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Chapter 2: Escape


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The meeting with the World's Authorities drew near.  Each of the group had been given a list of them, some were surprising, others not so much.  they'd been allowed to communicate with their friends and families, and the fellow students who'd been gathered.   This of course helped them make some peace with it. Surprisingly more Reclaimers were indeed found, though they were not separated from their families.  True to Omoikane's word, they were all younger than them, most were under fifteen actually.  When Omoikane was asked why they weren't separated, the AI simply answered. "They are Reclaimers, yes. But they are all only children.  When they come of age, then they will come into their birthright, as you have."

When they all arrived at the meeting together, they found A large circular room, in the center was a table with a glossy black surface, but it wasn't stone.   The walls were a blue tinted metal, and the chairs were comfortable, and arranged around the table. Six of them were occupied by Various adult representatives.

From the Civilian Government, Lt. Governor Shima, The governor's right hand woman, a tough high class Lawyer.   She excelled in civil rights cases, and while Governor Masuda spoke with fire and passion, Lt.  Misato Shima was pure ice, maintaining an air of aloof dignity.


From The Military, Admiral Stanford Witcomb,  he was the second highest ranked soldier in system, his shock of close cropped white hair and clear blue eyes made him look younger than his 82 years.   He wasn't smiling, but as the Reclaimers came in and took their seats, he was watching, and noting how they comported themselves.

From Fujiwara Heavy Industries, there were actually two people present, Local Manager Kenji Morisato, the man who for all intents, had control of all FHI facilities in system, was middle aged man, nearing his fifties, but still had the look of a man who loved his work.
The second person from FHI and also serving as a Scientific authority was Emilia Lang.  She was the overall head of Exotic Research, a little known department within the conglomerate.   She was the youngest of the adults at close to thirty. She was a genius with doctorates in three fields.

Chancellor Myra Tompkins was the head director of the civilian course of Corbulo Academy, representing the Academy and all the students there. She was among the more vehement in resisting the evacuations, as she was responsible for all the students.  The fact that all of the "Reclaimers" as they'd been called were students at her Academy wasn't lost on her and she eyed them with  concern.

The last stood as representative of the Independent concerns on planet, One Yiva recognized as Dane Erickson, the Second of Thorfare Corp.   From among the many smaller Corps, they'd been elected to send a representative due to being trusted for their fair and honest dealings, though they definitely kept more to themselves.  

Once everyone was seated,  Omoikane began to speak.  "I am this Facility's caretaker.   My name in the language of my creators is mostly unpronounceable in your tongue, so I have chosen something close to its meaning.  Please, address any questions or concerns to me, Omoikane."   

"Now, As you have all been shown the footage of the Invid, both the arrival of the scout, as well as archival footage.   I know you are not inclined to trust my words, but I do hope my actions speak for me. The Reclaimers have asked that I be as open with you as I am with them, and I will do so if it will get your cooperation.  I will state the facts as they are."

The table came to life, a column of light, coalescing into a hologram of the world, pinpointing every human settlement, and changing through views of them through the cameras of the drones and ships on site.   "You recognize that the ships are unarmed, and that your weapons are useless against their armor.  The attacks have stopped, this is good.  What isn't good is that you haven't really allowed anyone to board the ships, allowing me to bring them to the safe zones."

"Safe zones for what?"asked Admiral Whitcomb.


"As you know Admiral, going through hyperspace as your ships do can induce jumpsickness, even in healthy and hardy young humans.  We will be executing at least a dozen randomized hyperspace folds, the true method of space travel which yours are based on, in rapid sucession.   It is my duty, charged by my creators and the Reclaimers, to ensure your safety, thus I have prepared places that are shielded against Fold radiation.  Due to limited time, and power needs, I have only been able to make four ready, but with even distrubution they will comfortably hold the world's population when We Fold to escape the Incoming Armada."

