Monday, January 24, 2011

#25 by Carnifex

Carnifex could feel the sound of his weapons radiating through the ship and into his controls as they spewed angry red bolts of energy at his enemies. Glancing over his shoulder he could see a Cobra following him, targeting his engines. His shields were still up but unless he could shake the Cobra soon they wouldn't be much good to him, especially since he had run out of shield batteries not long ago.
Carnifex decided to break off the pilot he'd had in his sights and start evading. He pulled his ship into a tight upward turn, strafed from side to side to dodge fire, and then veered left. The Cobra matched him move for move. He pulled into a roll and started spiralling outward before peeling off at an odd angle and could see almost directly above himself the Cobra just barely making the same turn no more than a hundred meters away. Hitting his engine kill at just that moment Carnifex continued his turn while coasting and just as the cobra pulled out of its own turn and trained its weapons on his ship Carnifex levelled his own guns with it and reengaged his engines. He slid a little bit to the right as the two ships rushed together, exchanging fire and strafing. He waited until the distance reading dropped down into the 100s, the last digit a ferocious blur, and then suddenly dodged to the right with as much force as his ship could manage before pulling back to the left and coming to a full stop. The deep hiss of his thrusters decelerating his ship filled his ears. The Cobra was now seventy meters away. Carnifex started firing as high in his firing arch as his guns would allow, turning upward again to keep the Cobra in sight, his shots curling downward from his peripheral vision toward where he was focused on the fighter.
The distance reading slowly ticked down; forty six.. forty five.. forty four.. forty three.. Carnifex saw red bolts of energy shoot toward his target from above; one volley... two... three... the shields of both ships fizzled out at the same moment. Seeing his opponent launch a mine Carnifex pushed his ship back up to full speed on his controls, his engines whining under the strain of trying to keep up. The two ships shot apart again and gained distance. Now out of sight behind him Carni checked the other ship's status with his sensors. He had scored a few hits, that much was certain.
Coming about quickly both ships started toward each other again, shields down and weapons blazing angrily. Carnifex took care with his aim, not falling back on any fancy thruster work this time he rushed forward. Guessing at the right moment to launch a cruise disruptor he fired it away and then focused on dodging as it forged ahead quickly toward the Cobra. His guesswork payed off well; the cruise disruptor struck the ship moments after the pilot launched a mine, the EM shockwave triggering its proximity detonator and damaging its user. Carnifex kicked in the reverse thrust and opened fire once again, the Cobra's shots falling short of his slowing ship. As Carni's shots collided with his target they obliterated hull, equipment and weapons alike and as it passed by his ship the Cobra began to bleed flame.
He saw the bright flash of its destruction reflect off his ship's hull and immediately checked his scanner. One of the pilots in his wing had been killed but their superior numbers had won out. The last Lane Hacker fighter, the one that Carnifex had been forced to let slip through of his fingers, was trying to cruise away but was being targeted by the other two members of Carni's wing who'd also finished off the first Lane Hacker. Their concentrated fire ripped it to shreds in seconds.
Carnifex looked through the now calm region of space toward Planet Erie and could see Scania Station, an orbitting speck. After a moment gazing he opened his coms, "Fall back to the Wapos, we'll have to repair at Ames," he said as he pointed his ship toward the ilky black dark matter clouds.

#24 by Carnifex

Carnifex arived in Kanto somewhat on edge. The Guild attack had all the surrounding systems crawling with curious pilots and Blood Empire patrols, all trigger happy and looking for mysterious ships to shoot up. All he found on the other side of the jump hole though was asteroids floating harmlessly around his ship.
As he got closer to Ibaraki Carnifex began to relax. Kanto was truely on the farthest reaches of Kusari and it seemed that most people knew that and avoided the system. His sensors only picked up the occational lone ship at range. Ibaraki itself was a small station from the outside; nothing more then docking bays, standard living/business sections and some cargo compartments. After docking Carnifex went to the bar to peruse the local job boards and find out what organisations frequented the station.
After not too long Carnifex decided that the low profile of the base, and the system, as well as it's secluded location would make the base an excelent place to meet contacts in secret. The private Deshima League sections of Deshima were good for privacy but not everyone that could benifit from the League's services could afford to be seen in open Kusari space. On his way out of the system Carnifex would have to start making arangements to local an agent on the station as a contact and to collect intel on people at the station that had had the same idea.

#23 by Mens Rea

Meanwhile, somewhere in the Kyushu system...

