The Mess hall was half full with other pilots and crewmen. John Cameron, dressed in the navy blue uniform, was sitting at a corner of the Mess Hall quietly drinking some light blue liquid from a tall transparent glass with the carrier group's logo on it. The buzzing sound of discussions faded in the background as he looked at the glass of whatever he was drinking. His body was there, but his mind was elsewhere.

A couple of days ago he had received word from home that his cousin, an Aegis engineer also named John Cameron, along with his wife and children were declared missing in the New Corvo attack. Apparently, when the attack started the family was visiting a relative of the wife there. Their ship -or rather what remained of it- was found destroyed on one of the landing platforms. No bodies were found.

Something seemed to call him back to reality as John's eyes lifted from the glass and ventured around. A quartet of pilots were playing a card game on the far side of the room and several crewmen were having dinner -probably their shift had just ended. The door slid open and a group of pilots came in talking, but John couldn't make out what was being discussed until he saw them making ship maneuvers with their hands. They seemed tired as if they had just returned from a long-range patrol.

"Is it 9 already?" John muttered to himself, as he checked his MobiGlas. It was past it.

Suddenly he noticed everyone's attention turned up towards the monitors. The buzzing died out quickly and someone pointed his MobiGlas toward the screens, probably turning the volume up because the room was filled from the gruff voice of a man.

"...these attacks raids, skirmishes or incursions..."

John slowly got up and approached the others.

"...but I am here to tell you that we are at war!"

Several comments slipped and filled the room like a buzz..

"Tiber, Orion, Caliban, Virgil, once...human systems all but abandoned in the face of the enemy..."

The door slid open again and a few more people came in haste, joining the others gathered around the monitors.

"...The Vandhuul are at our gates..."

"...Weapons bared, while we..."

The man raised his voice.

A name began to float around as it escaped the lips of many of the crew like a whisper. "Bishop"

"...we hide and cower, retreating as they burn and decimate everything around us!"

Trying to compose himself the man paused before continuing

"We cannot let the tragedy of Vega happen again, we cannot give the Vanduul any more ground"

A murmur began to rise like a distant rolling thunder, as the words came out from the speaker. It was obvious that many people shared the sentiment of the Admiral who continued.

"To defend the Empire we must attack!"

Several 'Hell yea!' filled the room before someone yelled everyone to shut up to listen to the speech. everyone went silent again.

"...and we have to be commited to that attack whatever that cost may be..."

John glanced around at the faces of everyone in the room and wondered if everyone knew what that cost may be.

"We have to rebuild our fleet. We have to use the power of human innovation to reclaim those so called red systems and strike back at the enemy!"

With those words the Admiral hand slammed the podium. One could see the tension on the man's face very clearly. A tension that swiftly dissipated as he continued in a different tone.

"This will not be an easy fight....it will cost us...in resources, credits and lives. And some of you may be asking why undertake such a thing, and I...I can tell you in one word..."

The pause had everyone holding their breath.

"Victory! For if there is one thing the Vanduul has taught us, is that without victory there can be no survival!"

At that moment the view on the screens changed to show the entires Senate room where every single Senator cheered and applauded in a standing ovation. The Mess Hall was no different. People were cheering and shouting and throwing their fists in the air cursing at the Vanduul and exalting the Admiral for his inspiring speech.

John was still processing the speech when someone gave him a friendly tap on the shoulder

"Time to kick some Vanduul but, ain't that right Cameron?"

John replied with a stiff nod. The speech had clearly stirred things up in the hearts of the crew, but somehow he felt rather uncomfortable.

As the cheering died down everyone returned to what they were doing.

"Man, I love the Admiral!" said someone was heard saying "He finally did what those yellow-bellied cowards could not"

John assumed those 'yellow-bellied cowards' was referring to the Senators.

The Glas on John's wrist chipped. John tapped it quickly and brought the device closer to his mouth

"Cameron, go ahead" John said.

"Astro, squadron 301 is requested to assemble at the briefing room" came a voice from the other end. It was Commander Cooper's -AKA Oggy.

John's eyes idly ventured the room away from the monitor before replying:

"On my way chief..."

"See you there" Cooper replied "Cooper out!"

John looked at the half-full glass wondering if it would be alright for him to drink it up before he left. He decided against it, he was better off since he would most possibly be in the cockpit of an F7A in a few minutes. He simply stood up and left.

 

At the corridor outside the briefing room John noticed Josen Jensen, Nilson Kurt and James Hanson. Commander Cooper was near the entrance talking to Commander Skaggs from the Dinosars squadron. Commander James Skaggs, AKA Badger, commander of the search and rescue squadron of Dinosars.The mans face was straight, serious. He offered no smile or even a single emotion of any kind. There was a rumor running around that he had seen more action than some pilots in more active commands.

"Hey John!" Nilson yelled "Over here"

"You know anything about this?" John asked as he approached.

Josen cut in "Not a clue, we are all in the dark as much as you"

"You awaiting a special invitation?" Commander Cooper approached with Commander Skaggs.

"No sir..." Hanson mumbled.

Cooper tossed a look at each and everyone of his squadron and then turned to Skaggs "Well, shall we begin then?"

Skaggs eyes scanned the pilots standing before him as if measuring them with the eye.

"Lets go..." Skaggs nodded and went into the briefing room.

The others followed suit, tossing a weird look at each other.

The room was dimly lit, with only the cold blue light of the holotable projecting part of the system they were stationed. Captain McDonald standing there examining it thoughtfully, beside him a Petty Officer stood, seemigly at the holotable s controls.

Opposite of it were 5 rows of seats. In the first row John recognized a few more people from Dinosars squadron.

Nilson recognized the pilots as well "Got a bad feeling about this..." he mumbled as they all took a seat.

It was audible enough for Cooper to turn and look Nilson straight in the eye.

"Must be todays meal" Nilson apologised and shrug.

"Pay attention people..." Cooper said glaring at each of them "...this is serious!" and with that he left to stand next to Skaggs.

"Alright people, listen up" Captain McDonald peered at them and then turned to look at Skaggs who was standing next to him "Is everyone here?" to which Skaggs replied with a firm nod.

"Alright here is the thing..." McDonald walked around the holotable and bround his hands together behind his back "At 8-50 hours today the Dunlevy received a distress signal from the third quadrant of the system we currently occupy -the Kellog system- in the outter rim belt" he motioned at a red circle on the hologram surrounding a portion of the area displayed.

