Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Tales of the Phoenix:

The Red Dragon

© 1999-2002 Strata Drake of TWZ.

Chapter Six: Phoenix Rising

(Original Draft)

Standing back up after finishing his breakfast, Sheridan looked across the scavenger home at the defenses. Durable by scavenger standards, yet fragile up against Project and Red Dragon weaponry. The scavenger vehicles were no better, capable of hit-and-run attacks at most, and even then such a proposition would be risky. Sheridan's command and repair vehicles could follow into battle, but that would tip off the Red Dragon to their survival and practically call the Sky Dragon out of nowhere to finish them off once and for all.

Nigel looked back at Sheridan. "Tasty enough for you? ...Anyway, Falco's offered me a tour of their home. Want to come along?"

Sheridan shook his head. "Nope. There are a lot of things to think about. I need to speak with our research crew..."

"You do that, Sheridan. I'll see you afterwards." Nigel walked off as Sheridan approached the research crew for a discussion about their weaponry. It was, relatively speaking, a short discussion. The railgun parts they had salvaged from their former base could be assembled into one functional rail gun, but the rest of the technology database couldn't be implemented without factory productions of some sort. This would not be a problem, except that the factory schematics contained in the consturction database were corrupted and couldn't be constructed. Sheridan proposed the idea of defensive emplacements. Sure enough, those schematics were intact, and could be built with the construction crew, but rail guns weren't on that list. Besides, constructing anything would require some form of power that Sheridan's didn't have, and he didn't want to ask Falco if they could spare extra power... at least not yet. Bottom line was simple; a few defense emplacements could be constructed, but of course they were only defenses--immobile. Any fights with the Red Dragon army, or worse yet, the Sky Dragon, must be picked on enemy soil to minimize Preybird (their new Scavenger ally) casualties. Even that was risky, because any Scavenger unit can be destroyed in as much as one shot from a medium-class cannon. Arming Project weaponry on Preybird vehicles was still infeasible since the crew was unsure if their systems could even support the power drain caused by Project weaponry. The mine-launcher warhead schematics they had recovered from the Land Dragon could provide a small edge if implemented, but that would take time to research; even more since they would be using Preybird facilities and not their own. Then came the suggestion of upgrades. Scavenger vehicle armor was light to nonexistent, so upgrades could be minimal at best. Sheridan told the research crew to get together with the Preybird research team and see what could be cooked up within a few days, and the discussion was over. The research crew departed in the direction of the testing laboratory.

Sheridan watched them leave, then turned to the construction crew. "You should go with them..." The crew nodded and left as well. Falco walked in with Nigel. "Have a good talk with your crew?"

"Yeah..." Sheridan was still a bit distraught at the loss of their own base and army.

Falco smiled. "Well, cheer up, old boy. There might be some action yet. We're going on a recon sweep of the neighborhood. Up the hills, a rendezvous with our neighbor clan, then out to the sea. Nigel, here, mentioned something about an island outpost of yours."

Sheridan blinked. They had destroyed their own island outpost to catch the Red Dragon army off-guard, and even though they lost contact with that base, something might still remain. Hopefully, some factory schematics might be recoverable from the partial databases they left there. He agreed with Falco's idea and in a moment they joined up with a small Scavenger bike and jeep team. Falco hopped into one jeep and motioned for Sheridan to follow suit. Sheridan climbed and Drake jumped aboard. Nigel climbed into an adjacent jeep while talking to one of the officers that he presumably had been introduced to earlier. Falco started the jeep's rickety engine and soon drove out of the base with his group buzzing after and alongside him.

Despite the rocky terrain of the mountains, the ride was a smooth one, even with the dips and turns of the mountain trails that Falco's group had regularly worn into them. The sky was surprisingly clear. Falco pointed in the northeast sky and Sheridan looked. Five miles distant from them was the Sky Dragon, patrolling a good three hundred feet above surface level. "Falco, about the Nova Sky Dragon..."

