Castle Roland

31st Century

by Hammy

In Progress

Chapter 1

Posted: 22 Jun 15

31st Century

Copyright © by Hammy

Introduction and Disclaimer: This is my first time writing a Mechwarrior / Battletech themed story. I feel I can use the mechwarrior name as it is copyrighted by Hasbro Interactive and Microsoft. Although, Microsoft sold the rights to Mechwarrior4, I am still going to treat it as it is their product. Since I am not making a profit and since this story is fan fiction based, I feel I can use whatever material I need to better fit my story and use it as such within reason. My story is a work of fiction and I will be using MixTech based BattleMechs and weaponry. I won't go on and describe every little detail in here about the technology. Correct me if I'm wrong, in BattleTech, Clan 'Mechs used Clan weaponry and Inner Sphere ( IS for short ) 'Mechs used IS weaponry. This is PureTech. MixTech is: Clan 'Mech using IS and Clan weaponry or IS 'Mech using both. If you don't like the idea of keeping things Puretech and wish to address me, feel free to do so and e-mail me with your concerns. Everyone has different perspectives and I am letting my imagination take over for me as I write this story. Also, for future reference, please visit the following websites on additional information regarding the BattleTech universe. There is a rather huge list of information that could be very long winded, but I hope the links help!

The Past, Earth, 21st Century –

"Christopher Timothy Theiran!" A redheaded woman shouted at the top of her lungs to her son. "Look at these piss poor grades! A 'D' in Math, 'D' in English, 'D' in Science, 'F' in History, 'C' in PE, and a 'D' in Reading! I can't even go on to look at the comments!"

She was so loud he felt ten times smaller than his normally 5' stature in her presence. Her brown eyes seemed to pierce holes into his thin small body, but he couldn't stand to look at her straight in the eye every time she yelled. Chris, as many of his classmates call him, was a twelve year old boy who appeared normal to the untrained eye, but he spent a lot of his time playing his favorite game, Mechwarrior 4 in the game pods at the local mall. He remembered getting instantly hooked once he started playing it. In no time flat, he became a team member of a group called Clan Ghost Bear. They played on select nights when other teams challenged them to a game. Sure, it was all fun and games, but there have been times when things got real serious. Some players took their game play too far and had less fun playing it. Chris knew very well it was only a game, but the gaming commission also had prizes for the top players every month. At the first of the month, they inform the teams what prizes are available for the month and this time it was a brand new quad core AMD 64-bit, top of the line computer with all the latest bells and whistles. Chris had been so determined to get that computer; he spent hours and hours in the pods playing till it was time to close up. Sure, he did his homework, but it wasn't enough to satisfy his mother. She had been on his case about schoolwork since he joined the team, and didn't stop until now.

"Starting tomorrow, you will come straight home! No more going to the games!"

"But Mom!" Chris protested. He wanted to further explain the importance of the prize but his mother held up her hand so fast, he didn't see her move.

"No Buts! After school, you come straight home young man!"

Defeated, Chris let out a mumbled, "Yes, Mother."

She barely heard it, and was about to yell at him again so she could hear him better, but the door opened and a dark blond haired man of about six feet tall entered the kitchen. He knew his wife was yelling at their son and didn't want to enter the house when she was doing so. He always loved his wife and son, but hated to see his wife yell at Chris. He was rather gentle with him, as he had experienced a traumatic childhood growing up. He wanted his son to be able to have a better life than he did, but it didn't seem to be going that way.

"Hi honey," Mr. Theiran spoke as he made his way over to give his wife a kiss. She stopped him cold in his tracks, as she wasn't in the mood for a kiss. She immediately handed him the report card she was holding in her hand the whole time.

"Chris, go to your room and start your homework. Dad and I need to talk," She said as she turned to her husband. Chris just stood there, as if he didn't hear her tell him to leave. He was hoping his dad would come to his rescue. When Chris didn't move and his mother noticed him still standing there, she was quick to scare him away with her words. She almost hated repeating herself more than twice as she stared him down waiting for him to move.