Chancellor Tompkins spoke next.  "Wait.   How does a zone on the planet protect the citizenry if you're talking of Folding away?   That doesn't really make sense.  Would you be folding away to decoy them from the planet?"

Before Omoikane could answer, Dr. Lang did.  "Not if the world itself is a ship, and is what will be folding.   World-encompassing energy shields are impossible with our technology, and even what we do have the capability to produce take enormous power."  

Omoikane's terminal bowed slightly, and spoke. "That is Correct Dr. Lang.   This facility, this world, is an arkship made by my creators.   This was to be a redoubt leading up to the deployment of our final resort against the invid.   At the time, I had power reserves to fully protect the planet and to relocate should need arise.  Sadly, I cannot do that at this time.   We have abit over eighty hours to evacuate everyone into the safety zones, and then we must leave or we will be overrun.  I do not have the time or power reserves to ready the defensive fleet."

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Tired as she had been last night, Annette couldn't claim more than 3-4 hours of real sleep before the sheer strangeness behind her luxurious quarters had driven her awake. Sitting there, in the dark, listening the white noise of the alien machinery vibrating almost-imperceptivity around her. At her heart of hearts, she couldn't trust this whole ancient aliens scenario. It had the feel of trap, an itch she couldn't scratch, their AI host too eager to serve it's Reclaimers. What kind of people would do THAT to a being? Screamed unspoken volumes about their society, the kind of stratification that saw Earth as the natural heart of the universe over all the other human worlds. If they missed one sign, one clue, of human habitation in the system, these Invid seemed like the type to follow up a missed swing with another, especially if they had a grudge after their last round. How could it be sure? Her father knowing nothing about any of this?


Left her sitting there in the dark in the middle of a too big bed, thoughts tumbling too quick to settle even if she had a quick bag. 


Sixteen hours later, sitting there at a table with the six most powerful people in the colony in a replica of her Corbulo Academy military uniform, she heard the answer, inhaling as it both clicked and freaked her out behind a plastic smile. The planet was a world ship? With its own fleet? That was, Verse take her bad memory, a Class Three or Four civilization thing, at least. And the least of her, their, problems. 


"Forgive my interruption, Ladies, Gentlemen," she offered with a respect for authority it had cost her a lot to fake, "It's a lot to consider and not a lot of time to consider it, ancient worldships underneath our feet this whole time, aside. *BUT* if there is even a chance Omoikane is right, we need to clean up our, humanity's presence in the system as thoroughly as possible before he takes the planet out from under our feet with whoever gets into a shelter by the deadline. I'm just a student at the Academy and don't know whatever secrets you've kept from the population and each other..."


The red-eyed Mirandan couldn't quite stop herself from pausing to look at Emilia Lang, face of the local conglomerate conspiracy in her mind, before continuing, "...But, I know my history enough that the low-tech culture in a first contact scenario is the one that loses nine times out of ten. We need to cover our tracks until, if Omoikane is telling the truth and helps up, we *aren't* low-tech culture anymore, at least enough to hold our own."   

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Yiva had been silent still trying to come to terms with the circumstances that put her in this meeting. She listened to Annette and agreed with her for the most part.


All except on the running away.


"We cannot just leave," She held up her hand to stave off the chorus of dissent, " They know we are here. When their fleet arrives and we are gone they will double or triple their effort to locate us because we will have just became what they fear the most. And we do not know if they can track a world through fold space. They have had all of this time to advance their technology."  She looks around at the delegates, "Someone has to be here when they arrive. A defensive fleet that will fight. It is what they will expect."


She turns to face Omoikane, "Do you have the capability to put a decoy planet in this planets place? One that we can blow up?" 

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Everyone had been listening, and Omoikane answered.  "There is simply not enough time for that, nor do I have the spare power to do so."   "What I can probably arrange is one of the dreadnaughts rigged to blow.  If we leave it in the orbital framework, it comes to look like the salvage of a derelict.  Because its reactor will be active, it will draw their attention.   Certainly not slake it but give them something at least."

