Flight of the Claymore -chapter 12

Chapter 12
White Sands Reach and Development Center.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Standing there behind me was my mother. The one person that I really didn’t want on New Texas right now. I could tell by the look on her face the way her BDU’s were wrinkled that she was not in a good mood. The other indicator of her fowl mood was the half-gallon coffee mug in her hand. It was the one I got her when she made full Colonel. Across the front of it read H.B.I.C. in big bold red letters. I always got a laugh out of her using that mug in her office. It was her way of reminding certain officers that she was the one in charge.

“I am not the one that will be answering questions here Lieutenant. Oh no, that honor is all yours.” The glare my mother gave me said it all.

“Yes ma’am, Colonel.” I just gulped and wave for her to sit down. “Please have a seat ma’am. This is Chief Warrant Officer Daily, my Flight Crew Chief.”

Andria reached over and shook Daily’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you Chief. Has the Lieutenant been giving you any trouble?”

“None at all ma’am. Except for when she brings my baby back with laser burns, PPCs welts, and autocannon holes.” Chief gave my mother a sly smile as he chuckled at my embarrassment when he saw the look she gave me at hearing this.

“Would you say that the Lieutenant has been pushing herself out there Chief?” the look my mother gave Chief Daily was the one that had sent more than one Field Grade Officer running for the hills.

Chief Lucky Daily could tell right away that Colonel Cole was no longer joking around. “No ma’am. The Lt has not been pushing herself. If anything, she has been doing everything in her power to keep from doing just that.”

“So, you do not consider eight combat missions in sixty hours as not pushing it? Just what would you consider pushing it, Chief Daily?” Yeah, my mother was pissed.

“No ma’am I would not. Not when those missions have saved lives.” Chief Daily told her honestly. “Right now, the only bird we got that has the legs to support those evac missions is the FB-eleven. And the only pilot we got that can handle her is Lieutenant Cole. In short ma’am, unless you or one of the other sawbones around here can figure out how to give us more pilots like your daughter then us producing more Claymores is pointless.”

“Excuse me Chief Daily, but I don’t understand. Shouldn’t the Death Dealer pilots be able to handle a FB-eleven just as well as my daughter?”

This time I sighed. Keeping my voice just above a whisper. “Mom, the last Death Dealer pilot that tried to fly a Claymore ended up with AI-burnout.”

The shock was clear as day on my mother’s face. “How? No, let me correct that. Why? Why did that happen?”

“I can answer that Colonel.” Chief Daily picked up where I had left off. “The Claymore is unlike any other fighter flying. For starters, they’re faster. By that I mean magnitudes faster. Not only can they out run any fighter flying, they can also out maneuver every other fighter. It takes someone like your daughter, who is just as special, to handle one. The input for combat is twice to three times that of a normal fighter. In short, it takes an AI just to handle flight operations and a pilot that can multitask on the same level as your daughter.”

My mother leaned in close to Chief Daily. “Are you saying that the only reason Terresa can pilot that aircraft is her H.H.S.S.?”

“Yes ma’am. That is exactly what I am saying.” Daily looked around the chow hall before continuing. “I looked in the Lt’s records when she first got here. I wanted to know why she was assigned a test pilot duty. Pilots with her kind of combat record don’t get stuck with test flights. I saw the notations. It took me a few days of digging but I figured out each notation and what they mean.”

“Does anybody else know what you know Chief?” I demanded.

“Relax, ma’am. Your secrets are safe. I had an old friend of mine in Personnel scrub all references towards your old self from your records.” The wink Chief Daily tossed me relaxed me more than his words.

I knew that he would never hurt me or let someone else. To him I was more than just an officer for some reason. Keeping my voice just above a whisper. “Look mom if you want more information on this, you’re going to have to talk with Sylvia.”

“Alright, why?” Mom asked then gave me a flat look. “And why are we whispering?”

I wanted to just face palm at that point. “Mom this information is still classified. Until I get the okay from Colonel Nakatoma we’re not supposed to talk to anybody about it. Only Sylvia knowns about the pilot, and the AI burnout.”

It took my mother a few seconds to realize what I just said. “Oh hell! How bad was the burnout? And did he crash the fighter?”

“The burnout was bad enough that he has been hospitalized for the last two days. The only good part was it happened in a simulator not in an actual fighter.” Chief Daily told her while still keeping his voice down.

“Okay let me get this straight, Chief.” My mother started off. “We have an aerospace fighter that can only be flown by my daughter. A fighter so powerful that it could very well be one of the deciding factors in this war. To date a fighter that has destroyed more enemy aircraft than any other fighter at our disposal. Have I summed things up adequately?”

