PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 12 of 28 )

: “ Into the Fire ”


TCS Endeavour; Bridge
Tyr System
2681.034 (03 Feb, 2681)

"Scramble the Dragons! Scramble!"

Captain Griffin's voice bounced off the walls of bridge as he shouted orders. "I want the Falcons prepped and ready to go!"

The bridge of the TCS Endeavour had come alive with activity. Orders and commands were being shouted, tactical displays lit up, alarms sounded. In less than a minute, the calm environment of the ship's bridge had seemingly turned into a pool of chaos. In the distance, explosions and weapons fire could be seen as the Endeavour's interceptor squadron, the Hornets, battled against their newly found foe, while the sleek new Confederation Panther-class fighters belonging to the Black Dragon Squadron spilled out from the carrier and raced into the cold, dark surroundings of outer space.

Iceman was pushed against the padded seat of his fighter as the drop launch system catapulted his fighter out into the battle zone. He formed up with the rest of the squadron and they streaked towards their intended prey.

The pilots of the Hornets squadron battled for their life as the unidentified fighters swarmed their ships. Exchanges of weapons fire lit up the area in multi-colored glow. "Another bogey down, sir!" reported one pilot as one of the opposing fighters was ripped apart by an explosion.

"There's still too many!" another pilot reported.

"Clarke, we could use some backup," Renegade, the Hornet squadron commander said into the comm as another enemy fighter was chasing him.

"Don't worry, Lambda-1. We're already here."

The enemy fighter exploded… and Iceman flew by.

Swooping down like avenging angels, the Black Dragon squadron bore down on their prey. The dark, sleek fighters of the enemy forces scattered as a hail of energy came raining down on them.

"Charlie's gonna flank them, Ice," said Lt. Commander Julia Williams as her fighter and those accompanying it broke off from the main attack group. "You guys punch through the front!"

"Affirmative. Delta, break through the centre of the formation and then cover the Hornets as they fall back," ordered Iceman.

The Black Dragons sprung into action once again, hitting the enemy hard with energy weapons and missiles barrages.

"Watch it, Dragons! Some of those weapons are nasty!" warned Renegade as he and the rest of his squadron fell back to a safe distance as the Black Dragons took on the remaining Nephilim fighters.

Lt. Cmdr. Williams, often referred to by her callsign of Twilight, formed up with her long-time friend Valerie "Jade" Tyler and streaked across the vast blackness of space. Along with the rest of her wing, Twilight banked around and hit the enemy from its side. The shields of the Nephilim vessels flashed in a brilliant green hue as tachyon and ion blasts ricocheted off of them.

The enemy scattered, unable to keep their formation under the heavy assault of the Confederation fighters. Catherine "Siren" Waller and her Delta Flight rushed in through the centre of the Nephilim fighter group, blasting away wildly at their confused enemy. She turned sharply away as an explosion rocked the side of one of the Nephilim fighters, a heavy fighter by the looks of things, sending it spinning out of control. A second later the rest of the ship exploded as "Boomer," the youngest pilot in the squadron dealt the finishing blow. "Oh yeah, baby! Enemy fighter down!" he exclaimed as he watched a cloud of fire and smoke envelop his target.

Siren couldn't help but grin a little at the young man's enthusiasm, but quickly returned to being her normal calm, focused self. "Very good, Ensign. But we're not out of the woods just yet!"

Delta flight circled around the battle, taking pot-shots at the fighters that got in their way as they proceeded to carry out their part of the mission: protecting the Hornets from enemy attack now that their job was done. Engines lit up as the four fighters assigned to that task darted towards their comrades.

Two more enemy fighters went down, the crossfire technique employed by the remaining Black Dragons catching the Nephilim off guard.

On board the TCS Clarke, a young lieutenant sat at the turret control station, eagerly waiting for a target to come across his sights. His intense concentration blocked out the noise and the commotion that surrounded him as he kept his eyes fixed on his monitor, waiting for the moment… to strike!

He pressed down on the trigger and held it steady, following the enemy fighter that had carelessly entered his cone of fire. The controls reverberated as stormfire shells streamed out of the barrels of the turret. "Foolish bug," he thought as the shells from the turret hammered his target into submission, draining its shields, chipping its armor, until the inevitable occurred.

"TCS Clarke reporting fighter downed!"

The young lieutenant smiled in satisfaction as he watched the burning wreckage of his former target spin around lifelessly in space. His first kill, always a gratifying one. However, his sense of pride did not last long.

