if she could just...

Swinging her foot viciously, she kicked the sword through the air, confusing the swarmling long enough for Hikari to snatch the hilt and pull it free from the scabbard with a triumphant shout.

The hallway was flooded with a brilliant red light as the gleaming metal blade beneath the sheath lit with a hissing crimson aura. In Hikari's hands, it suddenly became a crescent-like blur; whipping down and past her torso, slicing back and up the swarmling's ribcage, killing it before it could comprehend what was going on.

"Reactor blade." Hikari said with some satisfaction, kicking the two halves of the dead zombie away and twisting the upper half of the sword's grip, muting the glow with another hiss. "It constantly destabilizes molecular bonds in whatever it hits. And people wonder why I hang around the workshop a lot."

"--HIKARI! RIA!--" Jiro's voice shouted wildly. "What the hell happened down there?!"

"Um...nothing..." Hikari said casually as she sheathed the blade with a click.

"--Hikari..." he said, voice suddenly dulled. "--Private Axon here just got a reading that said Ri...a lifeform..someone died down there--"

Hikari looked at Ria in confusion. "Ria's right here. Shaken, but alive."

"--Oh god...-" Jiro breathed. "--Madison, you bastard...--"

"Jiro," Ria said, forgetting her annoyance with him from two days ago. "What's going on?"

"--A SECOND LIFEFORM vanished.--" he said urgently as though the answer were obvious. "--We didn't notice it before when the one in the doorway was shot because nobody was focused on it--"

Ria shoook her head.

Hikari was suddenly stunned.

"--I just got the same reading from one of my guys.--" Hikaru's voice piped in. "--This is bad.--"

"Okay, if you don't stop panicking and explain, I'm going to cancel the simulation." Ria said in exasperation.

"--That's the f**king problem.--" Jiro groaned. "--A swarmling died and it registered as a lost lifeform here.--"

"--For simulation and safety's sake,--" Hikaru added. "--The Lost Lifeform notice is only used in rare cases of a cadet actually dying during training. For it to happen here....--" He stopped, allowing the words to sink into the minds of the other cadets.

"Oh god..." Ria whispered as each creak and clank she heard in the station suddenly sounded like the foosteps of Death himself.

"This isn't a simulation." Hikari said.

The atmosphere on the station suddenly seemed a lot less casual.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:05 am

A stream of curse came through the mic as Jiro vented his anger and frustration. Once he was done he spoke again. "Everyone stay calm, and whatever you do back each other up. Hikaru, I'm sending the cadets to your postion. I want you to keep an eye and ear out for us....you're out lookout. Hikari, Ria, I'm heading to your postion so sit tight...it's not safe for only two people to be together with the way these things fight. Cadets, keep your eyes peeled and stick together at all costs. Once you get to Sergeant Hikaru's position set up a defensive perimeter. That's going to be our home base. Once I reach Hikari and Ria we're going to start checking things out. Jiro over and out." He said, lighting a cigarette as quick as possible.

Jiro ran towards the elevator as the cadets marched out toward their destination. He made it there in plenty of time and called the elevator to his position. He didn't like the wait at all, and when it arrived he didn't even let it open all the way before he was inside and sending it up again.




"Jiro's on his way." Hikari repeated quietly, looking down the darkened hallway with the slightest trace of fear in her eyes. Dammit, Madison...If we get out of this, I'm going to do my best to arrange for a very convenient accident.

"Then let's get moving." Ria suggested, slinging her rifle over her back and pulling out two energy pistols in preparation for heavier fighting at close quarters. "Secondary objectives dicate we destroy this place." Moving past Hikari, she started back towards the elevator shaft, waiting for Jiro. "We ca-"

"Hang on..." Hikari sighed, making sure her sword was loose in her belt and ready to be pulled and activated at a moment's notice. Grinning ever so slightly, she opened the channel between her brother, Jiro, and Ria. "We're blowing this place, regardless of what orders Madison gave us, but we're not just going to set reactors to overload. Hikaru?"

"'KARIIII!!!"

She spun, drawing her sword and spilling its red light around them in a dim glow. Jiro likely noticed, but showed no sign of it. Ria only jerked at the sound, momentarily fearing the hiss of the blade was the approach of a swarmling.

"Help me!"

"--Yeah?--" his voice came, sounding distorted and muffled over the rush of weapons fire and agonized shrieking. "--Make it quick here. I don't like to talk and shoot at the same time--"

"Okay." she said breathlessly. "Make sure your shuttle's docking port is secure, and keep it locked down. We may need a fast escape route at some point. Keep the shuttle itself on an autopilot set to evade anything coming too close. We'll call it when we need it."

"--Got it.--" his voice said before it went into a high-pitched series of whistles and buzzing noises.

"Alright." Hikari said, hearing the elevator arrive behind them. "Let's see what we can do about reactors."

The shrieking noises grew louder, and both girls raised the intensity of their helmet lights as the red-eyed Jiro stepped out of the elevator, looking both agitated and angry. In the darkened maw of the elevator, Hikari felt some amount of embarassment that her initial instinct would have been to run the looming shadow with its one red eye through on her blade had she not known it was the sergeant.

Then the sergeant fell, the one man of the military in the expedition. He died beneath the wave of reanimated corpses, madly pulling both triggers even though the guns' energy rounds were depleted.

Then they came for the children, slowly, silently, and surely.


Wordlessly, Jiro moved past them, striding over the carcass of the swarmling as though it were beneath his notice. At that point, his only real concern was getting off the station and hopefully blowing up enough of the damned creatures along the way to alleviate his controlled fury. Watching him from behind as the two girls began following, Ria wasn't sure if she was more comfortable when he wasn't yelling or when his temper would rise faster than a swarmling bite-victim's temperature.

Hikari was only slightly less worried. The lights from their helmets and weapons helped, but lights on the station were still off and likely to remain so. The limited pools of luminescence the three humans cast shook with their footsteps and bobbed uneasily in the shadows; causing at least one of the trio to whirl around with weapon raised at various points.

Dammit... Hikari thought, cursing her own childhood fears as the shadows seemed to close in where the light did not pierce.

"C'mon..." Ria whispered, lightly clapping a hand over the captain's shoulder. She wasn't sure why she was suddenly standing closer to Hikari, but somehow the idea that there was something moving and not trying to kill her at the same time was comforting in their situation. And not ma- she started to think before their lights bobbed again and cast a candle-like glow on the walls.

This time, Ria shivered as the candle-like patterns faded and the emotionless walls of metal returned, closing in.

Something hissed above them and the trio heard the distinct scraping of claws on metal.

"The damn things are inside the walls..." Jiro muttered, raising his rifle.

"No..." Hikari whispered over the comlink as though even raising her voice on a secure line would bring Hell through the hallway. "One misfire here and it could be the end of us."

Shoot what we can see.... Ria silently agreed. But how are we going to see somethign coming when it feels like its already in our minds?



The reactor bay was barren, unsurprisingly. It was also huge, stretching nearly to the size of the simulation room back on Earth at the Dallas base. The spherical-shaped cavern had approximately the area of a football field, and at the center of it was an egg-shaped chamber, undoubtedly where the fusion reactions took place. Cables of all colors, arrangements, and sizes spread out in every direction to other parts of the station. And something else surrounded their objective. Illuminated partially into the soft, white glow of the emergency power grid were a cluster of oval-shaped objects, heaped in a mound around the core.

Eggs. There were at least twenty flesh-colored membranous sacks surrounding the fusion reactor, pulsating like little hearts. A light flickered dimly overhead, and Ria felt her stomach lurch when she first saw them clearly. Hikari was no less disgusted by the sight, though Jiro's trigger seemed anxious.

In attempt to break the com silence, Hikari whispered into her mic, "Well, there's the objective. Now what do we do?"

