|The following members have been known to take City of Heroes/Villains-related commissions.|
Pacific Raider - COH Story 30 part 13The Navy vessel simply bullied it’s way thru the remaining craft. Showing that sometimes size does matter. The air around the Naval vessel cleared revealing only the Thatcher and two of her fighters. The missiles and skiffs had taken their toll. There was smoke pouring from many places and fires still burned here and there. There were none of the skiffs left. And the surviving troopers had surrendered or fled. Sailors were already tackling the worst fires. “The Reagan reports they have an Alpha strike inbound. ETA 35 minutes.” “This fight will be over by then.” “Engineering reports the fires in the engine room are out. We have 45% power.” “Damage control reports that they have the major fires under control.” “Let’s finish this,” the Captain said coldly. “All ahead best speed!” The pilot pushed the throttle open and the massive ship picked up speed. “75 MPH is the best she’ll do.” “Make way! We’re coming thru.” The two ships were now close enough that the Jormungandr was visible as a dark shape in the clouds ahead. No need for radar or ladar now. The battle turned primal. A storm of fire ripped thru the air between the two ships tearing great rents and holes in both. Missiles, shells, bullets and energy beams did their deadly work. Like two ancient leviathans, the ships battled for survival. Ripping tearing, smashing with no thought of quarter. Either asked for nor given. They were too close for the harpoon missiles now and it reverted to guns and lasers. The Thatcher turned to starboard to bring all three of her heavy turrets to bear. The volume of fire increased dramatically. The American’s fire ripped great holes in the raider. Smashing, tearing and blasting sections of the ship. Fires blazed up in a dozen places and were soon joined by others. Return fire from the raider slowed as the American fire took out her turrets and weapon bays one by one. Finally the Raider’s guns fell silent. The Jormungandr shivered as another explosion ripped thru the hull. The ship listed to port and the nose start to go down. This time they weren’t able to correct it and the ship started to descend. The fight in the corridor came to a halt as they had to scramble to keep their footing. “They’ve taken out the port thrusters,” the Arbalist cursed. A third explosion made the ship shudder and then a fourth and fifth. The corridor upended as the walls became the ceiling and floor. “They’ve taken out all the thrusters,” Misha activated his own built in gravitic system and floated clear of the floor. Bodies and debris flew thru the air and tumbled down corridor smashing into anything in the way. Stealth using the grace and dexterity of a feline dodged the new, deadly projectiles. But Strela caught a large piece of plastic on the leg and was thrown against what had been the floor but was now a wall. One end of the corridor was on fire and thick, cloying smoke filled the air. Making them all choke and cough. The lights flickered and then went out. The only light came from the flames that were advancing along the passage burning all in it’s path. “Can you fly?” He asked in a sarcastic tone. “Can you swim?”******************** The Jormungandr was in it’s death throes. Fires raged everywhere and smoke wreathed the ship. Figures started jumping off, plummeting down to the safety of the sea below. The men more willing to trust their luck and life to a parachute and the broad Pacific Ocean than the flaming wreckage above. Others zipped away on rocket packs. One sky skiff, with smoke pouring from it came over to the Thatcher. It hovered there for a moment. The pilot opened his cockpit and jumped without a parachute to the deck some ten feet below. He broke both legs and an arm but he survived. An American sailor raced over with an assault rifle pointed at the intruder. He lowered it when he realized this man was no longer a threat. Both watched the remains of the Skiff lose power and drop towards the ocean below.******************* The Jormungandr nosed down and plummeted straight towards the ocean below. Covered in flames and wreathed in smoke it was an impressive sight. The ship seemed to right itself a little but still hit the water with a massive crash and a huge splash. Smoke and steam rose up as the water put out the fires with a loud hiss and clouds of steam. The crew of the Thatcher watched silently. Well aware that could have been them. A Royal Navy helicopter came in and hovered close to the water. The crew watched in amazement as a man crawled out the burning, floating wreckage and jumped into the water. A Royal Navy sailor leaned over and pulled the survivor from the water and into the safety of the helicopter. “Welcome into the hands of the Lord.” The raider lay on the deck, bruised, burned and bleeding and looked to the Englishman. Puzzled. “Son,” the sailor explained and pointed to the wreckage of the Jormungandr. “The only reason you survived that was God was watching over you.” The survivor looked at the steaming, smoking, burning wreckage that was sinking and he simply nodded his head.