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The Interstellar Medium
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Frosty Scandinavia
Potential series. "The Unforgiving I"
The planet burned.
One half, hidden in the shadows, lay dark. No light could be seen in the darkness of the night, no signs of life in those parts of the world. It was an empty entity all of its own, a void where nothing existed. As every night before it, it was quiet and serene without any dangers roaming the land.
The other half was where the inferno raged. Licking flames of hell covered the earth, plumes of smoke stretching to touch the clouds high above. Screams of pain and crying of panic, the lament of the people, echoed through the cities and across the forests, passing the mountains until finally dissolving into white noise; a chorus of collective sorrow with not a single soul listening for miles upon miles.
Hayate saw all this from within the Warship
’s observation deck, lying in orbit around Mid-Childa. Its sleek form seemed to reflect the light from the planet, though she knew it was impossible. No, that light came from the magical shields that lay active on the hull, expecting an enemy attack. The shimmer varied from light blue to orange, terrifyingly similar to the inferno below. Beside the
, forming a triangle,
being at the front. It was her proper place as the flagship of their flight, a position Hayate was used to at this point. All three of them looked the same; sleek with two pointy ends and a bridge on top, bristling with weaponry ready to be fired. Their hulls wore the color of snow, a stark contrast to the blackness of space.
Behind the planet, she knew, the main fleet awaited their return. All the Warships that had survived the initial onslaught had regrouped after less than a day, forming a temporary defense fleet until the proper chain of command could be restored. The panic from back then had settled, chaos diminishing in favor of order and calm.
However, Hayate thought it was a question of if, not when. That possibility shook her to the core, as it was a terrifying prospect. She hoped she was wrong, for once.
She turned to face her aide, hands clasped behind her back. “Yes, Mariam?”
Mariam, bringing up a screen in front of her, seemed a little anxious, but otherwise calm considering the situation. Not a strand of hair in her short haircut lay where it shouldn’t be. “We received a message from the Admiral a few minutes ago. They have not detected any hostile ships in our vicinity. Rendezvous ETA remains the same as before.”
“Thanks for the update, but couldn’t he have told me that in person?” Hayate said with a small smile. She let herself be amused, just for a short time.
“He thought you were busy and did not want to interrupt you.” Mariam shrugged. “Odd, but the Admiral tends to have ideas.”
“Doesn’t he always.” It wasn’t surprising why he would suspect she’d be busy with everything going on, but the truth was she had intentionally delegated many tasks to her other officers after some persuasion from Nanoha. She wanted to do it herself, yes, but even Hayate had to see the stupidity of it. Besides, she trusted them to get the job done anyhow. There wasn’t a need for her to spend everything she had on simple tasks.
Mariam said nothing else, the screen disappearing. Usually she would leave at this point, but the silence lasted for half a minute before she broke it: “Commander, what are our estimated casualties?”
Hayate turned to face her, eyebrows raised. An ordinary question, but somewhat surprising when it came from her. “Are you sure you want to know?” The information wasn’t public, not exactly. It was reserved for higher officers and then filtered to the rest of those that needed to know. Mariam couldn’t find out even if she really wanted to.
“Yes.” No hesitance. This girl will go far, Hayate thought. Strategic awareness, loyal, brave. Yeah, it should be her…
“Ten million, give or take half a million. That’s the initial count.” She sighed. “The number will rise once we’ve purged the planet and we can count more accurately.”
If Mariam was shocked, she didn’t show it. Nevertheless, her eyes widened a little before she caught herself. “I did not expect such a high number. I thought it was within the range of a million…”
“I wish that would be true,” Hayate said and turned back to the holoscreen showing the planet. Sometimes an explosion could be seen down on the surface. Several of them sometimes appeared at once, forming weird shapes if you let your imagination run rampant. A power plant igniting a chain reaction, perhaps.
Or a battle involving Aeon-bombs. She shuddered at the mere thought of it.
“Our next course of action will be to send down Purgers, is it not?” Mariam asked after a short silence.
“Do they stand more of a chance than our current groundside troops?”
Hayate hesitated, biting her lip. Of course they are, she wanted to say. She believed in Nanoha’s special division. She’d always done that. But this time… “I’m sure they do. The Absolution might outclass our Warships, but I doubt they can go head-to-head with Special Forces mages. You’ll see. I promise.”
Mariam nodded, somewhat uncertain at first. Then she clenched her fist and smiled. “You are right, Commander. Of course.” She then saluted and left the observation deck, leaving Hayate alone with her thoughts.