“You only missed one thing mom.” I said sadly. “Until you or some other doctor can figure out how to make more Death Dealers like me. Any pilot we put in a Claymore is going to be on a one-way trip.”

Before my mother could say or ask more we were joined by seven more people in BDU’s. Lilly gave me their names and ranks before they had even asked to sit down. The ranking officer, a major, asked my mother. “Excuse us Colonel, but may we join you and your party?”

“Certainly, Major Howard. Do you mind Lieutenant, Chief?” mom asked us both. We both just smiled and moved down the benches to make room for the new comers. As they sat down mom introduced them to us. “Lieutenant Cole, Chief Daily, allow me to introduce my staff.”

When I heard this, I stopped my mom. “Excuse me, ma’am, but did you say staff? As in your medical staff? Did you get recalled mom?”

I think it was the mom that gave me away or it could have been the last name, but Major Howard held out his hand to one of the three captains. “Pay up Mike. I told you that we would find the CO with her daughter.”

I watched as a five-note bill was handed over to the major. “You know something David one of these days you’re going to be wrong about a bet.”

“Not so long as it revolves around human nature, Mike.” Major Howard pointed out. As the rest took their seats my mother just sighed and gave me a sour look.

“Sorry, ma’am.” I dropped my head in embarrassment.

“Oh, don’t worry about it, Terresa. It would have happened sooner or later.” Mom gave me a forgiving look then pointed to the others. “As for your questions, yes these are my medical staff, and yes I was recalled.”

“Wait I thought that you couldn’t be recalled.” I said in shock.

“Under normal circumstances that would be true.” Looking around the tent and the surrounding compound mom gave me a lopsided grin. “These are not normal circumstances though. Are they?”

“No ma’am. There not.” I chuckled. “So how is it you are even in system? Shouldn’t you have been stopped before your last jump?”

“I still have a few friends in uniform, dear. I was able to get a ride on board the dropship that delivered this MASH unit.” Looking over at the five medical officers she smiled. “We spent the last two days working our way here from the Franklin Mountains. We must have taken every back route, and goat path through those god forsaken mountains. They lost their Commanding Officer during the first night to an air raid attack.”

“Excuse me ma’am. But I think I need to tell the rest of the tale.” The second major put in just before introducing himself. “Oh, I’m Major Jacob Swift, Chief Surgeon, and Thoracic Specialist. Our old CO was in the last T-nine-eighty Goliath Heavy transport unit when a AH-nine-five-T ground attack chopper dropped over the ridge line to our rear. The helo got off four Mark sevens before our rear guard shot him down. Unfortunately, those missiles hit Lieutenant Colonel Higgin’s T-nine-eighty. The crew and passengers were all killed in the attack.”

“That’s when I came into the picture. They needed a CO, and it was an emergency. My recall protocols kicked in and I took command as the ranking officer.” Mom explained for me and the Chief. Not that she needed to, I had already figured out what had happened. And how she came to be in command of the MASH unit. I had already figured that something like what Swift said had happened.

“How many of your Goliaths made it, ma’am?” Chief Daily asked of my mother.

“We only lost the one thankfully Chief. The down part of that is that Goliath carried our reserve supplies.” One of the captains answered before introducing herself. “Captain Jessica Haze, Chief of Nurses.”

I looked over at the other two captains and the last major. “I take it that make you three are the rest of the surgical staff?”

“Captain J.J. Thorn, Orthopedics and general surgery.” The taller of the two captains answered first.

“Captain Mike Hues, general trauma surgent. Like my partner in crime here we’re not your normal military docs. We were kind of drafted.” The second captain said. Not that I needed the explanation. I could already tell these two were not regular military by the way they dressed. BDUs wrinkled, shirts unbuttoned, and pants not bloused. Everything about them screamed World Health Organization. They were real life Doctor WHO’s. “We came in with the MASH to help out the locals.”

“I guess that just leaves me. Major Steve Blackwell, the teams neural surgeon, and unit XO. Personally, Lieutenant Cole, I’m glad as all hell your mother was on that flight. When that helo attacked she just took command and had us moving in hours. I had no clue as to where to go or what to do. I’m a doctor. I got my commission and rank thanks to my specialty pure and simple. My command course lasted ninety days and some joker with a General’s star said I was now an officer and gentleman.”

I almost spit coffee hearing this last part. I had never heard of an Officer in the Empyreal military treat their commission with such triviality before. I looked at all five of my mother’s Staff. I could tell right away that they were the type she would have picked if she had been given time to form her own unit. None of them were what you would call ‘regular army’ but damned fine doctors. I was saved from any more embarrassing moments by the arrival of Sylvester and Sylvia just then.