****************** Three blackened, battered and soaking wet figures landed on the foredeck of the Thatcher. Misha simply dropped to the deck and lay sprawled there as a score of sailors and several Seals came racing up. Stealth held up both hands to show they were empty. “We’re friends.” “Da,” Strela echoed and sat down next to her lover. Lieutenant Commander Gardner walked up to them. “Welcome back. We thought we had lost you.” “It was close,” Strela said in a tired tone. "What's that?" A sailor pointing at a streak of smoke moving away from the scene of the battle."No way. That bastard did have a way out." Misha struggled to stand up."You're not going anywhere mister." Strela said as she grabbed him by the collar."But he's getting away.""Da. And you are out of arrows. Also you're wounded."Misha looks at his target. "Next time."***************** The Thatcher was soon reinforced by a Japanese Navy destroyer and the Sydney. Followed soon by other ships and planes. The area was soon abuzz with the ships and aircraft of several navies including a Russian one. The Navy air strike arrived and much to their disappointment had nothing to attack. They circled overhead providing cover for the rescue operation. The Thatcher itself only stayed for a short time. The damage was severe and the ship made its way to Guam. The captain would have preferred to land in the water. But the hull had been holed in a dozen places and no one was sure it would remain afloat. She was quickly joined by a dozen American and Australian fighters who flew escort. The trip to Guam went fairly quickly and with few problems. Much to the great relief of everyone. Soon the Thatcher was hovering over the entrance to the harbor. Long before that the flight deck was busy as the MV22 assigned to the ship and several from the base shuttled back and forth. Taking first the wounded and then the dead ashore. There was many of both. Her arrival at Guam was a major media event. Two hundred miles out they were greeted by yet more air force and navy fighters. A hundred miles out they were swarmed my private planes, helicopters and at least 200 drones. All zipping and buzzing about. One was even towing a huge banner that read “Welcome Heroes!” ALL the news networks were there. Not just American but Australian, Japanese, South Korean, Russian and a dozen other countries. The Thatcher spent over two hours slowly maneuvering before the Port Commander was happy and she lowered down into the drydock. The ship settled down onto the supports with a huff and some rattling and banging. The whine of the ship’s engines slowed and then stopped. The battered ship finally came to a rest. The gangplank was lowered, and the sailors gratefully disembarked. They were greeted by a small band playing and a good-sized crowd of people. Civilians, military people and an amazingly large number of reporters. But what caught everyone’s attention was the gentleman waiting with a large cadre of officers. COMPACFLT - Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet himself. The admiral, in full dress uniform was waiting for them and greeted each sailor personally, by name. The four supers and the Seals watched this all from the sidelines having flown out from the ship on an MV-22. Still even their arrival didn’t go unnoticed. The area around the landing pad was filled with scores of people. Some were reporters but many were the family of the Seals. That made for a warm reception and tearful reunions. Their own debriefing lasted quite a while and included a few unwanted facts. “The entire Raider Base on Candle Island is gone. The raiders evacuated it,” Ostheim said. “While we were dealing with the Jormungandr. Probably it was all loaded onto a cargo ship and just sailed it elsewhere.” “Regardless of such small things,” the Specialist said. “This is a serious defeat for the Sky Raiders. Both physically and morale wise.” Ostheim stopped for a moment and laughed. “They did leave behind a little something for you Misha.” “Me?” The fox asked and tapped his own chest. “Yes you,” was the explanation. “All that remained was a rock with some carving on it.” “Carving? What's it look like?” “It reads; Yes I can fly with my gear. We will meet again and get quite near. This time I won’t miss. See you soon. The Arbalist.”The End of this story***************...
