Title: Out of the Dark

Author: Korsriddare
Ephraim, Forde
Even as Grado sweeps deep into Renais space, Prince Ephraim leads a daring counter-attack. Companion piece to 'Into the Night'.
Fire Emblem is not mine.
So, another fic set in the science fiction AU. Dedicated to all the usual suspects.


Prince Ephraim, Captain of the Royal Renais Marines, ducked under the crest of the slope as multiple hypersonic shells slammed into the other side uncomfortably close to his position. He could feel the ground shudder even through his power armor as the top of the hill exploded in a cloud of rock and soil.

Ignoring the smaller debris that simply bounced off his armored body, he turned to his right, where Captain Forde had taken cover as well. Not even the Imperial Army's heavy power armor could take one of those hovertank rounds, let alone the Royal Marines' standard power armor. That is not quite fair, Ephraim grimaced. It will be more accurate to describe the Imperial Army's Wallace Mark II assault suit as 'super-heavy power armor'.

Twice the weight of the Royal Marines' Mark V power armor, it granted almost three times the protection, with two built-in flamers at the cost of reduced mobility. And would still be obliterated had it been hit by one of those rounds.

"Extraction?" He asked.

"Will be a little dicey, your Highness," Forde drawled. "Kyle's still engagin' the Imperial ships. Bastard's are tough nuts to crack. His words, of course."

Ephraim refrained from pointing out the probable lie. It was far more likely that Forde had embellished his best friend's comm message with his own interpretation. He asked instead, "Commodore Orson?"

The armor amplified strength, and the subtle shake of the power armor's head spoke volumes about the blonde's ability to control it, however he might choose to act at times. "Can't contact him through all the interference. Jammins' playing merry hell with our comm gear," Forde allowed himself a lazy sigh.

Ephraim nodded tightly. According to their operation plans, he would take the First and Second Battalion down to recapture the Planetary Defense Center while Commodore Orson engaged the Imperial Navy. Captain Kyle's mixed squadron of heavy cruisers and light cruisers would screen the Marine assault transports as the rest of the commodore's ships attempted to draw the Grado vessels away during the fighting. Evidently it must have worked, since he was far enough that Grado's jamming had effectively cut off communications with them.

They had retaken the PDC and reprogrammed the targeting parameters. That should buy them some time, not to mention blunting the Grado war effort. There were limited news from Renais though, and none of them were good. Well, Seth, I hope you're as good as I think you are, Ephraim thought fervently. He respected and genuinely liked the Admiral. Most of the public knew him as the Silver Knight, but he knew him as the commanding officer of Orbital Command, and then perhaps, as a friend. Eirika, on the other hand… Ephraim grinned faintly even as he automatically ducked when another of those damnable salvoes arrived. He had picked up some signs that she might consider Seth as more than just a friend. Faint and subtle signs - most likely those that she was unaware of herself.

The barrage ended, and Ephraim turned his attention back to the situation at hand. Opting for a quick insertion, he had decided against dropping in heavy armor. He underestimated how quick the Imperial Army would respond though, and now they were pinned down by a column of hovertanks. He would not risk calling in aerial support unless it was absolutely necessary, not when orbital superiority was still being contested. Not to mention if the assault shuttles were shot down, he would have no way off the planet. However, he had plans of his own…

Ephraim gestured for Forde to come closer, then brought out a datapad from one of the accessories slots. He folded it out to expand the screen, and loaded a map of the immediate area. Forde was not his long-time friend in the Marines for no reason, and he lifted his eyebrows, "I am guessin' that this isn't a good time to show off whatever gadgets you have obtained… And I'll not be getting' any rest any time soon?" He sighed as he patted the ground besides him. "This is nice, soft soil here."

Ephraim snorted lightly, then gestured to the map, "As you know, if we don't get rid of those hovertanks, we won't survive long enough for extraction. Now, here's what I want you to do…"

"When this is over, I swear I'll swap positions with Kyle," Forde announced over the private comm as he moved along the rocky terrain. "It's time I get to enjoy crossin' my legs and baskin' in the scrubbed air."

"And to impress the fairer gender with your artistic inclinations, sir?" The amused voice belonged to Lieutenant Justinian, his second-in-command.

"To impress everyone, my friend. I wouldn't object though, if the fairer gender were especially impressed," he replied easily, causing a light chuckle in return. He thought Kyle could afford to loosen up a little more, but for some reason, his best friend had always been unnaturally popular with women, even as a boy. Even more than him. It got worse when Kyle had chosen the Navy. Why, he could rememb-

The first portable missiles arced over the mangled remains of the hill top, a trail of white smoke clawing through the skies as he broke into a run. Mission now, memories later. The rock and soil sped past as he accelerated the powered frame of his armor allowing him to double the speed he could run at with unaided muscles.

He spared a glance at the sensor display on his Head's Up Display. It showed the rest of the company speeding up after him. Portable missiles were effective weapons against light armor, especially when one did not have armor support or infantry with anti-vehicle heavy weaponry. Pit them against modern heavy armor like the imperial Black Knight hovertanks at extreme range, and they look pathetic in comparison. The main reason revealed itself as streaks of defense fire came up from presumably where the hovertanks were, and missiles began to detonate prematurely. The missiles had powerful enough warheads, but at longer ranges it gave modern armor too much time to defend themselves.

That was what Ephraim had counted on. Forde and his men had taken a long detour around their initial location, using the various hills as cover as they attempted to flank the hovertanks. Without orbital superiority, satellite imaging or active sensors, they could only grasp the general location of where the hovertanks were. The launching of the missiles actually worked as a signal for him to begin his charge, and the defensive fire from the hovertanks allowed him to see and pin-point where they were.