Falco didn't take his attention off of their path, but answered anyway. "Yes?"

"Have you ever been attacked by it?"

Falco shook his head. "Not at all. A few past attacks by Red Dragon forces at most. Besides, if they told the Sky Dragon to attack us, it wouldn't stop until it is sure we are dead."

Sheridan nodded. "If..." He recalled Falco's earlier conversation about the Sky Dragon, and Falco's comment that the Sky Dragon 'never forgets' an opponent. Apparently, it was an aircraft that processes its orders in a last-come-first-serve format. If new orders are given to it, it will execute them, but later return to complete its previous orders. Then again, the Sky Dragon was no drone. Nor was it a piloted vehicle. The transmission received from the Sky Dragon was stated in the first person--a machine talking about itself in the first person was a clear indication of Mr.Nexus' first project, Aireus. Unfortunately, Aireus was lost to them.

Sheridan spoke up again. "How often do you spot it on patrol?"

Falco responded. "About twice as often as we spot the Phantom Army." A beep sounded momentarily on Falco's console. "And speaking of..." Falco picked up a radio transmitter. "Group, Phantom sighting at 10:00, estimated 1,000m distant heading NE." Falco pointed in that direction. Sheridan could make out a cloud of dust, but no more until Falco handed him a pair of binoculars. Sheridan looked through them and spotted the 'phantoms'. Sheridan recognized the units. "Titanium!!"

"Wha...? You've met them, Sheridan?" Falco was a bit puzzled.

"Not in person..." Sheridan continued to look through the binoculars as the distant white tanks proceeded across the hillside and over the ridge towards the waterfront, then out of sight. Sheridan put the binoculars down. "But when we were fighting the Nova Land Dragon, a small group of those titanium units came to help out. And right before we met you, one of their sensor units stopped by to examine what used to be the remains of our base. Unfortunately, they don't stick around for long. They didn't answer any radio transmissions, nor did they establish contact with us."

"Wouldn't be surprised..." Falco told their story. "We made no contact with them either. Nor have we even fought with them. At least we don't have to fight against them. They appear out of nowhere, do something quick, then disappear as if they never arrived in the first place. Which is why we named them the Phantoms. Friend of mine kept telling his kids, 'they are the ghosts of armies past, trying to avenge themselves one last time before they finally depart...' Silly story for the kids, nothing more. But whomever they are, we don't know."

Sheridan looked back at the rest of Falco's group. "Well, they aren't ghosts; that's for sure. The Land Dragon nearly scrapped a few of them in the battle. ... ghosts, huh?"

Falco smiled again. "Story for the kids, is all... At least they leave us alone. They seem to have something against the Red Dragon. Hard to say what or why, but they've never attacked us at all. Not like the Red Dragon's army; the Phantoms simply played keep-away. Few members of my recon team say they saw the Phantoms fighting against the Red Dragon's patrols one night. We took the opportunity to grab a jet and send Bruno seawards during that fight. Still, it was close. The Red Dragon noticed what we did and tried to scrap our men. Of 20 men in that mission, myself included, fifteen were killed. Not something I want to repeat, either..."

Sheridan remembered Bruno, the scavenger that had arrived in Project city Renaissance a week ago and precipitated Sheridan's team arriving on the Eastern Continent by air. "Bruno never mentioned anything about the phantoms..."

"Wouldn't be surprised. He could care less about them. Say...what happened to Bruno??"

"Bruno pressed our guards for a tour of Renaissance, our city back home. They took him around, visited every building and a few local scavenger clans, and in the end he wished to stay there, rather than return here to the battlefront. Wouldn't take no for an answer."

"That's Bruno. Always wanted to get away from the Red Dragon. Lost his family in a previous Red Dragon attack. Anyway..." Upon rounding another corner, a medium-sized Scavenger outpost came into view. Falco's group drove to the entrance and stopped there as one of the other scavengers walked up. "Falco, you're here early."

