Since I'm still editing Chapter 2, and just got back from a week-long vacation, I've decided to post Chapter 3 for revision, but first, I'll get to Ikeren's comments:
It's nice to have someone reviewing my entire story for a change. I have already recognized some of your points, and will comment on them individually.
1- About character invincibility, the thing is, the Keirions have such a technological advantage over there foes that they can strike without taking any serious damage. I am planning on making the battle with the hybrids in upcoming sequels a serious fight, and there will be Elite Squadron deaths. As for this story, I suppose I could get them a bit more "scratched up", and make some tasks more difficult.
2- About characterization, I didn't really notice this story was lacking in it - thanks for bringing that up. I've now thought up some revisions to bring their personalities out more, and am planning additional modifications.
As Tohron raised his head to a twilight sky twinkling with stars, he could feel that something had changed. Sure, it had only been ten minutes since the news had arrived, only ten minutes since he had learned that the Confederacy was launching a massive strike at the outer colonies of the Umojan Protectorate, and only hours since his homeworld had been chosen as an invasion target. But already, as he looked out into the setting sun, that he could truly feel the approaching danger.
A small breeze passed by, stirring the scrub brush and throwing a cloud of sand against his hoverbike. The sound caused Tohron to remember his duties – he headed back to his home for a moment, returning with a small bundle of electronics. Now he was racing out to the Vulture, as the sun began to sink behind the distant mountains. While Tohron slammed down on the accelerator, shadows started to fall, stretching slowly across the plains, heralding night.
Tohron was racing straight to Ground Zero – there could be no further delay. If their small group hoped to aid the defense of their world, the time to do it was now. He found himself once more testing the limits of his hoverbike’s speed; he would have to remember to improve the machine sometime…
The canyons rose out of the gathering gloom, more dark and forbidding than ever. Tohron had no choice but to decelerate as he approached the barriers of rock, for by now, infrared scanners and sonar equipment were his only eyes and ears. Speed would mean nothing if he killed himself achieving it.
After what Tohron viewed as far too long, his navigational computer instructed him to turn right and prepare to halt. Moments later was stepping out, and ahead of him, another person was doing the same. Tohron’s now-activated searchlights identified that person as Caithar, who had arrived at almost the same time. The two were relieved to see each other, but as they passed through the hallucinary barrier, they remained silent, aware of what they were about to do, and despite all their abilities, worried.
Ihyona was sitting in front of a computer, whose glowing monitor was the only source of light in the room. She turned slowly around, her face pale, then spoke.
“The fighters are ready. The warp rift in the hanger can take you to the upper levels of the atmosphere. You’ll have go on from there. I’ll be in radar contact with you, and will operate the sensory equipment.” Her voice was barely audible, and as soon as she had finished speaking, she rapidly turned back to the screen. Tohron and Caither stood still for a moment, then quietly turned and walked into the hanger area.
The warp rift at the far end had been activated, and its white glow projected silhouettes of light and darkness over all the spaceships present. Caithar selected a Penetrator, a silver black fighter with specialized assault blasters able to override almost all forms of energy-based shielding, and with a cockpit bearing missile launchers and a single torpedo.
Tohron looked for other qualities in a vehicle – he chose a deadly, highly maneuverable starfighter called a Black Widow, which bore four beam projector-equipped jet black prongs attached around a central cockpit. The ship’s small but threatening form contained more than enough supplementary weapons to handle most attacks.
Without a word, they climbed into their pilot seats, and turned on the power, leaving them confined in the middle of countless glowing panels, each one displaying either a sensor readout or some detail about the state of their ship. Anyone other then they would have been at a complete loss on how to control their sophisticated machines.
With a hiss, their cockpit windows were sealed shut, and they were locked in. Their ships were now their only means of survival. Tohron wished for a good outcome to this battle, but the future remained invisible. This was to be his their experience of combat, and despite all their equipment, all their training, it might also be his or Caithar’s last.
Tohron was temporarily pressed into his seat as the Black Widow’s repulsor equipment engaged rapidly. Cautious, Tohron squeezed the throttle, scooting his ship towards the warp generator, with Caithar directly ahead of him. The rift ahead was now pulsing brighter than ever, but all it contained was a beginning, not an end. As Caithar’s ship dissappeared ahead, Tohron felt a sudden urge to slow down, stop, and leave, to never return. He got past it, but the burning chaos of warpspace granted him no repreive from his own fear.