"Call Tech Support. What else?" answered Jiro, flipping his com over to broadcast to the shuttle. "Hikaru? Is our tech expert back on board yet? We need instructions." Though his face was icy calm, and his eyes were fixed like a missile on a heat trail, Hikari could sense the anxiousness to get in and get out as quickly as possible. The worst part was the fact that she was no more able to hide her tension than he or Ria. The random click-hissing in the background from innumerable directions didn't help her state either.

"Sorry to tell you this Sarge, but your cadets haven't returned yet. Either they're stopping for a piss, or something happened to them on the way back, in which case I blame you."

The sergeant cursed under his breath, then bit his lip. He had considered dipping into the troop reserves on the shuttle, but since they numbered fewer than the expeditionary force that was now missing, it was unlikely that they would fare any better. "Alright, lock down the shuttle, but keep the engine running. If we have to make a run for it, I'd like to get off this piece of nuts ASAP."

"Why do I not like the sound of where this is going . . ." the comlink crackled as Hikaru cut off. A tiny vibration could be felt going through the station, and then everything except the literal army around them, the pulsing eggs, and the hum of the safety-level reactor, went silent.

"Well, it looks like we'll have to get a little uncivilized about our approach. Everyone, start pushing buttons; let's make this thing sick."

Hikari raised her eyebrow and shook her head with a frustrated sigh, stopping Jiro with an arm in front of him. "You guys, you always want to take the hair-brained way out and just start hitting everything with a wrench. That's not going to do anything but make a lot of noise for our 'friends' to hear." She pulled a pair of rubber gloves out of her belt. "Us girls, on the other hand," she said, softly snapping the elastic with a small grin, "we take an intellectual approach to problems."

Jiro smirked and nodded. "Fine then, 'Your Highness'. Ria, you and I will keep lookout. Captain Hikari, let's make it as fast as possible."

Ria had already stepped up to the reactor and was feeling at the heat radiating from the core before she heard Hikari's boasting. Even as Jiro leaned against a crop of cables descending to the lower levels of the station, she tilted her head at the girl officer and blinked. "I didn't know you knew how to crack into a central program."

"Don't know if you've noticed hon, but Hikaru's not exactly the most careful guy in the world. I've had to hack into his programming so many times to deactivate his defensive systems, it's second-nature to me. All that, just to replace a few joints every year or two."

Ria nodded and tried to make heads or tails of her flurrying fingers, but before she could even try to comprehend what the commands were that she was inputing, she closed the monitor, and a strong vibration rumbled through the room, and every last doorway leading out slammed shut violently. "What was--"

"She set the reactor to maximum power," explained Jiro, double-checking his weapon for any jams. "Normally, it's a function only used in emergency situations for a minute or two. It doubles the power output, in exchange to causing an intense heat buildup."

"And that," she said, removing her gloves, "is what we're hoping for. Unfortunately, it looks like kicking the power on so high has caused the security systems to reboot. It's locked down this entire room to prevent a radiation leak."

Ria blinked and looked nervously around. "Then, how do we get out?"

Just then, the comlink crackled back to life, hissing violently as Hikaru's voice came in on the other end, "Hikari, I'm reading a significant heat-increase in your area. I'm getting red lights all across the dashboard warning me of something about an 'overload'. . . . What did you just do?"

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:07 am

"I just put this pile of torn-up crap on a one-way path to oblivion." she responded, looking around for a door as though the entire thing were a game of Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe.

Jiro shook his head, panic rising again. "Hikari, I don't know if your helmet sprang an oxygen leak, but did it occur to you that we're inside here and that it's locked?"

"Yep." the captain responded coolly, walking awkwardly across several cables and standing near one of the doors. Snapping the gloves off and glad she'd brought something to insulate her suit and herself, she keyed in several commands on the door, ignoring the lockdown as it bleeped angrily.

Red lights immediately began flashing in warning of an attempted breach of security protocols. With the area bathed in crimson light, the young captain looked at her two allies; one of whom was looking at her in increasing frustration and the other looking agitated but calm.

"Time to go." she said quietly.


Intruders.

There were lotsandlots of them.

They had to die.

Crouching low over a recent victim, the chitinous form of a swarmling bent low and chewed out the rapidly cooling remains of the human's throat stretching muscles and ligaments in the cold space to the limit and snapping them in a bloody spray that drifted above in the airless environment. It had been about to follow the other three that had moved through here by travelling in the air ducts, but they had gotten away and shut the doors behind them.

The light.

Hissing resentfully, it crawled on hands and knees towards the flashing red light above the door, cringing away from the glow as though it were poisonous. It liked the dark and that reddish circle appearing in the door wasn't improving its mood.

With a mighty slam, the door suddenly buckled outward and shot down, crushing the confused swarmling as a booted foot landed on top of the metal panel.

Standing tall in her skirted suit, Hikari sliced the crimson reactor blade free of the door and raised it point-forward in case of any more swarmlings waiting beyond their point.

"Alright..." she said. "It took me a bit longer than I thought to cut through that, but we're better off than we were a few minutes ago."

"My last scans indicated that your brother is now....two levels below us." Jiro said, hiding his annoyance that he hadn't noticed the weapon or its odd functions before.

"So we just take an elevator?" Ria asked, brightening slightly.

"Yes." the black-haired girl answered, looking down the shadowed hallways with less fear than before.

"So we're almost out of here then."

"Not quite. The elevator's down at the other end of this hallway, and once we meet up with my brother, we should at least try a scan for more lifeforms to see if we can get anyone else off this thing."

"How long did you give us?" Jiro asked, looking around as though he expected the walls around them to cave in at any second with fire.

"Well, when the reactor blows, this station's own lockdown systems keep it from utterly annihilating us. By that point, this thing'll barely be a shell and we can blow it apart from the shuttle."

"--That sounds way too easy.--" Hikaru's voice sighed. "--Where's the catch?--"

"Well..." Jiro interrupted, looking at a datapad he'd taken from the reactor core. "There's about five hundred catches, and they all think we're lunch."



When Ria was young, her grandfather had told her a few tales about similar missions and situations. Once, he had been assigned a handful of men to examine what had happened to a research station in orbit around Mars. Though the president of the United States had been skeptical of sending armed scouts to investigate what was most likely to be a mechanical failure, at the time, the military had the greatest enforcement in space exploration. It was apparent today that the Space Force had known a little more than they let on, as the station had been the first sighting of the Alliance, and their Swarm creations. He told Ria how he felt when he first saw the ravaged station, the tingling feeling in his gut when the first saw the terrifying alien race.

She shared a similar feeling as she heard the creaks and groans of the station all around her. The hungry click-hissing of Swarmlings filled her ears and sent a chill up her spine. Just up the hallway, a dim light fixture swung from side to side, partially illuminating the corridor. Then, on the other side of the light was a wall of grayish-black, where she couldn't see. It was the perfect spot for an ambush, and it made her nervous. Though it did in fact provide some measure of comfort in the dark, no matter how frail, the false sense of security was not worth their lives, and she raised her pistol towards the lamp.

Jiro had the idea before her though, and blew the fixture out with a single round. Ria winced at the noise that followed, both from the shattered light, and the angry hisses of a few nearby Swarmlings. She hoped they were merely angry, at least. She didn't want to consider the chances that they were actually strategizing.

"We'd better pick up the pace a little bit, you two. That reactor's getting hot," stated Hikari. She seemed to be a bit shaken from the sudden fall of light. Though their three helmet beams were still blazing away at the dark, she was still visibly upset that no one had warned her of the sudden shot. The narrowing hallway up ahead didn't make it any easier for her, and the groaning of the compromised station all around her made it worse still.

Jiro noticed, but seemed to have a similar thought on his mind, and nodded. "I agree. The sooner we get to the outer bulkhead, the safer we'll be. Once the station's atomized, we can relax again. Until then, I say we hustle up a little."