Pacific Raider - COH Story 30 part 12The raider ship tried to flee. She was intended for raiding and stealing. Not open battle. But their ship had a fatal flaw. The Thatcher was faster. A lot faster. But the raiders were ready for that. At least they thought so. A pair of F35 raptors took off from the landing pad of the Thatcher. They split up and swept forward. Looking for an enemy they knew was near. Quickly they made their way out searching. “I’m picking up a heat bloom bearing 114 degrees,” the first pilot said. “It just appeared.” It was faint but steady. He watched the bloom on his heads-up display moving away at a surprisingly high speed. “I see it too,” the second pilot. “That’s the Raider. A heat bloom that large means they must be at full afterburner. He’s trying to escape.” “You’re not going anywhere,” the first pilot said coldly as she locked onto the heat bloom. She pressed the button and a pair of Sidewinder missiles dropped free of her plane’s wings and raced off into the fog.************************** Slowly the trio of heroes moved through the fog, headed towards the place they had last seen the Raider ship. A figure loomed out of the fog and all three backed away. To keep out of sight. The figure kept going and vanished into the fog. They continued onward. Several more times figures came near. But their stealth systems and slow movement kept them unseen. The fog in front of them started to darken telling them that something was in front of them. The faint hum of engines and the soft clatter of machinery came to their ears. The fog darkened more and resolved into the side of some massive object. Up close they could see figures racing about on deck. They waited until things seemed to calm down and they slipped closer. Misha dropped on deck first, quickly followed by Strela and Stealth. They stood there for a moment. Weapons ready but no one seemed to take notice. “Where to?” Strela asked. “I see two choices; bridge or engine room.”************************** BOOM! A flash and explosion lit up the fog for a moment. “CONTACT!” Shouted a sailor. “Sensors,” the officer shouted. “Go active!” “BANDIT! BANDIT! BANDIT. Hard flying target bearing 123 degrees. 12,000 feet.” “I’ve got missile lock!” The weapons officer said excitedly. “Light her up!” The captain ordered in a surprisingly calm tone. “Weapons free.” The hatches on the main deck slid back and the missiles were launched. These weren’t dainty little SAM meant to knock down planes. They were massive ship killers. Meant to tear apart large warships. Something they did very well. “They’re attempting to jam,” The electronics officer said and cranked up the power on both the radar and ladar to full. “Fuck you! You God damn pirates!” “Vampire! Vampire! Vampire! We have 16 high speed targets inbound. Fire from the Jormungandr took out a half dozen of the missiles headed towards it. Sending them tumbling down to the ocean below. But several got thru. One missile punched thru the soft fabric covering and penetrated deep into the hull before exploding. The entire ship shuddered and shook as flames and explosions tripped thru the ship. The ship slowly started to list to port. The Thatcher’s own weapons spoke, lashing out at the Raider missiles headed its way. They took down some but not all. A pair of the heavy missiles slipped past and slammed into the hull at the same time. There was a massive roar and the whole ship rocked sending people tumbling to the deck. Smoke billowed up as fires sprang out. Claxons rang out adding to the din and noise. Another missile raced in but the 20mm CIWS opened up with a loud buzz and caught the deadly projectile. It exploded close in and deadly debris and shrapnel struck the ship which started to keel over from the force of the blast. Some sailors grabbed hoses and other firefighting gear while others tended to the wounded. On the bridge the captain cradled his broken arm. “Damage control report.” “We’re hulled, port side, aft of frame 35. Power is down to 55% and dropping. Turret 2 is not responding. The SPY-1D radar is down.” “The bow propulsion is out and we are losing lift!” The pilot said as she struggled with the controls. The Thatcher started to sink slowly by the bow drop towards the Pacific.*************** “We don’t have enough to do both,” Misha said softly. “Engine room,” Stealth answered. “A bridge is useless without power.” Thump! A crossbow bolt slammed into the wall next to Misha. “Welcome aboard!” Misha turned to the voice and found The Arbalist reloading his bow. Again protected by that massive shield of his. A dozen raiders of different types were with him. Blocking the path ahead. “Back for more?” The crossbowman said cheerfully. “I was afraid I might have scared you off the last time I beat you.” “I’m not afraid of a coward like you,” Misha snarled as he snapped off an arrow. Stealth turned and saw the corridor behind them was lined with more raiders. “We’re surrounded.” “It’s an ambush,” Misha snarled. “And a damn good one too,” Strela added. All the raiders opened fire at the same time and the corridor was alive with bullets ripping thru the