Tapping commands into the key pad attached to his arm armor, he marked the location of the hovertanks on the company battlenet. They were already following him, but it was best to set it on their maps and HUDs so that they would be aware even when the chaos of combat arrived. He could see the defensive fire intensifying as the surviving missiles closed, when fleshes of light tore at the hovertanks' position from Ephraim's location.

It seemed that the good prince had began the second phase of distraction. No one could accuse Ephraim of cowardice as he led First Battalion in a crude firing line. Hundreds of marines popped over what remained of the hill top to pepper the hovertanks with assault rifles, sniper cannons and light mass drivers. The latter two would actually pose a threat to the vehicles if they were closer, though they can still dent the hovertanks' armor. Maybe even a lucky hit or two.

Another waves of missiles followed, keeping the hovertank crews honest as Forde continued his improbable sprint. He had chosen this approach as there was actually a slight ridge that forced them to run uphill to reach the clearing where the hovertanks were. It blocked line of sight…for both parties. They could not see him, and he could not see them – except for the defensive fire. He slowed and stopped just before the edge of the ridge, as did the rest of the company. Extending a fibre-optic wire over the top, Forde moved it back and forth to get a clearer view of the clearing on his HUD.

An entire battalion of the hovertanks! No wonder they were being pinned back so badly. Two of them were flaimg hulks, the scorched marks along the sides indicated that the drivers must had mistakenly allowed their weaker side armor to take hits. The marine captain grinned – they needed all the luck they could get. He marked the remaining tanks on the battlenet, and began to assign squad priorities to them.

"Plenty to go around, boys and girls," he said with as much brevity as he could. Plenty was right. There were still almost four dozen hovertanks left. A glance was spared at Justinian, and his second-in-command nodded curtly in return.

We're all ready, sir.

"Alright then, ready the energy lances. We go in twenty… Mark," Forde spoke into the company channel. Various acknowledgement came back,, and he watched the countdown with some trepidation as his own energy lance powered up. He hoped this worked, or this would be the shortest surprise attack in human history. Not counting the 'Battle' of Scribe's Wake, of course. But that was a whole new level of military incompetence by itself.

And then the clock ran down.

"Go go go!" He lept over the ridge, cradling the energy lance by his side as he sprinted as he never had before. Observers from way back when the words 'horse-power' meant something would be amazed at the speed of the Royal Marines. They were closing the distance to the rear of the hovertanks at a rate faster than even the best of war-horses could.

Energy lances were essentially ranged breaching devices, very useful against hardened bunkers and command rooms. Breaching charges would work as well, though sometimes combat situations meant it was all but impossible for one to reach close enough physically to place said charge; energy lances could be fired from a short distance - barely the same range as heavy pistols – but a sufficient one. Not really useful against mobile armored vehicles.

No one had ever tried something like this.

Hundreds of power armors ran into the rear of the hovertanks, their energy lances stabbing out once the marines reached range. The Imperial crewmen, so focused on Ephraim's marines, did not even bother to turn their sensors to the rear until the first energy lance blew a hole in the weakest rear armor of the Black Knight. It was not quite out of the fight though, and as its turret turned to try and track the threat, one Royal Marine lobbed a grenade into the exposed engine compartment. The resultant explosion sent the turret several hundred meters away.

The surprise was almost total as half the squads were able to fire off their lances without incident, and the other half were almost in position already. It was only now that some of the hovertanks began to turn, their turrets tracking back as well. Forde jumped over an offending piece of rock as he lifted his energy lance up, sighted his target, and fired.

The cylinder in his hands glowed, then a solid beam stabbed out from it, smashing into the hovertank. The hovertank's rear armor glowed for a moment, and blew inwards as molecules were excited beyond structural integrity. The engine followed, and the hovertank crashed back onto the ground, all power lost. Forde clenched his fist in triumph, as he turned to see how the others were doing…

…to spot a anti-infantry quad from a nearby hovertank turning towards him.

Oh shit. He threw down the expended lance, dived to his side, and the whole universe exploded.

It was a good picture. Full of color, contrast, and life. It was his proudest creation yet. The picture was not completed yet though – just needed a few more finishing touch. He reached for the paint brush again, determined to finally finish this work of art. Then stopped. Strange, why was it shaking? An earthquake, perhaps? He had to secure the painting quick! Or el-

"Forde? Forde? Stop sleeping and wake up!" That was Ephraim's voice.

"That's what he do best, Prince Ephraim. He slept through the artillery barrages during boot camp as well." That must be his good friend's voice, though he could detect a slight hint of worry despite the generally light tone.

With a herculean effort that he thought deserving a medal, Forde opened his eyes. He was laying on the ground, and he could smell burning metal and flesh. Shifting slightly, he could feel aches and bruises along his battered body. Luckily, nothing appeared to be missing. He opened his mouth to ask how the battle went, though what came out was more along the lines of, "Mmm battle?"

The prince, no longer wearing the power armor's helmet and kneeling by him, barked out a laugh. "It went well. We took some casualties…" Ephraim's face darkened slightly at that, before he continued with some pride. "But we took most of them out. Four of them surrendered, and three of them are still in pristine condition."

Kyle stepped in to continue. "I engaged and destroyed the harassing Imperial ships. Commodore Orson had also succeeded in driving off the main Grado elements after baiting them." He frowned slightly then. "He took surprisingly light damage though. Reports indicate that the Imperial Navy withdrew after only a light exchange." A shake of the head. "I wonder what the Grado commanding officer is up to."

"A victory is a victory, my good friend. I'm just thankful I'm alive. And not in a prisoner camp," Forde said. The prince stood up, and held out a hand. He looked at his prince blankly.

Ephraim twitched, then crossed his arms with some exasperation, "Forde. How long are you going to just lie there?" Now that was just unfair!

"But this is nice, soft soil!"