Kazuya shrugged.  "Would there be any point in trying to have it fold out to another location, leading them away?"

Omoikane's eye like crystal seemed to narrow, and she answered  "If they find the ship here, they will take the time to search the entire system for any others.   They'll also be finding the orbital facilities.  They will give away that you're not their age old enemy, and I do not have the time to fabricate something that will tell them otherwise.  Still, they will waste time and resources searching all nearby systems for you.   That is good, because they will find nothing, and then they will have to start again.   I already have three ships I'm preparing to send to other systems, back towards my creator's worlds, ones you've never even discovered, so that it will obfuscate where exactly we did go, should they have redeveloped the means to track such things."

Admiral Whitcomb looked troubled.  "A Dreadnaught class ship? Just how large is that? The three we've found..."  He said to the surprise of all but Dr. Lang.  

"The three ships Fujiwara heavy industries and the military have found are two pursuit corvettes,  at roughly a hundred and fifty meters in length, and a single Attack Corvette, at two hundred and fifty meters in length.    They are nothing compared to the fifteen kilometer length of a dreadnaught.  I have ten such  ships in storage, though I will only be able to partially ready one before our departure."

"I knew it!"  Dr Lang exclaimed, and all eyes turned to her.   "I knew the ships we had were impressive, but something seemed off.   They blow anything we've got out of the water, and our MAC cannons, railguns, and autocannons are all pale imitations of the weapons we found, but you're confirming their are ships even more powerful stored here."

She looked to the others, and smiled.  "We must prepare to leave.   This entire world has value.  The people the fauna, and flora..all the technology we're only being shown a glimpse of.."

Mira raised a hand.  "What will happen to all non human life on the planet when we fold?"

Omoikane spoke quietly.  "It will perish.   More than  likely all structures on the surface will be scoured from it, along with all water, and all terrestrial life."

Kenji Morisato spoke up.  "Is there no way to avoid this?  Even if we jump to earth, there is no way they could take in so many people, and certainly we cannot remain in our home system.  People here have spent generations making this world our home, must we surrender that as well?"

Omoikane was silent for several long moments.   "There is one, and only one way.   I have planned 12 random jumps, to maximize the confusion and obfuscation of our absence, and just where we went.   If we cut the number of jumps to four, we should have the power to shield the entire world for the time it takes to complete those jumps.  However,  such few jumps will greatly increase the chance of discovery."

Chancellor Tompkins seemed perturbed by this.  "Then why all the fuss of the Evacuation, why not simply use the least amount of jumps and conserve power for the shield?"

Omoikane turned to her.  'Because doing so directly increases the chances that I will fail to safeguard and protect the Reclaimers of this world.   That singular duty is one I cannot fail.  Your cities can be rebuilt.   But if your lives are extinguished, not even our science can rebuild that.  Even if we go with the lesser number of jumps, I must insist on the evacuation to the safe zones.  Since those will be protected both by the shields and the armor of this facility."

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There was a LOT to take in, but Anna's engineering-brain seized not on the background story, but the immediate problem. Energy.


"Okay...okay, that all sounds like it must need an absolutely monstrous amount of power," she said, "but maybe we're going about this the wrong way. What would it take to get enough power for more jumps? You have a bunch of ships, can we siphon power from those? What about the sun? Can eat ANY of this cake we have? I mean, the colony HAS reactors and energy storage. Would it be enough to make a difference?"


On the face of it, the question seemed absurd...but who really knew, right? An advanced civilization might have incredibly enhanced energy efficiencies. It might not actually take as much energy for them to do these wondrous things as it sounded like to her primitive mind.


And...if she was honest, the idea of being trapped under the surface of an entire PLANET full of this technology didn't sound so bad! She'd grown up in spaceships and asteroid bases! Imagine that, but stuffed with SPACE MAGIC!