air. Misha and Strela both loosed shots at the same time One of the arrows took down a raider but the other bounced off the pavis. Strela turned in Stealth’s direction and snapped off an arrow. The projectile raced along the passage and landed at the foot of one of the raiders. There was an ear-splitting BANG and a really bright flash. For a few moments the Raiders were blinded. The feline drew both swords and charged straight at the enemy. A storm of fire lashed out at him as he leapt up and covered the distance between them in moments. He came down amidst them and was already slashing and cutting. Misha felt a sudden pain in the side and he looked down to find the end of a crossbow bolt projecting from his body. A hail of bullets lashed the air around the fox hitting him several times. The fox cursed loudly, trying to ignore the pain. He tossed a grenade towards the crossbowman. Thick smoke started billowing from the projectile even before it hit the deck. Misha followed up the grenade with a spray of arrows into the smoke. He was rewarded with a grunt and the thump of a body hitting the deck. BOOM! The ship shook and they were all thrown to the deck. “Sounds like the Thatcher scored some hits,” Stealth commented as they stood up.**************** The raider ship righted itself after a moment but it slowed to a stop. Just hanging there. Scores of objects detached from the damaged Raider and jetted towards the Thatcher. “Wing Raiders and Sky Skiffs, inbound! We’re painting thirty-five targets,” someone shouted. The captain then gave an order that no US Naval officer had spoken in a century. “Prepare to repel boarders.” “Ok, boys and girls,” Hovihar said. “This is where we earn our pay!” “Counterbalance the ship,” the captain ordered. “Redistributing propulsion to compensate.” Chaos reigned around the Thatcher. Flyers, skiffs, fighters, missiles, drones and Supers zipped, dodged and twisted about as they blazed away at anything that looked like an enemy. Smoke billowed up from the countless fires adding to the haze and confusion. The fighters took down many, guns and machineguns of the Thatcher caught others. The Seals lined the ship’s deck and lashed out at anything that came within reach. Adding to the mayhem. A large aircraft suddenly loomed up out of the fog and dropped onto the landing pad. A score of Raiders boiled out and started blasting at everything in sight. Hovihar met them head on. Sending a howling storm down on them. Rock hard hail and ice hammered into the Raiders like machine gun fire. A sailor swung the large twin 50 cal machine gun mount around and the 12.7 mm bullets ripped into the invaders. Smoke billowed out of a vent on the deck next to her. “There is a major fire in the engine room,” the Nanites announced over her radio. “We suggest you get down there and help.” “Unless you want to try and abandon ship at 10,000 feet.” Hovihar made her way down the gangway to the lower parts of the ship. Where the fire was greatest. She found most of the engine room ablaze and the heat intense. A dozen sailors were desperately fighting the flames with fire hoses and extinguishers. She hesitated. “What will happen if I use ice and snow on the machinery here?” A woman wearing the uniform of a Petty officer turned to the super. “It should be safe. All of the machinery is fairly waterproof.” “You can’t do more damage than this damn fire,” a sailor shouted as he helped direct a firehose on the flames. The woman aimed at the fiercest part of the fire and sent blasts of ice and snow into it. There was a loud hiss of steam and the crackling of ice as fog filled the space. The room grew cooler immediately. When the fog cleared the fire was out in that spot. The machinery and electronics were covered with frost. Without hesitating she turned and attacked where the fire still raged. Behind her she could hear machinery restarting as a reassuring hum filled the air. Hovihar worked methodically. Going around the room she doused the flames wherever she saw them with carefully control blasts of ice and snow. The naval vessel shuddered and shook and slowed but didn’t stop. It’s nose came up and the deadly drop to the sea ended.******************...
