Time: 0801 TS, thirteen days After Deployment

Location: Lacon Inner System, In Transit

Cru leaned back in his customary seat during the First Lieutenant's briefings and watched as Esperando tried to restrain his good cheer. The small smile gracing his face was ample evidence that he wasn't being very successful.

"Okay, people, settle down." the Marines quieted down quickly and Esperando brought up a starchart on the viewscreen. "We only have two more systems on our patrol route and our deployment lasts another seventeen days. According to our talented astronavigators-," Esperando nodded at Exodus and Blitz, "-that leaves us with approximately four days worth of R-and-R. So these are the systems that puts us within optimal range for our next drop. None of them are time critical, unless we get a message from command, so feel free to pick at your discretion."

A list of names was projected in the air next to the viewscreen but none of the Marines had any suggestions to make. It didn't surprise Cru. None of them had ever done a run through Delta before.

"Are there any that has a BattleStation with a Rec. Deck?" Jan asked, and that immediately got her groans from many of her squadmates.

"I'm fucking sick of Rec. Decks!" Tanaka grumbled, " They're the same everywhere you go. I want to get groundside and do some damage. I heard that there are entire cities out here that make Rec. Deck look like a goddamned tea party. Where the fuck are they?"

Tanaka had turned her glare onto The Eternal as though she were waiting to beat the information out of them. Cru looked around at his crew and grins starting forming all around.

"You think they're ready for that?" Blitz asked, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

"Them? We haven't been there in over a Quarter. I don't know if Miridia City's ready for us plus a shipload of horny, crazy-ass Marines!" Exodus grinned as she stood and retrieved the controller from Esperando. She magnified on a particular system and then further onto a small planet. "This is Miridia. It's a little out of the way place, I'm not sure why it was settled in the first place, and it's only got one city." Exodus chuckled slightly, "But it's something of a legend among Delta mercenaries. It covers thirty square kilometers, and that's not counting the various suburbs, industrial parks, etcetera, along the outskirts. There's a district that almost exclusively caters to mercs, but there's also open, and legal, grav-ball tournaments, fighting arenas, wheeled and anti-grav races. Then there's the beaches, untouched forests, theatres, for the most lad-back among you. You name it and they've probably got it. It's real easy to loose yourself in Miridia for a few years."

Esperando laughed, "You sound like a damned tourist vid, X."

Exodus slapped him on the chest, "When we get there, if you ask nice, I might let you see my bathing suit."

Esperando grinned but stifled it as he turned back to his men, "Okay then. You know the drill for dirtside R-and-R. Full vaccination protocols are going to start in three hours. I want security on the ship triple-checked before we even Transit out of this system. Reiko'll have a watch schedule up before we hit planetside and it'll include The Eternal so don't start bitchin' Brians. Everyone have Frederick and Gregor check your pulse locators. I'll have daily reports about who's got them checked so don't bullshit me on that. You've got another three days to get everything in order so no excuses. Alright, dismissed."

Time: 1315 TS, seventeen days After Deployment

Location: McMillon Hotel, Sol District, Miridia City, Miridia

Tanaka walked into the suites bedroom and wheeled a tray full of breakfast that had just been rolled in. She was swathed in an opulent robe that she strongly suspected was not synthetic materials and nothing else. It was a definite switch from the kind of places she usually took her R&R but the place hadn't been her idea. Dia lovely little face poked out of the decadently soft comforter and grinned at the offering of breakfast.

The two had sauntered off together after Suresh and Esperando had volunteered to take the first watch on the Eternal II. Of course Dead-Eye had offered to vid-capture their tryst for "posterity" and been flatly denied. Dia had already had the hotel booked with the stipend that had been authorized for leave. They had spent the next day getting to know each other a lot better.

She is an awesome fuck.

Dia yawned, sat up, turned so that her legs dangled off the edge of the high bed and waited as Tanaka turned the tray so they could eat sitting up.

"So," Dia said, immediately going for the fruits while Tanaka went for anything that was made with some sort of meat, "What do you want to do for the rest of our leave?"

Tanaka shrugged as she took a bite of a some kind of roll stuffed with meat, cheese, and something else she couldn't readily identify, "What we've been doing is just fine with me."

Dia grinned and slapped her arm, "I suppose you wouldn't be interested in going with me to an Engineering Academy. Supposedly they have quite a program for a planet so far from Central." Tanaka must have made a face because Dia laughed, "It's okay, Tanaka. We can meet back here at say, nineteen hundred for a little more... you know."

Tanaka grinned, "Sucking? Licking? Nibbling? Fucking?"

Dia blushed, "Yeah, some more of that."

Tanak's private comm started beeping from its position on the nightstand and she quickly snatched the earpiece up. One tap and she was connected.


"It's Reiko, Tanaka." the second lieutenant, normally as cool as deep space, sounded excited, "Cru's registered in one of the fighting arenas here, he's still only middling rank, but he wants to start a team because that's where the biggest money is. All he needs his five other members. I've already got Brians, Jan, and Li registered. You want in?"

Tanaka glanced at Dia, "As long as I'm out by eighteen hundred."

Reiko laughed, "That won't be a problem."

"Then I'm in."

Tanaka rolled into their room at a few minutes before nineteen hundred with the aftereffects of nanyte regeneration still tingling through her hands and feet. It had been a lucrative day for Team Eternal, as Cru had dubbed them, and Tanaka was looking forward to a little relaxation time with Dia. She had enough of the local currency, small coins of some semi-precious metal, that they could afford to go to a real nice restaurant after buying suitable attire.