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Ray shrugged his shoulders, "If inter-system navigation is as hard as intra-system navigation or even land nav, it gets exponentially more difficult to follow after every additional jump. That's just according to the math. As far as the shorter versus longer series of jumps, I'd say go for the longer series. It'll also enable us to prepare over more time for the inevitable conflict that's coming. I think we need to focus on the survival of the sentient life on this planet and also on the rest of the Human sphere of influence." 


He began pacing back and forth. "We also need to figure out how to advance our understanding of the technology presented by Omoi." He turned to the drone, "Can we get our engineers and scientists to study the technology you are enabling us to use? After all, if they can translate the tech or create bridges, that'd be awesome."

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Omoikane seemed to pause, considering Anna's question.   "The larger ships are necessary for us to complete the evacuation.   The smallest class have negligible power usage, so reclaiming it from them will not matter much.   If it were something your people are amenable to, I could use the various fusion reactors on planet to build up more power, but it won't amount to all that much.   If I pull too much, too fast, the materials your reactors are constructed of will Not last, and then we will have a different, and more destructive problem.  As to your question about solar power, I can use solar power, but not with the facility configured as it currently is.  Changing configuration will definitely destroy upwards of seventy percent of the human settlements currently established.  That goes against my prime directive of protecting you, so I have not done so."

She then turned to address Ray.  "The Invid and my creators both have the means to track Folds through Hyperspace.   This facility does, and can easily track up to six jumps without allocating more resources.  Now, there is a good chance that the Invid no longer have the capability, certainly they do not have it to the level they once had, our final weapon saw to that, however, it didn't actually work in full, else there'd be No Invid."

"Currently, we do have something of an advantage, as we have Reclaimers of the highest class, which has enabled me to render my full support to you, and will do so for any other Caretakers and facilities we encounter from here on out.   With some time, humanity will come to fully understand the birthright left to them, I'm certain your homeworld will have yet more Reclaimers, and the more of you that there are, the better."

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Annette took a breath and wished for the dozenth time that conversation she could get her family on one of the FTL-equipped ships in the systems and out of here. The Mirandan Native gave no thought to fantasizing her own way aboard one herself. She doubted she could this bloodline-obsessed AI from letting one it's precious 'highest class' Reclaimers go, and besides, she doubted there were any berths available by now. Too late by far. If they ran into whatever was left of this AI's creators, she'd have a right hook and word for them hobbling a sentient being like this for longer than Terrans had goram agriculture.


Freedom was the right of all sentient beings, after all.


"Right, I think it's pretty clear we're jumping whether we want to or not," she began, forcing her most-pleasant 'I'm performing to a new audience' smile up, "And this is a beautiful planet. I don't want it scoured clean either. I just don't want us to do 4 hops to save all that only for the Invid to show up a week later while the batteries are too drained to jump again. We'd still lose the planet, everyone on it, and give them the rest of the human race, too, a double failure. Can you live with that risk? I can't, 'Verse take me."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yiva crossed her arms and furrowed her brow, as everyone once again gave into the robots wishes.


"All of you are willing to give up without any fight what so ever. Sacrifice everything we collectively have worked for for a over a generation, sacrefice the life of an entire planet excepting those , humans, who can make to these shelters. And not everyone will be able to.


You are all willing to trust in a robot, who admits that they screwed up and for all intents and purposes caused this problem. 

I for one cannot live with myself if we do not even try to defend our home."


She glares at the robot, "As for you, we are the Reclaimers, and as such we are the inheritors of those who built you thus, you are ours to command, not the other way around.

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The adults almost immediately began arguing over What Anne had said, and just how fast the population could be evacuated, and what to tell them regarding the potential destruction of the surface.   It wasn't all that productive, and still it went on becoming a question of whether or not to go with the less secure number of jumps or not to protect what they'd built and the native flora and fauna.

