Title: Into The Night
Characters: Seth, Eirika. Hints of Seth x Eirika
Summary: The Star Kingdom of Renais has been betrayed by her closest ally, and her youngest admiral will do anything to see the Princess to safety.
Disclaimer: Fire Emblem is not mine.
A/N: This is a gift-fic for qieru, belatedly for her birthday. My first attempt at AU in any fandom, hopefully it is not too badly done. Should remain an one-shot.
The setting sun basked Eirika's balcony in blood red. A color not inappropriate to the events occurring up in the heavens, she thought. She could see lights flare and wink out against the darkening sky, the fury of thermonuclear explosions visible from Castle Renais.
The flurry of activities within the castle was a stark contrast against the calmness of the capital city around it – most of the citizens had already been evacuated to underground shelters, and the deserted silence of the streets was a grim reminder of the inevitable. The Star Kingdom of Renais, woefully unprepared for the betrayal of their ally, was about to fall.
"Princess Eirika, the King wishes to speak to you."
The aide's words interrupted her thoughts as she turned back to the open door with a nod. The walk to the throne room was largely in silence, punctuated by occasional announcements over the public speakers to direct evacuation and last minute defensive placements.
"...is dead, and Home Fleet estimates that it can hold out for at most thirty more minutes before the Imperial Navy enters orbit, Your Majesty."
Eirika almost paused at how toneless that voice was. Sir Seth, Vice Admiral of the Royal Renais Navy and recipient of the Outstanding Service Cross, was the commanding officer of First Fleet. His remarkable composure and astute mind saw him fast-tracked into flag rank – in fact, he was the youngest flag officer in the RRN's history. Knighted for his smashing of the pirate depot a few years back, Seth's action had made him popular with the people of Renais as well. The Silver Knight, the name given to him by a particular well-read newspaper, had caught on. It did not help that the would-be slaves he had rescued from the depot described him as a 'knight-in-shining-armor'.
Throughout all that though, Seth remained humble and dedicated to his duty. A duty that was certain to get him killed this day, Eirika thought, her heart clenching tightly. She took a deep breath and entered the throne room. Her father looked defeated, while Seth's face looked grim.
King Fado looked up at her as Seth offered her a low bow. If not for the severity of the situation, Eirika would have smiled. Always so proper. Her father spoke, "Eirika, are you wearing the bracelet I gave you?"
She frowned slightly, then held her wrist up for him to see. The bracelet he had given her for her sixteenth birthday was simple yet elegant, but did not seem relevant to the situation at hand.
"Good," his words interrupted her musing. The King turned to the Vice Admiral, his voice implying an order was about to be given, "Seth."
The red-haired man bowed his head, "Yes, Your Majesty?"
"Take Eirika and head for Frelia. King Hayden is an honorable man. I trust he will keep you safe."
For a moment, Eirika thought Seth was about to protest, but he finally replied, "Understood. And what of Your Majesty?"
"Me? I shall remain here. We have long held Grado among our dearest allies, yet now, they attack? I must know why. Am I somehow responsible for this? Have I erred in my leadership? Renais is mine to guide... How could I have failed her so?" As he had looked, her father sounded defeated as well.
But this means... "Father, you can't stay! You mustn't!" She pleaded. If reports from the outlying systems were true, none of the ranking members of Renais' authority were spared. Eirika could see her father was about to reply negatively, and she added defiantly, "If you remain behind, then so shall I!"
But Fado was no longer looking at her, instead, he spoke sharply to the admiral, who had stood by her without her noticing, "Go now, Seth! Take her to safety!"
Seth grabbed her by the waist as she shouted for her father, pulling her away, "Forgive me, Your Highness."
Eirika did not remember the exact details of the trip between the throne room and the landing pad, but it was enough for her to know that she should be ashamed of the way she was crying and clawing at Seth to let her go; though she did not care at the moment. Seth, on the other hand, was quietly adamant, and she realized all this while she never knew how strong he really was until this day.
She looked out the view port of the shuttle, seeing the darkening skies as it neared orbit, and at the streaks of fire coming out from the planetary defenses. It was ultimately futile, for planetary defense emplacement, by their nature, were sitting targets. And sure enough, answering fire came from the heavens – pillars of light so bright that the view port polarized automatically to soften the glare.
"Your Highness, we're docking in five minutes," came the pilot's voice over the intercom. Renais One, the royal frigate, was hovering in orbit, waiting to take her to safety. How sad, that the Princess got to run while her father was about to die, and her brother's whereabouts was still unknown! Eirika thought bitterly, but kept her voice polite as she replied, "Thank you, Henri."
She turned back to the view port. Perhaps if she looked hard enough, she could see Seth's shuttle; and perhaps if she focused on it hard enough, she could ignore the distant shapes of Grado's assault shuttles making re-entry onto Renais.