"...The UEE database confirmed the signal ID belonging to a civilian Starfarer, the Ororo" the Captain continued "The signal was cut off midtransmission before any significant data was given, including the exact location and the cause of distress..." he paused "...but we do know the general direction of the signal, along with the freighter s route"

McDonald looked at the Petty Officer, who nodded and pressed a few buttons on the control panel, a triangle icon appeared on the hologram.

He then turned and nodded at Cooper who immediatelly began detailing the mission: "This is a RESCAP, people" Cooper looked grimly at his audience "We don't know whats out there, or what happened to the Ororo. It could be systems failure, pirates, even 'Duul. The signal was too brief, so we will do a little look-around before we go in. The three-o-first squadron mission is to escort the fiftieth on a three-point patrol along this route..." A dotted line began its path from the triangle on the hologram, marking three points -designated K1, K2 and K3- where its direction changed forming and angled half-spiral route towards the red circle.

At the sound of the word escort John rolled his eyes and handed a few credit chits at a smirking Nilson who was mouthing an I-told-you-so.

"Kurt, Cameron" Cooper raised his voice. Both Nilson and John snapped forward "...designated Alpha flight..." Cooper continued "...will be the vanguard, scouting ahead along the route and report any finds. Jensen, Hanson...designated Beta flight, you are on escort detail for the fiftieth along with me"

Hanson leaned smiling over to Josen who offered a fistbump "keep your best pilots close..."

"For this mission the squadron will utilize single seat ef-seven-alphas with standard loadout" Cooper concluded before peering over at Skaggs "Anything you want to add Commander?", to which Skaggs replied with a negative shake of his head.

Cooper then turned towards the pilots "One final thing: Commander Skaggs is the mission see-ow. Whatever we are to do, we don't do it unless he gives the all-clear!"

Then he looked over at the Captain who once again took the floor "Any questions?"

Hanson raised his hand idly "Sir!"

McDonald nodded "Go ahead pilot"

"Is there any clue as to what we can expect?" Hanson asked.

"None. We do know that the ship came in through the Odin-Kellog jump point and that its destination was the Quarterdeck" McDonald explained.

"The prison planet?" John asked. McDonald nodded silently and looked throughout the room idly for reactions.

There was a momentary buzz, which died down quickly. Everyone knew McDonald didn't enjoy noise or complaints.

"Any other questions?" The Captain asked as he was about to wrap up.

It was then that Josen asked: "What was a refuelling ship gonna do at the prison planet sir?"

"The ship's manifest is on a need to know basis..." McDonald said "...and you don't need to know. But I will tell you this: The Ororo was a modified freighter"

"Whats the specification of the modifications sir?" John followed suit with his question.

"Its external cargo pods were modified to carry solid matter..." McDonald answered idly "...not fuel. Anything else?"

The silence that followed was enough of a reply for the Captain who raised his voice one final time: "Alright people, go saddle up. Alpha flight launch in ten. Good luck! "

The pilots stood up and one by one exited the room.

As was Nilson exiting, he turned towards John with a smile "I still got a bad feeling about this..."

 

UEES Childress. The hangar was bursting with activity. The spacecraft director was barking orders through the comm, urging the deck personnel to hasten their prepping up the two Hornets resting on the deck. Two men in flightsuits came out from the hallway leading to the upper decks. As they exited, they split each heading for a fighter craft.

Meanwhile the Idris hangar bay doors began to open, filling the flight deck with a whirring noise and revealing a view of the stars outside. The deck crew was too busy, with whatever jobs needed to be done, to payany attention to the beauty outside.

As Kurt was climbing into the cockpit of the first ship, he paused and looked towards the flight deck command window, raising a thumb. The reply came in a similar fashion from the crew working there. He then settled inside the cockpit and put his helmet on. A crewman climbed up to make sure everything is order.

"Looking good" Kurt awknolwdged.

"Godspeed, sir" the crewman saluted.

Kurt offered a salute in reply "Thanks"

While Kurt's canopy was sealing above him, Cameron tossed his helmet at one of the crew standing next to his fighter -who barely caught it before reaching the deck- and climbed hastily into his cockpit. As he was securing himself, the crewman climbed up the stairs and tossed him the helmet.

"You don't toss things around, boy, else you will find yourself fighting pirates with nothing more than a pea shooter straw"

That was no crewman, its was the director and he sounded mighty pissed. Looked the part too. Then he cracked a smile and gave Cameron a pat on the shoulder.

"You're alright kid"

"You almost got me..." Cameron smirked

The director was already down the ladder "Pre-flight check sequence, GO!" he demanded through his comm.

"Jay-Bee-Dee (Jet Blast Deflector panel) status for Alpha flight is raised" came a reply through the headphones.

"Fuel status on birds is one hundred percent" came another voice, followed by another "Ordnance crew reporting; Ay is Oh-kay!"

"Final inspection?" the deck master asked

It took a few moments before the reply come through "All is green. Alpha flight is good to go"

The director raised his thumb at Kurt, who offered a nod from behind the canopy and started his pre-launch check, tapping on the controls and reviewing the displayed data. Satisfied, Kurt offers a salute at the director signaling a 'Ready' status of the ship.

"ALRIGHT MONKEYS LETS GET THOSE BOYS OUT. CLEAR THE RUNWAY!" the director clapped and immediatelly all flightdeck crew cleared the runway and took position at the sides, prepping for the launch sequence, with the ship handlers positioned in a visible position for Kurt to see.

Kurt keeps his eyes on the handlers, waiting for confirmation to ignite the engine. The signal came through and the engine come to life with a roar, with the main thruster wash grazing the blast panel.

The comms come to life "Alpha one you are clear for launch"

"Roger that" says Kurt as he changes mode from landing to flight and pushes the throttle to max position.

The Hornet wobbled slightly as the gear retracted, allowing the ventral thrusters to keep it levitating for a bit before the ship raced out through the fully open hangar door.

 

The second Hornet was already in hovering mode, with gear retracted and ventral thrusters lit up.

"Control, this is Alpha two, I am ready to roll" Cameron spoke casually to his comm.

"Roger that, Alpha two. Please stand by" came the soft female voice of the flight deck control officer as a reply.

"Alpha two standing by" Cameron replied. He was getting a bit impatient. He was really itching to go full throttle and skim out of there.

A whole minute passed. His heart was pounding. He couldnt hear it over the hollow humming of the ventral thrusters, but he could feel his chest ready to burst with anticipation.

"Whats the deal here control? Am I green or what?" Cameron sounded frustrated.

