PHASE V : THE NIFELHEIM ARC ( 13 of 62 )
Keeping Hope Alive
"Let us not forget... there is hope."
"Let us not forget... there is hope."
TCS Hades; Operations Room
Nifelheim System, Downing Quadrant, Vega Sector
2681.047; 1035 Hours (CST)
Hope is something that has been around since almost the beginning of time. It is one of the few things that connects all living things in this universe. It surrounds us, flows through us, and binds the beings in this galaxy together. It is the essential emotion that life needs to survive, because if there was no hope what would be the reason for living.
The pilot sat alone in the chair just staring out the window. He had just concluded his morning patrol with his two wingmen. An ordinary morning patrol. They had come across no enemies whatsoever. The highlight of the patrol was pulling a fly-by of the TCS Hades’ next stop, Avernus Station. What a beautiful sight she was, the pilot thought to himself. The pilot’s thoughts strayed as he watched the fighters and capships of CVBG-A fly in formation on route to the station.
The Ohlander was below to port. She was badly beaten. The pilot wondered if the ship would even make it through the next fight. She was scarred from one end to another. He turned right looking away from Ohlander to see the Plunkett-class heavy artillery cruiser flying alongside of the Hades.
The pilot watched as the Nagato pulled up to the front port side of the Hades in formation. She was battered from head to toe. She had scorch marks and the painted was peeling. But with all that damage the pilot noticed one thing, that big fucking gun. The triple heavy plasma cannon was almost as impressive looking as the Hades’ Mk. 4 heavy plasma cannon.
Between those two guns, he thought, who wouldn’t have hope, right? He laughed softly.
“Out of all the crazy things I have done in my life, I have never thought that I was not going to live to see the next day,” the pilot spoke softly.
“But for this day I have a good chance of not seeing the end. I have lost my hope as well as my faith.” The pilot unzipped one of the pockets on his flight suit and pulled out a sheet of paper. Written on it was a note from his friend Preacher, “This will make you feel better.” The pilot folded it up and put it back into his pocket. The pilot checked the time and decided he should get back to the barracks. As Michael “Hunter” Freemen stood up from the chair, he peered out the window one last time. He sighed and shook his head.
“There isn’t any hope for us is there?” Michael asked, talking to himself.
With his shoulders slumped over he walked back to the barracks.
TCS Hades; Flight Wing Barracks
2681.047; 1103 Hours (CST)
Passing by some of the new flight wing members from the 'Forge, Michael could only say hello to them. He couldn’t think of anything to say is what the problem was. The Hades had only met up with the CVBG-A a few days ago, right after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The 'Forge’s flight wing was decimated. They had lost the carrier as well.
Damn shame we couldn’t have been there to help, Michael thought.
Michael opened the door to his bunk and went in. His bunkmate 2nd Lt. Pablo “Preacher” Marciago wasn’t there. Preacher was one of Michael’s two best friends. The other was 2nd Lt. Valtane “De-tox” Williamson. All three of them came from the same out of the way North American hometown on Earth.
They had joined Confed because they had simply nothing else to do except sit around in either the swamps of southern Louisiana or the huge salt domes of northern Louisiana. Joining Confed turned out to be for the better because all of them were naturally good pilots. Their skills in dog fighting were among if not the best at the academy, but it was their teamwork and ability to take leadership roles in a time of crisis that earned them the post to Special Forces and to the Dark Broods.
Michael plopped down onto his bunk. He was exhausted, having almost been up for two days. That was mostly Preacher’s fault, because he was frequently getting a shipment of what the underworld of Confed was calling, “Vega’s dirty little girl,” a very potent amphetamine. Even though substance abuse was common among pilots, especially the use of speed on long missions,
Michael, Preacher, and De-tox made a point not to let anyone else in their squad know what they were doing. Confed had a strict rule about the use of illegal substances, as well as controlled substances. It didn’t even allow the drinking of actual alcohol. Personal were to drink synthenol, other wise known has non-alcoholic liquor, but out here on the frontier away from where rules are written, there was a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. No one asked them what they were doing awake at ungodly hours of the night, so Michael, Preacher, and De-tox never told anyone.
Not feeling the urge to sleep Michael got up and looked in the mirror. His mother was right, he almost was a spitting image of his Uncle. He had his Uncle’s eyes, reddish-brown hair, the sideburns, and the same build. Then again most if not all the male members of the St. John family looked the same. Although his last name was Freeman his mother’s real last name was St. John, and of course his Uncle was the famous Ian “Hunter” St. John.
Ian didn’t really know his younger sister all that much. She lived with relatives in London, England where she went to a Prep boarding school. She only was able to come home for Christmas and a few weeks out of the summer, but even then she didn’t make the trip home to Brisbane. She was busy studying, not wanting to go back to the family ranch. She wound up going to Oxford University in England for her high level education. That is where she met Michael’s father. A one night stand after a drunken night at the pub. She got an internship with a British Oil Company and they transferred her to North America. While Michael’s mother was staying in the city of New Orleans, she found that she was pregnant. She decided to stay and have her child there.
Michael knew that his mother did not care much for her parents, but right before Michael shipped off he wanted to meet the rest of his family. So he took a trip with his mother to Brisbane, Australia. Michael never knew the actual reason or problem his mother and grandparents had. He had wanted to bring it up when he visited the ranch, but thought wise of it not to ask.
While there his grandfather had told him to keep his Uncle’s memory alive when fighting out on the edge of nowhere. Michael promised he would, and started by taking his late Uncle’s callsign of “Hunter."