Pacific Raider - COH Story 30 part 11The team was assigned a small set of quarters on the Thatcher. Not really big but certainly larger than they had on the Michigan. It was 6 bunks and a table in the same quarters as the Seals. “I always like flying!” “Do we get the complimentary bag of nuts?” “Is there an inflight movie?” “Where’s the stewardess? Is she cute?” "Do we need lifeboats or parachutes in case of an emergency?" “Exactly how do you bail safely out of something at 10,000 feet?”***************** It took a lot of effort but soon the Thatcher was fully armed and supplied. The ship was almost ready to depart. There was only 1 last thing to do. “This is the Captain speaking. I am going to explain why we so suddenly left the Coast and came here to Pearl Harbor.” Perhaps you have heard that the Sky Raiders – those flying pirates have been raiding, killing and stealing. All across the Pacific. They are a blight on humanity and civilization.” “We have been given the honor and the duty to end that.” “We are not going into this alone. We have the support of a full team of supers as well as the Ronald Reagan. I will not lie,” the Captain paused for a moment. “This will be a difficult task. The Jormungandr is heavily armed. BUT she is no match for the Thatcher. Remember these are not professional sailors. These are thieves and pirates out to attack the helpless. We ARE professionals.”**************** The Thatcher had arrived quietly and at night. And for such a large and busy installation it wasn’t noticed by many. It’s departure wasn’t so quiet. She lifted clear of the pier in broad daylight and in full view of several hundred people. The Thatcher was escorted for a while by dozen Air Force F22 fighters. “This is where we leave you,” the leader of the fighters said. “Good luck and good hunting!” “Thank you!” The Captain responded. “Sir, we are clear of the coast and all commercial traffic. We have clear skies ahead.” “Air Control reports all craft are aboard and stowed.” “All departments report ready for open sea running.” “Good. We have an appointment to keep. All engines full. All ahead flank!” And with that command the ship accelerated and soon left the coast far behind.**************** Space on any ship is at a premium and Stealth wound up in the hanger of the ship. Sharing the space with the 2 of the F35’s and the MV22. The other 2 fighters were airborne flying patrol with the ship. Here he found enough room to stretch and exercise. The nanites could do some to keep him in top physical form but they could not do everything. So the feline would spend at least 1 or 2 hours a day exercising and practicing with his blades. There was a set routine he had to stretch and limber up. Then he would do another routine that let him really swing, twist and dodge. He moved with the fluidness of a cat flowing about with a grace that was more dance than combat. Soon he had acquired an audience as sailors and Seals gathered to watch. One of those was Hovihar. The woman watching with intense interest. “It’s almost like dancing,” a sailor said. After a while the feline finished his routine and sheathed his swords. His performance earned him a round of applause from his impromptu audience. “Thank you!” Stealth said and bowed. “Impressive,” Hovihar said as she walked over to him. “There was a smooth grace to your movements.” Stealth nodded. “Thank you. I took gymnastics in school. Won several competitions. Mom made me take dance classes. Said it would help. I hated them. But they did help.” That got a round of laughter from everyone. “May I please see one of you blades?” She asked in soft tones. Stealth handed one of the blades to her. Hilt first. Hovihar gently took the weapon and examined it. The sword had a handle shaped like the letter c. The handle seemed to be made of bronze with grips wrapped in fine leather. The blade whose cutting edge was beautifully curved but the opposite side was straight. It was of bronze, not steel or iron and was elaborately inlaid with blue and silver decorations. "It's a falcata of the middle 2nd century BC and in fine condition,” the feline explained. “Probably stolen from a museum or a collection.” “The blades are bronze? Have you had any issues using them?” Stealth shook his head. “None. They’ve served me well and never failed me.” Hovihar ran her hand lightly along the flat of the blade. “You’ve maintained them well.” The feline nodded. “Cleaned and polished them every day.”She gripped the weapon by the hilt and swung it about a bit. “These are finely balanced. Where did you get these?” “From the Raiders,” Stealth responded. “They were among a large pile of loot they had stashed in Paragon City. No telling who they stole it from.” “Indeed.” She handed it back to Stealth. “They do look vaguely familiar.” “They do?” Stealth asked. She had a puzzled look on her face. “I don’t remember from where. I’m sure it will come to me at some point.” “Have you ever researched them?” Gardner asked. “Some,” Stealth responded. “I didn’t really turn up much.”