All thoughts of that were cast from her mind as she entered the large bathroom, complete with a small hot tub, to find Dia waiting for her. The smaller woman was up to her neck in bubbles and sipping a frothy drink. A small tray with a large bottle of the drink and a small bowl of fruit was beside the tub.

"Cru told me about your little enterprise today," Dia said, one of her delightfully muscled legs resting on the edge of the tub, "I figured we could soak for a little while before we headed out for dinner."

"Yes..." Tanaka mumbled as if in a trance, "Soak."

Dia giggled as Tanaka ripped her thin, T-shirt in two as she headed for the tub. The room shook and thunder boomed outside. It was about the only thing that could have stopped Tanaka from jumping into the tub.

"Sonic boom," Dia said, Tanaka nodded and headed for the bay window in the sitting room.

Their room was on the sixteenth floor and afforded them a view over most of this section of the city. She didn't actually see the bombs fall but she saw the fireballs that resulted quite easily. It looked like they were all falling in the Merc District as it was affectionately called. Dia walked up to her and silently observed the carpet bombing.

"Where's the anti-air fire?" Tanaka asked, her voice low.

"Miridia doesn't have a military." Dia answered, her own voice low as she watched the place where her friends were reduced to a charred cinder, "There's nothing of strategic value in this system to the Valhallans and what pirate would attack a city with an average population of thirty thousand mercenaries?"

"Well, somebody did,"several spacecraft blew over the hotel and were followed by what looked like dozens of dropships. "This has got to be the largest raiding party in history."

Tanaka's comm beeped and she quickly tapped it.

"This is Home One," Tanaka had never been so glad to hear Suresh's voice, "Have relocated to tertiary position. Have identified approximately seventeen enemy vessels in orbit. One carrier-class ship, three mid-range cruisers, five HACs, and eight DevilFish fighters. Orders are as follows: Rendezvous with Home One; recon enemy ground strength, disposition, and objectives; identify targets of opportunity. Avoid unnecessary engagements. Switch comm.'s to eyes-and-ears. I repeat. This is Home One. Have relocated-"

Tanaka dialed down the volume and switched her comm to eyes-and-ears. She looked at her com.-pad and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that everyone was still alive. Dia was sliding on lightweight body armor, capable of deflecting most small arms fire found among pirates, as Tanaka turned around.

"So that's what was in all those bags? I thought it was clothes?" Tanaka grinned as Dia tossed her a set of body armor.

"Cru makes all of us go out with body armor, weapons, and enough ammo to get us back to the ship. He's a paranoid fucker but he's right far too often to be discounted." Dia buckled her boots on and began rooting around in another duffel.

Tanaka started armoring up, "You hear anything from the others?"

"Yeah," Dia said, assembling what looked like a LIAR, "Exodus and Blitz are almost back to the ship. Dead-Eye's already there. Cru, Li, Brians, Reiko, and Jan are making their way through the bunker system. Apparently they've got a bunch of mercs trailing after them. Someone let slip that The Eternal was in town."

"Amazing that didn't stop the attack before it started," Tanaka grinned.

Dia snorted and tossed Tanaka the sidearm she had made for the Marine, "If I were the pirates I would have studied this planet a little more."

Mid-air explosions cast more sonic booms over the city. Tanaka looked and saw rocket contrails streaking from multiple levels of the city to hit the descending dropships.

"They have terribly loose heavy weapons policies on Miridia."

Tanaka grinned and loaded her sidearm. Soon she was equipped with nearly a full R&D battle-kit with the exception of her primary weapon being a projectile weapon. But the addition of an underbarrel plasma thrower helped soothe that itch. Dia has a liar for her with what Tanaka strongly suspected was a mini-rocket launcher under the barrel and several ominous canisters on either side of her waist. Her sidearm had faint glowing lines tracing it despite its strong resemblance to the standard issues Marine sidearm. Dia had even brought along several plasma grenades for each of them.

"I've uploaded a general schematic of the bunker system under the city," Dia said as she headed for the door, " We can get to the tertiary rendezvous without ever poking our noses aboveground."

Dia palmed the door control, it began to open, and plasma fused the door to a stop at the halfway point. Tanaka pulled the smaller woman back and posted in a crouch by the door. Neither of them had helmets with all of their sophisticated sensor equipment but R&D Marines were trained to never expect they would always be fighting with their gear and to train for such an eventuality. Tanaka removed the remote camera from the side of her LIAR and eased it into the corridor. The image played back on her wristcom and she pursed her lips in thought at the image. A trio of men in what could have been Marine-issue body armor were striding down the hall as though they already owned the place. A door whisked open on their left and the trio turned simultaneously to hose the doorway with plasma fire. There was a strangled cry that was cut off and the bubbling mess of someone's hand flopped into view. The men laughed and congratulated each other.

"Hopefully there's some fine pussy on this floor and not the fuckin' scavs we've seen so far.

Dia primed the plasma thrower when they were within four meters, leaned into the hall, and fired the weapon at knee level. The blast of plasma slagged everything below the knee and the men fell to the ground with wails of anguish.

"Get the weapons," Tanaka growled to Dia as she stood and walked over to the men.

The stink of plasma, charred flesh, and shit filled the air. Each of the men were in deep shock and staring sightlessly at Tanaka as she approached. They weren't even worth asking questions so the Marine calmly put a single round into each of their heads. Dia was examining the weapons as Tanaka searched the men for any kind of identification. To her disgust they didn't even have wristcoms to hack into.

"These pirates seem awfully well-equipped. It's like the GunHaven incident," Dia was thoughtful. "We might be in a bigger mess than anticipated."

"We'll do what R&D does in these kinds of situations," Tanaka grinned at Dia's raised eyebrows. "Blow a lot of shit up."