Hikari was silent from that point on, stroking the hilt of her blade readily, prepared to activate it at a moment's notice. She was tense, as were the others, but she seemed to exude a certain type of fear that Jiro and Ria couldn't quite put their fingers on. It was obvious why, considering the circumstances they were in--admittedly, both of them were on-edge too, ready to shoot the first thing that moved. However, there was something different about Hikari's anxiousness. Jiro chose to leave her to figure it out on her own. Ria though, was leery. Fear had a way of turning one ally against another. Her grandfather had told her of one experience he had where one of his friends freaked out and threatened to kill anyone who tried to keep him from withdrawing from the battlefield. No one did, except for the Swarm creatures that jumped him and ripped him apart.

She had also heard tale of a few fatalities due to friendly fire, caused primarily by combat terror. According to those few stories, the afflicted would attack any and everything that came too close. Ria was afraid of what the result would be if Hikari went insane.

She nearly had a heart attack when Hikari's headlamp burned out.

"Nuts!" she hissed, pulling the thing off her head and trying to adjust it. Her class of headlamp was notorious for going off at inopportune times, all because of a misaligned battery. When she attempted to perform the fix, her face brightened briefly as the light came back on, before fading all over again. "Sonuva . . . dammit all!" she shouted, tossing it away. "Useless piece of crap!"

Jiro shook his head in exasperation and held a finger to his lips. "Calm down captain. Just stick close to one of us. We're more than halfway there by my readings."

"Alright," she sighed, wiping the nervous sweat off her brow, "Let's just hurry it up before--" She was interrupted by a horrendous roar which shook the entirety of the station, causing her skin to pale visibly, and her eyes to widen. She looked around and locked an arm with Ria, activating her blade on instinct. "Wh-What the hell was that?" she stammered.

Jiro was the more hardened of the three, biting his lip in the absence of a cigarette. He narrowed his eyes, reloaded his weapon, and said with uncanny monotony, "Stag spider."

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:08 am

"Stag Spiders..... much larger that the swarmlings." Jiro started explaining. "Hide that pretty much stops all conventinal weaponry, can sense the vibrations in the ground and air, and if that wasn't enough they're insanely fast." He finished looking at both of the girls before continuing. "Stay close to me and keep quiet. My suit has a sound dampener, but it only goes out about 10 feet, so stay as close to me as possible and we'll slowly pass it. Thankfully they have no eyes and rely on that sense of theirs." He stated, a low humming sound hitting their ears as the sound dampener activated. He then started to continue down the hall, hoping they'd follow close to him. He sighed with relief as they fell into formation on either side of him, Hikari on his right and Ria on his left. After a few paces he spotted the Stag Spider.

Damn.....why Stag Spiders? We have only a 25% chance of survivng now. We can't go too slow or we'll be caught in the explosion, but if we go too fast that thing will rip us to shreds in an instant!


f**k. was the only thought going through Hikari's mind as they inched past the sleeping mass of chitin and muscle. This isn't just an infestation....it's friggin' menagerie.

The young captain continued slowly, realizing that the only things keeping her from bolting into a dead run were Jiro ahead of her and Ria now behind. Moving past them would involve brushing the creature's armor at this point and it left her with no choice but to continue inch by inch.

"Door?" Ria whispered, loooking back and forth anxiously as though a greater threat lay ahead of or behind them. She had never encountered anything like a "Stag Spider" before and judging by Hikari's unusually quiet and reserved demeanor, she hoped that the one they were just barely passing now would be the last one she'd see.

"Sounds good..." Hikari whispered nervously, looking at the inset arch as they passed through it, breathing a sigh of relief just as Jiro lunged to stop her.

Before he could reach however, her hand had slapped the emergency lockdown panel and a back-arrow next to the glowing green tab. The green light immediately went blood red as the door slammed down loudly, putting several full inches of metal between them and the spider, which had now begun ramming the door in a futile effort to tear through.

"It's going to find another route you know." Jiro hissed in disapproval.

"Sure, it might." Hikari shrugged, switching her gravity boots off and lifting to the ceiling for some more freedom. "But I figure by the time it does, it's going to go for the source of the greatest noise which'll soon be the reactor.

"And we have how long on that one?" Ria asked with hesitation.

"Who knows." the other girl said casually. "The lockdown plating will keep it from utterly destroying the station. All it'll do is gut most of it. We'll be fine."

"Our mission was to salvage this thing!" Jiro said suddenly. "You can't just-"

"It's a little late to change minds now." Hikari interrupted. "Besides, Madison's orders were only for the spacelab salvage simulation. As this isn't a simulation, that makes all of his commands worth a pile of Swarmling nuts."

"She's that foul-mouthed with regards to the General?" Ria asked, whispering to Jiro out of their teammate's earshot.

"An inappropriate attitude will get the person in trouble one day." the sergeant said, watching the armor-suited girl from behind as she flipped and rolled through the hallways like a rogue meteor.

Watching her as well, Ria not only wondered what it was like to be a ranking officer on the starforce, but also who Jiro had been talking about in terms of "inappropriate attitude". Unfortunately, her thoughts of Hikari were stalled when something small, brown, and tentacled came rocketing out of the darkness with a tiny scream and hit the far wall, slumping to the ground like a tossed sack of overripe onions.

"That...was suposed to be a swarmling, right?" Ria asked, moving forward and poking the dead lump with the barrel of her gun.

"Not that effective." Jiro said with derision, crushing it.

Then they heard it.

Rounding the curved hallways at high speed, a multitude of screams were heard as though someone had opened Hell up and told everyone to go home and spend some time with their worst enemies.

"What...the hell are these!?" Jiro asked, opening fire and bringing several of the swarmlings down early and hard.

They're coming.

They're close.

They'reheretheyhaveyoutheywon'tletgo.


Hikari shivered. They were all around her...she had activated her boots again, dropping to the floor low to avoid most of the swarm as it flew at, past, and over, creatures one and all meeting her blade and continuing across the disruption field into oblivion. Still, despite the constant weapons fire and perserverance of those around her, she felt their numbers growing as they moved around her.

Grabbing

Hikari barely had time to look down before the head opened it's jaws, tearing the arm off in a shower of blood that spurted from the ripped flesh and fabric of the clothing.

Her eyes bulged in shock and she suddenly found herself unable to move. The swarm moved in and over, packing on like mold as their miniscule pirhana-like teeth began tearing at clothing, flesh and then...bone.

Hikari froze, hardly able to breathe at what she was seeing around and on herself. The swarmlings continued, shredding and tearing through her side, spilling blood and organs from a gaping hole that suddenly ached with a nauseating emptiness that spread like wildfire up her body.

Her heart clenched and she fell forward,
pushed down by Ria who tackled her to the ground as an unearthly yet familiar rumble filled the hallway.

Hikaru stood above them, two flechette cannons sending a wave of crystalline shards into the screamers in an exploding wave of fire and ichor. His visor was expressionless, yet Jiro -who was firing alongside him- felt that if the boy still had a human face, it was likely grinning.

"--Cadets are in a shuttle.--" he bellowed over the fire of his own weapons. "--It's just us now. We should probably work our way towa- --"

Without warning, Hikaru was bowled over by something almost his size and sent tumbling through the air; crushing the remaining screamers. Jiro whirled and brought his energy rifle up, firing wildly at the offending creature.

It's massive body trembling from the shots but otherwise unaffected, the stag spider crouched low on its armored legs and rocketed forward, having tracked its next meal down from the hallways behind and above. The android was down, and as far as the arachnid-swarmling knew; the flechette cannons were the only weapons that possibly posed a threat. Legs clicking again, it raced at Jiro, pincers bared in what might have been a grin if it had the muscles for the gesture.

There was a streaming flash of crimson.