"Sir, Renais One reports that the Princess is on-board," Lieutenant Commander Reya of Communications reported.
Seth leaned back on the command couch, then gave the command, "Have Renais One proceed to the warp point at full speed. The squadron will provide escort according to formation Alpha-Two-Seven. Also, give me Captain Franz."
"Aye aye, sir!"
Officially, he was in command of First Fleet. But it was an extremely recent promotion, and the Admiralty was still in the process of transferring ships when the Imperial Navy launched its attack. What he actually had at the moment was a single eight-ship squadron of battlecruisers and a screening element of four cruisers. Hardly a fleet! He snorted inwardly. His comm unit blinked, and he accepted the transmission.
The screen showed a blonde man wearing a starship captain's uniform. He was careful to hide it, but Seth could detect a hint of nervousness from the young man.
"Captain Franz, your cruisers will have to go ahead to Frelia first. They can pull better acceleration than the rest of the squadron, and you'll be of little help if they decide to run us down. Convey to the throne all that has happened here and petition for reinforcements."
Seth nodded, he would be an excellent flag officer one day - if he survived. "Godspeed, Captain Franz. Seth out."
He cut the transmission and turned his eyes to the main tactical plot. A scaled down version of the Renais system was displayed on the screen, and a faint green line extended from the green icons of his ships to their destination. A counter was displayed along the line, indicating the estimated time required. Soon, a second and smaller line appeared, with a counter displaying less time as Captain Franz's cruiser screen accelerated ahead of the main group towards the warp point.
The circle that represented the planet Renais was colored orange – indicating that it was being contested. Not for long though, Seth thought. It would soon be colored red. There was the possibility of Grado bringing insufficient assault troops, but that was a minute one seeing how well planned this invasion was.
"Her Highness is hailing you, sir," Reya said from her work console.
"I'll take it on my comm, thank you."
The image of Princess Eirika blinked onto his personal comm and he bowed his head formally. His tenure as the commanding officer of Castle Renais' Orbital Command had brought him into close contact with the royal family for a few years, and during that time the royal twins had always gone out of their way to talk to him. The Royal House had always believed in their scions serving the people, and it was no surprise that King Fado encouraged Prince Ephraim and Princess Eirika to do the same. The prince prefered the Marines, while the princess had developed a liking to the Navy. As such, with his experience in both, they considered him the best candidate for questioning.
And along that, Seth realized he had developed a fondness for Eirika that was wholly unbecoming for a man in uniform. The reassignment for him away from the capital was bittersweet, for even as he recognized the need to maintain a certain distance to the royal family, Seth knew he would miss her. His squadron of destroyers had then tracked a wayward pirate vessel to their depot, and despite unfavorable odds, they prevailed. He did not quite think he deserved to be knighted, nor awarded the Cross – After all, was it not the duty of one in His Majesty's uniform to protect others and punish the wicked? He had, in fact, lodged a polite protest to the Admiralty. Unfortunately, King Fado himself caught wind of this and gently, but firmly, rejected it in person.
However, he was thankful that the twins did not treat him differently. It was bad enough that the news services had taken to calling him the Silver Knight, and it would have been much worse if those he served did the same. Sure, Prince Ephraim liked to use that name from time to time, but those were clearly in jest, unlike many of the public. Princess Eirika, on the other hand, had apparently decided against using it in jest... Or so he thought.
A few months ago, he was given command of the HMS Silver Knight.
The newest Paladin-class battlecruisers incorporated the latest in R&D, and he supposed the name was not too out of line with the class designation... But he was quite sure he had a horrified expression when the princess announced his newest command with a devilish grin. Eirika might not tease as much as he twin brother, but she made up for the quantitative difference with quality.
With her brother's marine detachment still missing, and her father's current situation...There was no sign of said grin on her now though. He could detect the slightest tremor in her voice as she spoke, "Admiral Seth, any word from the castle?"
His jaws set as he replied, "We've lost contact with Orbital Command two minutes ago, Your Highness. I'm sorry." If he could, he would have stayed behind with Home Fleet, perhaps intercept enough assault shuttles such that they would have too little ground forces to-
"Admiral, a number of enemy vessels have broken off from their main fleet and are on an intercept vector. Assuming constant rate of closure, CIC estimates weapon range in four minutes."
Seth turned sharply away from his comm screen back to the tactical plot. Six red icons were converging on his squadron. The energy signatures were still too far away for any detailed analysis, but those had to be battleships. His ships were escorting Princess Eirika's royal frigate, which was essentially still a civilian ship with lower engine capabilities than military vessels. If those were battlecruisers, they should be closing at a higher rate. As it was though...