"Nah, Lionel... Anyway, you heard the battle last night? This guy right next to me's Sheridan. Commander of an army they call 'Team Sigma'. That night raid worked, our help has arrived. Now..." Falco gestured in their dierction. ", they need our help."

The officer, Lionel, looked at Sheridan. Drake almost pounced upon the guy had Sheridan not grabbed firm hold of him, and quietly said "stay, Drake..." Sheridan shook Lionel's hand. "One heck of a battle...."

Nigel had hopped out of the jeep he was riding and walked over to Falco's jeep. "You're not going to just leave me out of this, are you?"

Sheridan pointed to Nigel. "That's my co-commander, Nigel. And...", Sheridan pointed at Drake. "this is my pet, Drake." Drake eyed Lionel carefully.

Lionel looked back. "Interesting robots you have back home...that one looks like a miniature walking Nova Sky Dragon to me."

Sheridan nodded. "Actually, he was a special request--"

"Anyway, sirs..." Falco interrupted before hopping out. "I've got some talking to do with Lionel. Wait for me." Falco walked off, talking to Lionel.

It seemed like forever, yet by Sheridan's timepiece only fifteen minutes had past before Lionel and Falco returned. Sheridan could overhear them finishing their talk. "...the weapons, we just need a bit more manpower..."

Lionel nodded as they walked closer. "...unfortunately, weapons aren't enough..."

Falco approached the jeep. "Right. Anyway, we've got one more sweep to do for the day. If we find anything interesting, I'll rendezvous back here tomorrow. See you around, Lionel." Falco climbed back in and started up the jeep's engine before turning around and leading his group back along the trail they had come from.

Sheridan asked. "What was that about??"

Falco responded. "You guys have the weapons, we have some officers, Lionel suggested combining the two to see if we can help you fight off the Red Dragon. Not a good idea to fight them in our vehicles, but we don't have any other options."

Sheridan looked up. "I was talking about the same thing with my research crew before we left. As far as I know, they hooked up with your team of testers and builders to see if they can do anything together. I sure hope so..."

Falco turned off of the path they had came along and began travelling northwest. Sheridan could feel the change of course. "Where are we headed?"

"To the beach. Our Jetboater group should be there by now; I told them to be there at 3."

Sheridan nodded. "Regarding our weaponry, I don't know exactly how helpful we can be. We've got a few missile and laser schematics, but the rest of our arsenal is little more than rockets and cannons."

Falco shook his head. "You've got heavier calibers than we do. You've also got those hollow orange cannons, don't you?"

"Rail guns? We've got enough to reconstruct their schematics. They're guaranteed to injure the Nova Dragons, but they'll take awhile to reconstruct."

" 'Rail' guns?"

Sheridan tried explaining railgun technology. "It's a simple principle, really. They use a series of magnets to 'push' a bullet out of the gun at an extreme speed. Small impact zone, but it creates one heck of a dirt cloud and inflicts a whole lot of damage."

"Ahhh..." Falco turned at another intersection and the terrain suddenly changed color, from a normal dirt-brown and forest-green to a charred black. "We're close to the shoreline, now."

Sheridan recognized the area; they were en-route to Sheridan's former base. Sheridan spoke up. "This is ... the rendezvous point?"

Falco smiled. "Easy landmark; you can't miss it. Especially with all the blast marks painting the scenery."

Falco's group rounded another three bends and the blackened shoreline was revealed. Sheridan winced at the memory of the combat taking place. They lost Aireus and Team Fenix within minutes, and almost lost themselves as well.

Sheridan watched the shoreline. Seven scavenger jetboats, one large enough to seat six people, were onshore waiting for them. Falco hopped out of the jeep as soon as he stopped near the shoreline. Sheridan and Drake jumped out as well, and Nigel climbed out of the other lead jeep. Falco met and talked with one of the jetboater crew for a moment before returning to Sheridan. "You, Nigel, and that pet of yours go on the large jetboat, with me. They'll drive my group back. We're going on the waterfront."