“Excuse us Colonel Cole, but may we join your table?” Sylvia asked with a mile-wide smile. Before setting down her tray and wrapping mom in a hug. “Damn glad to see that you made it mom.”

My mother just turned and hugged Sylvia. “You’re not the only one dear. Sylvester, put that tray down give me a hug.”

Sylvester did as mom ordered, then smiled stepping back. “Good to see you too mom. Sorry about that helo attack. We thought that route was still in friendly hands.”

“Wait! You two knew that mom was here ALREADY?!” I was pissed. “Just when were you going to let me in on her arrival?”

“Oh, sometime around ten minutes after she chewed your ass out for NOT showing up for your flight evals.” Sylvia said straight faced.

“And just when has she had the FRACKING TIME MAJOR?!” Chief Daily came quickly to my rescue. “Eight, I repeat, EIGHT escort missions in the last two damned days. The shortest of which was five hours in duration. The longest seven hours on the stick.”

“At ease Chief Warrant Officer Daily.” Sylvester snapped. Only to have me coming to Daily’s rescue this time.

“No Major. You at ease. Both you and the other Major Cole are WAY out of line here. Both me and the other pilots on this base have been flying unstop missions from day one of this mess. None of us have had time for your bullshit flight evals.” I was pissed and sick of the medicos not having any answers to my questions. “You want to help sis? Pull your head out of your ass and figure out how to get us twenty-five more Claymore Death Dealers. Until then back the frack off.”

With that I turned to Chief Daily. “Come on Chief I got a sortie in the morning.”

“Calm down Lieutenant Cole.” His voice was not one that I wanted to hear just then. It didn’t matter that he was now the CO for the base security force and the Crown Prince. No, it was what the sound of his voice did to me.

‘Damn Terresa, the Prince is really starting to get to you.’ Lilly giggled.

Oh, shut up already, Lilly. What I can’t figure out is why he affects me this way.’

‘Terresa, when are you going to accept the fact that you’re a young woman now? A young woman with the hormones that goes with being a woman your age.’

‘Lilly just what the hell does that have to do with the way that Prince James makes me feel? I never looked at men the way I do now. I mean sexually damn it. Frack I look at the women around base and they do nothing for me anymore. What the hell is going on with me Lilly?’

I told you already Terresa. You were a heterosexual male before the Secondary-Configuration. Now, you’re a healthy female, with a very strong heterosexual sex drive now. What you’re feeling is horny or love. I’m not sure which.’

I decided to ignore Lilly for now. I had a more pressing problem on my hands. Prince James was introducing himself to my mother. “Good to have you with us finally Colonel Cole. We weren’t expecting your unit until later tonight.”

“We cleared the foothills faster than predicted. Just after zero-four-twenty this morning. We cleared the outer sand dunes just before zero-nine. My people should have the Goliaths setup for operation by no later then twenty-hundred this evening.” I couldn’t believe the way mom was talking. Then again, she had already served twenty years as a Field Medical Officer and her last assignment was as a MASH CO.

“Tell me something Colonel Cole does Lieutenant Cole pass her flight eval?” Prince James asked her quickly.

“I’ll leave that up to Major Howard. He’s our psychologist.” She turned to Howard and smiled. “Well David what do you think?”

I knew then and there that mom had setup this whole mess. Just to see my reactions and let her shrink observe me in a natural backdrop. The conniving bitch. “As far as I’m concerned the Lieutenant can continue to fly. So long as she is willing to see me once a week for no less than one hour.”

“Fine, I’ll do it.” I was almost pouting but if I wanted to fly I had to play their damned games. “Come on Chief. I hear a twelve-pack calling our names.”

Chief Daily just smiled and followed me out of the mess tent. If I had stuck around I would have heard something that would have had me blushing clear down to my toes. “I have to say Colonel; your youngest daughter is quiet the lovely hellion.”

“Major Blackwell you have no idea of how big a hellion my little sister is. I’m just surprise she didn’t take my head off when I corned her.” Sylvia answered him.

“I highly doubt that she would have taken things too far, Major Cole. The young Lieutenant just needs an outlet for her frustration.” Blackwell said dismissively.

“Major Blackwell, let me give you some advice when it comes to Lieutenant Terresa Cole.” Prince James quickly put in. “Don’t piss her off for starters. The last person to do that ended up hurt, hurt badly. Secondly, whatever you do, do not under any circumstances tell that little lady she needs to get LAID.”

