"The flight deck of the Damocles is a little unorthodox," the Captain
informed the assembled pilots evenly. "The design team wanted to find
way to increase launch speed while maintaining safety and structural
integrity. To do this they came up with what you see now:" He gestured
back towards the numerous platforms that were lifting off the floor on
long metal arms that had been hidden below the deck paneling.
"From there the plane is loaded into one of the launcher modules,
allowing three launches at once. The whole compliment of fighters can
space borne in less than a minute from Combat Alert. The down side is
this: Once we start launching fighters we can't stop until all of them
are out and the capture equipment is prepared."
Jonah turned around to motion for one of the technicians to bring him
something. Naomi ran over and handed him a stack of papers, pausing to
wave to Dan before she left. It earned Dan a couple of slaps on the
"These are your flight assignments. Today is going to be FUCT day. As
in Familiarize Yourselves Concerning the Technology. Until Lt. Fisher
here gets his section in order you gentlemen are going to be hitting some
simulator time. Dan will watch your runs to get an idea of how to put
you guys into some semblance of a fighting unit." He laughed, unused
to having to address his pilots so closely. It's what happens when I get
a green Fighter Section chief, he reflected.
As Dan started splitting the group up into smaller flight elements,
Jonah took a moment to relax against the bulkhead. He'd never been a
fighter jock, but he'd always been aboard ships that had plenty to
spare. He was just an Ensign when he pulled a lucky assignment onboard
the SDF-1. He remembered a hotshot young pilot by the name of Rick
Hunter, who had turned out quite all right. Dan had something akin to
Hunter, though nowhere as flamboyant or naïve as Rick had been.
Dan wasn't quite as instinctual a leader as Rick had been, and was
to need some encouraging before he accepted the role of command. Jonah
watched him from his resting place, Dan flitting around the bay as
fast as he could, getting pilots into groups, talking to technicians and
command staff. Out of the corner of Jonah's eye he saw his first shift
Tactical Communication officer.
"Lt. Fisher, I'd like to introduce you to someone," he called after
greeting his officer.
"Sure," Fisher said as soon as he had disentangled himself his last
task. A thin layer of sweat covered his face, mostly from nervousness.
Dan had already convinced himself it was impossible to get out of
command during this tour, there simply weren't enough qualified staff
his section for him to pawn it off on someone else. But after this
tour, it was back to 'my plane, my wingmate.' And since Sakura would be
around then, he had a partner for his next tour of duty.
"Lt. Fisher, this is Lt. Wesley C. Winters. He's the Tac Com first
Wesley Winters stuck a hand out to greet Dan, dressed in a cleaned and
pressed uniform that screamed out "Cleaned exactly to Specifications,
Sir!" Dan felt slightly underdressed in his green t-shirt and cargo
pants, but the rest of his uniform had left him just as it got hot. He
reached out and took the Tac Com officer's hand.
"Pleasure," Wesley said crisply. "How is Shrike Flight coming along?"
he asked, tone warming.
"Excellent bunch of pilots and planes," Dan reported, realizing that
seniority at least, this man outranked him. "I hope I'll be able to
"Don't worry," Jonah chimed in. "Wesley is one of the best Tac Com
officers in the fleet. He'll be giving you a hand. If you'll excuse
me, I have a meeting with the rest of the command staff."
The two lieutenants saluted and relaxed a bit as the Captain left the bay.
The rest of the crew followed suit, except for Chief Engineer Zhi Gang who
worked like a maniac no matter what the conditions were.
"First command?" Winters asked after taking a moment to look at the
"Yes. Hopefully my last, too. I'm not really cut out for it."
"Neither was I. I'm going to talk to the other pilots for a bit. I'll
let you know if I have any suggestions."
"Um, sure. Thanks, sir." Winters turned and began walking towards the
mess of pilots, a distinct limp marring his mil-spec walk. "Strange
guy," he muttered, finally noticing the bronze wings on Winters'
He used to be a pilot? Dan asked himself.
Sakura looked at Makoto Mizuhara for the thousandth time that
always he noticed the glance and blushed slightly, managing to convey
his embarrassment over the situation. On the first day the two had sat
down and discussed exactly how silly their parents were for arranging
this whole thing. In the end, they decided to go on a date to satisfy
both their parents before calling this whole thing off.
So here they were, eating fine sashimi at a traditional
restaurant in a
suburb of the rebuilt city of Tokyo. Sakura was picking through her
food, not really hungry. Instead she found herself strangely
interested in the conversation.