Finally, he emerged into the upper atmosphere of his homeworld, with Caithar right ahead of him. Below, vast expanses of desert and enormous mountain ranges unfolded, vieled by the shadow of night, but not invisible. Far apart, but still present, were the tiny points of light indicating cites. The view was magnificent, and Tohron’s concerns began to fade for the first time. As the light of his world’s only sun shone at his back, he shifted the throttle to full speed, and sat up, ready at last for the battle ahead.
Metallic shapes were becoming visible in the distance. Ihyona spoke over the comlink once, informing them that the two fleets would engage in only a few minutes. After her voice stopped, Tohron checked his onboard computer – they were only 2.5 kilometers away from the battlefield.
Thirty seconds later, Ihyona’s voice came on again. “I’m tracking a small group of Confederate Wraiths breaking away from the main group, heading in your direction,” she stated, her voice serious. “I think you’ve been spotted.”
“They’re mine,” Caithar said, sounding completely relaxed.
T-shaped fighters joined formation ahead, and Gemini Missiles were loosed. Tohron twisted his joystick, spinning aside as blurred metallic shaped passed rapidly by.. Meanwhile. Caithar was pumping out a steady stream of blasterfire, destroying two enemy ships on his first pass. They both performed 180-degree turns, as their Wraith oppenents did the same. Their two ships twisted smoothly around, catching the enemy in mid-turn. Without hesitation, Tohron activated his primary weapons, shredding two foes with focused beams of energy. Three shots from Caithar’s Penetrator finished off what was left.
“You feeling alright there?” Caithar asked, as they pulled toward the main battleground.
“Fine,” Tohron replied focusing on a cluster of enemy battlecruisers charging their Yamato Cannons. “You?”
“Of course,” Caithar responded.
Acting with lightning speed, Tohron made a move. Accelerating to maximum power, he began launching feedback charges at the Confederate prows, while evading a deluge of laser blasts coming his way. The charges engaged one by one as he finished his maneuver and he did a reverse thrust over the enemy battlecruisers, now being fried by their own weapons.
He linked up with Caithar just as an immense swarm of single man vehicles merged into a pursuit. The two of them rapidly pitched upward, and performed evasive manuevers at lightning speed, as clouds of missiles and burst lasers kept them literally surrounded.
Tohron knew when enough was enough. Working fast, he released a succession of EMP mines, while his fighter’s shielding buckled from several close hits. As the mines detonated, disabled ships started piling up into one enormous cloud of metal. Caithar wheeled around and released his own swarm of missiles at the former hunters, leaving behind only a dispersing column of fire.
As the remains of their foes drifted apart, they returned to where the action was. After passing rapidly through a mass of dogfighting Wraiths, they came upon an approaching enemy battlecruiser. “Ahh, this should be good,” Caithar reported over the comlink.
The Commodore watched as the enemy ship drew nearer. “Focus fire,” he ordered calmly. Laser batteries opened up to the intruder, but it dodged the blasts with apparent ease. As the ship entered a reasonable firing range and still did not attack, the leader of the Battlecruiser realized what its target must be attempting.
“Maximum shields to the bridge!” he shouted. An assistant obediently followed his instructions, but then reported, “I’m afraid they won’t activate, some sort of energy disturbance.”
Eyes widening in horror, the Commodore roared “Run!” as a missile sped toward his ship’s nerve center. They were the last words he ever said.
As Caithar crippled the enemy battleship, Tohron was working to destroy the defensive turrents on an enemy support frigate. Although the ship’s design was obsolete even by Confederate standards, the task still required close attention, because his fighter would not last long against focused fire from the vessel’s entire defensive system. Something felt wrong though – he had not encountered any opposing fighters since he had started on his precision task. Perhaps this ship was deemed to not be worth defending, but…
The strange feeling in his head suddenly intensified, as Ihyona’s voice came in over the comlink. “Yamato at 12 o’clock!” she shouted, her voice bordering on a scream. As a mass of pure energy flooded outward from the fore of an approaching battlecruiser, Tohron sent his fighter spinning sideways, beams of yellow-orange energy encircling his ship. His vehicle quaked under the barrage, as energy reserves plummeted alarmingly. When it was over, his shield generator was strained almost to the breaking point, leaving him nearly defenseless.