**************** “We’re on the edge of the search area!” The First officer said. “Reduce to half speed,” the Captain ordered. The Thatcher had the most advanced sensors; Radar, ladar, IR, and the AN/SLQ 53 Electronic Warfare suit with missile and torpedo counter measures. That included decoy and flare launching capability. The AN/SPY-1D was the most advanced radar the military had and could detect a target at 201 miles range. But her radar was in standby mode. Meaning that it was not transmitting. The radar could detect a target like the Raider ship at some 100 miles BUT the signal the radar produced was detectable at 200 miles distance. So the Thatcher was only using her passive systems like the IR and radio and laser receivers. Listening and watching. “How far are we from the last reported sighting of Jormungandr?” The captain asked. “45 miles bearing 135 degrees,” came the response. “She attacked a tanker.” Suddenly a wall of fog rolled at them. It quickly enveloped the ship. Visual distance went from 12 miles to about a dozen meters past the bow. “Where the hell did this come from?” Hovihar asked. The supers were standing on the bow looking at the fog rolling in. “Strela and Misha scout out ahead,” Lieutenant Commander Gardner ordered. “See if you can find that damn ship.” “Be careful!” Hovihar shouted to them. “Nature did not create this weather.” The fog was so thick that the Thatcher vanished when she moved more than a dozen meters away. Even using IR/thermal didn’t help much. Strela stopped and hovered for a moment. Listening to and looking at the world around here. The fog here was particularly thick and it was hard to make out anything. “This cannot be natural,” Strela said. “It’s too thick. To regular.” “Agreed. The chemical composition is wrong.” the nanites responded. “This was produced by a smoke generator.” “Means we’re close,” Strela commented. She started to slowly move around trying to cover a larger area. All she found was fog and more fog. Her patience was eventually rewarded. “Odd noises at 43 degrees,” the nanites reported to her. “Could be artificial.” She turned in that direction and slowly moved forward. “Sound is getting louder. Definitely artificial. Could it be the Thatcher?” “No,” Strela responded. “She’s about 100 miles to the east.” She moved closer and a dark shape filled the air in front of her. A half dozen Raiders wearing rocket packs rushed at her. “Break radio silence!” Strela ordered. “Inform them of our location!” A barrage of fire filled the air and the vixen turned and flew away. Weaving and twisting to avoid being hit. She was chased by a dozen Wing raiders. She cursed loudly in several languages as a bullet tore into her side and others pinged off her armor. The wound was painful but not bad. A figure loomed out of the fog. It was Stealth. He raced at two of the Raiders. One sweep of his blades sent a Raider tumbling down to the ocean below. His counter stroke caught another and it dropped down to join the first. SNAP! A fan of arrows raced out of the fog and took out a trio of Raiders. Another figure slowly materialized out of the fog. This was Misha. The fox had his bow at full bend. He snapped off an arrow and one of remaining raiders chasing her caught it full in the chest. “I think I found them,” Strela managed. “Let’s get back to the Thatcher,” Misha suggested. “Good idea,” Stealth commented. “The Thatcher is coming real fast. And this is going to be a full-scale naval engagement.” “I’ve got a better idea,” Strela said. “Attack the Raider. In this fog and confusion, we might be able to sneak on board.”****************...
Pacific Raider - COH Story 30 part 10The list of supplies the Thatcher needed was impressive. Just food and drink for her 350 crew for 2 months amounted to over 50 tons. All of which needed to be loaded, sorted and stored away properly. Loading the heavy missiles was a slow and laborious task. Each one weighed 1200 lbs. and had to be loaded carefully. The 500 pound warhead on each assured extra care on everyone’s part. The magazines for the three-gun turrets needed to be loaded. Along with all the smaller weapons she carried. The F22’s had their own ammunition including air to air missiles, air to surface missiles and cannon ammo. Loading the fuel needed for the fighters and the MV22 required waiting till the weapons loading was done. Then having a fuel tender come along side. The Seals were polite enough to bring along their own weapons and ammo. Which they quickly and efficiently stored in the right places. The Thatcher herself needed an impressively large amount of supplies like oil, lubricants and spare parts. All had to be loaded, sorted and put in their assigned storage places. The Seals and the Supers were politely but firmly told to stay out of the way.******************* Arriving a short time after the Thatcher was another sort of reinforcement. Another super. She was wearing a standard set of Army fatigues complete with the soft cap. But Misha noticed that a light fog drifted off her body and the air around her was distinctly cooler. Which was a welcome relief in the 85-degree heat of a Hawaiian day. The rank on her uniform marked her as a staff sergeant. She didn’t have a grandiose code name; just SSG Angelina Hovihar. “Hovihar. That is Hungarian for Blizzard,” the Nanites noted. And listed all the most relevant information on her.Code Name: HoviharAbilities: Ice Blaster/Cold DominationHeight: 5’6”Weight 145 lbsBorn ?Affiliation: U.S. Army Rangers.Rank: Staff Sergeant Recently graduated from Ranger training where her powers manifested themselves. “Hovihar. That’s just a code name,” Misha commented. “Please just call me Hovihar,” the woman said. She came with a duffle bag full of items an army issue helmet. There was a pistol holstered on her belt. Misha saluted her. “Good to have you aboard! Let’s get you to our quarters and out of the hot sun.”