One of its legs slid loose and flew past Jiro's eyes, crashing against the far wall with a rending screech.

Hikari was suddenly in front of the creature, bringing her blade into its face where the disruptor met resistance before it gratingly hacked off a good-sized chunk of the creature's right pincer.

It fell away, bleeding as its nerves twitched and gave it a grotesque mockery of life for a few seconds.

Another leg followed quickly, and Hikari was suddenly atop the squealing carcass thing, slashing it brutally and wildly without regard for anyone around her. Blood began spraying from the wounded spider's back as her blade cut it to pieces and begain trailing the entrails that failed to sever upon initial slice from the wild stabs and cuts. Eyes wide behind her faeplate, Hikari saw them all around her, climbing over her half-eaten body and even into it; through the hole in her side and even through her-

"NO!" she screamed in panic, bringing the blade down into the body again, and again and again until The claws of a remaining swarmling behind her lunged and siezed both wrists, twisting her arms back and causing her to drop the blade as they wrapped around her tightly from behind. She barely had time to watch a final swarmling with a spike protruding from it's head charge at her stomach and

Silence.

Hikaru was getting to his feet, one eye locked on Jiro who was busy kicking the piles of corpses to make sure they were all actually dead. His agitated demeanor told him that he had seen more battle in that one fight than he ever wanted to again, and he couldn't blame the sergeant.

Hikari stood, breathing hard in fear, slashed in several places across her arms and torso, but otherwise intact. The swarm around her faded as the withered leather-skinned arms gave way to the uniformed and gloved hands of Ria. If she moved in and restrained me, then that was...I'm...

The starforce captain hit the ground, dragging Ria with her as she looked at her hands wondering how much of what she had seen was real. Her sword was nearby and undamaged, though it was deactivated having left her grip. All she could do was sit there and breathe, arms pinned as her mind finished replaying the attack From Hikaru's point of view... she thought. Is this what he saw when...?

"Shuttles are ready." the android grunted, picking up both flechette cannons. "Let's get outta here."

"Yeah.." Hikari whispered, causing Ria to squeak and let go when she realized the captain could talk again and evidently wasn't going to flip out and kill them all. "Hey..um, where's the..."

Jiro looked over, startled.

There were several limbs, a pincer, and other chunks of spider-gore, streaked across the walls and floor from Hikari's rampage. Unfortunately for the team, there was only one problem with the mess. "--Shouldn't there be a really big body with that thing?--" Hikaru asked, raising a shoulder panel and shining a floodlight through the catacomb-like passages of the starbase. The light played pleasantly off the smooth walls, velvet floor, gleaming pincers of the stag spider, and th-

Jiro's eye narrowed. "f**k."

Hikaru remained still, keeping both eyes on it as an arm-panel slid open silently and flung a small pen-like device towards Jiro. The sergeant caught it without moving too suddenly and looked at it, noticing several clips on the end.

"--Disruptor bayonet.--" the android whispered over the comm systems. "The f**ker's close-range so you might need that thing."

"Aim for the mouth then..." Jiro muttered, rolling behind Hikaru as the spider suddenly charged with almost blinding speed in the confined hallway. "COVER FI-"

Hikaru swung forward, bringing both cannons up and outward, trapping two of the creatures' legclaws against the bulkheads. Electrolytic muscles bunching, he moved to snap the forward set of legs free, only to catch them in his hands as the blades on the creature's legs sliced the barrels away. "Dammit."

Jiro rolled under Hikaru's legs, using the size of the android to his advantage as he shoved the distruptor bayonet up and into the shrieking creature's mouth. Reacting instantly, it shot back and away, dragging Jiro's rifle with it and pulling the remains of one flechette cannon with it.

Lurching uneasily on its remaining limbs, the spider swung down and cracked the butt end of the rifle against the wall, flinging the weapon free from its jaws with a roar. Tensing, it sprang again, this time aiming for Hikari and Ria; the only two targets who either weren't aware of it, or couldn't move at that point.

Jiro reached them first, but only barely. Rolling in front, he caughtthe edge of Hikari's sword haft and brought the weapon up in a kick; driving it blade-first into the giant swarmling's soft mouth tissue.

"Turn it ....right..." Hikari whispered, holding a bleeding arm limply as the stag-spider pushed down on them.

Jiro grunted an acknowledgement, reaching up and promptly pulling his arm back from an inner row of teeth that threatened to swallow the sword whole. Fingers flailing, he siezed the now-slippery end of the sword and achieved a mediocre grip.

Hikaru had to hold his arms up in defense as the sudden flare from the blade blew the spider's insides apart in a flash, leaving a smoldering exoskeleton that clattered to the ground noisily.

Silence again.

"That's...it?" Ria said, letting go of a still-twitching Hikari and standing nervously, wiping the other girl's blood from her suit.

"Still have to get to the shuttles." Hikaru said openly as he picked up his remaining flechette cannon. Half the barrel was missing, and it likely wouldn't be as accurate until repaire,d but for something that fired packets of explosives. "But I figure if this is the worst of things, then we're doing fairly well. Shuttles are....one level down and the elevator's in sight."

"There's a catch, right?" Jiro sighed, retrieving his rifle and making sure it hadn't been damaged aside from a coating of saliva.

"Yes. We don't know how much time we have before the reactor goes and renders the elevator inoperable."

Good f'r us... Hikari thought, leaning on Ria for some support as she tested her legs. "Okay, I can at least walk. Let's get out of here."

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:09 am

The group couldn’t help but feel anxious as they traveled down the creaky halls. The groans of aging metal echoed off the vacuum-ridden walkway, and the low hum of the shuttle’s engines vibrated in their suits.

Ria gulped as they walked past the familiar floating corpse. She remembered his name and rank from before. Hikari seemed to take note of her uneasiness, and back-kicked the corpse out through a hole in the hull out into deep space. The body seemed to wave as it drifted off into the void, and caused even Jiro to shiver.

“God, I hate this place,” he stated, wiping a smear of blood off of his visor.

At the time, Hikaru thought his sister would have come up with a witty quip to match the sergeant’s dull remark. She was silent though, and the only noise to be heard was the silence of frozen corpses all around them. “Okay,” he said simply, glimpsing his mechanical arm. If my internal map is right—and it is—then the bay should be just around the corner.”

“Excellent,” Hikari breathed. Over the mic, she sounded relieved, as if a great weight had been lifted from atop her shoulders. Ria couldn’t be sure, but she was sure she heard in the background the captain’s heartbeat, pumping rapidly in nervousness. Though, to be truthful, she couldn’t wait to be off the station either. From the looks of Jiro taking the lead and shouldering his personal rifle, he was just as eager as the rest of them, and was the first to round the corner into the wide open docking bay airlock.

Hikaru nearly ran over the sergeant as he stopped suddenly, bringing the entire expedition team to a halt.

Though all three knew that they didn’t want to know what had stopped the head marine, both morbid curiosity and a sense of urgency made all three look.

The cy-boy’s mechanical optics widened, if that were possible, as he stared in shock at the tattered, mangled wreck of a dropship. Its engines simmered on idle, and the back portion of the ship seemed to be primarily intact. The front end, however, had had its fuel tanks punctured, exposing the liquid fuel, freezing it, and causing a catastrophic reaction in the bowels of the vessel. The cockpit’s viewports were smeared with bright red blood, the bodies of a few Swarmlings and cadets piled up around the old ship, and the char marks from the recent explosion led the four to believe that there were no survivors.

“That's not our ship, right?” Hikari said, attempting her best to bite back the sound of nervousness easing into her voice. Her question was answered the very next moment as an orbiting junkpile that was the shuttle drifted near the docking bay. The culprit of the loss were the frozen remains of the Seedling creatures floating nearby.

“Forget the ship,” growled Jiro, “where are all my cadets?”