The reply came from another voice through the comm "Astro, this is Commander Cooper, there seems to be a problem with some diagnostics on your ship. Put it down and stand by"

"What sort of problem?" Cameron was already bringing up the status controls online checking to see for any problems.

"The results came back with a leak in the hydralics system of your missile bay. The greasemonkeys will look into it. Its possible you will have to stand down for this one, John"

Cooper was right. The missile bay control was not responding to any diagnostics. The switch was flipped but no feedback came back green. It could be possible that the wiring that fed juice to the component was corroded. Its not like his fighter was brand new MK2 like the UEE Navy has. It was an MK1 model that had already seen too much action. It didn't even have full complement of weapons, as the canard module was removed from most of the Hornets in the fleet, in order to 'lighten up' the fighters. It bore a full complement of Tempest proximity missiles along with a couple of Tarantulas and a set of 2 M4As on the ball turret.

John let out a breath of frustration and landed the ship as ordered. He flipped the switch to open the canopy and he unlocked his helmet to remove it. He couldn't believe his luck. The past few weeks he had been stuck on 'paper detail' for the Spartan squadron, by order of Commander Cooper, arranging for squadron supplies and overseeing the 301st ship repairs....and now this.

A crewman climbed up his Hornet's steps ready to take his helmet when Cameron just paused and looked at the man who was staring at him puzzled.

"Nope" Cameron shook his head and put his helmet back on.

The crewman looked over his shoulder at the director of flight deck. The man began to march towards the fighter, when the canopy rolled on its rails sealing it shut.

"What do you think you are doing kid?" the comms cracked with the voice of the director.

"Proceeding with my mission" Cameron replied and switched to a different channel "Flight control this is Alpha two, ready for launch"

"Negative Alpha two. Please stand by" came the female controller's voice.

"Negative on that negative. Im ready to launch" Cameron insisted.

"This is Cooper, John what the hell do you think you are doing?"

By now the director had climbed up the fighter steps and was banging on the canopy.

Cameron offered a gentle grin at the director and turned his attention to his controls and more specifically retracting the ship's ladder. The director jumped down and took several steps back, to safety. "Other than the Dunlevy, this is the only other ship of our strike group in the system and the only one of the two capable of carrying fighters. Thirty minutes for tier one, two and three systems' check. Twenty five minutes for the greasemonkeys to begin working on it. Five minutes for them to figure out that the repairs require a crucible. Our nearest friendly frigate will take fifty minutes to fly here and thats on quantum speed. By then the Ororo will be discovered by a garbage scoop, dismantled and carried over to a chop shop for scraps. There will be no way to find out what happend to it, not to mention rescuing any survivors. You know I am right Commander"

A very unnerving pause followed. Cameron's fingers were twitching on the thruster throttle.

The comm speaker crackled a bit allowing only static to come through. A double click echoed.

A smile creeped up in Cameron's face as he fired up ventral thrusters, retracting the landing gear. "Roger that boss" he awknoledged.

"Don't make me regret this John, else I would be obliged to get Kurt for tonight's latrine duty; Cooper out"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, sir. Cameron out" Cameron pushed the main engine throttle all the way out.

The director looked up at the flight deck control as if wanting an explanation. Cooper was standing there next to the control officer, idly looking as the fighter arrowed through the hangar's maw.

"Fraking Spartans and their disregard for their own safety..." he mumbled "Boris! Do we still have that peashooter in storage? I found who we should assign it to"

As the Hornet flew out of the hangar, Cameron couldn't hide his grin as he rolled the fighter like a happy puppy rolling in the mud.

The comms came alive with Kurt's voice "Alpha one to Alpha two, glad you could join Astro, I was wondering when you would show up...We do have a mission to run...What was it this time? You had to say goodbye to the whole deck crew or something?"

"Nothing that dramatic, Tee-bolt, just a weapons malfunction" Cameron replied.

"A weapons malfunction...right..." Kurt paused "Was it the missile deployment system?"

The brows of Cameron raised as he brought his ship to Kurt's port side "How did yo-"

"Yea, well I had the exact same problem with my own a few weeks back. Man, those em-kay-ones are really old. I hope the Commander will submit that acquisition request for em-kay-twos" Kurt brought up the nav display on his HUD to review their flight path.

Cameron brought up the nav display as well, designating point K1 as destination "Yea....well that ain't happening...especially now that it would seem that the you-ee-ee Navy will get more active"

"You are talking about that Bishop speach? Thats not necessarily a bad thing, you know. you-ee-ee can't cover all its systems just by use of its own resources" Kurt glanced towards his wingman with a smile "It definatelly means more jobs for us"

"Definitelly...." Cameron replied idly "Still...." he paused as he locked his controls and relaxed his head on the seat's headrest "...it would also mean we would have to be dealing a lot more with the navy...more than usual....and I hate the navy"

"How is that?" Kurt tried to follow through to his friend's thought and then it occured to him "Oh right !!! Your discharge..."

"Dishonourable discharge" Cameron exclaimed.

"Details...You still hold them a grudge?"

"Yep...."

"After all this time...."

"Bad memories ling-"

"If you two ladies are done with gossiping...you have a mission to run" Commander Cooper cut through the comms.

"Roger that chief, switching to ship-to-ship channel" Cameron replied.

"Negative, maintain radio silence. We don't know who or what is out there"

"Gotcha, sir. Wilco! Ee-tee-ei forty-five mikes" Kurt said.

"Take care gents...will see you in the dark. Cooper out"

The vastness of space surrounding them felt empty now with the comm chatter off, like submerging into a tub of water in the dark with sole companion the beating of one's heart, stretching the following forty-five minutes into infinity.

The navpoint designated K1 offered nothing to the two pilots to investigate. Both of them felt kinda disappointed, but relieved. At least that would mean they can proceed to their next set of coordinates a lot faster.

A few kilometers further from K2, the scanners of the fighter bleeped announcing a contact in their range.

"Astronut..." Kurt's voice trailed.

"I see it, Tee-bolt.." Cameron switched his scanner to narrow field, allowing it to make deeper scans on a specific area "Looks like a metal surface....Definitelly artificial....should we check it out?"

"Like you got to ask. Keep an eye out though, I-"

"Got a bad feeling about this...I know" Cameron grinned and pushed his thruster rudder all the way forward. His ship arrowed towards the coordinates the signal originated from, Kurt's Hornet in pursuit.

As they arrived closer, both spacecrafts' headlight lit, bringing more light to the designated area.

"I see it, There!" Kurt said as he turned the ship's headlights towards the object.

The metallic surface was almost two meter long by around one meter wide, rugged with scortch marks around its edges. It was a dead giveaway that it was a part of a bigger construct.