Three more light fighters came screaming towards him. He readied himself for the task at hand. "Piece of cake," he thought. From what he'd seen, these ships weren't hard to handle.

Was he ever wrong.

With a renewed confidence, he took aim at one of the fighters. However, it spun towards its two companions, seemingly crashing into them. He wasn't that lucky. The three fighters now seemed to be joined together somehow, or at least flying in an extremely close formation… he couldn't tell. He didn't have time to tell. A flash of light was all he saw as the "cluster" fighter unleashed a lethal burst of plasma energy at the turret.

The station exploded in front of the lieutenant, launching him backwards into a wall. His body crumpled down to the floor as crewmembers rushed over to him.

"Man down! Get the paramedics up here, now!"

Confusion and chaos came next. The lieutenant lay there, unable to move. A sequence of blurry images clouded his view; Men with fire extinguishers put out the fire at the station while men huddled over him and attended to him. The muffled yelling and screaming all slowly faded away into darkness.

"Come on, people! We're losing him!"

He wavered in and out of consciousness; unable to tell if what was going on was really happening. Confusion, panic, and despair overwhelmed him as he slipped farther and farther away.

"His pulse is weakening, damn it!"

The voices got lower and less audible. He couldn't understand what they were saying, what they wanted to tell him. The light grew dimmer and dimmer.

"He's flat-lined!"

Things were all quiet… dark, too… couldn't see or hear any -

"Damn it! We lost him! Those fucking bastards!"

The young lieutenant lay motionless on the floor. His future confined to being simply another tragic "what if?" scenario, while the rest of the universe moved on with its raging battles and horrific wars.


TCS Endeavour; Bridge

"Captain, eighty-nine percent of the opposition has now been eliminated, close to twenty fighters. Dragons reporting no losses," reported one bridge officer.

"Hornet Squadron now entering landing pattern," reported another.

Captain Griffin watched and listened as the status reports flowed into him. The Black Dragons squadron was now on clean up duty, ridding the battle group of the remaining enemy fighters while the Hornets interceptor squadron came home.

"XO, have the other ships in the battle group report in. I want an overall report, ASAP," ordered Griffin.

"Sir, some of our escorts are requesting permission to break off and find the enemy capships that launched those fighters."

"We can't take the risk. Not now..."

Cmdr. Stevens nodded and went to work as Griffin looked down to an active view screen and monitored the final moments of the battle.

Two missiles launched from the underside of one of the Confederation Panther-class fighters and bore down on its target. The enemy heavy fighter, dubbed the Manta by Confed Intelligence, swiveled around and released a string of decoys in hope of distracting the missiles. The bug's plan worked… to a point, as one of the missiles impacted against a decoy. However, the second missile continued on its course.

For anyone, avoiding a missile is a tough task. However, when enemy fighters surround you along with that missile, it's damn near impossible. The bug pilot found that out.

The heavy fighter exploded as the missile impacted and a number of Black Dragons converged on his position, showering him with energy fire. There was no possibility of escape for him.

"Yeah! Last fighter down!" yelled one of the pilots into the comm unit.

Iceman nodded. "Acknowledged. Dragons, form up and set course for home plate," he ordered calmly, not reveling in their victory like some of the other pilots.

The twelve fighters of the Black Dragon Squadron banked around and headed for home, leaving the burnt out shells of their enemy in their wake.


TCS Endeavour; Bridge

Rear Admiral Jeffery Miller gazed out of the main view port as the Hornets swarmed back to their hive. He watched as several of the damaged fighters seemed to land shakily. He closed his eyes briefly, silently asking for the pilots' forgiveness. When he opened his eyes again the Black Dragon Squadron was on its way to the landing pattern. A reflection appeared in the viewport beside him he sighed as he continued to watch the fighters make their way to the safety of the recovery bay. Captain Griffin stood beside the admiral as the fighters landed. Even when the last one was in the bay, the Admiral continued to stare out into infinity.

"Sir, we could've lost some people out there today..." Griffin said respectfully he watched as the Admiral closed his eyes again.

"I know. Griffin, it had to be this way. We don't know if he's trying to get information, or if he's trying to kill us." He opened his eyes and resumed his visual search of the stars, "All we know is that we have a psycho on board, and we don't have a clue as to who it may be."