It took a few minutes for them to climb aboard the large jetboat. Drake's systems were rain- and saltwater- proof, and with his hover engines he was light enough to float, but Drake showed an interesting hydrophobia before Sheridan picked him up and threw him aboard. Falco climbed aboard and sat near the boat's pilot. It was interesting that the large boat had room--and bouyancy--to spare. Falco must have been expecting to find something useful at their former island base. That's more than Sheridan expected, but then again, from a scavenger point of view, any wrecked bases would be high on their list for salvage operations.

Falco sat up in the boat's pilot set and switched on the craft. "Anchors away...strap yourself in, we're off!" Falco grabbed the controls and pulled the boat off-shore. Nigel gave the directions to Falco. Their demolished island base was due northwest of their location, perhaps ten miles or so. Falco grabbed a microphone and relayed some orders to the rest of his group, who followed in the six other jetboats.

It was a short ten miles--relatively speaking, that is; Sheridan had little to say and Nigel was keeping a vigilant eye out for any unusual activity. The island came into view and Sheridan examined it carefully. Red Dragon power derricks had been constructed on the remaining power resources. No defenses or artillery were visible, and no Red Dragon outposts of any type were constructed. The debris from their base was, however, cleared. Falco stopped the boat about 50 feet off-shore, and his group followed suit. "Is this it??"

Sheridan nodded. "It was...I see the Red Dragon took the power resources but nothing else. Too bad they levelled the place. If there was anything that we left here from our tech databases, it's gone by now. Strange that they constructed no defenses around it..."

"Perhaps they think you are pose no more threat to them..."

Sheridan shook his head. "I would like to think so, but they must know we've survived."

A Red Dragon hovertruck on the island drove into view and dumped a load of debris offshore. The debris was unrecognizable, despite being at a good viewing distance from it. Sheridan watched. "Hm."

Nigel proposed an idea. "What about our forward outpost to the west...the one that we lost when battling the Sea Dragon?"

Sheridan looked at Falco. "There's an idea..."

Falco nodded, and directed his group to the west. They led the way in the large jetboat. The ride was a few minutes long, but after that, the ridged island came into view. Debris, both from a few destroyed Project hovertanks and the Sea Dragon's remains, littered the area. Falco looked around with all the fervor of an undersea diver discovering the city of Atlantis. He grabbed his radio and issued commands. "Spread out...there's quite a bit of salvage here. See what you can fish up. If you find anything, bring it here and we'll load it."

Falco's group dispersed to examine the debris, while Falco drove the large boat up the the ridged island and landed onshore. In the center of the island were several blast marks and small craters, and structure debris was everywhere. Sheridan hopped out for a better look. Taking a walk through the island revealed debris, scrap, and flak. Nothing more, though. No factory schematics (as no factories had been built there), nor could Sheridan locate the entrance to the underground complex that they found Aireus inside of.

Almost without warning, three of Falco's jetboats drove up to the shoreline, towing a rather large piece of machinery behind them. Falco looked at it, and one of the scavengers shouted in his direction. Sheridan walked up to and examined it. Judging from its color and shape, it wasn't debris from their hovertanks, but a piece of debris from the Sea Dragon itself. Other than that, however, it was unrecognizable. Falco motioned to Sheridan. "Alright...let's load it up. The brain boys back home might be able to make some use out of it."

Sheridan pondered how they would load a large piece of Sea Dragon debris into the boat without consruction cranes and other machinery, but when he followed the instructions Falco gave him and Nigel, loading the hunk of debris turned out to be easier done than said. Falco motioned at the three boats to continue searching for other salvage. A few more minutes passed by before the six jetboaters returned with some other debris. Small debris..mostly flak shards, various components of assorted weapon systems, and most interestingly, several partial--not to mention defunct--warheads from Sea Dragon weaponry. All were loaded into the large boat before Sheridan and Nigel climbed back in.

