Chapter One: Counter-Strike

Its been three months since my last log entry and if I understand Command correctly, we have located the enemy fleet. Seems the Home Guard hurt them more then we thought. While we may have destroyed half of their number, we had damaged a lot more of them then expected. Honestly I was having trouble believing it. They had weaponry and armor the likes of which I had never seen before. Shields, pulsed energy canons, phase-array cannons, they had stuff that make a battlestar's main battery seem timid in comparison. And Command was freaking hunting them. All we had was one ship, albeit the damn thing was huge. And its main gun had never been tested. Originally we designed it for clearing sublight paths through asteroid fields. Funny how things work out.

-CPT Sora Hyrin, HNS Frontier, Personal Log-

Those first few months were hard and it seemed like all I could think about was my sister. I mean, we were always together and now...she's gone. It's something that never occurred to me as possible. I still think about her...I mean, who wouldn't think about lost family.

Soon I would be called upon to fight once more. None of us were paying close attention to a calender. The first time we started keeping track was Goddesses Day. We did, in that time, manage to salvage equipment from the scrapped and derelict ships in orbit around Kharak before we left. R&D was still trying to duplicate some of it.I honestly hoped that they succeeded, cause I happen to despise landing just to re-arm. On the other side of the coin though, the enemy shields are worthless against bullets. That was our main advantage. Once we can unlock their shield tech, we could hit them...but they couldn't hit back.

Zelda walked through one of Frontiers many corridors with a determined look on her face. As she turned a corner, one of the scientists on board nearly ran her over in his haste. "No time to chat, Your Highness. Lab three has had a breakthrough!" As he raced down the hall, she decided to follow him as her curiousity got the better of her. She knew she was close because the sounds of praise and laughter filled the air.

"...lutionize combat for years to come." "But giving fighters jump drives is dangerous. We'd have to completely plot their jumps, BOTH WAYS, before they leave." "But with the new armor and shields, that problem becomes minimal. All we really need is a way to power everything." "And that's the problem! We don't have the ability to power our fighters without some kind of fuel."

Zelda, who had been listening intently, remembered an old project from her father's notes. "I apologize for the interruption, gentlemen...ladies. I happen to recall an old project from my father's notes. Does anyone here recall Project OverDrive?" The scientists were dumbstruck. They hadn't even noticed her come in, and were now trying to remember a project none of them had heard of. "Your Highness," a much older man said, "I was on that team of researchers. We boxed the project due to lack of funds. If I remember correctly, we had blueprints and a mock-up made, but were unable to build a working prototype." "Since we are all that's left of our race, money is no longer an issue. Get what you need and try to get a viable engine. If I understand you all correctly, current power limits require a choice between shields and jump drives. This is you new assignment."

"Yes, Your Highness."

As Zelda left, the researchers were already hard at work. Since she wasted a lot of time with hre detour, she called for transport to the residential sector...more specifically, the Hyrin residence. She was very surprised to see her nephew outside on the porch in front of his home. "It's good to see you outside again, Sora. May I sit?" "Of course, Aunt Zelda." Taking a seat next to him on the porch swing, she sat quietly for a few moments. "How do you handle this, Aunt Zel?" Surprised by the question, she gave him a look to continue. "How do you keep going? Dad and Mom are gone, Klane` is gone. We are on the brink of extinction. How do you not cry?"

"Sora, the Royal family isn't allowed to show weakness. We learn at a young age how to cry without tears." As she turned to look at him, she could see the tears rolling down his face. "Its not fair. You never taught us how to cry without the tears." Reaching over, she pulled the young man into a tight hug as he cried. "Crying shouldn't be labeled a weakness. It takes a strong heart to cry for the fallen. I cry and pray to the Goddesses every night. It shows we are still Hylian." He cried for several minutes before the tears slowly stopped, giving way to a look of determination.

"I hear we are hunting down the group that took our home from us." Zelda nodded. "Yes, whatever they are using for FTL travel seems to leave a ripple of energy behind. Commander Marcus says they can track it very easily." Sora nodded in thought. "I want vengeance for my family, my people. They won't ever be able to hit me." Turning his to face her, she looked him in the eye. "Remember that revenge can get you killed. You are the last of your line. Who will carry your name should you fall?" "I remember, Aunt Zel." "Good, I want to see you back in the cockpit soon." And with that, she stood and left as quietly as she arrived, leaving Sora in silence with nothing but his thoughts.