Knowing that any further combat would risk destruction, Tohron rapidly moved to disengage from battle. Unfortunately, two Wraith pilots had other ideas, and he was soon weaving desperately through ally and enemy alike dodging an unending stream of burst lasers. As Tohron sent his fighter plunging downward behind the central framework of a Confederate battleship, he sent a call for help.
“Caithar, I’m being pursued by enemy fighters. I can’t shake them off, and my shields are almost down. I could use some help.”
“Roger that,” Caithar answered, locking on to Tohron’s signal and turning away from the damaged battlecruiser he had been pursuing. Some things were more important than defeating a foe, and friendship was one of them.
As Tohron boosted across the engines of a capital ship, he heard the sounds of plasma bolts striking his pursuers. A few seconds later, hostile fire had stopped and Caithar was pulling up alongside him, his fighter looking scarred, but otherwise unharmed.
“So how exactly did you get into that?” Caithar asked. “You were supposed to be the careful one.”
“An enemy battlecruiser managed to sneak in a Yamato blast. Fortunately, Ihyona was watching and I missed the full impact. Good thing too…”
“So what will we do now?” asked Caithar, as warships began thinning out ahead.
“My shield probably won’t last long in open combat, I’ll see if Ihyona has any targets outside the main engagement.”
Tohron redirected his communications systems toward Ground Zero, but before he could send a message, Ihyona delived one to him.
“A few, minutes ago, I tracked a formation of dropships breaking away from the main attack force, with a small group of fighter escorts. I think the Confederacy is attempting a sneak attack on the planetary surface.”
“Well, the timing couldn’t be better,” Caithar answered. “Go?”
“Affirmative,” Tohron stated. As they pulled toward the new reading on their display screens, Tohron finished with “We’re on it.”
At the speed they were going, it did not take long for the drop force to become visible. The sun was almost entirely hidden now – only a small sliver of light now could be seen burning through the planetary atmosphere, turning the neosteel plating of the Confederate dropships into tarnished silver. Seeing victory so close, Caithar pulled ahead, shouting “It’s time to end this!”
“No.” Tohron’s words were an order. “Attacking now will only alert them to our presence, and allow them to escape. We must be quiet.”
Caithar at first failed to heed his command. The Penetrator he flew continued streaking toward its ignorant prey, seeing only weakness.
“Caithar, I repeat, stop this! It’s for the good of the planet, besides, I have a better plan.”
Caithar ceased advancing, but not without regret. “You and your ‘better plans’,” he muttered into the comlink. “And I was there saving your life a moment ago.”
Tohron ignored his friend’s harsh words, instead focusing on the task at hand. After a few rapid calculations, he sent 40 small electromagnetic probes floating in the direction of the Confederate ships, which remained unaware of their pursuers. A surprise was en-route, but by the time their targets knew what had transpired, it would be too late.
One by one, the magnetic robots attached to Confederate hulls, waiting silently for an activation signal. Meanwhile, Tohron monitored their status from the Black Widow’s cockpit, and Caithar waited impatiently in his Penetrator. Once the display showed that all the probes had found a ship, Tohron activated their magnets, and watched the ensuing chaos.
First slowly, then at an accelerating pace, the enemy ships drew together. Pilots attempted to turn their vessels away, but the pull was too strong – Tohron had seen to that. In under a minute, the drop force was one huge mass of metal, electronics, and jet fuel..
His plan nearly complete, Tohron activated the last step. “Caithar, you are free to open fire.”
His voice sounding impressed despite himself, Caithar answered with “My pleasure,” and sent his ship boosting toward the enemy, while a torpedo of his rocketed forward at an even greater speed. Their two ships both started moving faster and faster, while pulling away from the massive explosion that would soon occur. They both saw the torpedo disappear from view behind its intended target, and waited.
An enormous shockwave left their ships vibrating wildly, and the space behind them was overwhelmed by a fireball of blinding intensity. Fragments of the Confederate ships went shooting outward, none of them larger than two feet in diameter. With their mission complete, the friends returned to Ground Zero, and then rest.