Falco boarded and clambered up to the pilot's chair. Glancing at one of his consoles, he relayed an order to his group. "Fifteen minutes south bearing 185.0 . That should get us home." Falco started up the boat's engines and led the group away from the island, across the waves, in direction of Preybird home base.

Sheridan examined the debris with Nigel as they travelled across the water. The largest piece of debris, on closer inspection, had several power conduits running in and out of it. There were no apparent controls or anything useful on the device, just a lot of connections and ports that presumably connected it to the Sea Dragon's systems. A description of the device was could be anything from a license plate to a wide spectrum sensor. Or it could be a weapons loader, propulsion unit, power was all-too easy to imagine what the device could was used for. Examinations of the smaller debris pieces revealed various assorted Sea Dragon warhead compounds, a few shells from its missiles and cannons, and a few shards from its outer layer of armor. At least these pieces of debris were in easy reach--the rest of the Sea Dragon was sunk and scrap.

Time flies when having fun, and sure enough, when Sheridan & Nigel finished their examinations, Falco's group was slowing down to arrive on-shore at Preybird home. Sheridan found their research crew and a small-scale construction unit and Preybird crew waiting for them. The crew unloaded the pieces of debris and sent it to their testing area for further analysis. Falco jumped off first, followed by Nigel. Sheridan was about to jump off when he noticed Drake cowering next to one of the seats. Sheridan smiled, and hoisted Drake up and out of the boat, tossing him down to dry land. Drake, it seemed, had both nothing and everything to fear from the sea. Strange that Drake never reacted this way in Sheridan's command hovertank--must have been a difference in propulsion systems.

Falco's group of jeeps were visible being refueled near the power generator. Falco's group of jetboater pilots approached him for instructions, at which he proudly saluted them for their work and dismissed them. He returned to Sheridan. "Shall we?"

Sheridan looked back. "I wonder if our research team has come up with anything yet..." Falco led the way across the base towards the testing laboratory.

Sheridan was pleasantly surprised when the research team handed him their accomplishments. After a analysis of the Land Dragon's mine launcher, the team had discovered how to produce their own using similar technologies. Preybird mini-pod rocket launchers were sufficient in size, and the mine warheads were easy to arm. A few test shots in their weapon range proved the success of the new mine-rockets, which exploded upon impact against any hard surface, whereas if hitting a soft surface, they would remain for sixty seconds before detonation. Further examinations of Preybird weaponry--machine guns, cannons, flamethrowers, and even a few mortars, pinpointed several areas that could use improvement. Even after one hour, the research team had suggested enough modifications to double the range, firepower, and firing rate of the Preybird arsenal. It still wasn't a match for Project or Red Dragon arsenals, but it was a start. More impresive, however, was the message that Paradigm-class armor compounds could be implemented in Preybird vehicles, tripling their resistance to standard weapons and increasing their thermal resistance tenfold. Again, Preybird vehicles were no match for Red Dragon forces, but the disadvantage was shrinking much like an untreated shirt in the laundry.

Even that was little compared to the research team's crowning acheivement. Project weapons had been analyzed in terms of Scavenger feasibility, and the result was in--the lighter weapons, including a few miniature rail guns, could be mounted on Scavenger vehicles without problems. Even more so, miniature versions of those weapons could be produced separately and armed on scavenger infantry.

Sheridan applauded their efforts before leaving to take a stroll around the base. Drake followed Sheridan, and Falco accompanied, offering to explain any questions Sheridan might have about their layout. The Preybird construction crew was busy making the new modifications to their weapons while the teams at the repair garages were adding the new armor compounds. Sheridan had only one question, and it was the one regarding the concrete sensor tower prominently built inside the base, near one of the entrances.