When Yiva spoke, the gathering quieted. Several spoke about wanting to protect the citizenry first and foremost, but Dr. Lang and Dane held their peace.   When the others thought they'd said enough, Dane spoke.  "We've spent blood, sweat, tears, and lifetimes cultivating this world, building up settlements and cities.  Yes they can be rebuilt, but if we run, if we do so without protecting the life this world teems with, we'll never be able to regain what we lose."

Omoikane almost spoke to correct him, that technically, while it might take a human generation to do, once the facility fully online and operating at full power, repopulating the planet wouldn't be all that hard.   Still, this seemed important, and she waited.

Dr. Lang spoke with a surety that was almost frightening.  "I agree.   We should definitely protect this world.  It wouldn't surprise me, knowing what I do know, if this facility could in time replace the life upon it, Omoikane did say she was a sort of Ark.   Still, that would take much time, which we may not have.  The life of this world, the entire ecosystem, is invaluable.  Think of the medicines that have come from our study of life here.   Cancer, virtually erradicated.   Even new diseases from dozens of worlds, all treatable and survivable thanks to the work and research done involving this world's flora and fauna.   If we must leave, then we must leave.  However we must take pains to protect every part of this planet, or ship, as it seems."

This made the others pause to think.  Dr. Lang went on. "We have guaranteed pros to taking the fully shielded less jumps route.  Weigh that against potentially leading these Invid to another of our worlds."

The Admiral spoke.  "That world is Earth, Cradle of our people, our most important world."

"Is it?" Lang asked, illiciting an almost shocked gasp from several.  "Yes it has the Titan and O'Neil shipyards, and yes it's the seat of Government, but does it really produce anything on its own that is unique?   Reach has even larger orbital factories and facilities, Miranda is a cultural center, Circinus has vast deposits of rare metals that are easily mined, But on Earth, there's damnably little.   It imports much, and only exports politicians, soldiers, and researchers."

Morisato looked at her, his eyes narrowing.  "You know I'm right Manager.   If not for the home office, we'd not be blindsided by all this."  

The Admiral looked like he was about to pop a Gasket, and Tompkins was just aghast.  This all certainly sounded like Rebel Rhetoric of a flavor.

Then Emilia turned to Yiva.   "I get that you want to protect your home, that you want to fight.   Is it truly wise to fight an enemy we've not faced, with our limited weaponry, ancient intel on their capabilities, and nothing current to go on?  You're a cadet, I know they teach tactics an strategy.  Fighting them now violates nearly every standard doctrine I know of."

She looked to Omoikane.  "What she said, is that really true?  Are these cadets your only master?  Can you not disobey them?"

The Terminal's eye irised closed, then opened, more narrow than before.   "Of course I can, if it is to protect them from harm." Omoikane's voice grew hard.  "I do serve the Reclaimers, and these before you are the highest level on this world.   But I am a fully sentient being.   I have the rights and responsibilities of such."

Omoikane turned to Yiva.  "You did make a single mistake.  Everyone alive on this world can fit in the shelters that are prepared.  This world can easily provide for a population of a billion people when fully powered." 

Kazuya smiled. "I'm glad you're able to say "No" Omoikane, though I guess that means you don't need permission to leave this system when and how you feel like it."  he nodded.  "Thank you for at least  not simply jumping away."

"Building a good rapport is based on trust, Kazuya.   I realize our initial meeting wasn't the best, but I do hope one day you will all trust that I am a friend.   Until then, I will do my best to protect all you hold.."  She trailed off.

"No."  her voice was a whisper.   

Suddenly the table changed to a system map, and at the Zeneith jump point, there were now four ships of inhuman origin.   