The facepalm that came fast and furious from Andria Cole was accompanied by a heavy deep groan of pain. “WHICH dumbass told her that?”

“Relax mom. That dumbass is no longer on the base or even this planet if he is still lucky. My CO made sure of that in more ways than one.” Sylvia smirked at the look of pain that filled Major Blackwell’s face at the way the conversation had been progressing. Sylvia could tell that he had more than a little working knowledge concerning her sister’s medical background.

“That stupid ass just had to be his usual pompous self.” Blackwell sighed out.

“I take it that you know the doctor in question, Major Blackwell.” Prince James said with a knowing smile. “How would you proceed in the treatment of the Lieutenant? Our last psychologist was less than um… how should I put this… professional.”

“Your last headshrinker was a true quack Colonel Nakatoma. One that needs to have his license pulled. Trust me when I say Freud was doing everything in his power to prove his ancestor’s theories as being correct.” Blackwell just sighed. “I heard about how more than few of his former patients have filed legal complaints against him. Some going so far as to threaten malpractice.”

“Then thank the powers that be, that Terresa didn’t kill the man outright.” Andria commented, only to have James, Sylvester, and Sylvia sigh at first then start laughing. “Okay who did she put in the hospital?”

“Just a racist piece of Amazon spy trash.” James answered with a smile. “She really did a number on the jackass.” Then just barely over a whisper. “I just wish I knew what I did to get on her bad side.”

Andria Cole gave the young prince a sideways look at hearing the last part. She could tell that the young man was smitten with her newest and youngest daughter. Also, most likely the deadliest of her children. She could tell that she would have to take the young man off to one side and have a long talk with him about Terresa. Most especially about his intentions towards her.

Amazon Command, Bella Rosh, New Texas

Supreme Commander Victor Von Bencher, stormed through the hallways of his command post. The late evening call from his XO was not one he wanted. The uprising among the locals was getting out of hand. His eighth division command post along with the entire divisional command staff had been blown sky high by a truck bomb. These terrorist attacks on his people were already getting out of hand. Especially in Well Cap. Long Horn and Six Shooter were not much better off. In the past two days he had lost close too to nineteen soldiers to boobytraps and IDEs. Now, this direct attack on a divisional command post by a suicide bomber.

An attack that would have far reaching consequences for his plans of conquest. Even now, in less than sixty hours following the successes of that first day, his soldiers feared going into the backcountry. Nine full mercenary units had been wiped out to the last man and woman. One unit’s APS pilots had been decapitated and their bloody heads set on stakes in front of their APSs. Every part of Flight Leader Emily Calisto’s plan had gone to perfection, with the exception of two points.

The first being the survival of the White Sands Research Center. Those F-1E5 Strike Eagles were far deadlier than they were reported to be. Just three of those formidable fighters had turned back the attack on the base. That one failed attack wouldn’t have had a great impact on the overall plan if not for the second failed attack. The most important of the two. The failed attack on the Death Dealer Divisional Command Post had giving those deadly men and women the chance to regroup. Von Bencher knew that they were the ones behind the organization of the local terrorist cells. Unlike his fellow Amazon military leaders Von Bencher knew how the Death Dealers got their name, and all about their very unconventional training.

What worried Von Bencher more than anything else was the fact they had no real Intelligence on how many of those deadly fighters survived. He knew that a single battalion of Jump Infantry would raise mortal hell with any plans they could formulate. A brigade would be deadly in any operation. A division, a death note, for his command. No matter where he placed them on the planet. The tales of one division turning the tide of war on whole planets in the War of Succession were true. He saw this first hand in the Cascades System. A Death Dealer Division with air support. His command didn’t stand a chance in hell once they got moving.

As Von Bencher entered the Command Center he was greeted by pandemonium. Everywhere he looked his command staff were busy trying to organize the chaos. All to no avail. He knew that these pampered members of the High-Born Class had never faced such disorder in their lives. Of them all only Von Bencher had ever faced the true chaos of unlimited warfare. There was no honor in this type of warfare. No glory to be had. In the end there would be no true victory for the Amazons. Something that only Von Bencher had seen from the very beginning. He knew that the only way to truly win was a genocidal warfare. Something that would bring down the full weight of the Imperial Military on the heads of the Amazon Collective.

All of his and his fellow Supreme Commanders, had warned the High Council and Grand Council of using military force to forward their agenda. Their warnings had fallen on deaf ears. The hot blooded young members of the Grand Council were tired of waiting for the Hall of Judges to rule in the favor of the mine owners. In truth only one of the Supreme Commanders supported the use of the Amazon Military. Carl Blücher of the Manaus Mining Blüchers. The man refused to see the danger of facing off against the Imperial Military in all their terrifying fury.

