Disclaimer: I don`t own Homeworld, or Cataclysm. Though I`d sell my soul to Alex Garden to do either...

Reflections in the Garden

There are a lot of them out here. A whole lot. Too many, in fact. I think Fleet Command called them "Swarmers," but I can identify two kinds of them. The rest of the squadron, and most of the flight crews have taken to calling them Haarkeers and Haarkeer`sas, after the old swarming insects on Kharak. Saajuk, I miss home...

The space is clouded, and eerily beautiful if you ask me, as if it truly was grown and tended to by the celestial gardener himself, Kadesh. The swirls of red and gold, fading to black as you turn to view the space behind you... It`s a real sight, isn`t it?

"Got three on your tail, Dreamer," my squad leader`s voice harshly snaps me back to reality and instincts take over. The view of tracer-styled rounds capable of punching two foot wide holes in steel helps it. With a few fractions of a second, my Interceptor goes into a three part flight move that`s almost become routine these days, swinging me into a wide barreling movement, then using the inertia to carry me still in that direction while turning around and gunning the engines, pulling up at just the right second so that I glide by underneath one or two of the Kadeshi fighters and get a clear shot.

One raking motion with my guns on full power and down both fighters go into massive fireballs, drifting briefly before exploding into clouds of burning debris. The third fighter survives though, turning around and making a pass at me, but he`s easily dealt with by one of my comrades, who leads his own pursuers just right so that my foe get`s caught in the firing lines and sliced to shreds.

I have to work at dodging the incoming shrapnel from the blast caused by a few errant shots hitting his fuel tanks somehow. The burning effigy courses by me and slams into an incoming plasma bomb that had missed it`s target, and if not for the visor of my helmet, I`d probably be blinded for a moment.

But now, it`s time to repay the favor. "I`m comin`, Zeal," I say over the broadband, hoping my voice will drown out the hundreds raging over every frequency. We`re all outnumbered and probably outgunned by these religious madmen on a bad Skig trip, but that won`t stop me from trying. Zeal is a newer member of the squadron, a rookie and a devoutly religious follower of an offshoot to the old Gaalsien faith, and I can almost hear him mumbling out prayers faster than his vocal cords should be able to manage.

But his prayers are not in vain as his attackers, two Harkeers, are brought down pretty effectively by a pair of heavy bursts up the thrusters, the first exploding to the right side and smacking into the second while I fire the killshot on him too. Zeal pulls himself into a wild tailspin to dodge the debris, shouting out something about miracles and promising to buy me a few drinks when this is over.

When this is over. That kid`s gotta be nuts. The sky is rapidly going black from the battle debris collecting up, and I can see in awe as a newer kind of ship, I think it`s an oversized supply ship, approaches the fleet from above. Wait...

Shit! That`s not a supply ship, supply ships don`t carry four ion cannons and they certainly don`t barrel roll to fire them! "Mothership under fire," Fleet Command`s voice echoes through my thoughts as I gun the engines, speeding along with the now collected remainder of my squadron. We`re a ragtag pair, aren`t we? Two Arrows, four Blades and a salvaged Taiidan interceptor, don`t know the name or make of it but we found it out right after the battle just before we entered the Diamond Shoals. The thing handles pretty well, even better so thanks to the fact our squad leader, an eccentric fellow by the callsign of Ikra(a now-extinct hunting bird from Kharak`s prehistory), is the pilot.

"Dive!" I hear Ikra scream out over the voices on broadband, spinning himself into a raking circle and then leading the claw from his central position at the rear. The ship is armored better than the supply vessels they`re using, but our guns are still hurting it. The Arrows focus their fire on one spot, though the barreling motions of the ship make it rake the hull, and the rest of us hit whatever we can think of. Me? I`m trying to damage the gunport of one of the cannons.

No good, the damn thing`s too tough. Thankfully though, it`s noticed us and broken off, trying to bring it`s weaponry to bare on all of us in those barreling movements. It`s swift, yes, but it isn`t swift enough. "Mothership under fire," the call rings out again as I turn to the left in the cockpit and watch an assault frigate ram itself into another of the enemy`s ion cannon ships, firing all guns as it does so. Silence seems to hit the radios as the frigate forcibly moves the other ship out of the line of fire, pounding it the entire time. Surprising that it`s forward section extending past the bomb launchers is still intact, but that surprise wears off once it caves in.

With a Soban salute, I watch the frigate and the other ship collapse into one another and blow up brightly, an explosion echoed in thought for a brief moment before the sounds of combat once again fill my ears. "Incoming!"

I barely dodge out of the path of one of our own ion cannons as the crimson lightning I`ve come to associate with the fist of god bares down on our target, punching a hole right through the belly of the attacking ship and then ripping straight on through out the other end. Take that you bastards...

"Holy mother of Sajuuk..."

Eh? What`s that about? I turn to face the source of the call, which sounded out over the banter and such, feeling a pit in my stomach form at the sight of their mothership from earlier entering view and ramming into a destroyer, the KS Legacy, second of her class, explodes brightly in a flash of light that puts the star that Kharak orbited to shame without effort, knocking out a half dozen of our fighters and Sajuuk knows how many of their`s. I think a corvette or two might have been taken out in the blast as well, but that`s not my concern. My concern is the fact that the ship is making a beeline for the Mothership, and I won`t let that happen. Even if you`re only one man, you can do a lot with what you`ve got...

I hope.

"Charge!" I hear my commander needlessly order. Dogfights continue raging all around but they aren`t my concern anymore than they concern the Kadeshi themselves. They seem hellbent on killing us all no matter what we do.