"Burst transmission!" Reya reported, her voice bleak, "It's the INS Moonstone, sir. General Valter is demanding that we hand the Princess over."
He turned to look at Eirika grimly. Even before the outbreak of hostilites, he had heard... unsettling things about General Valter. Rumors of how he treated subordinates and captured mercenaries were rampant, though he had dismissed them, thinking that Emperor Vigarde would never employ such soldiers in the Imperial Navy. With what had transpired in the past few weeks though, he would have to re-evaluate that position of thought.
There was no doubt he could not let her fall into his hands, yet waiting for the Grado ships to catch up would risk Renais One drawing fire, even if Valter had orders to capture the Princess. That left him little choice then.
"Your Highness, the Renais One is to maintain current heading at full speed. Percival and Blanchefleur will remain as her escorts. Captain Franz would have made contact with Frelia by the time you entered their space."
Eirika looked blank for just a moment, before she frowned as she grasped the implications. Dire as the situation was, Seth could not help but feel a deep, fierce pride at how far she had come since the day a shy royal princess had asked for his advice on naval tactics.
"Admiral Seth, what about the other ships under your command? Surely you don-"
"I apologise, Your Highness, but this is not up for debate. You are too important to Renais," Seth cut her off, and disconnected the call. There was a stricken look on her face before the image blinked out, but there was nothing he could do about it.
Straightening himself, he tapped in multiple commands into the squadron battle-net, and opened a comm channel to the squadron, "This is Admiral Seth, Percival and Blanchefleur – maintain your current vector. The rest of the squadron will form up on Silver Knight. Prepare for deceleration at point Alpha to half power. We will hold deceleration to engage the hostiles, then proceed to accelerate again at point Beta. Renais One will be too close to the warp point for them to overtake, and we shall rendezvous with them on the other side."
If any of us survive.
The acknowledgments from the captains came in, and Seth watched the plot with determined eyes.
The six Renais battlecruisers slowed deliberately as a matching number of Grado ships rapidly closed the distance. Sensors were now able to provide accurate analysis on their energy signature, and the combat information center was able to identify them as Dragon Lord-class battleships. For once, Seth had hoped he was wrong – the Gods apparently had other ideas. The RRN favored mobility in their naval doctrine, hence the predominance of battlecruisers. The Imperial Navy prefered a more crushing approach, and in a situation where they attack a position the other side had to defend, battleships were king. They were slower, but marginally better armed, and much better armored.
Seth watched the range ran down to the predetermined point, then gave the order, "Initiate Missile Plan Able."
He felt a slight shudder along the bridge as the Silver Knight fired off half of its entire missile capacity in rapid waves. The tactical plot showed the other five ships doing the same, and two hundred and forty missiles roared towards the Grado vessels.
The Royal Renais Navy, though smaller than the Imperial Grado Navy, also had a marginal technological superiority. That was the sole reason why the IGN ships were unable to return fire yet, for Seth's battlecruisers were still out of their missiles' range. The overpowered thrusters flared as the Renais missiles entered terminal range. Point defense cannons went into full automatic mode as computers on the Imperial ships tracked targets with cold precision, directing walls of hyper-velocity slugs to stop the onrushing salvos. A single missile, then another, then two more, then dozens of missiles began to blink out from the tactical plot as point defense took their toll. The Imperial battleships tightened up their formation, providing each other with defensive fire. But it was not enough, as the first missiles broke through despite all efforts.
Someone on the bridge snarled triumphantly when the detonations begin. The small but bright spheres of nuclear explosion was visible on the main view screen, and Seth turned back to the tactical plot to assess the damage. One of the battleships were streaming air, and two others appeared to have non-functioning shields. Better than he expected, worse than he hoped for.
"Missile launch! Missile launch! Three hundred incoming! Time to intercept – forty-eight seconds!"
The tactical plot updated itself as the tactical officer reported. There was little for him to do but watch, as the defensive doctrine practiced would have to suffice. Terse seconds passed by, and his own point defense cannons came online. A hundred of them were stopped cold by the counter fire, and another fifty-four were suckered away by electronic warfare jamming signals. That left 'only' a hundred and forty-six missiles reaching their final attack runs.
By luck, a dozen of them actually overshot their targets and detonated harmlessly in the distance, but the rest converged upon the six battlecruisers. The main view port dimmed and the universe heaved madly around Seth, the nuclear warheads expanding their fury against his flagship. Shields overloaded and gave way, and suddenly the ship's armor was the only protection left. Military ships were built exactly for this kind of abuse though, having to content with missiles, mass drivers and modern energy weaponry. Thirty missiles had target the Silver Knight, but none of them damaged critical systems. The shields were down but rechargeable, and more importantly, all her offensive systems remained operational.