I think it was that conversation that set me on my path. I know we had several similar talks, but that one seemed to be...I don't seemed to ease a weight on my chest. It took two months for me to set foot in a cockpit again. A lot of counseling, sim training, and of course learning to plot my own jumps. Yes you heard right...more upchucking...and this time its in my friggin' helmet. At least I have time to learn about all the new systems they are looking at giving us. The fleet, while it was still following the enemy, was taking its time now. I actually got to see the birth of a new star in the last system we passed. And morale had never been higher since beofre the fall of Kharak.

-CPT Sora Hyrin, HNS Frontier, Personal log-

Sora stood at attention with his squadron, as well as Vermillion squadron, in the main hangar. On the other side of the hangar's air shield a binary star, one red and one blue, shown brightly, illuminating the hangar with a soft violet light. To his left, a door opened showing the commander of the Frontier and several scientists. A storage bay opened and what looked like an engine was rolled out in front of them.

"Good Morning, pilots. Many of you are probably wondering, 'Why the hell is one of our engines out here and not in a plane?' Well the happy little bookworms in R&D have an early Goddesses Day present for you. Say hello to your new, NUCLEAR, engines."

All the pilots, Sora included, watched as the engine was brought online. The scientists made a big show of the lack of fuel lines. The pilots, who were used to the customary orange of fuel burning, watching in surprise and awe as the afterburner ignited, throwing a cone of violet flame behind it.

"This is the NPE-01. For those of you who don't know geek-speak, that stands for Nuclear Pulse Engine Zero-One. Your old engines had a top speed of around mach four in atmo. These suckers, under the same loadout, are ultra sonic. That is over twn times the speed of sound, people. And you are being equipped with two of them. Out here, there are no refueling refineries. That is one reason we developed them. The other..." he waved to the scientists, "is new equipment." A dull, gray VF-25 was rolled out. "Captain Hyrin, your valkyrie is the first to received the full upgrades. The first is what they call phase-shift armor." As he spoke, the hull shimmered and changed to Sora's normal paint scheme. "As you can see, it changes to show its online. It is your primary defense against solid rounds such as missiles and bullets. The second..." A bubble of translucent energy enclosed the fighter then vanished. "is a full shield system." A technician pulled out a strange looking weapon and fired. A small glowing ball of blue flame sped towards the fighter and splashed against the shield. Applause filled the hangar.

"Your final upgrade, is a fighter sized JumpDrive."

"Excuse me, Sir. Did you say in FTL?"

"Yes I did, pilot. FTL as in Faster than Light. You now have the ability to perform deep space strikes against the enemy." Cheers filled the hangar bay. "In one week, you will all have refitted valkyries. Until then, you are all on leave. Standard CAP still flies. Dismissed."

Being told my still brand new fighter was now upgraded to be even more kickass than before was awe-inspiring. Even my connections to the Royal family, though, didn't get me any info on why they were really pushing the upgrades. They didn't bother upgrading any weapons and sitting on a pair of nukes really wasn't anyone's idea of fun. I will admit that my first fighter jump went a lot smoother than my first jump on Frontier.

The pain I felt at losing my family was still there, but it had faded a bit with time. Turns out, everyone had lost someone in the attacks on Kharak. Even quiet little Tio, had lost someone close to her. And now the crew and civilians on board were beginning to wrk together... I mean truly work together. The tragedy of Kharak, the following months, and trying to keep going on pulled everyone together as a sort of family.

We were still keeping an eye on the enemy fleet. And we started using hit and run tactics to keep them looking over their shoulders. Meanwhile, the rest of us were having to take classes on how to repair and/or build a jumpdrive. They say that IF anything goes wrong, they don't want us stranded somewhere Seems the enemy has parked themselves in the Saren Asteroid belt...the perfect place to ambush them.

-CPT Sora Hyrin, HNS Frontier, personal log-

"Welcome back, pilots. Its been two months since I last spoke to you and hopefully, none of you have forgotten who I am..." Snickering went around the room. "That said, I am about to give you your first deep-strike mission." the lights dimmed as the holo-projector lit, showing the galaxy around them. "This," the image changed to show an asteroid belt, "is the Saren Field. It has a high-mag signature. The enemy that destroyed Kharak is here." At this point, he had everyone's attention. "The enemy force is still large, although damaged. And you will not have capital ship support for this mission. Engineering is still working to repair and refit the Farore's Wind, and it won't be ready for three more months. They are also building a new class of ship and need time and resources. Your mission is this. You will jump out to Saren and make your way to the enemy fleet. You are to disable or destroy as many vessels as possible, then jump out again. If in the first strike you do not destroy the fleet, you are authorized to RTB and re-arm. For this mission, R&D has made available a new anti-capital ship weapon for your use...and for testing purposes. It is designed off of captured enemy technology. The 300 milimeter Impulse cannon is a belly mounted weapon. It is also an energy weapon and will cause some strain on your power systems. You launch in three hours. Good Hunting."