******************* To stay out of the way for the two days it took to upload the Thatcher the Seals and the Supers stayed in the Seal quarters. They found her a bunk and everyone settled down in at one of the tables in the middle of the room. “Coffee?” Gardner asked and placed a mug full down in front of Hovihar. “I prefer iced coffee.” She put her index finger down into the hot coffee and the liquid instantly turned cold. “That’s convenient,” Stealth joked. “I’ve heard a lot about you three,” she said and sipped her coffee. “Good things I hope,” Misha responded. She nodded her head. “You trashed that Raider attack on Aberdeen a while back.” Stealth nodded his head and both Misha and Strela laughed. Sharing a private joke. “Did I miss something funny?” She asked. “Me and Misha helped defend it,” Stealth explained. “I was one of the people who attacked it,” Strela admitted. She looked from vixen to todd. “You’re joking? Right?” “Nyet,” Strela said. “I had a change of heart afterward.” She leaned over and kissed Misha. He kissed her and stroked her head. “You stole my heart. You little thief.” She nodded her head. “I see,” she said slowly. “What exactly are your powers?” Misha asked. Changing the subject. “Ice based,” she responded. “They first appeared during my cold weather training. But the cold never really did bother me. Even as a child.” “Da,” Strela nodded in agreement. “It was the same with me. I was aware from an early age that I was different.” Hovihar reached into her shirt and pulled out a necklace of gold. On the end of it was a claw off of some large animal. “This is the claw off of a Sabertooth, Smilodon Fatalis.” Strela reached out and gently touched it. “This is no reproduction!” The nanites explained as they and Strela examined the claw. “I got that in high school,” she explained. “I volunteered to help on a paleontology excavation. I was given that as a reward for helping.” “You ever consider becoming a paleontologist?” Strela asked. Hovihar nodded her head. “Yes but I found college life really boring.” “We have to introduce her to that ice age spirit,” Stealth said. “Agreed,” Misha responded. “Tell me about this flying ship?” The woman ordered as she put her necklace away. “The report sounds a little fantastic. Like something out of an Anime film.” “It’s quite real,” Gardner responded. He carefully explained what they had seen and experienced. “How did they manage to build that without anyone noticing?” She asked. Misha shrugged. “I don’t know but I’m sure Specialist Ostheim is busy trying to answer that question even as we speak.” “How is not the question we need to concentrate on,” Hovihar said. “We need to stop it. Destroy it.” “We need help for that,” Stealth said. “Can this flying destroyer do that?” “I hope so,” She said. “I only found out about it this morning when I arrived here. But there is a briefing at 13:00 hours in the HQ. I’m sure we’ll get more information then.”********************** The briefing for the crew of the Thatcher was through but brief. The Sky Raiders and their attacks were described in detail. “Their latest attack was on convoy YL22,” Ostheim said. “HMS Defender fended them off but suffered 4 dead and 12 wounded. The Raiders lost 7 Skiffs but managed to get away with 4 containers.”The most time was spent on the enemy ship code named Jormungandr. While Specialist 6 Ostheim spoke a holographic projector in the center of the room displayed relevant information. “It has missile launchers, guns and energy weapons. But her main compliment seems to be fliers. She is carrying a large number of Sky Skiffs in two different styles. And no telling how many Wing Raiders.” The crew was silent as the full import of what they were being told sank in. This wasn’t peaceful sea trials or an attack against a simulated enemy. This was true combat. “Is your ship ready for this?” The admiral asked bluntly. “Yes sir!” Came the fast response from the captain. “Is it really?” The nanites asked. “No,” Misha responded. “But no one is ever really ready for combat.” “For your air compliment,” the officer explained. “We are giving you 4 F35 fighters and 1 MV22 Osprey. “We are assigning 2 platoons (of 16 each) of Seals,” the officer explained. “Since the Sky Raiders are involved we’re are bringing in Special support. Four Supers are involved. Three of them have been intensely involved in dealing with the Raider threat. Stealth, Strela, Misha and Hovihar.” “The Raiders have been busy these last few days,” The specialist said. “They’ve struck four ships.” Four spots lit up on the map. “The only good part of this,” Ostheim said. “Was it does pinpoint the area they are working in.” “Your orders are simple,” admiral said. “Stop, sink or capture this Raider ship.” “The carrier Reagan will be following you but staying clear. If you get a solid contact we’ll send in an airstrike in support.”