This thread is non-canonical for the United Autonomous Republics.
The Light After the Dusk
A Tribute to Kendari
A role-playing game by Ella
But sometimes there's an orange glow along the horizon because the world is on fire.
The clone sergeant assessed the man which stood before him, a younger clone whose two golden stripes marked as a corporal. The younger clone had probably never been to a real fight, judging by his poor fighting stance. He grasped his dual-wielded blades too tightly and his feet distributed his weight unevenly.
Mace sighed. The scene reminded him of his last duel with Pivot aboard Bradley's ship. He missed playing knife-and-needle with the energetic young corporal. For once, the enigmatic Commodore was not here to ruin the atmosphere of the duel, yet the king of knife fighters could not be here to enjoy the serenity.
“This game just ain't the same without Pivot,” Mace found himself thinking aloud.
“Sir?” Mace glanced back to see Clapper, puzzled by his sudden outburst. The young corporal before him was equally confounded.
Mace shook his head to clear it. “Alright, Son,” he began once more, “Your stance is poor.” He gave the corporal a shove, sending him stumbling backwards. “Place your centre of gravity closer to the ground to prevent being knocked over by your opponent.”
“Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir.”
“Don't say sorry to me,” the veteran sergeant told him, “You'll be the one that's going to be sorry when you get killed in the field.”
“Mace!” The voice was a familiar one, but not the same type of familiarity associated with the mass-produced rank and file of the clone army. It was distinctly feminine for a start, and overall much gentler in tone.
“Yes, Ma'am,” the clone sergeant replied automatically, turning to the pink-haired girl. Designated by her shoulder insignia as commander, this particular pink-eyed clone girl was called Rosie by her comrades.
“Gather the lads together,” she ordered, “We're being redeployed.”
This took the older man by surprise. “Already? I thought we still had a whole week.” The Company had spent the past few weeks reconstituting itself after the heavy losses suffered in the First Battle of Rastho Prime. Old formations were merged together and the veterans were joined by reserve units. During this time, the marines were allowed to replenish their strength and round out their new recruits. He was quick to ask the next question on his mind. “Where to?”
“Gleam,” Rosie replied, “It's all covert too, so don't make too much of a fuss about leaving. Meet me in the hanger in an hour.”
Mace grimaced at that. “Nothing good ever happens at Gleam.”
“What's wrong with Gleam, Sir?” The corporal asked.
Mace shook his head. “We lost a lot of good brothers on Gleam.”
“In any case,” Rosie continued, “It sounded like a ground deployment and there were implications of combat. I don't know what's going on, but we need everyone to be ready if things get ugly.”
“You got it, Ma'am,” he turned to his brothers, “You heard the lady. Go grab Sunlight Company all quiet for like me. I want everyone in the hanger in an hour.” The soldiers nodded their acknowledgement and dispersed. When they had all left the veteran sergeant approached his commander. “I don't like the sound of this, Ma'am. Is it just us? Or did anyone else get redeployed?”
“I don't know,” she admitted, “It's oddly specific that they just came to me. Is there something we know that the other troops don't?”
“Could this be about Castle?” He thought, his tone confidential, “Or maybe…” He trailed off. “The only other thing I can think of is Chanveer.”
Rosie's face paled slightly at the mention of these names. “I have a bad feeling about this,” she concluded.
Sierra Seven, The Diamond Mountains
The Hanger, Ground Floor
Lax watched on with a sad smile as Sunlight Company's dropships were towed into their parking bays. Only a few metres of the runway was visible, the rest was obscured by a raging blizzard. The scene reminded her of the days of yore. Two years ago, she stood before these very dropships as a lieutenant, leading a platoon of marines on Chanveer. Now, she too was a commander, of the Starforce SEALs, no less. Rosie got her share of the spoils too and became a national hero, to the point where an entire line of ships was named after her.
More recently, Castle set off for Sierra Six, a secretive research base run by the Technocratic Union on the icy world of Gleam. The ten royal commandoes departed a little after midnight, local time. Half of them would return in caskets by morning.
The Swordfish, Castle's mobile home, swooped down and landed nearby, the top of its hull laden with snow. The rear doors opened into a ramp and passengers disembarked. Twinkle, now the section lead after Captain lost his nerve and resigned, waved cheerfully at her in greeting. Her companion wolf howled in turn. Lax nodded back. How times have changed. For better or for worse.
“It's good to see you again, Lax, Twinkle,” Rosie smiled, “How've you all been?”
“Brilliant!” Twinkle bubbled, “My lads are eager for a fight. What's the deal today?”
Lax's expression darkened considerably. “It's about Chanveer,” she told them, her tone almost apologetic, “There's been another ghoul outbreak.” This elicited mixed reactions from the soldiers. The old, surviving veterans who first made their names in the Chanveer Incident expressed a mixture of worry and dread at this news. The fresh recruits, who had come to hold the achievements of their mentors in high regard, chattered excitedly in anticipation.
“I guess that makes sense,” Rosie said eventually, “They've gathered us all back together because we were the ones who dealt with this last time.” She turned back to her Sunlight Company. “But I've lost so many good chaps since then.”
“Yeah… Same on my end…” Twinkle agreed. Including herself, the Chanveer Incident only survived in the living memory of the last four royal commandoes: Her two pilots Stuffy and Machine, Captain, and herself.