Michael splashed some cold water over his face to wake up. When he looked back in the mirror after wiping his face off he saw a familiar looking figure standing in the doorway, with a very big smile on his face.
“No need for the water my friend,” Preacher said, “all you need to do is say hello to my little friend.” The bag that Preacher held up looked like a bag full of diamonds, but it was far from it. Preacher pulled the glass mirror underneath his bunk and laid out some of the contraband. “Ante up, my friend,” Preacher said as he handed Michael the mirror. In less than an instant Michael was awake again, but still had the doom and gloom feeling over him.
“Wow, that stuff keeps getting better and better,” Michael said.
“I deal with only the best, my friend,” Preacher replied. “By the way, did you read that scripture I gave you?”
“Yeah, I did,” Michael lied. Although Preacher dipped into a few illegal activities here and there, he believed in the Christian’s version of God. He would always read his Bible and then say to his friends how similar things are between what they were experiencing right now and the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Hence how “Preacher” got his moniker.
“Made you feel better, didn’t it?” Preacher said with a tone arrogance.
“Yeah it did,” Michael said continuing the lie he started a second ago. He smiled as he replied at his friend. You arrogant son of bitch, Michael laughed to himself. Michael couldn’t say much more than that though. The one thing that had gotten him and his two friends the most demerits at the Academy was their arrogance. When Michael, Preacher, and De-tox worked as a team they were nearly unstoppable. Each one of them had the attitude that they were the best pilot, and they had the skills to back it up. But in the past few days Michael’s arrogance kind of faded away. After reading and seeing some of the reports from CVBG-A and the Midway, Michael had lost hope. Hence, Preacher gave him the scripture to cheer Michael up. The only problem was Michael hadn’t even bothered to read it yet.
“Well come on, let's get going. De-tox is waiting for us on the flight deck. He has supposedly got the inside info about the TCSO show that will be going on when we reach the station,” Preacher said as he headed out the door. Michael sat up and looked at himself in the mirror. Don’t give up just yet, he told himself as he followed his friend out the door.
TCS Hades; Flight Deck
2681.047 1145 (CST)
“What do you mean you can’t give me anymore info?” De-tox asked. “That’s what I mean I can’t give you anymore info. It is suppose to be a surprise. Don’t let anyone know that the TCSO will be putting on a show for CVBG-A,” the Comm Officer responded.
“All right,” De-tox replied, as he slammed his fist down on the sign off button.
“What’s the problem?” Michael asked.
“Nothing, just that I can’t get anymore info about the show because it is supposed to be a surprise,” De-tox said frustrated. De-tox had already told Michael and Preacher that the TCSO was suppose to be putting on a big show for CVBG-A. They, like everything else that is between them, had kept it a secret so far and now it looked like they would just have to wait and find out firsthand what was going to be there.
“What are you doing here in the Flight Control Office?” Michael said as he saw the SWACS and a few Piranhas getting warmed up for pre-flight.
“I am watching the station while the officer went to go and take a piss. So I figured that I would use the comm station down here to see if I could get any info on the show,” De-tox explained. As he finished the Flight Officer returned and told De-tox thank you. The three walked down to the flight deck.
“All right, I’m going back to the barracks to try and get some sleep before we pull into the station,” De-tox said.
“I’m heading off the rec room. The top of that simulator has my name on it, and right now I feel like I can blow anyone away,” Preacher announced. “You coming?” he asked Michael as he walked off.
“Yeah, I’ll catch up with you in a few minutes, Michael answered. He watched the other two walk off and then turned his full attention to fighter in front of him. It was almost awe-inspiring. The Vampire in front of Michael was designated 003. It was his bird.
“She is in tip-top shape, sir,” Stef said kind of startling Michael. Stephanie Beaudreaux was Michael’s tech assigned to the maintenance of his fighter. Her coveralls were covered in soot just like all techs, but under all that she was a beautiful girl about the same age as Michael. She was about 5’4’’, had naturally red hair, and an athletic body. She came from the same region in North America as Michael did, but didn’t meet her until the were both stationed on the Hades. She smiled knowing she startled him. “Caught you off your guard didn’t I?” she asked coyly.
Knowing he had been caught, there was no point in trying to play it off. “Yeah you did,” he replied with a sigh.
“What’s the matter, sir? I know you don’t get that bummed out when a lowly tech catches you off guard.”
“It's,” he paused, “nothing. Just having trouble lately keeping things in focus.”
“Worried about not coming back after the next one?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about it, I would hate think that you wouldn’t have a fighter to work on when you got back,” he said forcing a smile. She smiled back and looked into his eyes. There was a bit of an awkward pause before Michael spoke up again. “Well I guess I better get to the rec room and see if Preacher hasn’t punched anyone for getting a higher score than him on that sim.” Michael started to walk off when Stef spoke up.
“Sir, don’t worry everything will be running smoothly from this end. That way I can have a pilot to chew out when he does bring his fighter back for me to work on,” she said as she flashed another radiant smile.
For some reason at that moment Michael fished into his pocket and pulled out the note Preacher had given him. Inscribed on it was Isaiah 40:31, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Michael smiled as he folded the piece of paper and put it back into his pocket. Preacher you son of a bitch, you were right, he thought to himself. With a renewed vigor Michael double timed up to the Flight Deck Office, just as the first of the Piranhas were launching. For the first time in almost a month Michael Freeman regained something he had thought that he lost. Hope. Hope that they would win the next battle. Hope that he was going to see his family’s farm again. Hope that the line would be held and Death itself would be stopped.