The last person to face that fury was now nothing more than radioactive dust, and his fifteen of his most loyal followers. The rest had been locked forever in their multilayer white ceramic rigid full body mummy stocks. They had been sentenced to spend the rest of their natural lives as High Priest Controllers. That had been over thirty years ago, and those High Priest Controllers were still alive. At last report they were all good health and could expect to live for another fifty to sixty years if not longer. The Empress had scientists working to make that particular punishment last for more than just the few years it used to. Just for those criminals.

The two foreign nations that had helped the Temple of Holy Light had also paid a very heavy price. For the Velmaro Consortium the loss of more than half of their military might and several vital planets to seven-forty Core Crackers had set them back more than fifteen decades. The Gorgonzola Empire hadn’t fared much better. Something that the Grand Council failed to see was the danger that the Empress herself represented. He knew of her reputation and it was well deserved. Just as the reputation of her oldest son and the people who commanded the division he now served with. The 101st Death Dealer Division was not to be taken lightly.

Looking at the chaos that now reigned in his Command Center he thought about that very reputation. He knew that there was no way to regain the momentum they once had two days ago. That was lost to them. His worse nightmare had come true. Somehow the remnants of the 101st had reformed and were even now exerting their influence. When his XO walked up to him the man had a fearful look in his eyes.

“Report.” The one-word order was all Von Bencher said.

“Sir, it is as bad as you predicted. The city of Well Cap is in full riot. Our forces there are being forced to abandon their positions as we speak. Long Horn and Six Shooter are not far behind. Huston Spaceport was attacked less than twenty minutes ago by a pair of suicide truck bombers. One destroyed the control tower. The other was able to disable the radar/lidar station to the point it will take several days to repair. Repair with parts we do not have sir.” Von Bencher’s XO sighed heavily before continuing with his report. “Our supply convoy was attacked by a flight of ground attack helicopters last night. None of the transports made it through the attack. All of our supplies were destroyed in transit.”

“What’s the situation in Bar Harbor, Pecos, and Reo Grand?”

“We still hold those three cities sir. Thanks to the efforts of Battalion Commander White. His antiterrorist sweeps have rounded up and executed thirty known terrorists and anti-Collective rabble rousers.” Von Bencher’s XO gave him a look that Von Bencher didn’t like. “Sir, I know that you believe Battalion Commander White’s methods shouldn’t be used. But he is getting results. I believe that we make an example of one of the uprising cities it will put a stop to this rebellion, sir.”

“And just how would you make such an example Sub Commander Rice?” Von Bencher let his anger fill his voice, but know the man was too stupid to hear the warning. He was right when Rice outlined his idea for ‘teaching’ the locals a lesson.

“Since we are being forced to abandon Well Cap that is the city. We pull our people out. Then once they are clear send a flight of heavy bombers and carpet bomb the city. We level the whole of it, from one end to the other. Then there is the option. One heavy bomber carrying a tactical thermonuclear bomb. Of the two the second would be the most cost effective and deliver the needed lesson.” Von Bencher wanted to strangle his XO over both plans but knew that right now his position as Supreme Commander was precarious at best.

If he failed to act against the rebels, then the High Council would remove him. They would replace him with someone that would take the measures that Rice was proposing. Most likely Rice himself. Von Bencher decided that he would have to do something that would show the High Council’s man that he was set on following their plans to the end. He just needed to figure out how to make it look like the New Texans set off the nukes. As the plan formed in his head he let a small smile play across his lips, one that never reached his eyes.

“Sub Commander Rice, send the following orders to Well Cap, Long Horn, Six Shooter, and Pecos. Commanders you are to withdraw your forces to the far northern edge of town. There you will be meet by a relief force. Begin your withdrawal no earlier than twenty-six-hundred and no later than twenty-eight-hundred. Now make sure that you receive an authentication reply XO.” Von Bencher just knew that the man would do as he was ordered thinking that one of his two suggestions was being carried out. “Contact Sub Commander Diesel over at Bomber Command and have him report to my private office in the next hour.”

“Yes sir. May I ask which of the four cities will be the target for being made the example?” Rice just knew that Von Bencher won’t destroy all four.

“All of them.” With that Von Bencher turned and walked out of the Command Center to the stunned and shocked looks of his command staff. He knew that his plan would either end the war now or send it into a whole new phase. One that he hoped didn’t come. Because if it did happen then he and all of the Amazon Collective were facing the end of their days.