Hikaru obviously had not lived past the stunning turn of events. “The cadets were on the ship. I told them to keep the engines running and the ramp down, that I’d be right back, but . . .” he trailed off.

“Do we have a radio? Maybe we can call for help,” Ria put in, swallowing her fear back and keeping her head.

“The nearest star fleet is almost fifteen hundred clicks away. Even if we had a radio that powerful, they’d never make it in time to get us off this heap before the reactor blows,” Jiro said, kneeling by the tech cadet’s corpse. He was still holding in his hand his terminal slicer, but his arm was no longer part of his body. His face was hidden behind a thick coat of his own blood and brain matter. The sergeant was actually glad that he was recognizable only by his nametag, and found himself praising whatever god he worshipped that he couldn’t see the young soldier’s face.

Hikari looked up, panic returning to her eyes. “But, that’s not an issue! The walls of the reactor room are designed to contain a reactor meltdown. We should be safe since we’re on the outer decks.”

“How far away we are doesn’t matter. The superstructure of this vessel is compromised due to the Swarmling attack. We’re not safe anymore,” Jiro said coolly as he got to his feet again, puffing a cigarette inside his helmet.

“And you let me switch the power of the reactor to full knowing that?!”

“I had intended to be off the station long before the reactor blew,” he replied, feeling the violent jerking of machinery around them struggling to keep up with the power output. Sparks flew from exploding light fixtures, and small bang echoed across the floors as a ceiling panel plummeted to the floor.

Hikaru sighed. It was possible he would have been crying if he had the capacity for it. The fact was that he would literally be saying goodbye to Hikari, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. He knew he might survive the blast, and maybe even the burn through the Earth’s atmosphere, but he would never be able to live with losing her.

“Sorry everyone,” Jiro said, tossing his gun onto a pile of corpses and puffing his cancer stick again. “I didn’t think it’d go this way. Guess if any of you have any prayers to say, now’s the time to say them.”

“Don’t pray yet!” Ria called from near the dropship. She had her focus placed on something out in deep space, but there was nothing there but an eternity of glimmering starlight, and the sun disappearing on the other side of the Earth. “We can jump the station.”

Hikari, who had been on the verge of a mental breakdown just moments before, actually seemed to consider the option of dying freezing and suffocating in space, rather than in a massive dose of flame and gamma rays. “Do you really think that’d work?” she asked, putting her hand to Ria’s shoulder. “Do you think the home fleet will really know to come and investigate?”

Ria kept her eyes spaceward. “It’s better than sitting around just waiting for the end to come.” She turned to face her superiors. “We can try, at least,” she said, as something heavy gave way towards the center of the space platform.

Hikaru looked at Jiro, who looked at Hikari, who looked at Ria. All of them exchanged glances and nodded.

“What the hell?” Jiro said, taking one last drag off of his cigarette, “I always did hate procrastinating.”

Hikaru’s answer was interrupted when he was partially decapitated by a malfunctioning oxygen tank. The canister exploded and sent massive chunks of debris outwards. Hikaru’s systems went into stand-by mode for self-preservation, while his hurtling multiton body knocked Jiro out of consciousness.

“Hikaru!” his sister shouted, launching off of a magnetized boot and hurtling towards her barely-functional sibling. Ria had tried to grab her before she went, but the second imbedded oxygen tank exploded violently as well, pelting the captain’s body with its fragments. She slammed forcefully into the far wall, her head forcefully ricocheting off the back of her helmet.

“Captain!” Ria knew she was out, both when she didn’t answer, and when her eyes rolled back in her head. She launched herself at her three superiors, swatting floating debris aside and grabbing each of them. She wrapped Hikari’s arms around her neck, grabbed the arms of the cyborg pilot, and her sergeant, and turned to take the leap of faith. The sudden pop-like sound vibrating up from her feet through her suit and the dreadful screech of metal on metal made her turn her head. She almost saw the remains of the docked ship drifting speedily at them fast enough to launch out of the way. The pop though, was the inner sections of the station depressurizing as one of the major bulkheads gave way, and the sudden rush of oxygen outwards had sent tons of loose metal at them in a storm of projectiles.

Ria lost consciousness almost immediately as she and the three others barreled through space. But, even during the blinding glow of the station going nuclear not forty yards away, something even brighter descended out of the light of the moon.

It was almost angelic in appearance. A divine glow engulfed her as the station exploded. Somehow, she knew it was deliverance, for her and her commanders, and its golden radiance faded to the most beautiful white she had ever seen.




Blackness.

With dots...lots and lots of do-

No, stars.

She felt light, or at the very most; incorporeal.

Am I dead? she wondered, unable to feel anything in her body at all or even see it in the silent vacuum.

Then she heard the rhythm.

That's a guitar...what the hell?

Around her, the stars seemed to fade in and out of existence to the tune of whatever was being played.

And I'm in space..I shouldn't be hearing anything

Then it became clear.


Ground control to the captain...

That noise...she knew she'd heard it before, but the monotone voice echoing around her somehow numbed her memory.


Ground control to the captain...
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

She could feel it again, the helmet clicking over the seal on her spacesuit's chest and back panels; locking them together and keeping her safe from the cold vacuum.

So why did they snug suit suddenly feel like many pairs of hands wandering and rubbing over her body?


Ground control to the captain
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God's love be with you

The entire thing suddenly felt both arousing and deadly; as though she could be squeezed to death in the comforting embrace of so many safe hands at once.

She never noticed how hard to see it was through the visor of fingers over her face.


Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five,
Four, three, two, one, liftoff

Space. She could see it again; clear and deadly as ever and...

so black. The stars were gone and she suddenly felt less safe than ever in her "suit".


This is ground control to Hikari
Youve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now its time to leave the capsule if you dare..

But could she do it? was the question that floated in front of her...literally. Written in the blackness of space and nearly invisible if not for the strange light shining off its edges came the unvoiced question she was asking herself as she dropped naked through space, the cold wind in the airless vacuum whipping past and over her body.

This is major tom to ground control
Im stepping through the door
And Im floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

She stopped, winded as a pair of gloved hands caught her; rudely cupping her breasts and crotch as they did so. Gasping, she was tossed back down into what seemed like an oversized replica of her own space helmet.

For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet earth is blue
And theres nothing I can do

It was that dream again. It wasn't a dream, but there was no other way to explain the fractures in reality that suddenly spread from her fingers and toes.

Though Im past one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell me wife I love her very much she knows

Ground control to the captain
Your circuits dead, theres something wrong
Can you hear me, Hikari?
Can you hear me, Hikari?
Can you hear me, Hikari?!

Can you....

The blast, the bed, the ship, her body.

Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet earth is blue
And theres nothing I can do...

she said in tune with the voice as the lights and blackness around her faded with the image of several birds bearing the face of her brother on their stomachs.


"I'm alive..." she breathed, keeping her eyes closed as she lay on the featureless bed in some ship on some planet.

She was alive.

Lying motionless under what were likely white oversterilized sheets, Hikari breathed a few times to make sure she was actually alive and not dreaming again. No nurses or doctors were present, but she could still feel all the aches an pains earned along her mission returning to her body; from the gashes on her back to the bruises and cuts on her arms and legs. Though painful; it was reassuring to know that she hadn't lost any body parts in the fight.

Wonder...how the others are doing? she thought curiously.



Withholding of information, lying to ranking officers, placing cadets and ranking officers in life-threatening situations without prior notification, and putting members of another division in a potentially fatal scenario without prior notification.

Hikaru thought that ought to be enough to at least have the general demoted to "assistant nutslicker" if not court-martialled and put to death. He somehow doubted the latter scenario would occur, but after all; the man had caused the deaths of several cadets by lying to them. Who could tell what their final thoughts had been of when they died? Confusion? Anger?