When the smoke and the dust cleared, thought Kakera, Kyushu hadn't fared that poorly. On a surface level, anyway. She'd been sent to defend this planet and in the end, what for? Had the planet needed defending? No, she corrected herself, she'd been sent to protect the people living there, and she's succeeded, to a degree.
The planet was still covered, here and there, by patches of Cardamine, long since converted to private plantations. The Outcast cardification process had never reached completion for reasons that Kakera wasn't sure she'd ever know. She wasn't sure she cared either. Though the planet may have been saved, insofar as such a word was applicable here, it was still a mess on the inside. The Cardamine trading had increased almost 800% and the planet was now exporting, not importing the substance.
Kakera wasn't sure if the government was intentionally turning a blind eye or if they just didn't care anymore. Did she even care anymore? She couldn't find herself hating the new government, despite what they'd done to their people, but she couldn't join them either. She found herself shying away from politics. As such, the natural choice had been the Bounty Hunters. She always told people she'd done it for the money, but this simply wasn't true. She had more of it than she could ever use.
Then the revolt on Deshima had occured, and her comfortable bubble of neutrality had been burst. She found herself once again entangled in politics, this time as one of many deciding figures, not just a mere soldier. She had considered leaving many times, running to the Taus or the Omegas, getting a new ship and a new name, but she couldn't do it. More than anything, Deshima had become a home.

A blip on the HUD indicated that her target was in-system. An Order spy, coming in from the Taus. Kakera powered up her cruise engine and headed straight for the target. His scanner would not be able to pick up any identifying characteristics on her new, custom-built fighter and the ship's minuscule profile at this angle would suggest a small vessel, posing little threat.

3000....2000....the Order pilot decided the ship was definitely headed toward him. His scanner was bugged, couldn't identify it, but it appeared to be something small like a scout, or maybe an interceptor flying at just the right angle. But this pilot had been flying long enough to know that even Interceptor pilots could be deadly. He double-checked to make sure his Prometheus missile was armed and proceeded along his route, acting as if the incoming ship wasn't important enough to pay any mind. The Combat Interceptor turned turned away at the last moment. The Order pilot breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps it had been nothing. Some dumb Kusarian kid...

"...I repeat, the bounty is off. Our intel suggests the Order is unaware that our agents have followed this operative. We may have a chance to find out the true purpose of his visit to Kusari. Pull back and await further instructions."
So that's how it is, thought Kakera as she widened the gap between her and the Order ship, everyone wants a piece of the action in Kusari. That's fine. More work for the League.

#22 by Carnifex

Carnifex sat in his cockpit, blacked out and silent, all of his systems in ‘silent’ running mode to avoid easy sensor detection. The only light still operating on his console flashed on and off lazily, illuminating in a dim blue the thick haze of cardamine that swirled through the air in swirling patterns that reminded Carni of the dark matter clouds smeared through the surrounding system. The cardamine had been bought from a trader who was the official dealer of cardamine on Deshima and who had obtained it right from the growing source on Planet Kyushu, or so he had said. Carnifex wasn’t convinced that the growth of cardamine grass on Kyushu was as rampant as the trader had suggested. But that didn’t matter, cardamine was cardamine.

Suddenly, through the haze, Carnifex spotted what he was waiting for. A freelance pilot judging from the IFF, the ship was a small freighter that had just dropped out of the trade lane nearby. Any pilot headed away from Liberty was a potential nomad infection threat and would bring in good money from the Blood Empire if they were dealt with and even more if they were bought back alive for ‘study and questioning’.
Turning on his quiet systems Carnifex flew toward the slow vessel as it moved in the direction of the next trade lane and powered up his coms. “Reppu Bend is a nastily lonely place for a single freelancer...”

Having returned to Deshima with a prisoner and received his payment Carnifex decided to become better acquainted with recent events and checked the League HQ information centre. The Order were still making a mess of Liberty and pushing Lane Hackers to pirate in Shikoku more and more and there were still no jobs against the LWB to speak of. Carnifex was more interested in internal matters.
A few League pilots had been sent to scout out bases further afield then Kusari and to start gathering information. The one on the Hawaii sent back some promising reports about targets in the Corsairs and he was also pleased to note that several were making good progress toward or into the other houses where he hoped that the best options for a few ‘unfortunate accidents’ would present themselves. In more ways than one this process reminded Carni of when he’d been a Lane Hacker himself; fixing prices for commodities on New London and making trade lanes fail at just the right distance from the nearest station, all from the safety of Mactan.

#21 by Carnifex

"That's exactly what I'm trying to ensure," replied Carnifex to Kakera, "The bombing of the Libertatum was a demonstration of our ties to the Blood Empire. They are a nation now, not a wet behind the ears power anymore,” Carnifex paused and sighed.
“If we remain neutral and the worst case for the Blood Empire does happen, with Liberty swarming all over Kusari, how do you expect that to end for us?”
“With a triumphant procession leading all the way to the Sugarland, with you in irons,” she replied in a frank tone.
Carnifex chuckled, “Always the optimist Kakera. Don’t you agree that it makes more sense to throw our weight behind the Blood Empire now, when it will make more of a difference, rather than later?”

“If Grayson hadn’t sold us out so quickly we’d still be on good terms with Liberty and we wouldn’t be in that deep,” Carnifex said thoughtfully.
“You mean sold you out,” said Kakera, “The Gunpowder Regret isn’t the safest place to divulge secrets.”
“Too true, but if Liberty does make it into Shikkoku then they won’t need a signed confession from me to attack Deshima. As for the LWB, it’s inconsequential. I don’t plan on making any friends in their ranks, jobs against them dropped off after the Dawson CM is all. Also, explaining the fight in Rheinland won’t be a problem at all. Those pilots we killed were Nighthawks, the Nomad infected kind. No one in Sirius will question that,” Carnifex concluded dismissively.