A little more than twenty minutes later Sub Commander Diesel stood in Von Bencher’s private office. “Sub Commander Diesel, which of our bombers can carry a nuclear weapon? And which crews are the most trust worthy?”

“Of the bomber class aerospace craft on planet only the four-thirty-first bomber wing. With their YB-thirty-eight heavy bombers, they are the only ones with the mission capabilities to carry nuclear weapons sir. As for which are the most trust worthy of those flight crews take your pick. To be a member of the four-thirty-first each soldier must first undergo heavy psychological and loyalty conditioning. The drones of that wing suicide if put under any type of questioning concerning their missions. Even from their family units. You want them to nuke a city full of religious and historical significance they’ll just ask you when you want the bomb delivered. They don’t care who or what their target is, sir.”

“Good, this is what I want. Four bomb targets, two bombs apiece, all attacks to take place at twenty-five-hundred. Can this be done?”

Von Bencher waited as Diesel thought over the requirements of the mission. Finally, the man nodded his head after a few moments. “Yes sir, it can be done. It’ll be tight time line, but the four-thirty-first will get the job done on time. Targets?”

Von Bencher just handed over a list of the four cities he had just sentenced to death by nuclear fire. “One more thing Sub Commander. Those bombers carry only six-sixty Minuteman Warheads. Understood? I want those cities leveled.”

Diesel didn’t even blink an eye at the order to use 660 Minuteman Warhead nuclear bombs. “Sir, like that old saying goes. When you really care. Be sure to send only the best Minuteman Florist at your service.”

Von Bencher saluted Diesel. “Carry out your orders Sub Commander.” Diesel returned the salute and left. Von Bencher picked up his desk phone. It was long before the other end was answered. “This is Supreme Commander Von Bencher, have Flight Leader Calisto report to me in one half hour.” Von Bencher didn’t wait for his order to be recognized before hanging up.

While he waited Von Bencher pulled up the specs for the YB-35. He was surprised to see that the YB-35 was the venerable Flying Wing. The design was flawless in most regards and had a power to weight ratio that was astonishing. The only other bomber that had the kind of p-t-w and staying power was the B-36 Peacemaker. Unfortunately, his force lacked those very powerful bombers.

When Emily Calisto walked through his office door Von Bencher knew he had the person to complete his plan. “Flight Leader Calisto, in a few hours eight YB-thirty-five bombers will be taking off for a bombing mission. You and your flight will be escorting them. Once their mission is done you are to shoot them down leaving no survivors. Do you understand your orders?”

“Sir yes sir. No survivors. Leave nothing behind to incriminate this command. I take it that my own pilots are expendable as well?” Emily had been given orders along these lines before. She knew that the Supreme Commander want no witnesses to his war crimes or those of this command.

“Precisely Flight Leader. No witnesses. Do you have a problem with your orders?”

“None sir.” Emily gave the Supreme Commander a salute and left his offices.

“That is one cold hearted he/bitch. I pity whoever her family marries her off to.” Von Bencher sighed then turned to look out the window of his office. “Then again we have always had problems with the Hermaphrodites. They make great fighter and single seat aerospace pilots but for anything else they are basically worthless. We really need to find a replacement for them.”

Picking up a report he had received from their spy in the Medical unit at White Sands. Von Bencher reread the part concerning the Claymore pilot. There was something about this pilot that could very well be the answer to their problems concerning the pilot sub-class.

“We need to get our hands on that pilot. The problem is how.” Von Bencher’s words filled the empty air of his office. He was known for talking to himself during times of stress or when faced with an insurmountable problem.

White Sands Research and Development Center. 2730

Prince James Nakatoma walked the outer battle emplacements wondering when the next attack would come. They have been able to push back the two direct attacks on the Center with minimal losses. Only the very first attack, the surprise attack on the first day had resulted in any heavy losses. The one thing he knew for a fact was if not for the efforts of Flight Lieutenant First Class Terresa Cole things would have been a lot worse. The smile that came to his lips as he thought about that very interesting young woman was one he didn’t want his mothers to see, ever.

James looked towards the western horizon and noticed the first of New Texas’s moons slowly rising. As the smallest of the three moons shown down on the white gypsum sands of the Franklin Desert James spotted a lone figure off in the distance. The long white hair and slim petite figure gave James the identity of the person before he even got close to her. In the shadowy ghost like light cast by the small full moon James had to catch his breath at the sight of her.

‘James I must say the Lieutenant is far more beautiful than your sisters.’