Miller turned to Griffin, "Until the little sonofabitch gets caught, I cannot and will not divulge any pertinent Intel. Am I understood, Captain?"

The captain frowned slightly, but nodded. "Understood, sir."

"Good. Continue with what you were doing." Miller turned back and lost himself in the cosmos, as Griffin walked back to his command chair. He sat down and watched as the admiral gazed out of the view port. He had a lot of things to explain to his fellow officers.


TCS Endeavour; Flight Deck

Twilight made her way down the ladder as she climbed out of the cockpit of her fighter. The last of the Black Dragon Squadron were now landing on the carrier. She stepped down onto the deck and nodded to the crewman as she took off her helmet and watched the fighters touch down on the deck.

She looked over to her sister, Victoria and smiled as she walked over to her. They tapped helmets as a silent greeting and walked off the deck. "Nice work on those bastards, sis," said Twilight.

Victoria smiled. "Thanks, Jules," she replied as she pointed back to her fighter that was being ferried to the repair bay. "Got a little scorched though. Those bugs are some tough cookies."

Twilight nodded. "That they are. And those fighters," she whistled. "Man, never seen anything like 'em. Not even those Intel reports could prepare us enough for that."

They stopped in front of a door. Victoria took her right glove off and placed her right hand on the scanner that was situated beside the door. After a second, the door unlocked and opened up, revealing the locker room of the Black Dragon Squadron. They walked in and were followed by other members of the squadron, all of them chatting about their mission.

The two sisters sat down in front of their lockers that were adjacent to each other and put their gear on the ground. "Speaking of those Intel reports… don't you think that from what we saw out there, there should have been more in them?" asked Victoria.

Twilight glanced at her sister and then stood up, moving to her locker. She opened it and put her helmet inside before returning to her sister's side. "Yeah Vicky, it seems like there were a few things that they could have prepared us for," she replied softly.

"I mean, those ships that joined together… hello… it's not that hard to spot so they obviously knew about them. You'd think they'd actually give us info like that so we don't get freaked when they do that on the battlefield," continued Victoria as she shook her head.

"Don't worry, Lieutenant."

The two sisters looked up to see their commander, Cameron Garrison march by.

"I have a few words for the brass about that issue."


TCS Endeavour; Office of Colonel Paul Taylor, Wing Commander

Garrison threw a folder of notes onto Taylor's desk. "Here, sir. Intelligence reports about those enemy fighters we engaged. Pass them along to Confed Intell if you wish, since they seemed to have forgotten some details in their reports!"

Taylor looked up at him, surprised at his sudden outburst. Garrison looked at him defiantly and continued.

"Like many members of my squadron have already pointed out, you would think that Confed Intell would give us adequate information on our opposition! Instead, we find ourselves being surprised by the weapons they're hauling around and by the fact that some of these fighters can somehow join or link together to form bigger ships!"

The door to Taylor's office opened up once again. "Uh… sir… you can't just - "

Dave "Renegade" Pattenden came storming in. "Taylor! What's the big idea? Sending us out without being properly briefed! You can't tell me that Confed didn't send you info on the capabilities of these damned fighters!"

Taylor looked at both men calmly. He then pulled out a folder of his own from his desk and placed it in front of the two officers. "No. I can't tell you that Confed didn't send us the information," he said. "We've had this information for a while. We just didn't want to hand it down to the squadrons before it was processed. We weren't expecting an attack so soon."

"Weren't expecting an attack?!" Renegade blurted out. He was livid. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Colonel Pattenden!"

Renegade stood at ease and gave Taylor a harsh glare. Commander Garrison looked back down to the table and picked up the folder. He looked back to Taylor calmly. "I think I will borrow these if you don't mind, sir."

Taylor held back his outrage of this entire lack of discipline and respect for authority. "Very well, Commander. See to it that I get it back promptly," he said as he contained his anger.

Garrison saluted Taylor and then nodded towards Renegade as he left. Renegade returned the nod and then looked back at Taylor. They stayed that way for several minutes. Taylor wanted Pattenden to sweat a little. He had never liked the marine pilot, and was sure that he never would. He walked around his desk and faced the pilot.

"Colonel, your outburst was insubordinate, out of line, and is no way for an officer to act towards his CO." Taylor watched Renegade's face the whole time. It was a little sweaty, as he hadn't made it to the showers yet from landing. His expression was like a statue's, cold, and like rock. However, in Renegade's eyes, Taylor saw a pent up rage. "I don't tolerate insubordination. This is going into the official report. Consider yourself reprimanded. You are dismissed."