"Damage report!" He barked, and winced as they came in. Only Alistair's shields remained up, Chivalry had lost a secondary thruster, Madeline and Silent Virgil both had several launchers rendered inoperable, which would reduce their salvo strength. Emerald Lance suffered the most damage, however, with virtually all of its mass drivers offline. With her missiles half depleted and drivers unavailable, she would be of limited effectiveness in the following maneuvers. Not to mention, there were almost eight hundred personal on it.
"Reya, inform Commodore Rake and have her break action. She will rendezvous with Renais One ahead of schedule," he spoke softly.
"Aye aye, sir."
The range continued to drop as the battleships closed in. Conventional military doctrine encouraged ships to turn their broadsides to their enemies, as it was where most of a ship's weapons were located. The aft of a ship mounted thrusters, and the bow mounted sensors. Furthermore, the elongated design of most warship dictated that mathematically there would always be more space along the length of the ship, rather than the width. The battleships chasing him was no different, and their forward armaments would be light compared to their broadsides. The situation was worse for him, however, for his battlecruisers' rears were facing their enemies. Turning back to engage them would cut into their velocity too much, and most commanders would find it suicidal to pit battlecruisers against battleships in any extended exchanges.
It was, however, also the only chance he had of dissuading Princess Eirika's pursuers.
"All units, this is the Flag. The squadron will engage the enemy at close range!"
The five battlecruisers pulled sharply to starboard in a synchronized turn, and their broadside mass drivers belched ultra-dense projectiles at ten percent of light-speed into the IGN battleships. The Grado naval crew knew no one would enter a slugging match against battleships with battlecruisers, and they knew no one would survive such an engagement.
None of them truly knew Vice Admiral Seth, however.
INS Sovereignty of Space's sensors barely had time to warn its occupants of the incoming fire before it hit. The relativistic projectiles smashed into her already weakened shields, and it went down spectacularly, the feedback loop blowing up three shield generators. More rounds slammed into her hull, breaking chunks of her bow armor off even as the forward sensor arrays were crushed. It did not stop there though, as several more projectiles penetrated into the inner hull before exploding, the walkways and pressurized rooms witnesses to scenes of terrible carnage as men and women died to vaporization and fragmenting walls. Then a single round found its missile magazines, and the battleship blew up with all hands on-board.
It was not over yet though, for Seth had focused firing priority on the two lead battleships. INS Wyvern's Peak already had its shields disabled, but frantic last-minute evasive actions had allowed it to distribute the damage along its front and side. Its starboard weapons were mostly disabled, but its port weapons were still operational.
The Imperial crewmen were stunned by the ferocity of the attack, but they quickly re-asserted themselves. The range had closed sufficiently, and it was their turn now.
Eirika watched with burning eyes as the brave men and women of the Royal Navy threw themselves against their better armed and armored opponents. She needed to see it for herself, for it was her whom they were fighting... and dying for.
There was a moment of sheer elevation as Seth's surprised maneuver caught them the Imperial Navy off guard, but that quickly disappeared when they returned fire.
Regenerated shields flashed and died, mass driver slugs and close-ranged laser beams crisscrossed along hull armor. Seth's battlecruisers were in the middle of an infernal, and still they continued the sharp turn, forcing the battleships to slow their speed down or risk having the battlecruisers fire their broadsides into their rear. It worked, as they chose the former, allowing the Renais One to pull away.
Madeline exploded, and Alistair seemed to have lost its primary thrusters as it slowed dramatically. A massive tide of green icons spawned on the main plot as Seth's surviving battlecruisers unloaded the rest of their missiles at knife-fight range. So that was why he did not fire them all off at the start, the naval part of her brain thought. A Grado battleship died, and Silent Virgil followed as the Imperial ships fired their remaining missiles as well. Silver Knight's armor buckled under the abuse, and she began to stream atmosphere. Alistair, already crippled by thruster damage, met another battleship head-on as both became a single expanding ball of super-heated plasma. Shields went down, armor shattered, hulls were critically damaged, and yet no Renais ship turned away.
They followed and died at their admiral's side, exchanging fire with their larger enemies for two minutes, three, five...And for ten endless, unimaginable minutes they held their course and speed, until her astrogator announced, "Your Highness, the Imperial Navy would no longer be able to overhaul us even if they resume their maximum acceleration now."
She nodded tersely. It seemed Seth's commanders knew as well - then, and only then, did the battlecruisers began to accelerate from their slower foes. Three battlecruisers of the Renais Royal Navy had died, and every surviving ship was damaged, both Silver Knight and Chivalry critically so. Yet Vice Admiral Sir Seth had done what he set out to do, and as the Renais ships rendezvous, as she felt herself gave way with relief to know that the admiral was alive, as the ships made transit at the warp point...
Eirika realized she would never think of Seth in the same way again.