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- The cockpit of Zia’s SALADIN eats noise like its hull eats bullets. It’s the only part about orbital insertions she’ll never get used to—she can take the donkey’s kick of g-force, the burst blood vessels, the churning inner ear, but there’s nothing quite like the sheer silence in the moments before a drop. Not a sound, aside from the soft, soothing hum of her console and the quick whisper of her own voice.
- In the silence of the mass driver, it’s all too easy to forget about the outside world, to forget the purpose of the twenty tons of thrumming nuclear power that encases her. So she forces herself to remember why she’s here in the first place.
- “Giancarlo, two kids, crocodog splice, boyfriend washed out of basic. Satyana, needs to brush up on her orbital mechanics, can’t stop watching those omnidramas in the rec room. Dawn, remind them to wish mom happy birthday once this is over…”
- The litany is traditional. Ecumene, and not one of the customs that carrried over to the faith’s more radical cousin. Her father composed tone poems like these to commemorate every ship that passed through the gate they lived on, and when she’d picked up enough Aunic to understand shards of his songs, he taught her how to do the same.
- It’s been almost fourty realtime years since those first lessons, and in the current climate she doesn’t exactly get the chance to practice her Aunic (or her singing, for that matter) but Zia figures it’s the intent that matters, not the key signature or the declensions.
- With a quick glance, she checks the time to drop on her console. Just a minute left; shame she won’t have time to cover Battlegroup B.
- She cuts the fifth verse short, jumping to the coda as the mass driver begins its spool.
- “May you find a sun to call your own, a harbor at the shore; may your feet find dirt to rest on, a path to walk with friends...”
- As she sings, the shielding of her cockpit reaches its limit, the whining roar of the driver’s electromagents seeping into the silence. By the time the last line has left her mouth, she can’t even hear the words, just the thrum of enough delta-v to deorbit a moon—then the iron palm of inertia crushing her into her seat as her capsule hurtles downwell.
- The world goes black-and-white.
- Her stomach backflips as microgravity loses the ‘micro.’
- Impact, the all-encompassing bass of lithobraking.
- A muted clamor as noise returns. The battlefield’s own song beyond the capsule’s shell, a hymn she’s heard thirty times before.
- She takes a moment to catch her breath, pop her ears. Then she throws the controls back, driving her SALADIN’s fist up and through the capsule’s shell.
- Comms flood into her cockpit—the desperate, grateful greetings of the Oxes on the ground, her fellow legionnaires barking TACNET updates, VISHNU flagging incoming fire on her HUD in a blood-red spray—and with a triumphant cry, Zia joins the orchestra around her, heatsinks letting out a piercing howl as she throws a tachyon straight through an oncoming mortar shell.
- In the magnesium glare of her hardlight shield, her frame stands in sharp relief, “BAD INFLUENCE” spraybombed down the hull in Ras Shamra red.
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