It didn't matter in the most basic sense, but to Hikaru who had almost lost his life; it mattered a lot. He knew Jiro usually stood by senior staff and other strict regulations, but he somehow had a feeling that the man would now be equally infuriated with how things had gone.

Staring at the compiled reports in front of him, he began calculating how long it would be before Jiro would burst free from hospital constraints and coming storming out to locate him.



Jiro's head was spinning and throbbing more than his worse hangover, and even the small amount of alchohol the nurses allowed him to have wasn't helping. Sure the nurses were very pretty, caring, and flirtatious with the young sergeant, but when your head feels like a watermelon dropped from the empire state building and your heart is full of guilt and worry even a pretty nurse giving you the password to her living quarters won't make you happy. He was happy to hear that Hikaru was fine, considering he had the most damage done to him.

"Bethany.....how is captain Hikari and private Ria?" he asked the nurse who had given him said password. She turned and gave him a sad smile. "Private Ria's in fine condition. She's resting at the moment. Captain Hikari was in as bad a condition you were, but she should be awakening soon." He nodded and thanked her for the information, and asking for another shot of vodka.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:10 am

"--aaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!" A horrified, bloodcurdling scream, followed by horrendous bang and thumping tore through the air and into every crevice of the tiny, ruined burg. In the midst of the fires crackling far overhead in the higher floors, strange insectoid monsters crawled along the walls. They looked like something one would see in a demented horror movie writer's worst nightmares. The creatures came in droves, seeming to come out from nowhere, and literally eat into the crowd of fleeing people. The woman who screamed tripped nearby, and was quickly and messily slaughtered by a furious Stag Spider.

Ria had no idea at the time what any of the things were, what they wanted, or why they were attacking. She knew only that she was sitting huddled in a shaded cluster of debris from a fallen building, remaining as quiet as possible, with the intent to hide. Her parents had put her there an hour before, then ran off with weapons readied. She hadn't seen either of them since. She knew most of the people in the village, and it made it all the harder at that moment to watch them go down in a splash of gore. None of them noticed her hiding place, and as waves of armed citizens fled by, the number of Swarm creatures became thicker.

The front line passed right before her, and with it came the introduction to the ways of war. A father of five, the leader of the small town, fell right before her spot, a shotgun in his hand. He howled in anger and rage, spraying the lumbering hoard of creatures with shrapnel. His line of fire rose higher and higher as another Stag towered over him. Its arms withdrew into a striking position, and its nigh-impervious hide deflected every blast. Those vicious, pincher-like claws then drove into the man, through his chest cavity, and spilling his body fluids out onto the dusty road. The Stag struck repeatedly, rapidly reducing the leader to a pile of lifeless, unrecognizable pulp.

Ria watched it all in horror, withdrawing further into the shadows with every brutal blow. Swarmlings descended on the corpse in the wake of the black behemoth and messily devoured their fill. She held her breath and kept as still as she could, fearing the same fate would befall her if she so much as budged.

Then, the starved Swarmlings were gone, and the mad stampede of zombie, insectoid aliens thinned in number. Not long later, the sands of the ruined village lay still again, with only the stains of blood to signify that war had touched the land. She perhaps waited for a full fifteen minutes before she found her courage to breathe normally again. Her little eyes peeked out from behind the large debris and looked around at the carnage. Remains of human Swarm bodies were everywhere. Dismembered limbs and organs--or pieces of them--mixed in with each other.

Finally, she stood up. Her legs were like jelly, both from immobility and nervousness. She peered around cautiously, not wanting to attract attention. Eventually, she regained a small amount of confidence, and walked normally again, after nothing popped out at her and ate her. Her search for survivors—particularly of the human persuasion—led her to the town pavilion. If anything, it was more terrifying a sight than the village itself. She could literally wade through the mess up to her ankles. The fact that she had no shoes or socks made her experience with the war zone that much more personal.

The pavilion had once upon a time been a symbol of civilization. It was a three story building, a cross between a courthouse and a town hall. It also had had the artistic attributes of a wealthy artist’s trophy achievement. Now, everything of beauty was blood-drenched and shattered. Outstanding pieces of artwork, from sculpted heads to paintings, had been used as last-ditch bludgeoning objects by the desperate defenders, before they met their bloody fate.

Ria didn’t hear the Swarmling sneaking up behind her. She wouldn’t have been able to escape even if she had. The insectoid’s needle-like legs gave it the decisive edge in the slippery terrain, and allowed it to stay stealthy. Its hide matched was colored by human innards, and would probably make it that much harder to grapple and engage in close combat. Even as it readied to pounce, she saw it, and opened her mouth to scream. The zombie creature screeched its loathsome screech, and leapt right at her defenseless form.


Ria lay sprawled out in the middle of the desolated space station. She couldn’t move, and something had a hold of her by the shoulders. She sensed no malice in the embrace though. Instead, it felt more like a mother cradling her newborn baby. It was dark, and only a distant flickering light provided a minimal amount of illumination. It wasn’t enough to see who or what had a hold of her. A chill ran through her at the possibilities.

Her helmet was gone, most of her suit—from what she felt—was compromised, and it was cold. In fact, only the warm, close breath of whoever held her kept her face from going numb. It was a faint, minty-smelling breath instead of one smelling of decaying teeth, so she drew the conclusion that it wasn’t a bum, nor one of the Swarm rank. She tried to remain as still as possible though. If it still turned out to be an enemy, she preferred to have the element of surprise.

The hands that encircled her shoulders tightened slightly. Even when they grazed her chest softly, she didn’t move. She couldn’t help but open one eye just a bit though. She was curious as to who would be taking advantage of her in her situation. She couldn’t make out a shape. Whoever it was though, they were young, and what little light there was told her that it was indeed human, not much larger than herself.

She squeezed her eyes shut again and waited. Then, whoever it was leaned against her face, rubbing their cheek against hers softly, and stroking the other with their surprisingly smooth hand. “Ria . . .” the shadow whispered. She wasn’t able to prepare herself for when the kiss came—at least not enough for her to keep her eyes from nearly bulging out of her head.



“Nyah!” she yelped as she sat up in her hospital bed. Two strong hands grabbed her by the shoulders and softly shoved her back down, firmly planting her on her back. She was in a white, fresh-smelling room, kept warm by several layers of blankets. It was bright, and her eyes hurt as she was pushed back down. She clenched her eyes shut again and began yelling and struggling with the hands that had a hold of her.

“Well, they told me you’d be a fighter, but I didn’t expect this.” Ria opened one of her eyes and looked up at who had spoken.

It was a nurse, probably just a bit older than Captain Hikari. She wore the standard issue white body suit of a space-based medical assistant, and had a nametag indicating her occupation. She had a cute, toothy smile, and had obviously dealt with trouble patients before, seeing as she had restrained her without much difficulty. Ria couldn’t help but be a bit embarrassed.

“Stay still sweetie,” she said, slowly releasing her grip. “We haven’t checked you for spinal injuries yet. Just relax for a little while okay?”

The patient in question squinted her eyes against the bright light of the medical ward, and glimpsed to the side through the corner of her eye. “Captain Hikari . . . Captain Hikaru . . . and Sergeant Jiro? Are they—“

“You were part of their detachment according to Sergeant Jiro,” the nurse said with a mischievous blush. Ria had no desire to know what it meant. “Captain Hikari is sleeping right over there, and the tech boys are putting Captain Hikaru back together again. They’ll all be fine.”

“And . . .” she was about to ask something else, but was interrupted.

“No sign of the rest of your group. By all accounts of your ship’s manifest, the rest of your team was KIA. You four might have been next if we hadn’t found you when we had.”

“We?” Ria asked, blinking her eyes to adjust to the light. “Who is ‘we?’ Where am I?”

“You and your superiors are being treated on the medical cruiser Salvation’s Grace. You were lucky to have survived adrift as long as you had. Your suits were all nearly compromised.”