"So you run an import/export business? That sounds so clichéd,"
she giggled a little, surprised at how much being home changed a person. A
few weeks ago she would have brushed this man off and talked about gee
loads or weapons loadouts.
"I actually run a translation house for manga and anime. My dad
started the business a long time ago, and met your father. I guess that's
where this whole arranged marriage thing came up."
"Probably something my mother thought up. She's still rather
traditional at heart."
"That's how my dad is, too."
Sakura laughed again, relaxing for the first time since Dan
for the Damocles. There was still no answer to her email and it had
sent almost three days before. Dan was usually better at keeping up
his end of the correspondence. Why am I thinking about him? She thought,
irritated that Dan could still managed to complicate a dinner when he
was close to a light minute away.
"So what's next for this date?" Sakura asked as she finished her
First Lieutenant Daniel Fisher, Flight Group Commander, Shrike Flight,
groaned and rested his head between his hands. A small trickle of blood
dripped from his scalp, combining with the sweat, grease and undetermined goop
to form some ungodly conglomerate that covered his face.
Beside him, Yeoman Naomi Richards held a towel and a pair of
moist towelettes out to the beleaguered young man. She seemed apologetic,
and stood nervously waiting for the lieutenant.
"I'm really sorry," she said, visibly nervous.
"It was my fault," Dan said, wincing in pain as his jaw creaked
once. A large foot sized imprint graced his right cheek. "I shouldn't have
stuck my head in there without telling you. Why exactly did you scream and
kick me, anyway?"
"You reminded me of this guy I used to work with a long time
ago. Just the look on your face like you wanted to see…I'm sorry, never mind."
"I was just trying to get a look at the feedback assembly," Dan
said defensively. First time I've been kicked in the head for being too
possessive of my plane he thought.
"I know. I just overreacted a little."
Naomi ran off as her name was called by one of the other pilots,
Williams. Dan's day was going downhill at an amazing rate. Today was
first flight of Shrike flight's Able group. The six planes in the
ventral bay were all being prepared for launch, with numerous
the captain, Lieutenant Winters, the six other pilots and some people
that Dan hadn't met first. Probably the intel staff, he thought as he
went back to Shrike 1.
"Lt. Fisher!" Winters said as he marched over to Shrike 1.
"First day jitters?" he said calmly.
"We'll be fine. I just need to get a bit more practice with this
"So do the techs and Tac Com boys. That's why I'm down here and
and Descartes are running the show. We've got another day of travel
before we hit the asteroid belt. Anything coming at us now will be
seen so far off we'll have a good portion of the Fleet here to meet them."
Dan wondered about that. No one knew how the majority of the
battle pods appeared during the Orbital Ring Engagement. One moment there
were no hostile targets on the screens and the next…
"Thanks for the pep talk."
"I'm just trying to tell you to get the bugs out now. Bravo
group will need work too, so don't forget about them."
Dan grinned. He wasn't planning on forgetting about anything.
"Hey Dan!" Naomi called from across "Did you forget this?" she
said, holding up one of Dan's checklists.
"Do you think they'll be ready?" Joshua asked his captain
quietly, gaze fixed on the apparent bedlam that was taking place around him.
"Certainly. Wesley really is one of the best Tac Com Officers
I've ever worked with."
"He was a better pilot," Joshua said. "And he'll never fly
"Of course. He's lucky to be walking. I have faith in both the
Joshua took a moment to glance at his old friend. "This command
"I like the challenge. Besides, I never was cut out to be a
fleet captain. They try to teach you war by numbers."
"You always did like to improvise. I remember when it got you
into a great deal of trouble once, at a bar in Rock City."
"That was a long time ago. You weren't really supposed to be
inside as I recall." The two friends shared a smile. "Things were different back
"The earth hadn't been bombed from orbit, for one. Our crazed
rebuilding attempts hadn't scarred more and more land each year. Of
course, we were in the middle of a global Civil War. And we were
trying to get laid. You were, at least."
"Those were the days," the captain said, eyes lost in the mist
Joshua remained silent, memory of those days slightly different.
While Jonah remembered the camaraderie of his men, Joshua remembered the
destruction. "Always the doom and gloom with you. It wasn't all that
bad," the captain said. In those travels he found
his wife, and nothing could ruin that experience.
"Joshua, we've traveled a long way since then."
"We have put quite a few miles on our souls," Joshua said. "I
doubt we'll lose them now."
"I take it that this mission carries your official
blessing?" Jonah asked with a grin.
"Indeed. Eye for an Eye and all that nonsense," Joshua
replied, matching his friend's expression.