"Beat it!" She snapped as she raised her left arm and pointed towards the hall.

Tears welled up in his eyes as he turned to leave the kitchen and walked to his room sulking.

"Hey, Kath, he's only twelve! Give him a little break." Mr. Theiran spoke gently to his wife, trying not to add more fuel to the fire. He had finished looking over the report card and placed it on the table.

"Simon, you have always been easy on him! That is the main reason he has so much freedom, and that stops now! I will not stand for it and watch our son throw his life away to some stupid game! Sure I know your childhood wasn't all that good, but that doesn't mean you have to go easy on him!" Kath repeated the final sentence for extra measure to get her point across.

"Honey, it won't be forever!" Simon said raising his voice slightly and feeling taken aback at her previous statement. "I don't like yelling at Chris and you know why! Now look what you've done! It's happening all over again! I thought I knew you better than that!"

Kath gave Simon a very evil look. It was a look that could kill, as she really didn't like the way her husband has been. Sure, he had been so nice all the time, she was wondering if there was some hidden motive of his for being the way he is. She also often wondered if he was a little 'too' nice to Chris.

Kath sighed and turned to face the hall, but Simon decided to leave the kitchen and go check on Chris.

"Just where do you think you're going?!" Kath shouted, causing Simon to twitch.

Simon turned his head and coldly stated, "To talk to our son that you hate so much."

There was a slight pause as she stared at Simon for a few seconds. "Fine! You can sleep on the couch tonight! Maybe for the rest of the week too!"

Simon walked out of the kitchen as Kath was yelling her final words, but chose to ignore them. He had been wondering what had gotten into her. She was never like this before, not while Chris had good grades. He understood that she was a bit flexible when it came to slightly average grades and always was optimistic when it came to encouraging improvement. Once Simon made it to Chris's closed bedroom door, he knocked on it lightly. "Can I come in?"

He heard a faint 'yes' and opened the door, then closed it behind him. Chris was sitting against the headboard of his bed with his knees up to his stomach and his arms holding them. His head was deeply buried in between.

"I'm sorry about mom, kiddo. I don't know what else to do. But please do me a favor Chris. Could you at least bring your grades up some? I would like to see your mother happy again. I really hate it when she yells. I just don't know what else to do." Simon softly spoke as he made his way to sit at the edge of the bed.

Chris looked up with red eyes. It was obvious he had been crying since being sent to his room. "I, I, I…" he sniffled, "wanted the grand prize so bad, I played a lot. I did my homework too, but I guess it wasn't enough."

Simon appeared to show interest in the grand prize as Chris mentioned. "A new computer, eh? I'm guessing you would play Mechwarrior on it, is that why?"

Chris looked back down and sniffled, "Yea… and maybe some other games too."

Simon sighed, "You know very well mother will just take it away. I don't think she cares anymore. But, please put some effort into your studies."

Chris looked up at his dad questionably, "I'll try."

Simon smiled and ruffled Chris's hair, "That's all I ask, son. I don't mind a 'C' average boy, but it could be a little better. Com'ere, gimme a hug."

Chris was quick to give his dad a hug and Simon accepted it by squeezing him tightly. Once the hug broke up after a few moments, Simon stood up and was about to leave when Chris spoke, "Dad, why is mom always miserable?"

Simon sighed and looked down. "I don't know. Every time I try and find out, she just bites my head off. Don't worry about it."

Chris looked dumbfounded at his response as he was expecting his dad to know the answer. Simon opened the door, still looking down. He almost ran into Kath, who was eavesdropping right outside. She had heard the whole conversation and was fuming mad. She stared down Simon then looked at Chris with the same stare. Chris slightly flinched and he became more worried for his dad's and his own safety. Once Simon left and closed the door, yelling could be heard in the background moments later. Chris tried his best to ignore the yelling. He was curious as to what they were talking about, but he stopped himself from doing so. Instead, he took out his iPod from his backpack, hooked up the earpieces to his ears, and turned it on so he could listen to music while he did his homework.