“How did we survive the explosion?”

“We were hoping you four would be able to enlighten us. As soon as you’re all checked up, the Admiral would like to speak to you all.” The nurse got up and crossed the room. She looked over some instruments on Hikari’s vitals monitor, and turned back to Ria. “My name is Nurse O’Connor, and if you need anything, just call.” With that, she turned and left, leaving her alone with the softly breathing Hikari.




"Transferred?" the emotionless voice said at a slightly higher pitch than usual that caused the communications officer on the Salvation's Grace to jump slightly. "What do you mean "transferred"?"

"I-It looks like he switched assignments just after the start of the Kuririn Salvage Operation." the man -probably not more than twenty-two- gulped, staring up at the red-visored android. "Wh-why, I don't kno-"

"Kuririn Salvage Operation?" Hikaru echoed, wishing he could raise an eyebrow and cause the man to uncontrollably nuts himself. He had been through more than enough report compilations in the last hour, stressed -as something 85% machine could be- between what Madison had done with their group and his sister's recovery. It had then taken him all of five minutes to download and memorize the ship's layout before heading straight to the bridge to speak with someone who had more responsibility than a nurse and less authority than someone of the rank "General".

Naturally, the captain of the ship seemed to work just fun.

Unfortunately, Hikaru had also arrived at a time when the captain was at a senior staff meeting discussing combat tactics against the bugs.

"Ki..kir..yeah." the man said, regaining his composure at a remarkably fast pace. "It was a salvage operation to test the limits of the Swarmling breed's ability to deal with human-based invasions as opposed to the ones they seem to initiate against us."

"Who was on the team?" Hikaru said easily, leaning back against a bulkhead that wasn't covered in god-knew-how-much transiever gear.

"Uh...I don't think this Madison guy expected anyone to return. It's odd I know, but he probably jotted down people he knew were capable, but didn't like personally. I know it's wrong and you can file a no-confidence application bu-"

"Who. Was. On. The. Team?"

The palefaced officer shot to his feet, speaking quickly. "One starforce captain, a sergeant from the military, four cadet platoons and an androoooh I am not gonna like this, am I?" he mumbled, seeming to notice Hikaru's full-body-armor plating for the first time. "I'll just..file that report now."

"Just out of curiosity," Hikaru asked, turning as he started to leave. "Where was Madison transferred?"

"I..I can't tell you that. No offense meant, but you're not at least a captain rank...sir."

"Send the location to my sister then." he grunted, leaving the bridge and drawing a fair number of stares as his metal body moved silently into a turbolift.



It was light again.

Well, mostly.

It was also painfully bright as Hikari sat up, rubbing her eyes and pulling her knees up to her chest like a little girl waking up in the middle of the night to find that her favorite stuffed animal was missing. Had any of it really happened? The dream? The mission?

Breathing hard from a stomach-wrenching realization that it had all happend and she was still alive, her head fell forward and left two and a half feet of long black hair covering her back, shoulders, and face.

Now where am I? she thought.

"NURSE O'CONNOR, PLEASE REPORT TO-"

CRASH

Hikari's heart suddenly felt as though it had been overcharged as it thudded in her chest like a war drum. Eyes wide, in shock, she stared at her bandaged, outstretched arm first, and then her hair-lined gaze fell on the shattered water glass and the remains of the speaker system around it.

"You really don't like hospitals, do you captain?" Ria said quietly from a bed on the adjacent wall. She had heard the announcement, and now saw the remains of the glass and intercom, but she'd barely seen Hikari's arm move when the captain threw it.

"No." the other girl responded, flopping heavily back into her bed and rolling over. "They smell too nauseating. Don't worry though. I'm not going to attack you the next time they yell something loud enough to wake Jimmy Hoffa."

No, but that is the second time you've demolished something, captain. Ria thought, scooting over on the sterile mattress uneasily. ..too sterile. I guess this place is sort of...sickening.

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PostSubject: Re: Sayber Seven   Wed May 09, 2007 1:11 am

"Sergeant, you really shouldn't be out of bed just yet" the red-headed nurse said as she followed her patient down the hall. "Besides they're still resting and cannot be disturbed." Her eyes widened as Jiro spun on his heel and stared into her face. She blushed slightly as he just stared.

"Does it look like I care?" was Jiro's retort. "And do you seriously think you can out-muscle me?" he added, making her blush even deeper. "Now quit thinking of such thoughts and show me the way to their room. Now!" he barked, making her jump and head swiftly down the hall. He followed until she stopped at a door, fumbling with a cardkey. He waited patiently and made sure he had secured the medical gown they gave him to make him look decent. No need to make this an embarrassing visit....for them.

When the door opened he stepped inside, seeing first Hikari, then Ria. Seeing they were both awake and had their heads turned toward the doorway he moved to the nearest chair and dissmissed the nurse. With that he let out a deep sigh and closed his eyes. "I'm pleased to see you two in one piece." He said taking a glass from the table and filling it up with water. "From what I know, Hikaru was up and running far before any of us. Hopefully he'll have some of the answers to the wuestions I know are running through all our heads. I swear, the next time I see Madison....." he added smashing one fist in the palm of his other hand. "I'll beat him so bad they'll court-martial me. I don't give a damn...he'd better run while he still can."



Little progress on Madison’s situation was made over the weeks. The fleet drifted through its standard orbit after having confirmed the station destroyed. Jiro, who had been in charge of the landing operation, had received a promotion to Staff Sergeant for ensuring that casualties were “minimal”. That point, of course, had been based on the fact that the survival rate had been estimated to be zero, and the higher-ups had decided to appease him with a promotion.

The former sergeant had still raised hell over the assignment. Due to some clever planning and placement of troop reserves—and the fact that he was one of the few living generals with combat experience—the highest echelons still ruled Madison innocent of treason. The military hearing council had ruled it as an entrance exercise gone horribly wrong, and deemed it a tragic accident. It did little to satisfy Jiro, but seeing as the general would be temporarily suspended from active duty, and the fact he received his second promotion in a year, his anger was somewhat quelled.

Ria was a little less satisfied with the judgment. Unfortunately, her lowly rank made it virtually impossible to raise her voice. Still, her temporary promotion to corporal had been made permanent, taking the edge off the experience. Likewise, Hikari received promotions to Major with heavy benefits included.

Nearly a week had passed aboard the hospital ship. The four survivors were regaining their health rapidly. Hikaru’s repairs were finished, and Jiro had even found an annoying Ensign to give hell. Despite the fact he was outranked, he did find a sense of satisfaction in keeping an inexperienced officer in line. In his time aboard, he had scared half of the officers on the ship nutsless.

Hikari had found little entertainment herself, other than finding herself with a stack of books. Half of them were manuals on military conduct. The other half was made up of romance literature, gruesome drama, and even a hologame smuggled aboard by a soldier who found her attractive. The soldier had left out the note of who it was from, and lacked the courage to come forward and tell her he had provided it. He probably didn’t expect it back anyway. Good thing too—Hikari probably wouldn’t have given it back, just to rub someone the wrong way. Ria sure wasn’t around enough to do it with her.

The youngest of the group had taken to jogging laps around the ship to keep her fitness. At times, she ran to the point where she fell into bed from exhaustion. Her injuries were light by comparison. The most damage she had obtained was to her psyche. The station filled with death had left her jittery and slightly over-alert. She had yet to discover how they survived the blast of the reactor going critical. She decided to let it lay however, and instead was thankful that she and the other three had been found so quickly.

The Salvation was among the largest ships in the Star Force. In the waning days of the First Interstellar War, many engagements had been decided on the ground and in ship to ship engagements. The ship was geared for combat and transport of troops, as well as treating the seriously wounded and getting them back into the fight at top speed. Indeed, the medical cruiser had lived up to her name.