"Permission to speak, sir," Renegade asked venomously.

"I think you've said enough, Colonel. You are dismissed."

Renegade did an about face and marched out of the room. As soon as the door closed, he started stalking down the corridor. Every few feet, he punched the bulkhead. The clank of his boots on the metal-grate flooring echoed off walls as he made his way back to the Ready Room. As the door opened and he entered, one of his pilots yelled, "Atten-hut!" The ready room jumped to attention as he made his way to the briefing podium.

"As you were," he said quickly.

They all fell down into their seats. They looked exhausted, and with good reason. They had just fought against an unknown enemy and had almost got fried in the process. They look like shit, thought Renegade as he stepped up to the podium and faced the squadron. He looked out upon the 11 marine pilots that made up the interceptor squadron. They were dirty, sweaty, and most of all patient. Shotgun had a streak of grease across his face from when he got out of his fighter and helped the techs stop a leak.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began, "We have been done a grave injustice. Apparently, our Wing Commander had information about the tactical capabilities of the enemy fighters that he didn't pass on to us. The squadron commanders were not privy to this information because, quote, 'we weren't expecting an attack so soon,' unquote. I still don't have the Intell reports, but that is because Commander Garrison is debriefing the Dragons with it. We do have our own personal reports though. I want everyone's after combat report on my desk by 0500-tomorrow morning. I will give you a more thorough report when I myself have the info with which to brief you. Until then, go get some rest, have a shower. Get drunk. Dis-missed!" The squadron stood up and went to their lockers.

"Sir?" He turned around to see Hotshot, the squadron's junior officer, and newest member. Renegade's expression softened a bit.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"I'd just like to say… thanks for saving my ass out there." Renegade smiled ever so slightly.

"Anytime. You did good kid. You adapted to the situation and kept going. You even started to play as a part of a team there. That battle took us all for a ride, don't feel so down." Hotshot seemed to brighten, and walked away to his locker. Renegade turned back to his locker and went in to it. He grabbed his uniform and rammed his helmet in and slammed the door. He then proceeded to the shower to clean up.


TCS Endeavour; Observation Deck
A Few Hours Later

Commander Garrison entered the O-Deck slowly. His thoughts were elsewhere as he went over the last mission again and again in his head. He walked towards the bar. He saw the pilots of the two squadrons that had fought earlier today. They were all quietly discussing the situation that they had been thrown into. Garrison nodded to a few of them as they looked up from their drinks. As he stepped up to the bar, the tender pulled a glass off the counter and wiped out the inside with his towel. Mitchel Barrett set the glass down on the bar and looked up at Garrison.

"What can I get you, Commander?" the bartender said through a heavy Australian accent. Garrison hadn't really thought about what he wanted, he was thinking about the battle.

"…Uh… something hard." He finally decided. Barrett nodded and pulled a bottle from under the bar and gave him a smaller glass.

"Now, don't you get so hammered that I have to do extra clean up." Barrett laughed and patted him on the shoulder.

Garrison turned and looked across the O-Deck. The makeshift stage was still against the viewports in the corner closest the bar, and Hotshot from the 'Dev's interceptor squadron was sitting on the edge strumming on his guitar. No doubt he has a lot on his mind, Garrison thought. He walked towards the back booths, decided on one, and bee-lined towards it. When he got there, however, he saw that it was already occupied. Lieutenant Colonel Dave Pattenden sat there filling another glass with the same stuff that Garrison was dangling from his hand. Renegade looked up and motioned with his hand for Garrison to join him. The Dragons' CO accepted the offer and sat across from Pattenden.

"It's been bugging you as well, I see," Garrison said, sitting down. Renegade looked at him.

"You could say that." He quickly took the shot and set the glass back on the table. "I just can't believe that they didn't expect to engage the enemy." Renegade clenched his fist. Garrison looked at him calmly and poured a drink. He hadn't ever really seen Pattenden lose his calm this much before. He wondered if Renegade would get over it quickly, or not.

"Any chance I could get a copy of those specs you got off our fearless leader's desk?" Renegade asked, relaxing his hand, and pouring another drink.

"Already in your mailbox." Garrison smiled. He knew Renegade would ask the question and thought that he deserved the info, since his was the squadron that first fought the bugs. "So, what happened after I left?" Garrison asked, referring to what happened in Taylor's office.