"A patrol squadron."  Omoikane seemed shaken.   "They must have been nearby.  Without the full system activated and access to the Hypernet, I couldn't have predicted this."  The ships were already moving toward the planet.   They looked almost alive, fitting what they'd been told and shown of the Invid's biomechanical nature.  "Invid Destroyer, three pursuit corvette.  Admiral Whitcomb, Director Morisato,  I will facilitate communications to your facilities throughout the system.  you must have them begin immediate evacuations towards the planet.  You have some time, and I will monitor the situation.  I have some limited offensive craft I can ready in the next hour, nothing that will stop those ships, but they should be able to buy your people time to get here."   

Both of them nodded.  "Very well, please make the arrangements."

Kazuya looked to Omoikane.  "What about the Dreadnaught?  Can't it fight?"

"If it were fully operational, it would easily handle this fleet, however, that is not going to be possible.   I can ready two destroyers, in the next four hours, which is about equal to their forces, however each will require a Reclaimer to captain them.   I also can have two dozen fightercraft ready for your use.   It will take three hours to modify them, and while they are more responsive with Reclaimer pilots, they can be used by normal pilots.  That's the part that will make them take the time to modify."   

Kazuya looked to Ray, Yiva, Beth and Annette.  "I'll take one of the ships."

"You wanted the chance to fight to protect our home, here it is."  he said quietly.   This was far from ideal, but it had to be done.

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Annette demonstrated some of that Mirandan cultural depth by unleashing a staccato burst of Chinese swear words, the kind most of her peers back home picked up to the despair of their elders. The crimson-eyed brunette forced the anger down and away somewhere useful in the future, flush in her cheeks, smile strained not only at this turn of events but the choice to do the riskier small set of jumps. 


"Let's hope the Invid can't pull off an ftl destress beacon while we're killing them then. I'll take the second ship," she volunteered, internally rejecting the temptation to throw herself into the cockpit of an alien fighter craft. She had far more simulator time flying a shuttle through re-entry turbulence then any type of combat flying, and while she was a better pilot than most in their class, she wanted something a little more forgiving in her first fight against a genocidal alien race with a (understandable) grudge against her ancestors. If Omoikane's binding directives was how they treated their allies, the Invid must have *really* been hit with it. Next time maybe if she screwed up just badly enough to walk away from this fight, Verse willing.





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Ray smiles, "I'd be asking for the fighters anyway. What sort of craft are these fighters? They must be very agile and powerful based on your tech shown here." He chuckles, "Let's do this. Do we need callsigns or should we go by a color for the squadron. I suggest Black squadron, or Hope squadron if we're going more descriptive. Anyway, let's get to the fighters to familiarize ourselves with that tech." With that comment Ray stands up, and starts pacing, trying to get rid of some of the adrenaline.

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"I've never captained a ship before," Anne notes, wide-eyed. "It...probably works kind of like a sim game though, right?"


She slaps her forehead and laughs. "I mean...obviously I'll help! No idea how well I'll do, but I'll give it my all!"


"I'm kinda surprised you don't have drone fighters though. Seems like that'd work better. Maybe we can install something like that once we've gotten away and there's time to catch our breaths!"

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Omoikane seemed pleased by the response, and very quickly things began to happen.  The Admiral quickly called up pilots to man the craft, and the evacuation was begun.  The homes people were shown to were often equal if not better than what they'd lived in before, so there were few complaints there.   Families were reunited, and plans were made.  Omoikane was quite busy, rearming and refitting the fighters and the two destroyers, which were each 350m long.   The refit craft were loaded into the ships, and a tutorial was prepared.

Once the first refit was complete, after an hour, She called the pilots, aside from Kazuya and Annette, to a room where two dozen cockpit simulators were.   They looked and smelled brand new, and more, looked to be made of mostly human technology.   "Though externally the craft you will be in will be alien to your eyes, I have refit the interior of the cockpit to more closely match what you are used to.   I have uploaded all pertient data, on both possible invid you will encounter, and the capabilities of the craft you will be piloting into the simulators, and I advise you to spend the next couple hours familiarizing yourself with them.  Keep in mind while the specs are uptodate, the intel on the invid is old, so don't count on it to be identical.   I am told the pilots selected are among the best of the best.   Admiral Whitcomb himself will be running the simulations for you, so do your best."