"Looks like a piece of debris" Cameron noticed as he examined the object with his ship's camera "I am recording this"

"Can you make out any identification Astro?"

"Negative. Looks like a small something thats been blasted out from a bigger 'something' "

"Yea, but what is that bigger 'something'?"

"Doesn't look like something thats from a ship, so we can exclude it being from the Ororo, Tee-bolt"

"Pirates?" Kurt wondered out loud.

Cameron shrug slightly "Possible, but it doesn't look like a piece of any type of ship pirates use usually...or one that we know they use"

"Alright lets tag it and bag it. We got one more stretch before homerun" Kurt brought his Hornet closer and locked his controls, before sliding his canopy open and EVA-ing out towards the metallic item.

Meanwhile Cameron focused on his ship consoles, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

"Well it sure isn't a piece of the Ororo, alright..." Kurt's voice came through the comms "It appears το be a fragment from a container"

"Are you sure?" Cameron's brow arched

"Thats a defo. I can even make out the cargo designation"

"Which reads...?"

"This side up" Kurt smirked before Cameron burst into a laughter. There was surely nothing funny, but both pilots have spent a good hour crammed in their fighters in complete silence. They needed to vent out.

It didn't take long for Cameron to compose himself and gave it a bit more thought "Must be part of the modified external cargo containers of the Ororo"

"Seems like it, but if this is part of a container, where are the contents?" Kurt pointed out. Good question.

The immediate area was completely devoid of anything that could be considered 'cargo', so...

"CONTACT CONTACT !!!" Cameron jumped on his seat as a couple of bleeps appeared on his scanner "Bearing zero-eight-four mark two"

"shitshitshit..." Kurt activated his suit's thrusters and headed back towards his fighter's cockpit.

Cameron brought his own ship around, as if to shield his wingman from possible fire.

"Right, I am good to go" Kurt said as he unlocked his controls and brought his ship around.

"I am picking two...no...three contacts, confirm...?" Cameron sounded intense, but then again he was excited this mission would offer more than cargo label jokes. Excited and afraid of the unknown.

"Three contacts confirmed. Can you make what they are?"

"Negative. switching to aggressive, narrowband" which was UEE Navy jargon for enabling active scanning on a long range narrow field. Cameron loved his training back at the UEE "Sonuva...."

"What?" Kurt turned to look at his wingman through the canopy.

"Seems like two Bucs and a Herald" came Cameron's reply.

"Wait...what? A Herald? What are they, nuts?"

"No idea, but I bet that Herald has what we need"

"Alright, weapons hot....lets roll" Kurt's fighter raced forward towards the enemy encounters.

"Lets do this...." Cameron murmured to himself and followed suit.

The group of what was assumed to be pirate ships were already vectoring away when they picked up the pair of Hornets on their scanners. Both Cameron and Kurt had juiced up their engine power supply in order to counter the more swift Buccaneers and the fast-as-hell Herald, draining almost all power from their shield generators and energy weapons.

"We have missiles only on one bird and we will need the rabbit alive, Alpha two, switch to Tarantulas" Kurt said as he activated the ballistic weapons on the wings.

"Affirmative, switching...now" Cameron's voice was calm as he made the switch "Distance five hundred kilometers and closing..."

The Spartan Hornets were swiftly gaining on the trio of ships, as the Herald was apparently held back by its fighter escort.

As the Hornets closed in, Kurt's weapon pips appeared on the HUD "We are in firing range..."

"Come on...." Cameron muttered to himself "...come on you piece of crap..."

Suddenly one of the Buccaneers veered off starboard.

"We got a runner!" Kurt noticed the trajectory of the fighter that had left the formation "He is flanking us"

"Stay on target..." Cameron said idly "I need to come closer to that Herald before I disa-"

A hail of red energy beams flew past Cameron's canopy, lighting up his aft shields like a leisure cruiser.

"I am on it" Kurt hit the retro and ventral thrusters, pulling the ship backwards.

As he aligned his target reticle on the enemy fighter, a missile launched from under the Buccaneer's wing.

"Alpha two break por-" Kurt's warning came late as the explosion engulfed the rear end of Cameron's Hornet "ASTRO !!!"

The Tarantula reticle lit green "Say goodbye you sonuva-"

The minigun fired, producing a hollow rattling sound. The bullets clanked as they stroke metal, giving birth to an explosion on the right wing of the Buccaneer. A second round of bullets from Kurt must have hit the reactor somehow because the Buccaneer exploded in a very satisfying manner, with Kurt passing through the explosion. To his amazement he saw Cameron still in pursuit of the Herald, his fins broken, but the engine seemed intact.

"You are one tough nut to crack Astro" Kurt smiled.

"I put the 'Nut' in Astro-Nut" Cameron joked "Gotcha!" A spray of bullets raced towards the Herald's engine, only to ricochet "This rabbit has a rabbit-foot"

As if taking cue, the Herald's main engine nassels widened like an awed iris, boosting the ship further away from both its pursuers and its sole escort. Meanwhile the second Buccaneer took a steep turn port.

"Stay on the rabbit, I got your six" Kurt said and aligned his vector appropriately.

Cameron knew that his fighter was no match for the Herald, speedwise. Its basically a cockpit strapped on huge engines. No way his HM 4.3 would match it, at least not without him boosting his engine even more. He quickly switched his shields to aft-only and poured the rest of the power to his engine. He could hear the hull of the Hornet creaking as it tried to keep up with the faster adversary.

His Tarantula pips lit green prompting Cameron to fire once more, managing several hits on the lower engine effectively taking it out of commission. The Herald slowed down so suddenly that Cameron's fighter overshoot. Several laser shots fired from the Herald's guns, thankfully grazing Cameron's aft shields.

With a roll and pitch dive Cameron aligned his ship and aimed down his sights at the Herald, when all of a sudden a shadow covered the Hornet, as if someone pulled the curtains to extinguish the star light...

 

Kurt was fighting to keep his crosshair of the enemy Buccaneer, which was swaying and rolling avoiding every attack. Although cheap ships, they didn't seem to lack in maneuverability.

"Frakking..." he said as his shots missed once again "...I wont have this on my record, switching to missiles ! "

A red reticle began to form slowly on his HUD as he was trying to get a lock on the enemy fighter. A fast repeating beep confirmed his lock as the enemy fired up its ventral thrusters lifting it up and then fired its retros allowing Kurt to zoom past it underneath.