“But now that we're all here,” Rosie continued, “shall we get this briefing started?”
“Actually, there's one person more we're waiting on,” Lax said.
“There's one more?” Twinkle asked, “Who?”
Captain scratched his chin thoughtfully. “You don't mean… Kathline, do you?”
“Yes. Yes, she does,” a girlish voice replied. The group turned around to see a purple-haired Ellian escorted by a pair of secret service soldiers. She was a slim girl a bit on the tall side with green eyes and long, purple hair. She was also dressed in secret service armour, but unlike her comrades, she left her helmet off and carried an expression that seemed to imply that she would rather be wearing something else. “Hello again, Captain. Lax. Twinkle.” She turned to Rosie. “I haven't seen you since Chanveer. How have you been?”
“Good, thank you,” the marine commander returned.
“Alright,” Lax said, “We're teaming up with foreigners again for this one, so let's go meet them.” She led the group to a gathering of foreign fighters. Most of them, Rosie saw, were irregulars. They milled about as they saw fit; calm, casual, unprofessional. Nothing like her Sunlight Company (which stood at attention in front of their dropships in neat ten by five blocks).
Lax quickly rallied their attention. “Alright, let's get down to business. I'll let you all mingle after the briefing,” she told them in fluent Standard, “For now, let me just introduce you to the groups and their commanders.” She gestured politely to the Sinians. “This is Sergeant Martinez of the Coalition of Sinikivi.” The Piethrixians. “Leftenant William Daniels, Piethrixia.” Lastly, she motioned to the Xahians. “Jai Kohl-Smith. The Confederation of Xah.”
Lax then turned to the Ellians. “On the Ellian side, we have Commander Rosie, Sunlight Company. And this is Twinkle. Section Castle, Royal Commandos. Kathline here is a local magician who has volunteered to help us.” The purple haired girl's mouth twitched slightly at that. She was anything but a volunteer, though it was true that she was a magician. “And I'm Commander Lax. Mission control. You'll be hearing from me for the most part.”
“Gleam is a small, icy planet with two moons," she continued, "It has a population of under ten million and serves primarily as a military outpost for the Technocratic Union. Most of the surface is clear of ghoul presence, but there exists a vast network of underground tunnels and facilities which are infected by the ghouls. We'll be focusing exclusively on these.”
“Our primary objective is to eliminate all ghoul presence in these tunnels. Now inadvertently we'll stumble across evidence of how the ghouls were able to breach the containment of the test facilities. Our secondary objective is to secure evidence and assist in investigating the cause of failure.”
“The ghouls are biomechanical monstrosities. They operate in packs and communicate with each other at short distances using non-visual and non-oral methods. Their blood is filled with nanites that build a type of metallic armour under their skin and repair damage. Highly durable and damage resistant. They use poison-tips claws for melee combat and do not carry ranged weapons, so keep your distance and gun them down. Ghouls multiply by injecting living and dead people with nanites, so never confirm a kill until the corpse has been disposed of by fire.”
“Lastly, I want to welcome you to Sierra Seven. Sierra Seven is a large and heavily fortified base and the seventh base in the Sierra line. All Sierra bases have two important characteristics. Firstly, they are fully automated by the Technocratic Union sentinels. This means the local security forces don't ask questions and they don't answer when asked. Secondly, all Sierra bases are directly connected to the underground tunnel network. This means that we are very close to multiple sites of interest. These conditions make Sierra ideal for our operations.”
“I don't think I need to tell you that all operations henceforth conducted from this base are to be of the highest grade of military secrecy,” she finished, “So make yourselves comfortable and enjoy your stay. I'll call on you personally when your services are required. If you have any questions, just come and see me in the canteen. If not, feel free to chat amongst yourselves. The first deployment is in two hours, so meet me here by then. And speaking of time… I'm going to let Corporal Gentle take over for now.” She gave a quick salute before marching off.
Taking her place was a two-metre tall suit of powered armour. The soldier took off his helmet to reveal the blue-eyed face of the standard male clone trooper - it was just his armour that was not standard. The tall blond swept his gaze over the assembled group and nodded at what he saw. In spite of his young age, he had seen enough combat to know a fellow warrior by instinct.
“Time here in the United Autonomous Republics is measured a bit differently,” he said. As he spoke, his squad members distributed digital watches to the foreign soldiers. The device took the appearance of a thin, flexible loop of glass no more than a millimetre thick. A plasteel locking mechanism was located on the back which secured the device around the wrist and could be adjusted for size. “An Ellian day is measured in twenty-two hours. An hour sixty-six minutes. A minute sixty-six seconds. Ninety-five thousand, eight hundred and thirty-two seconds is a full day on New Kasmari, but it's not a full day on Gleam.”
“Your digital watches can switch between local Gleam time, International Ellian time, Galactic Standard time and, if you programmed it correctly, your home time. These watches are yours to keep.” He continued on for the next half hour, explainìng the intricate details of Ellian time, weapons and armour before taking the group on a quick tour of the base. Passing by the armoury, he handed each soldier a plasma pistol with a complementary holster and magazine. They also received a pair of knives, one of which was definitely more of a dagger and also significantly longer than the other one. The foreigners were entitled to keep these items as well. The session ended at the newly installed barracks and the servicemen were dismissed so that they can unpack their belongings.