*************** They had a full 24 hours after the briefing before departure. Stealth and Strela took the time to catch up on sleep. As did some of the Seals. But Misha couldn’t sleep. Instead he found himself sitting in the rec room the Seals had pondering things. His enemy – the crossbowman was codenamed Arbalist. He had used cover well. Not just that huge shield of his but anything solid that would block incoming fire. He wasn’t standing out in the open in full view. A mistake many civilian supers made. And he had commanded the other Raiders well. Giving orders in clear and concise tones. He made few mistakes. Could this villain have been a ranger? Many of the Raiders were from the various special forces. Lieutenant Heathcliff Chalmers whom, Strela and him had killed a while back had been SAS. The raiders never recruited regular soldiers for their officers. Only for the rank and file. The troopers. The officers were always special forces trained. American, Canadian, Russian, Ex-Soviet, German. Getting such people was never easy and it was getting harder all the time. The rank-and-file troopers never lasted long and they were killed or captured at a high rate. They were just cannon fodder to keep enemies busy while the older and more experienced leaders got away. With whatever they were stealing. The truth of the matter was the Sky Raiders had lost their edge. The tough, experienced people who had betrayed their country and fled Project Vigilance were dying off. A fact people like Misha, Strela, Stealth and all the Special Forces was energetically working on. The latest report said the raiders were trying to make up the difference with high technology. There were rumors of them using robots now. But he hadn’t come into contact with one. Yet. The Arbalist had not spoken with an accent, so he was probably American. He had little else to go by. But there was a key clue. He used a crossbow. A rare thing. No serving soldier would even consider using something like a crossbow in combat. And few Supers used one either. Most projectile using supers used a bow of some sort or firearms. Lasers were also popular. Usually something based off a Rikti weapon. “Please do a search for me,” Misha asked the Nanites. “I’m looking for someone who used a crossbow.” “You need to be more specific. A large part of Europe used it until the 1600’s,” the Nanites asked. “Current times,” the fox responded. “In the American military? Specials Forces?” “Start with the American military,” he said. “I seem to remember a person from Ranger training who was good with one.” “Six names come up,” the Nanites responded. “Three are in a historical recreation unit. But are in France at the moment refighting the battle of Crecy.” “Two are in Pennsylvania at a Renaissance Festival. Local police are checking to confirm their whereabouts. Both were military but not Special Operations.” “Here we go! Matthew Larson. Staff Sergeant. Ranger trained. Won several crossbow competitions. Removed from active service for misappropriation of government equipment. Three years ago.” The fox gave a snort of derision. “Misappropriation. Means the bastard was stealing. Probably selling it.” “Agreed,” was the nanites response. “The files don’t specifically say it but it’s hinted he sold it to the Raiders.” Let me see his picture,” Misha asked. After a moment a picture appeared in his vision. It showed a man in a camouflaged uniform scowling at the camera. “I recognize him now,” Misha said calmly. “I didn’t know him in the Rangers. I did know him when I was in the regular infantry.” “We were both into our weapons,” the fox explained. “Me into archery and him into crossbows. We had a lot of discussions over which was better.” “Meaning arguments?” Misha gave a yip of laughter. “Yup. We used to have contests every weekend. To prove which was better. We both applied for the Rangers. I was accepted. He wasn’t.” “He was accepted two years later.” “What happened to him after he was arrested?” Misha asked. “He was found guilty and served two years in Leavenworth. He vanished after being released.” Misha shook his head. “Please update the DOD and Justice Department with the information. And make sure Special Operations is aware.” “Doing that now. Specialist Ostheim is already accessing the information.”***************...
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UPDATED: 17 October 2013