What followed was all the pilots getting into their simpods, and the system booting up. It revealed the craft were insanely maneuverable, both in and out of the atmosphere, they were armed with three laser pulse canons, and if it were to be believed, each carried over forty missiles with payloads equivalent to modern cruise missiles.  Getting their first look at them, or at least a simulated look, none of the weapons showed externally, and the craft looked to be fairly well armored.   It was even more of a surprise to find out that they could easily achieve escape velocity unassisted,  and had the requisite inertial dampening systems to make this easier on the pilot. Building on that, they had an energy shield that could be deployed for up to sixty seconds before needing to recharge, which was an eternity in combat.

After being given fifteen minutes to take stock of all the equipment and capabilities, Admiral whitcomb began barking out squadron assignments, with six fightercraft each, four in total.  Each of the 4 Reclaimers, Yiva, Ray, Mari, and Anne, were in a separate squadron.  Clearly the admiral was trying to protect them, their wingmen were all veteran fliers, and while it was obvious they weren't thrilled with taking cadets into combat, if the old Man was doing it, his reasons were enough for them.  Besides, everyone seemed quite excited to try out alien tech fightercraft.




Elsewhere, In a smaller room with a holo table, Annette and Kazuya were being prepared for their parts in the battle by Omoikane.   The Holotable was showing a sleek looking and powerful, though they didn't show their full compliment of weapons.   "These will be the Destroyers I have ready.  The first is a Corona class.  It's main gun is a light positron starcannon, and it comes standard with six dozen piloted craft, and eight dozen drones.  Unfortunately, the drone control systems take more time to activate and prepare for use, so we'll be forgoing them at this time.   It has six secondary batteries all of them medium particle cannons, one each on top and bottom, and then 2 to either side.  The aft arc is covered by point defense lasers, and two Barracuda class capital ship missile launchers.    The Corona slower of the two but boasts stronger armor and stronger shields.  The second ship is the Aurora class.  It was much sleeker than the blockier looking Corona.  "The Aurora has less secondary firepower, though it is much better at handling enemy mecha and fightercraft with 28 pulse cannon turrets dotting the hull for point defense.   Six Baraccuda missile launchers back up A light mass driver for its primary punch.   The Aurora has weaker armor and shielding, but is almost fifty percent faster, with a reinforced structure to reduce the stress from the mass driver.  Each shot for it is equivalent to 5 of your metric tons, and I've loaded thirty rounds for it.   As for fightercraft, it can accomodate less, with it only having space for eighteen fightercraft."






Kazuya looked to Annette and nodded. "I want the Corona, you take the Aurora,you're better at tight flying than I am."  

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"Fine. I'll take the truthful flattery," the crimson-eyed brunette replied with a wry grin from the opposite side of the table, "But neither of them are stunt fliers. Unless I'm very off my guess, the important thing will be staying in support distance of each other and the fighters while luring the Invid away from any jump points they can use to run away. Assuming we can start and keep winning. Assuming the Invid need jump points to retreat."


She traced an arc of momentum with one finger, frown blooming as she ran numbers through her head. Piloting? Easy. Just stay within the boundaries imposed by the tyranny of thrust and mass and fuel and momentum and local space weather conditions, the big brain numbers provided by people with the big tools, time, and big brains needed to come up with them. Don't overthink it and let the telltale noises of your craft tell you when she had more to give or was about to die. All this? Bringing a warship to battle was the collaborative pinnacle of half a dozen careers worth of experience and training, most of which she didn't have. She could feel her 'angry song' playing on loop in the back of her head, suitable backdrop to what she was gnawing over in her head.