"Oh no you didn't...no you did NOT ! " Kurt kept gritted his teeth "Thats MY move you sonuva-; Computer, switch to decouple mode"

"Decouple mode activated" came a reply in a soft female voice.

The enemy fighter was already firing potshots at the Hornet, which did a 180 turn continuing to slide on its original course. The sound of the full-speed spinning gatling gun spitting bullets and the chinging sound of confirmed hits on the enemy ship's hull brought a smile to young Kurt's face. Still, the Buccanneer gained speed. The Spartan pilot noticed a hole at its cockpit and something like bubbles seems to slowly flow out. Apparently he had managed to hurt the pilot and in a desperate move he was trying to ram Kurt's fighter.

Keeping his crosshair aligned on the enemy ship, Kurt brought his fighter in a swift 30 degrees attack angle and fired his M4As in an attempt to fully disable the crippled enemy. Unfortunatelly the laser cannons did more damage than anticipated turning the enemy fighter into mass of superheated torn metal.

Kurt took a moment to ponder at the loss of one more human life "What a waste..." he mumbled to himself.

Coming around, Kurt turned his attention to his ship's computer "Computer switch to coupled mode"

The reply came soft as ever from the computer "Couple mode activated"

"Alright Astro I am coming, so get ready"

He could see his wingman's bleep on his scanners' furthest range, along with what he assumed was the Herald. Switching his targeting computer at the Herald, for a split second he thought he noticed an unidentified contact. It was there and then it wasn't.

"Alpha two, this is Alpha one, I am on my way" Kurt said casually.

Silence.

"Alpha two, this is Alpha one, acknowledge...."

No reply.

"Alpha two, come in....Astro? "

Kurt's eyes veered towards his systems monitor to check if his comms were damaged and at that moment with the corner of his eyes a flash turned his attention back out through the canopy. A muffled sound reached him, like a faraway thunderstorm rolling further away. He checked his scanner again. The Herald had jumped out. Only his wingman's Hornet remained in the immediate space.

Disappointment settled in as the young pilot exhaled "Shit..."

Although they had to continue their mission, the Strike Group regulations dictated they had to report the encounter before moving on to the next nav point.

"Oggy won't be happy to hear about this, Astro" said Kurt as he opened a long range comm frequency towards the Childress but paused. First of all, they had to retain comm silence during the mission and perhaps there were more enemies out there. Second...why the hell was Cameron so silent? It wasn't his style.

Targeting Cameron's fighter, he run a status check on it. He skimmed through all of the ship's systems. The power plant was intact, the engine also.

"...life signs.....What the hell?" Kurt's brows raised in surprise; the life signs readings were null.

Approaching his wingman's ship, Kurt activated his ship's headlights and allowed his craft to strafe in a circle around the other Hornet. The tailfins were broken a bit as a result of that missile attack, but other than the usual scortch and dents there seemed to be no other obvious damage to the ship, no laser or bullet holes.

Kurt narrowed his eyes as he slid his ship towards the nose of the friendly fighter. The cockpit canopy was open and Cameron was missing.

"This is bad...this is very bad..."

His face felt cold against the smooth surface, or maybe the surface was cold, he couldnt tell, but one thing was for sure: he was laying down. The next thing Cameron noticed was the smell. It was a mix of grease and dampness, along with something else, something he couldn't put his finger on. He felt dizzy, not drunk dizzy, more like the-food-was-not-agreeing-with-his-stomach dizzy. He barfed and as he did, he felt small beads of sweat popping out on his skin, from the effort. As he finished, he ran the back of his hand across his mouth to wipe away the vomit and turned on his back. His woozyness came to an abrupt end as a spiking pain across his face made him collapse again into oblivion.

He could feel his blood throbbing through the vains on his head. A numbing feeling on his left cheekbone sent messages to his brain that he had hit his head on the left side. His eyes fluttered as he tried to open them slowly, but a spiking sensation like a needle prevented him from opening them fully. He eventually settled in opening his right one just slightly enough to peer through. A fleeting shadow crossed the intense light and for a moment the iris of his half opened eye caught a glimpse of a shape. it seemed smooth, fluid and semi transparent.

The ringing noise that all this time was buzzing his ears subsided and gave room to a muffled sound, like a peculiar melody, which naturally attracted Cameron's attention. It was very short and he didn't manage to focus on it fast enough for his brain to process it. Soon, more muffled sounds made their presence known in a variety of tones and tempos. Eventually his ears adjusted and the 'melody' became more and more like coherent words.

"...-table, he seems to be coming around again..." said one voice.

"You almost put him to coma Fraim" said another voice "Was this necessary?"

"He killed Fofee" said a third voice, obviously distressed.

"Shudup both of you..." commanded the first voice again.

Cameron, then felt two hands taking hold of his head and keeping it away from the light. He tried to open his mouth but it felt dry and the left corner of it ached him as if it was cut. The taste of blood made its presence known. He was hurt alright. Probably his whole left side.

"Geez, Fraim...you are a real piece of work, you know that?" Said the second voice, only this time with the light out of the way, Cameron could connect it to a face. More precisely that of a woman in her late twenties. His half-opened eye ran across her face. Her dark hair hang in strands on the right side, while the rest seemed to be shaved. Her left brow featured a brow-ring and a row of small rings decorated her right ear.

"...whu-" Cameron tried to speak but he was cut short.

"Easy, try not to speak..." said the woman.

A hulking figure eclipsed the light "Perhaps you would like to give him some milk and cookies while you are at it, Shanna?"

The woman turned her head towards the hulking figure "You know, Fraim? That might not be a bad idea. He is dehydrated. be a good puppy and go fetch" her tone had a distinct hint of sarcasm.

"You bitch ! " The hulking mass threatened to move closer, but paused allowing Cameron to make out more details from that man.

He wasn't that big. The light behind him seemed to make him look bulkier. His muscles were toned and showed under the skintight flightsuit he was wearing. The skin on his face was dark brown and free of wrinkles and either he had no hair or they were shaved short enough for the top of his head to reflect the light. His glaring dark eyes were menacingly staring at the woman and his upper lip lifted with anger revealing a perfectly white row of gritting teeth.

"THATS ENOUGH EFRAIM !!!" boomed another voice. Cameron recognized it as the first one he heard. It was also male "Efraim take a break"

"But Cole, I-" Efraim complained.

"I wasn't asking, Efraim" said the man named Cole.

The room was filled with tension as a few seconds of silence followed. Finally, Efraim turned around and walked away. The door sheeshed open for Efraim to vacate the room, momentarily flooding the far side of the room with light from outside.