"Falco. That concrete sensor tower...who built it? It isn't your technology, that much is certain."

"That thing? All we find it good for is to amplify communications with our neighbors. The phantoms built that thing one night. Most of us were taking a night rest, but the night guards confirmed that two Phantom trucks were building that thing in our base. We figured, what the heck, let them do what they wanted. They have never harmed us in any way, shape, or form--unlike the Red Dragon army."

Sheridan pondered what it could be doing there. A remote eye or ear for the titanium Phantom army, perhaps; although it was extremely conspicuous in the Preybird base, despite being given a few paint jobs by the locals to help camoflauge it.

Sheridan arrived at one of the greens near the rec pond. Falco looked at him. "Care for a game? We've time to spare."

"Not without me you don't!" Sheridan turned around to see Nigel running towards them. "I've seen the other guys play this; looks pretty simple."

Falco smiled. "Famous last words, for you. Simple rules." Falco walked to a nearby shack and withdrew three clubs, one for him, Sheridan, and Nigel apiece. "First one to the blue flag in the distance wins."

"But what about the red flags?"

Falco grabbed three white balls from the shack and set them down upon the green. "Checkpoints en route. That's what they are." Falco pointed at one of the balls. "You hit these..." Falco then pointed at the club he held. "...with these." Falco demonstrated, swinging the club in a full vertical circle and sending the white ball flying about 100 yards down the course, where it bounced and rolled to a stop. "Your turn." He motioned to Sheridan.

The game was afoot. There were seventeen red flags in the green and one blue flag. It wasn't smooth ground, but rather bumpy, much like a miniature mountain range. There were several hills, dips, chasms, drops, ramps, and walls (all on a miniature scale, of course), and according to the rules Falco gave them, anything goes. And it did. By the fourth hole, Falco was leading, a good 5 hits ahead of Nigel and 7 ahead of Sheridan. Drake took a special interest in watching Sheridan play, and upon a few occasions attempted to fetch the ball--an embarrassing yet hilarious sight.

By the ninth hole, Sheridan was leading, one hit ahead of Falco and four ahead of Nigel. After that, the terrain on the greens started becoming a bit more unpredictable. The twelfth hole in particular had a miniature version of the Grand Canyon, a good 1 foot deep and 10-inch wide chasm in the floor, which cost Sheridan a few hits when one of his shots landed smack in it. The fifteenth hole was trickier, with the flag positioned on a crater-shaped island centered in the middle of a small shallow pond. The 16th hole had its red flag buried halfway in a miniature (yet shallow) volcano-like mound with a ring of water surrounding it. Drake, trying again to fetch one of Sheridan's shots, splashed feet first into the ring of water in pursuit of the ball. The 17th hole was completely submerged in a shallow pond, not only making it difficult to reach a distant target, and in addition to producing splashes, there was an apparent small current in it that caused their shots to wander off-course slightly.

Last, but not least, was the blue flag at the end of the 18th, being held on a platform one foot above the rest of the course. Several shots rolled under, flew through and over the platform even before one actually landed on it. Surprisingly, Nigel managed to tie Falco by the 17th hole, and Sheridan was one shot behind the rest, but at the finale with the blue flag and platform, all were equally placed. Sheridan scored the winning shot, hitting a grounder that bounced up to the platform and contacted the blue flagpole before rolling back off.

A fair handshake was in order after the game. Evening was approaching, and dinner hour was arriving. A small team of scavenger buggies rolled into the base from one of the entrances, hauling with them several animals whom they were previously hunting. When the entire assembly of scavengers grouped near the rec hall to prepare their own meals, Sheridan estiamted perhaps 200 of them, with 10 in his group. A total of 210 plausible soldiers should combat with the Red Dragon's army, or worse yet, the Sky Dragon, be required. If their remote-drone technology could be implemented in Preybird vehicle units (an unlikely prospect), that could easily double or triple the number of combat vehicles that they could use in one assault, and reduce casualties as well.