‘Stephen, old boy, you just said a mouthful. If I didn’t know better I would swear that I was looking at an apparition of the Twin Goddesses. Just look at her.’ James truly was smitten with the beautiful Claymore. ‘I just wonder if grandmother would have problems with me marrying outside of the High Families.’

‘I highly doubt that James. After all, First High Lord of the Death Dealers James J. Owens was a commoner. As was your mother Alice. Both of whom your grandmother Dai Etsu knows extremely well. From what I have gathered she respected them both equally. I believe that your grandmother will find the young lady quite charming.’

James thought about what Stephen told him as he approached Terresa slowly. She was brash, at times extremely uncouth, yet there was always an air of vulnerability about her that just drew him to her. Much like a moth to the flame. Until now he had yet to have a chance to talk with her in a private setting. As he walked closer she heard his footsteps in the sands. As Terresa turned to face him, James was forced to stop dead in his tracks. In the pale light of the full moon Terresa’s natural beauty took on an unearthly quality that struck James dumb.

“Good evening, Colonel.” Terresa said with a smile. The smile brought a whole new level of beauty that James was unprepared for. “Enjoying the air, sir?”

Coughing to coverup his lackluster start James returned the smile. “Good evening Lieutenant. Yes, I was just out for a bit of free air as it were. Then again you know that I walk the battlements nightly. What brings you out here on such a beautiful night like this?”

“I couldn’t sleep, sir. Then again I haven’t been sleeping well lately.” Terresa sighed and looked out at the rising moon. “It’s so peaceful out here. You could almost forget that this whole planet is at war right now.”

James wanted to pull the young lady into a hug but knew that she wasn’t ready yet for that kind of attention. “I know what you mean Lieutenant. It’s one of the reasons why I walk the battlements nightly.” James pointed towards a massive two-thousand-foot-tall rock formation off in the distance. “Do you know what the locals call that formation Lieutenant?”

Terresa looked to where James pointed. Shaking her head no. “All I’ve ever heard it called is outer marker six, sir.”

“Do you see the split between the two halves?” Terresa nodded and James smiled. “It is because of that split the locals call that formation the Lovers Embrace. From what I understand, when New Texas was undergoing its terraforming that rock formation was a solid rock. The high winds of the terraforming process split the rock formation then scoured the faces smooth. This is where local legend comes into play. It seems that the couple that was assigned to monitor this area got distracted during the atmosphere collation stage. You know when they clean and purify the air. Well their distraction led to winds in this area that were higher than normal.”

“Wait a minute sir. What in the world could have distracted two highly trained professionals long enough for something like that to happen?” Terresa was pointing to the massive rock formation.

“This is where the formation got its name, Lieutenant. They had been lovers for more than five months when the AC stage was reached. They felt that the terraformer could operate on its own for a few hours. They slipped off to a private little love nest they had setup a few months earlier for an afternoon delight.”

It took Terresa a few seconds to understand where James was going with his explanation for the name of the rock formation. When she did though for some reason she started to blush. Even though there was about two to three feet between her and James she could still feel the heat of his body. She was sure that he could feel the heat of her body at so short of a distance.

She just knew that James could feel the heat building between her thighs. The smell of her womanly musk rising. The closer that James got to her, the more Terresa was having problems controlling her sexual urges. James wasn’t doing much better. He did indeed smell Terresa’s womanly musk and it was having an effect on him. James took a deep breath through his nose. Terresa’s scent was sweet and bitter at the same time. Just like her attitude.

“May I call you Terresa, Lieutenant?” James was surprised when the elfin woman just nodded her head yes. Little did James know that at that particular point in time Terresa didn’t trust her own voice. “Thankyou Terresa, please when we are alone call me James. May I know what drives you to fly the way that you do?”

“When I am flying, James, it is the only time that people don’t see the monster that is me, the Claymore. I’m just a call sign on the radio. Up there I am truly free from my family name. Nobody knows that Scorpion or Claymore-zero-one is Terresa Cole, daughter of Colonel Andria Cole and Brigadier General Jackson ‘Ironwood’ Cole. Up there I’m just me not my family’s black sheep. Up there everyone is equal in the eyes of their gods or goddesses.” Terresa was looking at the skies as she answered James’s question. She never took her eyes off the far horizon. “Everyone knows that pilots live in two elements. Air and Fire. What most people don’t know is there is a third element that we don’t talk about. The element of Steel. It is the Iron Will forged into one of Steel that lets us truly fly, James.”

“You know something Terresa that is the most you have said to me. Care tell me what has you in such a talkative mood tonight?” James was really starting to enjoy this time with Terresa. He wanted to get to know the young woman before going further.