The homework assignments consisted of English, History, Math, Science, and some light reading. It took Chris several hours to complete them, but he did. Once the homework was completed, Chris took the earpieces off and listened for a minute. It was nothing but silence. He shrugged, stood up and made his way to the door. Once he opened it, he looked out in the hall for any lights on and noticed the living room light was on. Thinking to himself as he made the way to use the bathroom, 'Dad must be in the livin' room sleeping.'

Chris took care of all the necessities before going to bed. He stopped and looked at himself in the mirror. He had light brown hair and steel blue eyes, eyes that could capture anyone's attention. His eyes then traveled down to the rest of his body and he broke out a small grin thinking how 'sexy' he looked. Once he was finished, he headed to his room and stripped to his boxers before climbing into the bed. He thought of the day's events for a minute or two, switched the lamp off and went to sleep.

The next morning seemed a bit weird when Chris woke up. The TV was normally on as his dad usually watched the morning news while mom prepared a light breakfast. That however, wasn't happening. The house remained silent to Chris. The noise he could only hear was his shallow breathing and the thumping of his heart. Curious, he walked from his room, through the hall, and into the living room. His eyes went wide as his body went into shock. He was looking at the sight of his dad in a pool of blood beneath him. He was beginning to lose his composure as tears began to well up in his eyes. It felt like forever, but only a few minutes had passed, he finally gained the courage to come to his senses and look around the room for his mom. She was nowhere to be found. Chris had to think fast as he feared for his safety. Quickly, he ran back to his bedroom, got dressed, shoved his schoolbooks in his backpack, along with a few clothes. When he was done, he hurriedly made his way into the bathroom, took his things, and stuffed it into the bag. Chris didn't care how much noise he was making, he wanted to get out of there and fast!

The minute he had everything ready, he ran straight into the kitchen and was about to leave the back door when he found his mother standing there, looking very psychotic. Her red hair was a mess. Her brown eyes looked droopy, as if she had been smoking weed all night, but no such smell emanated through the house. She however, was holding a very long knife which was covered with blood. Chris began to panic as he was fumbling with the door trying to escape as his mom moved closer to him. She crept up on him slowly as if to savor the moment. She wanted to enjoy herself as she got closer and closer to her son. She wanted to end his life here and now so there were no witnesses. That however, wasn't meant to happen as the door was suddenly ripped off its hinges and pulled outwards and landed on the ground with a loud crash. At first Chris looked shocked and wasn't sure what to do till he heard a voice in his head.

Go! Move it, boy!

Chris never gave it a second thought as he dashed out the door. He didn't bother looking back as he could care less what would happen to his mother. He ran as fast as he could. One thing Chris had failed to notice was; a large man in a blue and black robe was standing in between his house and the next. He had a hooded cloak covering his face and a long grey beard was flowing down from his hidden face. Once the tall man was satisfied Chris was out of harms way, he chanted a spell that was spoken in another language. As he was speaking its final words, fire erupted from within the house and the wizard suddenly disappeared.

Chris ran and ran till his legs couldn't carry him any more. He had to stop and take a break at a nearby alleyway. As he slumped down to his knees, the tall dark man appeared out of nowhere, startling the boy.

He slowly walked towards the boy holding out his hand, "Do not be afraid, I saved you from any harm."

Chris wasn't sure whether to believe what he saw or not. "How do I know you are telling the truth?! How can I trust you? And why are you dressed like a wizard? It isn't Halloween!"

The man chuckled and sent a thought to Chris, surprising him. Everything is fine now. There is something I'd like to show you

Chris wasn't sure what he heard in his head, but he was willing to play the stranger's game. "Fine, I'll play your game. What is it you want to show me?"