After dinner, Sheridan's research crew left again to continue their analysis of the recovered debris. Falco directed Sheridan and Nigel to their quarters for the night in a few newly-constructed buildings in the dorm blocks. There were fewer lights on in their base than would be in a Project base, but that was to be expected, given their limited power supplies. The night guards kept a vigilant watch for any activity of any sort, and Sheridan volunteered to join them for awhile. There was little action that night. The sounds of distant combat were the only thing to punctuate the darkness, and a Preybird scout confirmed this when he reported a small firefight taking place in the southwest between Red Dragon an Phantom forces. Those sounds of combat lasted for thirty minutes. Sheridan recalled the "story for the kids" Falco had mentioned to him. Ghosts, maybe not, but the Phantom army sure had something to prove against the Red Dragon. After four hours, Nigel appeared and approached Sheridan at the guard tower. "You should get some sleep."

Sheridan looked down at Nigel. "What about you?"

"I already got ten winks. But with those sounds of combat next door, and the research team working analyses on the salvaged parts, I can't sleep. What's up, anyway?"

Sheridan looked up towards the sky. It was clear and the stars were shining. "According to their night recon, there are several Phantom units fighting Red Dragon forces. No idea why, but..." Sheridan stopped as a familiar hum approached them from the opposite direction. The Sky Dragon, visible only by a few lights and the stars that it obscured, flew overhead towards the sound of combat.

Nigel watched the Sky Dragon continue on in the distance. The sounds of combat intensified as it flew further away. "Ghosts? Well, they might be when that Sky Dragon finishes with them. The Red Dragon must have sent it as reinforcements."

Sheridan looked back. "You mean 'him' ? "

Nigel frowned at Sheridan. "Don't tell me you're believing Aireus' claim that those Nova Dragon units can think on their own."

Sheridan shook his head. " 'If you had seen it in its trial runs, so would you...' That's what Aireus said about the Land Dragon. Besides, we still don't know exactly what technology the Sky Dragon is made out of. If it can think, so be was, after all, a Nexus project. Aireus himself proved that it was possible with just his existence alone."

The sounds of combat stopped, and the faint hum of the Sky Dragon's engines as it flew off indicated the victor of that skirmish. Nigel sighed. "Scratch one Phantom group. We've got our work cut out for us."

Sheridan looked down. "Right...and it's not even a level battlefield anymore."

Nigel put his hand on Sheridan's shoulder. "You go get some rest. I'll finish up this watch."

Sheridan nodded and left the guard tower to return to his quarters, where he noticed Drake was waiting, silently, for him. It was a good rest.

Sheridan awoke bright and early in the morning, compliments of (none other than) Drake who woke him up. Sheridan prepared for the day and met with Falco. Nigel was sleeping in after a long night watch. Falco led Sheridan outside and breakfast was soon served.

Nigel joined them at the messhall as they were finishing up. Falco mentioned something to Sheridan. "Your research team was up all night working on those pieces of salvage. They should be done by now."

Sheridan shook his head. "You never know about these things. It's a miracle as is that they've been able to work so well with your facilities and technologies."

Falco smiled. "Right; they've already done a lot for us." One of Falco's subordinates walked in and gave him a quick report before leaving. Falco turned to Sheridan and Nigel. "You guys shoul go talk with your crew."

Sheridan had to wait for Nigel to finish breakfast first. Afterwards, Sheridan and Nigel both heeded Falco's advice and headed towards the testing laboratory where their research crew was now busy working. There were sounds of light weapons being fired, a clear indication that some weapons were being tested. One member of the research crew was waiting for Sheridan at the door. "Great! You're here. This way..." He opened the door, and Sheridan followed him inside, followed by Drake and Nigel.

Sheridan watched the research crew as they performed another test, and he could not believe his eyes . . . .