Fortress in the sky


The wheeled assault transport sped across the tarmac to the waiting Fortress Dropship.  The air whipped at the Lord Commander’s face, and ruffled his clothes as the vehicle’s speed increased.  The armored groundcar was designed to transport a small squad of militia on rails attached to its exterior and carried light armaments suited for crowd control.  It had been the first vehicle that he had seen outside the palace and had commandeered it immediately for his needs.  Behind him on the rail was Weylan; who’s gentlemanly nature seemed unphased by the assault of the wind against his face and hair.

“Get Cotton on the line; I want that old bastard to round up the Renegades and get them down to Boomerang ASAP!”  The command by Mason was almost lost against the howling wind but Weylan simply nodded and began subvocalizing into a mic at his throat.  Mason turned to look at the looming dropship and was pleased to see a dozen troop transports bringing jump infantry, Special Forces and militia from the barracks to its open bays.

“Lord Commander, Cotton has acknowledged your request and advises he will need about an hour to fire up the dropship and get his people launched!”  Weylan’s voice was soft against the wind but still easily heard.

“Un-fucking acceptable; but I suppose it will have to do!  Has Val placed Coryphee under house arrest!?”

“Yes, Lord Commander, she is under guard in the palace!”

“Good, at least that’s gone right!  Put in a call to Talon and Verdance, tell them to hitch a ride with Cotton.  They can pilot one of the spare mechs that are on-board the Fortress when they meet up with us!”

The assault vehicle began rapidly decelerating as it approached the open bay doors of the Dropship, coming to a final rest with a lurch.  Mason jumped off the rail letting the momentum of the rapid stop propel him forward into a run.  His balance was off and he nearly tripped, but recovered quickly, jogging up the ramp and inside the ship.  He was getting old, his body was betraying him and the shakes of withdrawal still haunted him sometimes.  His cybernetic hand gave him feed-back that he was asking it to squeeze too hard and he relaxed it.

He maneuvered through the ship like it was a second home making his way to the bridge.


A young shiphand snapped to attention as he entered the deck, saluting.

“At, ease! BURKE! Why the fuck aren’t we airborne?”  Mason crossed to a holo-table at the center of the deck and strapped into a harness at its side.

“Fuel lines and hatches are still being dealt with Sir; unless you want that I should risk blowing up half the capital as we take off.”

“No, Burke, lets not blow up the city, but I’ll settle for anything less than half, understood.”

“Roger that Sir, rounding off the corners!  Mitchel are all hands aboard!” A bald shiphand answered back.

“Aye, Sir, all pax accounted for.”

“Engineering I don’t want to hear anything but bad news, expedite all launch procedures!”

“Wilco, Captain!”

“Harrison, seal all hatches and close all bays we will pressurize on launch, see that ground crews are out of the area ASAP”

“Got it boss!”

The bridge was awash in activity as Mason pulled up a planetary map and isolated Boomerang base.  He stabbed the hologram to designate an LZ.

“Burke, I want you to put us down right here.  We are going in hot and I want all hands at their gunnery, combat and damage control stations.  No orbital flight path, I want us suborbital and ballistic for a hot drop.  We are gonna’ take these assholes by surprise.”  Burke turned away from his conning station, one eyebrow raised in surprise; they would use an obscene about of fuel on that kind of flight path.

“Aye, Sir.”  Burke turned around and slapped a button on his console and a klaxon sounded.  The keening wail almost covered up the sound of the Dropship’s engine throttling up.  Burke’s voice boomed from speakers throughout the ship as he yelled into a mic on the console.

“All hands, all hands, report to combat and damage stations; we launch in 20.  Repeat, report to combat and damage stations; we launch in 20!”

Burke surveyed the bridge.

“Only bad news people, any takers?”  No one called out, but a few threw thumbs up.  Burke began the 10 second count down.  Mason braced himself for the coming multi-G burn and the stress and pain of the force.  He began the kind of heavy breathing favored by aero-jocks to fight off black out.  He would ride though the launch on his feet at the command table.  He looked around and saw Weylan comfortably settled into a gravity couch, chatting into his throat mic and punching data into a tablet.  Sometimes he loathed that unflappable asshole.

A dull rumble transformed into a loud roar and then into a deafening waterfall of noise as the dropship leapt from the launch pad on a tower of plasma.  Rama had Boomerang and Mason was going to get it back.  Coryphee had given the base to him.  He wanted to believe she wasn’t so naive as to believe it was love but he wasn’t sure.  If Rama was Lewis then he had cut and run when Zathras had needed him and was thus a liability and maybe a threat; if he was someone else then he was also a liability and threat.  In either case Rama had turned his daughter, which made him dangerously charismatic; again, a problem.  Mason would secure Boomerang Base, bring this man to heel and find the truth.  As the initial forces of the takeoff eased Mason felt the painful throb of the launch stress in his legs and back from tensing his muscles.  He could live with that pain.  He would save this god forsaken planet from itself and its enemies; leaving it to Coryphee as a legacy whether she wanted it or not.  She might not approve of what he would do.  He could live without his daughter’s approval.  He wondered if this might also cost him her love.  The idea gave him pause and he closed his eye, breathing deep to calm his raging mind and emotions.  When he opened his eye again he was calmer and had decided he could live without her love too.

The Dropship roared across the sky, an ill omen to all who would mark its passing.