"Shanna, how is he?" Cole asked. Cameron couldn't make out his characteristics, since the man continued to stand in the shadows.

"He had a mild concussion, courtesy of Fraim's fist" Shanna replied as she continued to check on Cameron's face. With her thumbs she opened both of his eyes to check on the iris "His pupils are dilating so at least he didn't go blind..."

"Will he live?" Cole asked with a slight hint of concern, as he approached.

Shanna shrugged idly before asking "You plan on letting Fraim question him?"

"Nah. Phoenix wants to do this personally"

Shanna startled "Phoenix? Here? When?"

"While you were out there. By Phoenix's orders we are to keep this one drugged and alive" Cole replied and leaned over Cameron.

The man was probably around his late forties, with a receeding hairline separating his ginger hair from his pale pink skin.

"So, mister..." Cole held something up, which he brought closer as if to read something on it. It was Cameron's helmet "...astro...nut...it would appear you have to go to sleep again" The man smiled "Sleep tight"

A slight pinch on his neck and the hissing sound of an injector releasing its contents into his body was the last thing Cameron managed to process before his vision become blurry and dark.

 

The hangar deck of the Childress was busy as always, with crewmen walking around, going about their business. The security officers at the entrance to the ship's main section saluted as Commander Cooper passed with Commander Skaggs and Lieutenant Kurt in tow. The three of them went up the stairs towards the second floor. It was less crowded here. The trio reached a labeled door; it read 'Captain Rüdiger Steel Braun' . Cooper hit the buzzer.

The reply came as the door opened "Come in"

The three men stepped inside and the door closed behind them. Captain Braun was behind his desk typing something at his terminal, while Captain MacDonald -the Carrier Air Wing Commander- was sitting on one of the chairs in front of the desk, examining his pad. There was an ackward moment of silence.

"...At ease." Braun said idly as he continued to type "...I...am...almost..." a stressed motion of his fingers typing, announced the end of whatever he was preoccupied with "There!"

Sliding his chair backwards he leaned forward and stood up, turning his full attention at Cooper, Skaggs and Kurt. He paced his way to the front of his desk and then rested his hip against the flat surface. MacDonald crossed his legs, leaning back on his chair.

"Gentlemen..." Braun glanced at each of them before motioning for them to speak "...I hear you"

Cooper took point to explain "At nine-fifty two, Alpha fligh-"

"Make it short, Cooper" MacDonald said.

"Yes sir..." Cooper replied. Time was of the essense and trivial details needed to be filtered out "Alpha flight encountered three contacts: two light fighters escorting what seemed to be a personal spacecraft"

"What kind of personal spacecraft?" MacDonald enquired.

"An info runner sir, a Herald" Kurt jumped in.

Braun took a moment to study Kurt before addressing him "...go on..."

"We engaged them in combat. I managed to take out one of the escort. The second escort pulled out and I went on its six, while Lieutenant Cameron was in pursuit of the runner..."

MacDonald nodded as he listened. You could almost see him processing the description from Kurt and visualizing it in his mind's eye.

"...after escort two was out, I headed back towards my wingman at full speed raising him on the comms. He didn't reply. When I reached him the Herald was nowhere to be found and same as Cameron; and I mean himself"

MacDonald glanced at Braun and then leaned forward. That bit of information seemed rather unusual.

"..but sir.." Kurt paused as he tried to think of a clear way to put it. Braun crossed his arms across his chest and waited for Kurt to continue.

"...I- , I am not sure, but at some point I thought I saw a fourth contact of my scanner. I thought it might have been a part of the enemy contact Cameron managed to break out, that the targeting computer thought as a separate ship. But sir...there were no debris when I got there"

"We combed the area sir, there were no debris. Just Cameron's fighter" Commander Skaggs confirmed "He had sustained minimal damage in the aft section"

Braun glanced at MacDonald before he turned to look at Skaggs "Explain"

"The tail fins were broken off" Skaggs said "but that couldn't have confused a targeting computer even if it was running on Nemo oceans' eels"

"What about the Hornet's flight recorder?" MacDonald asked.

Skaggs was prompt "That's whats strange sir, we checked it and we found no data regarding a fourth contact"

Braun raised a hand to his forhead and rubbed it in concern.

"Uhm...what about the Ororo?" He asked eventually.

"Lieutenants Jensen and Hanson carried on with the mission as planned, sir" Cooper said "...you will have my report on your desk by thirteen hundred hours"

"There was something else Captain..." Commander Cooper added "...the Lieutenant here..." he gestured at Kurt "...-while engaged with the second escort- noticed what appeared to be a jump flash. Now the distance between him and Cameron was rather large, so If it was a jump flas-"

"If it was a jump flash, Commander, it would have to be a really big ship" MacDonald interrupted. Cooper nodded in agreement.

"You 're sure it was a jump flash?" Braun asked, turning back to Kurt "Could it have been an explosion or a flare? Even a reflection on the canopy?"

Kurt shook his head slowly, while remaining silent.

"I see..." Braun pushed himself away from the desk and paced towards the window looking out at the stars.

"MacDonald..." he turned his head slightly to the side "...when is the Dunlevy due to depart?"

"Oh-five hundred hours" the Captain replied promptly.

"Thats...what? Seventeen hours?" Braun asked rhetorically, but everyone nodded in confirmation.
"Plenty of time. Commander Skaggs I assume the fighter is recovered?"

"It is brought in the hangar as we speak"

"I want you to go through that ship with a fine tooth comb and see if you can find anything that might give us a clue about what happened. Also I want that ship's recorder analyzed for anything out of the ordinary. If there was indeed a fourth contact I want to know how they avoided getting picked up"

"Right away sir" Skaggs nodded and left through the door in a hurry.

"Cooper..."

"Sir ! " Cooper snapped.

"Scramble your fighters. I want them on full alert at all times"

"Right away sir!" Cooper awcknowledged.

"Russ, coordinate with Commander Cooper and the Dunlevy and set up patrol routes throughout all the system"

"Gotcha" MacDonald nodded.

Braun frowned "We need to find our man"

Darkness. Cameron's eyes took a while to adapt to it, but the result was disappointing. The room was small with metal plated walls and floor.

"...wha-" he mumbled to himself.

He slowly stood up, leaning against the cold metal paneling. He had hoped he was back at his quarters onboard the Chrildress oversleeping, or -even better- back at home on Terra on a shore leave, but he knew better. He felt groggy and disoriented and his aching jaw was testament of a fateful encounter with a heavy punch, multiple times. He still remembered bits and pieces of what happened. He had been taken prisoner aboard a...