"Got written up for insubordination," Renegade said smiling. Garrison smiled as well.

"If I was the first man out, I'd probably shove something up Taylor's ass as well." He took a shot of the synthehol and filled the glass back up. "You'll be happy to know, that they knew about all the surprises we faced out there today…and more. When your break's over, I suggest that you take a look at the specs."

"Oh, believe me… I will. I'm gonna program in the bugs' style of dogfighting in the simulator and get my people in there, ASAP."

"Done, I did that right after I got the info and cleaned up." Garrison smiled and took another drink. "Why do you really think that Taylor didn't give us the info? He's always been good about it before."

"Because he wants us all to die? No, scratch that. There's easier ways to kill us." Pattenden smiled wanly. "After I calm down a bit I'll find out what's going on. But for right now… I want to have a drink, have sex - but that's not possible so I'll drink some more - and a nice cup of coffee afterwards."

Garrison laughed at that and decided to leave the Renegade alone. He grabbed his bottle and slid out of the back booth. He started walking back to the front. The pilots were still shooting the shit about the last mission. He heard some of their conversations as he walked by…

"Christ on a bike! You see those fighters they had out there?!"

"Yeah, I was there, remember."

"And those three that go together to form a bmf of a fighter?!"

"Dude! I was there!"

"That was close out there, man. Hotshot almost got wasted, Ren had to save his ass a few times. Not that any of us did exceptional out there. Why weren't we briefed on this?"

"Fuckin' brass hats up stairs never care about the little guys…"

"What a fuckin' rush, man! There was bug's ta the left of me, bugs ta the right of me, bugs all over me… I pulled a tight loop hit the thrusters and BOOM. The lock was off me and I pulled around to wail at the bastard's side. He was toast! Fried bug… Gotta love it!"

… Garrison kept walking till he made his way up to the bar and sat down. Michael left him alone as he poured himself a drink. The Dragons had done okay, but they had taken far few hits and weren't in it as long as the Hornets were. He was glad that no one had gotten hurt in anyway, and he was damn proud of his men.


TCS Clarke; Captain's Quarters

"How come we weren't informed of the specs on those damn fighters?!" The captain of the TCS Clarke, Anthony Kleigger, was fuming at the tiny screen that presented the face of the captain of the TCS Endeavour. "I lost two gunners because they didn't know what the hotspots were, or which fighters were high priority targets! What is this, why didn't we have Intel?!"

"We didn't expect to go into battle so soon, Kleigger."

"Didn't ex - What the hell?! What do you mean you - "

"Captain, is this a secure line?" Griffin asked calmly. Kleigger looked down and clicked a button.

"It is now."

"Good. Kleigger, we have reason to believe we may have a psycho on board the 'Dev. If not on the 'Dev herself, then the perpetrator is on one of the other ships of Battle Group Aurora. We didn't give out the Intel, so the soldier couldn't broadcast it. So they don't know that we have it."

"So two of my men have to die? I want the little shit found Griffin, and I want blood! Kleigger out!" he slammed his hand down on the keypad in front of him.

Damn! Goddamned traitors, there's always a fuckin' psycho isn't there? He thought to himself as he deleted the entry in the log and shut down his terminal. He unbuttoned his shirt and sat in his quarters with a bottle of scotch beside the terminal. He sat there thinking for several moments before he pulled out a pen and a paper. He filled up his glass as he clicked the pen and started to write…

Dear Mr. And Mrs. Pvelchek,

It is my sad duty to inform you that your son, Michail, has died in combat during a combat mission. Known to his friends as Lobber, his enthusiasm and warm-hearted nature will always be remembered. Your son was a brave man, who stood his ground and never flinched in combat. I am proud of having the opportunity to serve with him in these hard times, and deeply saddened by these turn of events. Enclosed are his personal belongings. I'm sorry.

CAPT. Anthony Kleigger
Commanding Officer - TCS Clarke
Terran Confederate Navy

He picked the letter up and read it over. The Kid deserves better than a letter home and a burial at sea… He put the letter to the side and started another letter...

Dear Mrs. Bernerin,

I'm sorry to inform you that your husband, Jake, has died in combat...


TCS Endeavour; Bridge

"Commander Stevens?" Captain Griffin called to his XO. Commander Heather Stevens turned from one of the station. She walked up to where the captain was and saluted. He quickly returned it.