Three hours later found Sora in his cockpit checking out the new systems. They had changed the cockpit panels slightly as the targeting screen was now semi-spherical. Several gauges had been replaced with screens. A few moments later, the launch klaxons sounded. Preflight took longer than even he expected, but soon he was being taxied to the catapult and he began bringing the Nav-Com online. As they finished kooking him into the catapult, he brought the engines to full power. With a slight shudder, he was impressed to find the engines slowly forcing the catapult forward. Soon, though, he and his squadron were in flight.

"Angel One to all valkyries, form up and prepare for jump."

Deciding to take the first jump, he moved into position. "Jump vectors locked, Drive online. All systems green." Throwing the throttle forward, he was thrown into his sead as the g-forces increased. "Jump in Jumping!" Lightning arced along the hull and Sora felt the familiar feeling of being squeezed through a tube. The next instant, he rolled right, narrowly missing an asteroid as he came down from the jump. As other fighters followed suit, Sora heard retching over the comms and saw a few of them wobble a bit. "Easy, guys. Its not that bad."

Slowly, the flight of valkyries made their way to the enemy fleet. The radios were silent as they twisted, dived and dodged to avoid the many asteroids. "This is Three, i'm picking up an EM signature, vector two-eight-one mark five-one-nine." Sora rolled to an inverted position and looked out. Then he saw it... a large group of stationary, yellow vessels. "I see them." "Who the hell paints a hull in space yellow?" "Who cares. Full burn, boys and girls. Weapons free. Fire at will, fire at will."

The valkyries rolled over and dove, engines alight with violet flame. As they closed in, many realized the ships were much bigger than they thought. "Angel One, arming AGNI." As he dove, he aimed the the largest vessel's engines. Squeezing the trigger, the whole craft bucked as a massive beam of energy lanced out. Fighting to hold the ship steady, he watched as the beam impacted, then pierced through the engines and out the other side. And although severely weakened, the beam still caught an unsuspecting fighter off guard, blowing off one of its engines and sending it spinning into another capital ship. "Holy hell! One to all fighters, AGNI has kick and will throw you off course." As the battle raged, ships of all sizes were exploding or venting atmosphere.

To Sora's left, a lucky shot from a capital ship's turret tore through the valkyrie on his wing. A flash of light caught his attention and he looked to see flashing on his rear shields. Jinking right, he threw himself into a climb and hit the afterburners. Scaling the hull of an enemy ship, he weaved through a couple of turrets and saw the radar blip vanish. Looking back, he saw gouts of flame shooting from one of the turrets.

Clearing the hull, Sora finally found a free moment and took a look around the battlefield. Hiding out on the hull of a destroyed battleship, he saw Mikhail's fighter in sniper mode, methodically taking out fighters and other targets. Luca was way above the battle, his drones doing most of the work for him. Looking around he finally found Tio. And, was surprisingly impressed. Her valkyrie darted in and out of enemy formations, quickly switching from frighter to GERWALK to Battroid from moment to moment. Whistling to himself, he dove straight for an enemy formation, re-engaging the enemy and tearing through their hulls with autocannon rounds.

That battle was one of the greatest in terms of boosting morale. I mean, hell, we had twenty six fighters against a fleet of about forty to fifty capships and hundreds of fighters. Not one escaped. We had swept through them like an avenging angel for the destruction of our home. After destroying most of the ships, a few actually surrendered. We board and destroyed everything related to comms or beacons, then used its FTL to bring it home. Bringing them home earned us all a two rank promotion.

But while morale was high, destroying that fleet didn't really take away the pain. It gave us closure... but most were still reeling from the loss of home and family, even months later. I'll admit that after that battle I sought out my aunt for a good cry. I had seen the faces inside a few cockpits. They looked like us...and I know that image will never leave my mind. -CPT Sora Hyrin, HNS Frontier, Personal Log