Kakera seemed thoughtful but unmoved by Carnifex’s explanation. As she looked at him stonily the two, having left the hanger, walked in a business like manner toward the Deshima League HQ where they would be able to view all the information about the jobs and general deployment of League pilots. When they reached the first security checkpoint Kakera found her voice again.
“Why did you do it?”
Carnifex raised an eyebrow, “I assume you’re referring to the bounties on Liberty pilots that I gave the GMS and which put us into both of their bad books in the first place. Well…” he paused uncertainly, “I wanted to put GMS on the back foot and I was planning on pinning the bounties on Rheinland. When Stuttgart went to the dogs Liberty stopped its investigation and the trail had stopped with us. I guess it backfired more than I expected.”

#20 by Kaal

Elysian Fields Cemetery, Planet Texas

Looking over the green grass Zack gazed over the countless stone-white tombstones that represented the many fallen sons of Texas that died in the line of duty protecting Liberty for eight-hundred and six years. Zack walked among the graves catching a name every now and then; Ray "Showdown" Tortellini Captain with the Liberty Navy, Samson August Field Operative for the LSF, Dustin "Buster" Harris Second-Lieutenant Liberty Navy. Countless names chiseled upon too many white stones, long worn monuments to those who gave their lives for their country, and today more of Texas' sons have come to join them.

Zack gazed up and saw crowds of mourners, family and loved ones of the soldiers lost in the recent Battle of Dawson. The fresh white stone, the red-white flowery of funerary sprays, and the black ribbon over the black suits and dresses of the attendees. Then there were the flags draped over the coffins, the quiet tears as the flag was ceremoniously folded and passed to mothers and wives of the fallen; a "thanks from a grateful nation". Zack wasen't here to contemplate the price of freedom, his brother was among those who paid the sacrifice on his behalf.

Zack didn't hear his mother as she laid her hand on his shoulder, "Zack its time," she said tenderly. Wiping tears from his eyes Zack made his way toward the funeral ceremony of his brother, First-Lieutenant Scott Greene, known to Zack and his fellow squad-mates as "Bandit". Scott "Bandit" Greene; Zack recalled how many times he would zero in on a Rouge or Xeno pirate only to have Greene jump in and "steal" his kill-shot. Even though he was top three on the squadron killboard, Zack and his other brother and sister pilots would never recognize the kills of a "Bandit". That only encouraged Greene, even back in the training simulators during flight school at Woodlands the Flight Instructors would chew him out constantly for his "reckless and unbecoming" tactics. "Hey as long as I'm on the top," Scott used to say. Now his buddy who used to come over to the Myers Farmstead on leave, served as "wingman" to Zack on many bar runs, and the vocal opposition to Zacks conscious when left the Navy to go Freelance...was dead. Just another name on the list of Liberty's fallen warriors.

The attention was called all around Elysian Fields as an old mournful Bugle tune was played over the cemetery for all of the fallen. Dozens of rifle-squads took their positions among dozens of new graves, and when order came the squads took aim and fired a Three-volley salute as flowers were laid into the grave by love ones as they watched the coffins being lowered into the ground. Zack took a handful of dirt from the grave-mound and slowly poured it unto his friend's coffin, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Until we meet again brother," Zack whispered, "I'll send some assholes to keep you company." The terraform units began to fill the gravesite as families turned away going their separate ways. Zack saw his mother and father in the distance comfort Scott's parents, an embrace coupled with words of sympathy; Zack shivered at the thought that it could have easily been reversed with his friend's family comforting his mother should the tables have been turned. He caught eyes with Mr. Greene and gave a sincere curtious nod, there was nothing more to say and no amount of "I'm sorry" that could bring an end to their grief or bring Scott back.

There was going to be hell to pay though: Lane Hackers, Rouges, LWB, Nippon and even a few Rheinlanders if he can get it. They would all pay for the blood spilled in Hudson that tragic day. As Zack walked towards his car he caught sight of a memorial statue commemorating another war from Liberty's past - a statue of the Goddess Nike, the goddess of Victory. On the base Zack read:

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.

#19 by Mens Rea

Sometime later...
"You weren't expecting that," says Kakera as they set their ships down in the League's private hangar. Carnifex raises an eyebrow quizzically.
"The LWB," clarifies Kakera, "their ceasefire with the Rheinland military. Hiring us, the hackers, and even SSI to defend Rheinland targets. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bretonians turn on Liberty before long."
Carnifex seems to ponder this for a moment.
"Are you sure this isn't slipping out of your grasp," continues Kakera, "Or are things still going, 'according to plan?'"
She pauses for effect, then continues, "who will Liberty come after first? Will they try to bruise the powerful Houses stacked against them, or will they go after the smallest, most bothersome enemy?"
She pauses again.
"Do you kill a battleship or its escort first? Think about it. The Seijaku Maru maybe be a deterrent against smaller strike sqauds, but when Liberty comes in force, our employers better be there for us."