I wobble my fighter instinctively while spraying out with the guns, sending dozens of shots flying randomly into the air. Two Harkeers, and a Harkeer`sa are hit. The Harkeers explode and the Harkeer`sa loses course, ramming itself into a Hammer with minimal effect. The Hammer itself looks as if someone`s taken a mass driver to it at every angle, and I can see smoke trailing out of numerous impact points on it`s hull, but as it was designed for, the ship refuses to go down and it continues plowing through everything in it`s path. One shot. Two shots and down goes another Harkeer`sa before the ship barrel rolls, dodging an attempted kamikaze by a Harkeer, which itself is the victim of a turreted shot into what I think was the cockpit, killing the pilot and sending the fighter spinning out of control.

Two Shields limp by and away from the fight, from whatever it was they had been gaurding. I don`t know, nor do I care, they need repairs but I`m not here to cover them. The Harkeers and Harkeer`sas know what we`re doing, and they almost all break off from their attack patterns in a terrifying sort of way, driving towards us like an unholy, ivory swarm. "Too many of them!" No. Can`t give into despair now. Have to keep fighting and wash it away with some Sobani spirits later. I hope there is a later...

Suddenly, ion beams of crimson scythe an epic path through the swarms, as the Revelation, sister ship to the Legacy, enters the fray, hanging back and trying to buy time. It`s heavy guns buy us time alright, single shots punching visible holes through the formations and then flying by to pelt the enemy mothership, causing negligable damage, but anything is good. One of my wingmen goes down from a string of defensive gunfire by the enemy mothership, slicing through the Arrow he was piloting and sending him flying into the next life with our brothers and sisters who died at Kharak. I don`t have time to salute though.

Another wide barreling movement is all that saves me from a fate taken by one of the members of the swarm, which explodes brightly from being hit by the stream of golden rounds. The mothership turns towards the Revelation and I can hear her engines kicking up to a ramming speed once more, giving it an instant burst of movement, but thankfully not enough. Fleet Admirla Paktu`s gamble has worked, the enemy mothership is breaking from it`s original trajectory to try and run down the Revelation, but the destroyer is just a bit too quick for her.

Then, comes the symphony to my ears. Plasma bombs and ion beams, and lots of them, supported by Sajuuk knows how many mass driver rounds going off, impacting the enemy mothership from it`s vulnerable, lengthy sides. Thunderbolts and Hammers streak in on the enemy vessel, pounding it relentlessly as a pack of four ion cannon frigates and the surviving Taiidan assault frigate from Kharak slam into it from the same side, focusing fire on one of the launch bays.

Time to really go to work.

Crap, the gas light. I know my time is limited in fighting now, but my spirit won`t let me leave to get fuel. Breaking from the squadron, with only Zeal as my companion, I dive straight through the screams of defensive gunfire, screaming out an old Soban war prayer as it happens. Zeal is only barely as lucky, as I can hear parts of his Arrow`s targeting pod ripping off into the vaccuum of space. How sound carries here is beyond me, but it`s also beyond my concerns. I`m close now. So close I can see an unopened gunport on the hull, but at the last second I pull up, keeping all of the belly mounted thrusters and manuevering vents on my fighter churning at full burn to avoid being plowed into by the still moving enemy ship. Zeal barely manages a similar feat, having to do so a bit sooner than I.

Ion beams strike around me, a pair of deadly pillars from my lord, Sajuuk, planted firmly into the hull of the enemy ship, cutting into the outer layers of dense, thick armoring in a pair of trails that follow Zeal and I on our climb, which takes a full ten seconds. Then, once we`re right to the edge, I slam the stick forward and my fighter goes into a forward 270 degree roll forward and down of my direction, then my belly thrusters kick off and my stabilizers kick in, setting me on my prefered course as my Blade cuts a path down the side of the massive enemy ship. Zeal, barrel rolling and laughing madly from battleshock, blazing up from the wall of the forward bulkhead after me, his course that of a backwards 410 degree version of what I had done.

His own shots ring out in front of me like a seismograph, having somewhere near the same effect as my twin gattlings do on the thickened hide of the enemy ship.

Until of course, our shots impact the inner walls of a launch bay. I can see explosions zing off, and I almost let out a cry of shock as Zeal passes in front of me and into the launch bay, causing me to instinctively jar my fighter upward and ride along on the edge of a sustained ion beam, reeling as heat fills the cockpit and threatens to overwhelm me before I barrel roll a bit farther away and look back. Damn...

Zeal is dead.

The shock won`t hit me for a while, I know that, but today I`ve lost two of my comrades and it`s sure to hurt later. "For Kharak!" I can almost hear him call out. "She`s going to explode, everybody out!" The call again drowns out everything on the broadband and the battle chatter subsides into cheers of victory when the Saber squadron`s manages to attract the attention of the remaining swarmers, who fall into a massive pursuit after them. Crazy idiots... Brave, but crazy.

And down they go in a flash of light so bright that even with the protectors in my helmet and on my cockpit shield, I have to look away, lest I be blinded for a few minutes. "Engine failure. Fuel content zero."

Damn. At least the battle is over now. I can see salvage corvettes launching to come out and pick up the fallen ships, and repair corvettes aren`t too far behind. The resource ships are also returning active duty, and as I watch the Mercy approach, I feel a sense of security falling over me that arrives only after a battle.

The battle is over. I look around and I see that debris drifts everywhere, mainly away from the source of the largest explosion I`ve ever witnessed out in deep space. With the fighting stopped, I look at my life support readings and remove the pressure helmet, no longer needed since there isn`t really a threat of damage to my cockpit glass. I`ve got about five hours left on my oxygen, and it will probably take half that time for the Mercy to finish catching the other downed fighters and corvettes out in the field before it reaches me. No matter. I can wait...


Author`s Note: Hope you enjoyed it. Leave a review, if you`d be so kind.