“Don’t know really, James. Just feel like talking I guess.” She then turned and looked up at his face. Really looked at him for the first time. Not as a Commanding Officer, or Crown Prince, but as a man. James could tell that this was a defining moment in Terresa Cole’s life. “You know something James. You’re quite handsome. For a G.R.U.N.T. that is.”

It took James a few seconds to realize that she had just given him a lefthanded compliment. After blinking his eyes several times James just broke out laughing at the witty comment from the young woman. The fact that she would even call him a G.R.U.N.T. in this day and age was truly a sign from above. Only the very few knew the real meaning behind that acronym. Ground Recon Unit None Trainable.

“I hope that we are not keeping score for witty remarks Terresa.” James coughed out over his laughter. Terresa’s reply was to smile then just kissed her fingertip and made a hash mark in the air. “May I kiss you Terresa?”

Terresa did the only thing that her mind would let her do just then. Throwing her arms around James’s neck she stood on tiptoe and pulled him to her. James had only his reflexes to thank for his response to the sudden romantic attack. Wrapping his arms around the woman that had been haunting his dreams for the pass thirty days. James kissed her with all of the pinned-up frustration over watching her from afar. Wanting to just drag her down on the sands of the desert and take James still controlled his lust for Terresa. Even as her tongue forced its way between their lips and into his mouth James knew he had to maintain control.

When they finally separated Terresa looked up into James’s eyes. “James, you and I know that we can get into a world of shit if this ever gets out.”

James just chuckled as he ran his hand through her hair. “This is one time that you don’t need to worry about that stupid no fraternization rule. Like you said earlier. You’re a pilot my dear. While I am a G.R.U.N.T. My only question, is what do we tell your lovely mother? She’ll spot the change in your attitude towards me in a heartbeat. I for one will not hide from her.”

“Oh, that is simple, James. We wait until the very last minute before telling Andria Cole jack shit. I am not about to go telling my mother that I am in love with a fracking Royal, let alone the Crown Prince of the Empire.” Terresa just shook her head no to that idea. Then she smiled up at James to take the sting out of her words. “What I will tell her is that I fell in love with a handsome, and honorable man, who just so happens to command an APS Battalion. What I want to know is how are you going to explain me to your mothers?”

“That is the easy part, my love.” James smirked before continuing. “They already know all about you. And they fully approve of you, my dear. Momma Alice said something about your enemies define your taste in men. The worse a woman’s enemies the better the man she will find to marry. As for Mother Maiha, don’t worry too much about her. You got to remember she was raised by a common man. James Owens was her grandfather, not the First High Lord of the Death Dealers.”

Terresa thought about what James just said then relaxed into his embrace just a little more. “Tha mi 'n dòchas gu bheil thu ceart, mo ghruaim.”

Even with Stephen’s help James was unable to translate what Terresa just said. “Um… Terresa, I don’t mean to sound disrespectful or well, uneducated. But could you say that in Empyreal Standard for me, please?”

Terresa just giggled. “Sorry about that James. I do that from time to time. It’s one of my little quirks. That was Scots Gaelic for I hope you’re right, my sweet.”

“Why on earth would you know such an out of date langue Terresa?” James was truly amazed that this woman in his arms even knew the language of Isle of Sky.

“My mother’s stories. I always loved to sit at my mother’s knee when she had the time. I would listen for hours about all the heroes of ancient Scotland and the Fay folk from of the Isle of Sky. One of the things that I learned from my mother was Scots Gaelic. To me it one of the most beautiful sounds to the ear when spoken correctly. Didn’t your parents teach you their family languages?”

James chuckled. “All four of them. Yes, my dear that is right. I speak four different languages. Japanese, Empyreal Standard, German, and High Elf. I learn them all growing up on Ryuk. It really helped out when I screwed up and one of my mothers was chewing me out. Of us all Richie really took to languages the easiest. Do your brother and sister speak any other languages?”

“No. Sadly I was the only one to ever really take an interest in our family origins and history. But when you have parents like mine you tend to get a little side tracked from what is really important in life.” Terresa sighed into James chest only to realize that he understood exactly how she felt. The rumbling of his chuckle confirmed her guess as to the having to live up to living legends. “I forgot who I was talking to there for a minute. You really do understand, James.”

“That I do Terresa. That I do. If anybody knows what it is like, I do.” With a kiss on the top of her head James turned them towards the center of camp. “I think we need to be heading back in now, Terresa. I have a feeling that tomorrow is going to be one busy day for the both of us.”

Terresa looked up at James. “Care to spend the night in my tent James?”


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