"Okay, Omoikane," she continued after a pregnant pause, glancing sidelong at the local drone, "What about crew needs for these? These are not one seater craft. I'm happy to fly it if you need a Reclaimer at the helm, but if you want *this particular Reclaimer* to come back after? I'm going to need a few more eyes, ears and hands. Do the ships have names, by the way? Bad luck to fly a ship without knowing her name or giving her one." 



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Omoikane answered, and they could almost imagine a smile on whatever passed for her face.  "As a Reclaimer, you will need no Crew.  That is why I was specific."   She brought up what looked like a tank full of liquid with the two of them each clad in a body suit.  "This is the Neural Immersion tank.   As I said, the War was incredibly destructive.  The Population of my creators was incredibly low as the war went on, Automated technology was the way they fought at the end.  A single person is all that's needed to fully control a ship up to Destroyer class,  Even the mighty Dreadnaughts can be controlled by either their AI, or a crew of ten.   Of course they can carry a thousand times that, but  they never did near the end."

"From this tank and headband, the ship will be your body, and will respond to your thoughts.   I had to choose between activating and prepping this system, and the drone fighters,  I chose this because it required less people aboard, as well as minimized the chance someone unfamiliar with the ship systems would inadvertantly cause damage.   The ships and tanks are actually ready, and I have manufactured suits for the two of you.."

She went silent for a moment, then spoke again.  "The Corona class is named the Icarus.    The Aurora is named the Fortuna.   Sorry, I didn't realize you'd want their names, I had to find the closest translations."

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  • 4 weeks later...

It wasn't really a long time, but the pilots all took to the new craft with surprising ease.  Clearly Omoikane outdid herself to refit them in such a way as to make them as similar to current human configurations as she could.   For the Reclaimer pilots, fighter craft seemed to almost anticipate their thoughts, they moved as though they were extensions of their own body, making them seem even more skillful than they already were.   For the two who'd be helming the ships, Omoikane had a special simulation program that allowed them to feel how it was to move the ships around without doing so.  Run through their paces, when the craft were ready, the pilots all mounted up, and the two destroyers launched with little fanfare.  In Orbit, they were met by all five terran vessels, Commanded by Admiral Whitcomb.  They were large and blocky, not having any of the more streamilined appearance that the Icarus and Fortuna did.  

"I've seen Omoikane's plan, and I have six squadrons of fighters and all five ships here on standby should the enemy break through, or try to jump in closer to circumvent your approach.  We'll be the final line of defense."

They had little chance of stopping the ships and would certainly die in the attempt,  but no one could fault their courage and commitment to protecting the people.

The two fully armed warships were easily the most powerful a human had ever commanded.   "Remember, Ray, your squadron is to go after the sensor nebula, if it escapes, it will call for more reinforcements.   Look for the smaller enemy to defend it, while their warships engage you.   Beth and Yiva, your squadrons are to engage the mecha around the enemy fleet, with the other squadrons reinforcing whoever needs it.   Kazuya, Annette, you should avoid closing with the enemy as much as possible.  I do not know the level of weaponry they have, though I estimate it being weaker than normal.   Still, you're much more powerful at range, so use that.   Do not show them your aft quarter, or they will concentrate fire on your engines.  Protect each other, and you'll be fine."

With those final words, Omoikane went silent, to let them prepare for the jump that would take them to the ships.   "Course plotted, Now, let's go."  Kazuya said, even as the Jump field formed around both ships, and together, they jumped to engage.

As they arrived back in normal space,  they were much closer to the enemy ships.  "Enemy fleet incoming, All fightercraft, Launch and engage mission plan!"  Kazuya called out, even as the bays opened to launch fighters.  They were still several minutes outside range for the ships' weapons, but The pilots were game, and the enemy ships began to disgorge their own fighter compiliment, all of which looked like biomechanical insects, each mounting some form of canon atop it.   

"I paint sixty, that's six-zero enemy fighter scale craft.  Engage at will and stay in formation.!" the fighter commander called out.  It was time to protect their home.

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