Hayate remained for a while, staring at the flames. From that distance she couldn’t actually see them with clarity. They were more like blurry afterimages that glowed a faint orange color. She could visualize it, though. The hell below. Each flame represented a life lost, a failure on her part that she had to carry within her for the rest of her life, however short it may be. She’d failed to defend the lives of those she had sworn to protect. The planet itself only served as a larger beacon of torment, screaming back at her with rage and disappointment.
“Hope,” she muttered, letting her arms fall to her sides. “That girl has it. My crew has it.” She raised her hands, palms up, and looked down into them. A single tear fell from her eye. “Why can’t I feel that anymore?”
Nanoha strode through the cargo bay of the
, ignoring the stench of sweat. The darkness was a mere annoyance, one she had long since gotten used to. The equipment she wore bounced against her shoulders for each step, but she barely felt it. Years of training, and not a little help of magic, made the burden an easy one to bear. The special armor covered most of her body and was a stark contrast to the usual white dress she wore in combat; black as night with lines grey like a foggy, autumn twilight. Plates hung from her knees and shoulders, boosters clung to her ankles and each segment of the armor was connected by strong metal straps. A red visor was attached to her right ear, covering the right side of her face, and the neck protector going around her head reached almost up to her mouth. Its weight made it impossible for the non-initiated to wear them; it’d crush their puny skeletons within a few seconds.
The ‘Purger Suit’. That was its name, an improved version of the Battle Jacket. Solely used by Purge Troopers, the soldiers that formed her squad; a Special Forces division formed from the old RF6. Their purpose had been changed and sharpened, and her squad was one of the few equipped and trained enough to face the Absolution’s troops.
She knew this, but didn’t take pride in it. It wasn’t who she was. She still thought of the normal forces down below that had to face the brunt of the Absolution’s power, while she simply waited for an opportunity. She felt ill, knowing others died because of her own inaction. She wanted to spur into action, to save them from their fates like she had done in the past.
Sealed fates. She knew she couldn’t just run out in the heat of the moment and do it herself. Not any longer. It all required finesse, tactics and coordination with other forces. This wasn’t a time for heroics or solo combat. The situation, no, the world itself had changed, moving into a new era of warfare that she was still getting used to.
She’d have to wait just as the rest.
“Signum,” she said as she arrived at the main section. The Belkan Knight wore the same suit as Nanoha, though with modified parts to accommodate their different styles; Signum’s armor was slanted in place, and somewhat wider in some places than Nanoha’s. It meant more protection against melee attackers. “Is everything prepared?”
“Yes. The supplies have been stored and are ready to be delivered once we launch. The others are ready as well.”
The others. Teana, Vivio, Vita, Yuuno, Zafira. Too few to form the original crew, but that was temporary. She believed that was true. Fate were somewhere on Mid-Childa, fighting together with Subaru and the others. They would help save those who needed it, then regroup with Nanoha. That was the plan, or had been the plan before the invasion. The plan was still in effect. She hadn’t abandoned them and they hadn’t abandoned her.
“Good. We launch in a minute.” She strode onwards, towards a set of open hatches on the wall and stopped there. The others formed a line in front of her, at attention. “Everyone!” she said. “Today marks the second battle when we are needed in this war of believers and heretics. This is the start of a new era for us and for the TSAB, a start of something greater. We will fight back against the Absolution and reclaim our homeplanet.” She paused, looking at each of them. She had their full attention and she saw what she had always seen in their eyes; loyalty, determination and courage. “We will find our friends and bring them back. I promise. Hope is not lost. The Absolution will be defeated.”
A light came on, flooding them in red. It was the signal to prepare for launch. “Let’s go,” Nanoha said, materializing Raging Heart into her hands. The device had been colored black just like her armor, but the red jewel remained as it always had. “Back to Mid-Childa.”
A resounding shout of agreement echoed through the cargo bay and they entered the hatches which closed behind them. It was necessary to drop them in these pods, though it did make her uncomfortable. It was tight, enclosed; warm and loud, though over in a heartbeat once they had passed the border of the atmosphere. Space would always be a mage’s enemy until they found the solution to space combat. Once it had been found, nothing would be able to stop them.
“Hayate,” she said, bringing up a tiny screen on her visor. The Commander looked back at her, smiling. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”
Hayate nodded. “I know you will.” Her expression grew serious as her smile vanished. The façade of the woman Nanoha had known for a long time crumbled for a short moment. “Now go.”
“THE ‘UNFORGIVING’,” Nanoha shouted, “LAUNCH!”
follows Nanoha and Hayate as they both fight on different parts of a battlefield stretching from Mid-Childa all the way into space. Their goal is simple; to repel the invaders known as the Absolution and reclaim Mid-Childa from enemy hands. With the help of new technology that has propelled them into a new era of magitech warfare, the battlefield has become something else, something more powerful than it once was.
It has become a battlefield of demigods.
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