"What the frak was that?" he whispered to himself.

He remembered engaging the Herald and all of a sudden all his instruments go dark and his vision blurry. From there only bits and pieces were available to him. A woman and two men. They spoke of something called the Phoenix. Was it a man, a ship or something else? He remembered the punch and then being injected with something, probably a drug.

"Damn it! " Cameron muttered as he began feeling his way around "Where is the door in this place?!?"

His question was answered promptly with a very bright light pouring in from behind him, spiking his eyes' neurons as his pupils once again tried to adapt. He began walking slowly towards it, using his hand to shield his eyes. It was then that he noticed the tall dark silhouette basking in the center of it. It stood there waiting for whatever reason.

As his vision adapted he recognized the woman from earlier. She was the one that injected him with whatever put him to sleep. This time she was holding no injector, but a laser pistol.

"In case you are thinking of taking on me, know that Efraim is just around the corner" said the woman.

Cameron remembered Efraim, or rather his fists. He considered jumping her, take her weapon and make a run for it, but he still felt too weak and Efraim wouldn't give him any quarter.

"Now what?" He shrugged slightly.

The woman made a slight motion with her armed hand for him to move infront of her "Now you walk"

As he exited the room he was in, Cameron noticed that he was now in the middle of a dimly lit corridor. It wasn't too clean, but it wasn't run-down either, although it did show obvious signs of neglect. Crates and contrainers -some covered with canvas- stood guard left and right in uneven manner. The smell of stale air hung heavy and there were metal tubes of all sizes running down the corridor. Based on the warning labels on them, Cameron assumed they were for transfering oxygen all around the place.

"Where are we going?" Cameron tried to sound polite. Every little bit of information is valuable in these situations.

"Stop talking, keep walking..." The woman said idly, with the gun still aimed at his back.

"What is this place?" Cameron asked again. This time there was no answer.

Stopping where he stood, he turned around to face his captor "Listen her-"

His sentance was interrupted by a very strong and familiar punch on the right side of his face, flooring him. He recognized it. Efraim was standing behind one of the tall crates.

"Told you..." smirked the woman, still aiming him with her gun "...but you had to go on and see for yourself, didn't you?"

She then turned to Efraim who stood there in a dirty sleeveless jumpsuit, his enormous biceceps ever ready to flex some more.

Cameron wiped the fresh blood with the back of his hand before noding to the imposing man "Efraim, is it?"

The man stood silent there, but in his eyes Cameron could read a surprise.

"You did not expect me to remember that, did you? Come 'ere" Cameron gestured at Efraim as he stood up.

Efraim considered humoring the prisoner. Besides, what could go wrong? As he approached, Cameron clentched his fists and poured all his strength towards landing a left low jab at his captor's stomach. Either because Efraim did not expect it, or he couldn't care, because he failed to react to the hit and Cameron went for a follow up with a right hook. Unfortunatelly for him, Efraim blocked it with his right forearm, while he grabbed Cameron by the neck with his left hand.

"Shi-" Cameron managed to gasp.

Efraim lifted the man about a meter off the ground. Feeling his windpipe being crushed, Cameron began punching Efraim's forearm, but to no avail. The towering man growled slightly baring his teeth.

"Luv- your dentis-, mate" Cameron gasped again in an effort to taunt his opponent.

It worked. Efraim's eyes widened and with a swift move he slammed Cameron on the floor with a resounding thump.

"Well done, well done indeed" said the woman with a slow clap "Although I admire your grit -not to mention your windpipe stamina- I suggest for your own health to refrain from picking on Efraim again. He is lightyears off your league...mate"

She then nodded at Efraim, who grabbed Cameron from his armpits and made him stand on his own two feet.

"Now, get busy walking. And no tricks this time. He..." she thumbed at Efraim "...wouldn't give a second thought in killing you right here, right now, with his own two hands"

"I figured as much" Cameron said with a raspy voice. He rubbed his throat to test how much it hurt. It did, big time, and so did his back.

The woman gestured for Cameron to walk ahead. Rubbing the back of his neck, he began to pace forward. Passing infront of Efraim, the goon pushed Cameron to make him walk faster.

"Alright, alright...geez..." Cameron exclaimed.

The trio walked down the corridor passing infront of several doors along the way, which to Cameron looked like hub box doorways. He was definitelly not onboard a ship.

The corridor ended at a heavy industrial door with hydraulic arms coming from the side. The woman took point and approached what was supposed to look like a terminal,but instead was a jumbled mess of cables and electronic cards loosely connected to a very old screen. She placed her hand on the monitor and seemingly typed something afterwards.

The hydraulic levers came to life with a creaking sound that made Cameron wince.

"You'll get used to it" the woman smirked.

"I don't plan to stay here long" Cameron retorted.

The woman smiled widely "Riiiight..."

As the door opened it revealed an open space with catwalks and platforms. The rocky walls of the newly revealed area was quite a change from the metal paneling of the corridor he was now leaving. Cameron looked around noticing people moving about and doing their chores, some in civilian clothing, others in jumpsuits and some in flightsuits. Almost all of them had a sidearm or a weapon. Even those that looked like mechanics.

The woman preceded and started going up the stairs towards the upper level. She seemed to carry herself with some weight, as people gave way for her to come through. She is probably someone important around here, but not the leader of this bunch.

As they all reached the upper landing, Cameron saw the true extent of this wide area, as well as its purpose. In the far side there were a large asortment of ships aligned. Several Buccaneers, a Mako, a Herald (probably the one he engaged), a couple of Cutlasses, a few Auroras and even a couple of Hornets. In the very far side facing towards him he thought he saw a Polaris corvete.

"This is some serious paramilitary shit..." Cameron said to himself as he stood there amazed by what he saw. Although a ragtag group on the surface these people seemed to be well equipped for pirates.

He almost lost his balance as Efraim shoved him to start walking again. Cameron was beginning to get annoyed by him, but his sore throat reminded him that now was not the time for action. He followed the woman as she reached a door with a couple of guards outside wearing armored chestguards. The door opened revealing a poorly lit room.

"About time..." A voice came from inside.

 

Cameron woke with a gasp for air, not able to tell how long he had been unconscious. Opening his eyes didn t do much to improve his situation. His head was covered in some form of hood, cutting him off from his surroundings. He tried to get himself up only to notice that he was strapped down. As he struggled to free himself a sharp pain hit him on the left side of his torso making him wince. He remembered he was interrogated, but he couldn t remember what occured in the duration.