Now past its prime, the ship was a home guard vessel. She would serve the next decade or two as part of the Orion battle group before being shipped off and scrapped to contribute to the construction of smaller, newer, and more advanced capital ships. Despite having been in service for half a century, the ship was still a daunting five miles long and carried a large compliment of troop carriers and fighter craft. Soon though, she would be relieved of them, as most of her fighters and carriers would be transferred to the new flagship, the Song of War.

Ria had found herself daydreaming about her ship’s launch date from dry-dock. Because her group had been dispatched to secure the station’s destruction, it had been delayed. Replacement crews were being trained and reserves were still being transferred from the Venus and Mars space platforms. As she sat alone in the mess hall in between one of her laps, she pictured the long, flowing red curves of her new command vessel. It was a bit nostalgic in a way, as she found herself thinking back to the nights lying under the stars with her grandfather and listening to his war stories. Then the memories faded away as someone tapped her on the shoulder.

She looked over to who had interrupted her train of thinking, then almost bolted upright when she saw the badge for a captain. It was the badge for a Star Force major however, so she relaxed a bit. It was attached near Hikari’s breast, and she smirked down at the young corporal.

“A little jumpy still, huh?” she asked as she slid into a chair next to her. She was still wearing her hospital gown, but had tied it together and jumped into a pair of slippers to keep prying eyes off of her.

“A little,” Ria answered quietly. “How are you feeling, Major?”

“Happier with the promotion—thanks for noticing by the way—but my back is still sore. They said it’d probably be another week before it totally heals.”

“Will they let you fly still?”

“Oh, sure. Nothing too big about a bruise and a few ribs being broken.”

“And, Sergeant Hikaru . . .?”

“Up and about already. I think he’s trying to hack into the military database to dig up some dirt on Madison. He hasn’t left his room for a couple days now. He’s being a bit obsessive about the whole thing though—I think the big cheeses have made it clear he’s here to stay.”

Ria’s face soured a bit. “What he did—“

“Yeah, I’d gut him just as fast as you three would. I guess I should have expected something like this to happen though. His nickname is Madison the Butcher for a reason.”

“Throwing away so many lives with so little regard, he can’t be human, can he? How could he do something like that to a group of new recruits?”

“Well, for one, he’s forged the claim it was a pre-graduation exercise, and he didn’t expect such a number of Swarmlings. It’s all bullnuts that he’s fed them, and they ate it up.”

“That, or the fact that he’s the only general left alive in the military with actual combat experience.”

“Oh,” Hikari said suddenly, turning her head to face Ria. “Speaking of experience, I almost forgot to say . . . how impressed I was.” Ria was a bit taken when Hikari pulled her into a one-armed embrace. “The rest of us, despite the experiences we’ve been through in the past, we had thought it was over. But the way you kept it together, I have to say, saved our lives.”

Ria’s face turned a bit red as Hikari ended the hug by ruffling her hair. “I can’t tell you what I was thinking at the time, because I wasn’t . . .”

Hikari cocked an eyebrow. “What do you mean? You weren’t thinking?”

“No, I wasn’t. I just started . . . talking, and it came out of my mouth. I didn’t even know what I was saying until I was finished. It was like something was talking through me.” She fidgeted a bit when the Major started to stare at her. All of a sudden, Hikari’s affection and admiration had drained away to reveal a wariness. It was the look of a psychologist towards a patient who had snapped.

Then her smile reappeared, and everything was right in the world again. “Ria, I have a question.”

“Uh . . . sure,” she replied with a blank nod.

“Tell me: Back on Earth, at Vegas, did you ever have any . . . hallucinations?”

“Hallucinations? You mean illusions?”

“Yeah. Thoughts that you shouldn’t have been having at the time. Were you thinking of a completely different subject and all of a sudden—bam—these memory or something hits you out of nowhere?”

It was Ria’s turn to stare, and Hikari read her face in return like a page from a book. To avoid appearing nervous, Ria shifted in her seat, trying to look like she was thinking. In truth, she was uncomfortable whenever Hikari stared at her like she did.

“I guess so,” the Major said with a warm smile on her face.

The young soldier across from her was startled. “How . . . I-I didn’t say—“

“You didn’t have to,” she said with a wink and a smirk, “because I read it all over your face. Take some acting lessons sweetie. You suck at hiding things. It’ll be handy for you when you transfer.”

Ria was baffled. “I don’t understand.”

“Check under your pillow when you come back to the room. You’ll see what I mean. Oh, and for a bit of friendly advice: Start practicing your salutes around me.” Hikari stood, adjusted her curvaceous gown, and headed back down the corridor from whence she had come.




"Hitting on the newbie?" a grating voice said as soon as Hikari left the mess hall, shaking her head with concealed laughter. Hikaru stood easily, leaning against the wall staring at the ceiling like it held the answer to life's questions in its featureless metal surface.

"Taking a break from the Madison Hate Brigade?" she replied, grinning as she scratched her back lightly, suddenly finding the hospital gown itchy compared to her usual, more casual attire. What I wouldn't give for a tank top and slacks right now. she thought irritably.

"Letting his own record build itself." Hikaru said, likely narrowing his eyes behind the visor. "I probably can't get him booted this time, but he's already got more skeletons in his closet than a necrophiliac graverobber."

Pleasant sounding comparison. she thought, listening as he went on.

"Put it this way; if he didn't have that rank with all its honors, I could at least put him under constant surviellance as a sexual predator." the android said.

"Just wait a bit then." Hikari said. "You won't get him this time, but one can never have too much hidden away before the right people start asking questions."

"Or start hitting him." Jiro's voice burst in as the Staff Sergeant himself cam crashing through a pair of swinging doors at a brisk pace, a bleeding gash above one eye giving him the appearance of someone who had just tried to claw his way through Hell. "Sorry for the interruption Major," he said, delivering a salute from his uninjured brow. "but it's been a rough week, so I can't resist bringing up my own intentions again."

"Rough past couple of hours I'd say." Hikaru blinked, staring at the gash.

"Recruit thought he'd done well during a simulation and decided to start waving his damn rifle around in joy."

"How'd he get away with even letting out a whoop of joy?"

"Madison isn't around right now." Jiro spat. "He's had himself transferred to another -conveniently undisclosed- area of space for a few weeks...says its exhaustion from mission coordination stress."

"He didn't even direct the mission." Hikari said, blinking in confusion as she scratched over her shoulder again.

"Not a lot of people are gonna stop him from taking time off like that." Jiro said. "We're out of his jurisdiction so I'm happy as long as it keeps him from f**king around with us."

"Speaking of f**king..." Hikari said, an almost dreamy look in her eyes.

The two men stared, one gaping, one twitching slightly in his armor.

"Ah, nothing." she said, turning briskly and heading back for her room on the ship. "I just had to mess with you two for a second."


Entering her room again, Hikari stared down at herself in a full length mirror, finding the pale green of the hospital gown irritating to even look at all of a sudden. Gripping the front with both arms, she took a deep breath and braced herself.

At her current level of physical inactivity, it took her two tugs before she was able to rip the garment off, wincing slightly as it pushed against the bandages still on her almost-bare back. Breathing heavily, she tossed it aside, noting that the medics hadn't mummified her quite as much as she'd thought they had.

Guess I didn't lose as many ribs as I guessed. she thought. But did they have to wrap my boobs so tightly? Sighing, she stared longingly over at the shower. Damn you, injuries...

Pulling a tank top from the closet, she shrugged it on with little concern that some of the bandages would still show. It took her almost a full minute to pull a pair of pants on as the motion had her bending over more than she probably should have. Stil, it wasn't long before she was heading back down the long hallway, wondering if Ria had made it bck to her room and found the transfer notice yet.

Just a standard letter of transfer. she thought, shrugging. Okay, so maybe I went overboard drawing little stick figures piloting badly doodled spacefighters at the bottom.

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