"As you were, Commander. Now, how far has the investigation gone? Do we know who the Reaper is yet?" Stevens shuffled her feet a bit and answered.

"Not yet, sir. We still have people going through the logs trying to find out how the perpetrator logged into the comm systems. He covered his tracks well. We're trying, sir."

"It's not good enough. Because we couldn't hand out that Intell info, two people on board the Clarke are dead. Is this soldier communicating with the enemy somehow? And if so, how the hell is this guy communicating with them? And why? This isn't like the Society of Mandarins. This is a first encounter situation! How can he be communicating with them?!"

"I don't know, sir," Stevens answered. Griffin quickly looked around the bridge. "Take Rochester and get more people on the investigation. I want the bloody bastard found. I don't take kindly to threats thrown at at me or my crew. Dismissed."

Stevens took a step back, turned around and walked to the back of the bridge. Lieutenant John Rochester was working at the science terminal at the back of the bridge. Stevens walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Yes, sir?" Rochester had, of course, already heard that he was to go with her, but he had to follow procedure, and he wasn't supposed to be listening in on the Captain's conversations.

"Come with me, we're gonna find ourselves a traitor." Stevens smiled slightly at the thought of capturing the spy.

"Aye, aye, sir." Rochester logged off the system and followed her to the lift where they were whisked away to the computer core. Stevens quickly turned to Rochester.

"Okay, the Cap wants this to go quick and by the numbers. What do you need, Rochester? Anything you need to track someone down, you let me know." Stevens had a determined look on her face. She wanted the psycho found just like everyone else, but she had been entrusted with the investigation to find him or her.

By God, I'm gonna find the punk! She thought as Rochester said, "Affirmative."

"Good. This is where you are gonna be stationed until we find the guy."

"Aye, aye!"

Stevens went out of the computer core and went towards the CCC. She had some other personnel to organize.


TCS Endeavour; Captain's Quarters

Griffin had made his way back to his personal quarters after assigning his XO to the investigation to find the psycho. He walked over to his terminal and turned it on. Waiting was a message from the man known only as "The Reaper." He didn't want to read it, but he knew he had to. He opened the document. It was delivered the same way as the first, through an anonymous login, text only. The letter was more of the same thing. Prophecies from the Judea/Christian religion, the Kilrathi religion, Eastern faiths, even the Prophecies of Nostradamus. The list went on and on. All prophesies of the end of the world, with the Reaper's comments throughout the letter. At the end, the Reaper had put in a few little words to gnaw at the captain...

"I will help the end come for the people of the TCS Endeavour. So that we can all join our makers and be joyous in a place of warmth and happiness... Enjoy the 'real world' while you can..."

Griffin forwarded the message to Stevens. So that she could look into the prophecies and such. I can't believe this! He thought pushing his hand through his hair. I have to find this... this... psycho, before he or she does something to injure my crew! Dammit! He slammed the terminal down, turning it off.


TCS Endeavour; Maneuvering Thrusters Compartment Baker

A pilot smiled as the shadow of his hand danced away from the fuel pump to the last set of maneuvering thrusters. Light glinted off the assembly and a small pack of explosives were exposed. He quickly shoved his hand back into the assembly and pushed the pack further into the mesh to conceal it. His eyes nervously looked left and right to fully take in the engineering section. To his relief, everyone seemed to pass him by. They will pay for their stupidity, he thought callously as he replaced a panel and crawled back from the bulkhead.

He stood up and picked up the tool chest, which he had "borrowed" from main engineering. The pilot was wearing the standard engineering corp. cover-alls/work clothes. They were covered in hydraulic fluid and grease as he made his way past some of the other engineering personnel. He returned the tools quickly and made his way towards the shower room. He removed his hands from the gloves, and clasped them together.

From down the hall came Commander Stevens, walking quickly as if on some personal vendetta, her expression concurred her body language. Her face was set as if concentrating on something. As she passed he came to attention and saluted.

"Commander," he said, taking the formalities to it fullest.

"As you were, engineer." She continued by without a second glance.

He chuckled to himself as he finally made it to the showers and cleansed himself of the dirt and grime. He hurriedly changed into his Marine uniform and crammed the engineer one in his duffel bag. The pilot turned and hastily left the showers, and then walked confidently to his squadron's barracks. The door opened as it sensed his approach. He walked in and greeted one of his comrades, throwing his duffel bag on his bunk haphazardly as the door hissed closed.

The sign on the door read "VMF-52 Hornets."