From the medical knowledge he acquired during his university days he realized he had a broken rib or two. Calming himself he began taking slow breaths in order to ease the pain. As the pain wore off, he tried again to remember what happened during the interrogation, only for his attention to be driven elsewhere to what he thought were hollow popping sounds; their tempo erratic, almost chaotic. There was also something else. Something that sounded like voices. He couldn t tell what they were saying, while some where audible only for a second. It appeared to him that the symphony of voices and pops were pacing closer by the second until they reached very close. The door burst open with a loud bang, followed by a number of rushed footsteps.

"CLEAR" said one voice, followed by a "CLEAR" from a second one from the other side of the room.

"Red...keep an eye out" said third voice that sounded like it was approaching Cameron.

The darkness was lifted as someone pulled the hood off Cameron s head. The bright light of hurt his eyes, prohibiting him from getting a good look at whoever was in the room.

"Wha-" John managed to utter before being interrupted.

"Lieutenant?" Came a metallic voice, apparently through the vocoder of a helmet.

With his vision still blurry Cameron managed a "Who?". Looking around him he could make out four humanoid silhouettes.

"Lieutenant Jubius, sir, Carrier Strike Group three first battalion" came the reply "You are going home"

Before he even manage to process the words he had just heard, Cameron s straps came off. He tried to stand, but the pain on his ribs pulled him back down.

"Easy sir" Said Jubius before continuing "You are hurt. Can you walk?"

Cameron nodded reluctantly and attempted to stand again.

"Shev, help him up" came the order.

Immediatelly one of the people there placed John s arm over their shoulder and helped him get up.

"Dont worry sir" Shev reassured him "I got you"

Meanwhile Jubius -who appeared to be the leader of the squad- began talking to someone through his helmet comms.

"This is Echo one, package acquired, repeat: package acquired"

The reply must have been audible only to him, because the man s reply was a simple: "Roger that, El-zee ee-tee-ay 5 miks" before gesturing everyone to move out.

"Ash, take point!" Jubius said as he turned to one of the marines.

Her reply came swiftly "Yes, sir!" and she lifted her rifle in the ready position pacing slowly out the door.

One by one the marines followed through, making sure they cover each other from all angles.

"Echo two, this is Echo one, sitrep!" Jubius said as he left the room last.

A few seconds passed in silence before Jubius begin talking again "We are underway, sit tight"

"Squad, hold position!" he ordered and immediatelly everyone paused before taking cover behind anything that could provide it. Ash kept her eyes open, looking out for any movement forward, rifle aiming down the corridor.

As Cameron moved towards cover he stumbled on the body of a man. He immediatelly recognized Efraim s bulky built. The lifeless eyes of the man were as cold as they were when he was alive. The only difference was the bullethole between them.

Shev noticed Cameron studying the dead man "That one gave us quite a fight"

"I bet" Cameron sounded disappointed. His only wish was that it would have been him to take him out.

"Alright listen up" Jubius demanded "Echo two is in a tough spot, pinned down at the see-en-see. Johnson is down and they need immediate ee-vac"

"Frak!" Ash exclaimed as she tossed a look over her shoulder "Let me at them, sir"

Jubius answer was sharp "Negative, you and Shev are to head to the el-zee to secure and extract the Lieutenant. Meanwhile me and Red can handle it"

Everyone nodded in acknowledment to Jubius orders and got up to leave with Ash and Shev going forward, while Jubius and Red turning back towards where they came.

Ash paced carefully towards the end of the corridor, reaching the archway to the hangar, with Cameron in tow and Shev brought in the rear.

"This is it..." Ash said "...evac el-zee is on the other side of this door. Has the pilot responded to comms?"

Shev shook his head slowly, looking at Ash.

"We assume then that the el-zee is compromised" said Ash.

"Unless we are being jammed" Cameron shrugged.

"Somehow I doubt it. These pirates don't look like they have anything to overcome our milspec equipment" Ash replied.

"These are not pirates" Cameron looked at her grimly.

Ash and Shev looked at him puzzled.

"These are not organized thugs or rebels" Cameron continued.

Ash narrowed her eyes at John "What are you on about?"

"Anti-Messerists..." The word fell like a stun grenade.

"How d-" Shev started but Cameron interrupted "Its a big story and we need to notify Command asap, things will get ugly"

"Ok..." Ash said eventually "...but we still need to go through that door to reach our ride"

Cameron rubbed his hands together as if he tried, reluctantly, to accept that there was no other way around this archway "Alright..."

Ash went over the door control mechanism, only to note that a big red malfunction notice flashed across its screen. Although she remained silent, she looked concerned; had the evac point been compromised? Being a Marine meant to be disciplined no matter the odds. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as she mentally prioritized the problems. First the door. Her eyes then searched the archway panels to figure out the problem.

"There..." she pointed at a paneling on the right side of the door.

Shev approached and knelt to get a closer look at the paneling. Four bolts kept the panel secure on the wall.

"Easy, peasy..." he said as he produced a multitool out of a pack on his belt and began undoing the bolts. The cover came loose revealing a release mechanism for the door.

"You alright?" Shev tossed a look at Cameron, who kept looking back at the dark reaches of the corridor..

"Yea, I am better, that medipen you gave me earlier really did a good work on the pain" Cameron nodded "Thanks".

"Shev..." Ash demanded attention and nodded towards the door.

Shev took position on the opposite side, leaning against the wall. Ash began counting with fingers, three...two...

"Wai-wait..."

Both Marines looked at Cameron.

"Can I get a weapon, just in case...you know" he shrugged.

Ash pursed her lips and took out her sidearm, she flipped it and offered it to the pilot. As Cameron reached for it, she pulled it back she asked:

"You know how to handle these?"

Cameron made a 'Bitch please' expression as he retreived it from her hand, armed it and took safety off.

Ash smirked "Alright flyboy"

They were now ready. Ash began to count with her fingers again, curving them down one by one as she mouthed the countdown.

With a pull-down of Ash's fist Shev punched the door release mechanism, springing the doors open. Immediatelly the Marines tossed quick looks inside making sure no hostiles were within.

"Looks clear" Said Shev and Ash nodded in agreement.

One by one the three of them entered the hangar, weapons at the ready. The hangar was the same Cameron had seen earlier during his transfer to the interrogation room, only a lot more empty and dark. The various fighters Cameron had seen earlier were gone.

Slowly the trio reached a good cover point behind some crates shrouded with burlap. Ash turned her 'Glas on and activated her beacon. A small red light started flashing on the 'Glas's body. it was a matter of time now.