The stranger chuckled and removed his hooded cloak. His hair was combed towards the back and it was very white. His blue eyes stared down at Chris as if they were searching his soul. "First, please call me Merlin. I'm from the future. I was sent back in time by my Khan to find you before they do. Here, let me show you exactly where I came from." Merlin brought his hand up to a wall and concentrated on it. The bricks slowly gave way to images of the future as if one was looking at a movie preview. There were several odd-looking BattleMechs fighting in the background. A various array of lasers, machine guns, and missiles filled the air as an ongoing battle took place between two clans. Chris couldn't believe what he was watching and looked back at Merlin in surprise.

Merlin lowered his hand and the images began to fade until there was nothing but brick. "You are the supposed chosen one who will bring peace and restore order to the Clans and Inner-Sphere. I cannot go into further detail; the Khan will explain everything to you. My only job was to retrieve you and bring you into the future, if you are willing to leave your life behind here. But I must warn you to think fast as I was followed back in time."

Chris was surprised to hear what Merlin had said. He wasn't sure whether to believe him, but he knew this was for real. He had to wonder if the game helped prepare him, but he was sure it would be nothing like a real-live battle.

Chris was deep in thought before he gave Merlin his answer. "Why me?"

Merlin had to let out a small laugh, "You are the best Mechwarrior this time frame had to offer. Of course, I've been watching you play in those pods ever since you started. The council was afraid you might not start playing the game. They almost had to send me here to give you a slight nudge to try the game. I'm glad I didn't have to. But yes, I could have picked anyone out of the list of players who are dedicated to the game. Should I have not arrived, this world began to slowly start to turn for the worse. I can't get into too much detail, but humanity almost destroyed itself to the point where they became divided and forgot who they were. It was a matter of who thought alike and who thought differently. Yes, it was lame, but that's what I've learned after all these years." Merlin rolled his eyes at mentioning 'lame', causing a small giggle out of Chris.

Chris being partly satisfied with his answer thought some more. He spoke up after a few moments. "What is the name of your team?"

Merlin chuckled, "We don't use the term 'team' anymore. We are a clan known as the Fierce Panthers. I'm sure you'll get acquainted with our clan history and whatnot. But for now, my top priority is you."

Chris scrunched up his face and asked his next question, "You said someone followed you, I don't see anyone here that followed you. Are you sure about that?"

Merlin's facial expression became serious as Chris asked his question. "'They' are the Knights of the Apocalypse. They have an equally powerful wizard who could give me a run for my money, but I'm slightly better," Merlin said with a wink as to not let his ego expand too much.

Chris looked down then back up at the wizard, "31st Century?"

Merlin nodded, 'yes'. "Close to the end of it. Time is running out. We'd better leave; I have a gut feeling we've been discovered. Are you coming with me?"

Chris grinned, "I'd be a fool if I said no. I'm gunna miss it here, but there is nothing left for me. But…" Chris sniffled a little become continuing, "What about my dad?"

"We will mourn his loss when we get you to safety, ok?" Chris nodded and Merlin continued, Ready?"

Chris nodded again as he slowly wiped a tear from his eye.

Merlin grinned as he backed away a few steps and held up his left hand as if to grasp something that wasn't there. He didn't say anything, but his wizard's staff suddenly appeared out of thin air, into his left hand. Chris was surprised, as he had never seen 'real' magic. Merlin had to chuckle some then raised his staff to the beginning of the alleyway, behind Chris. He spoke a few unknown words and suddenly, blue lightning filled the air. As the wind picked up, a blue swirling portal appeared directly behind Chris. He turned around to see the portal and his mouth was hanging open and then closing, as if he were sucking on air like a fish.

Merlin talked towards Chris and placed his right hand on his shoulder. "We'll talk about it later, we need to leave."

Chris looked up at Merlin, closed his mouth, and nodded. Merlin simply gave him a small smile and began to walk towards the portal. Once he was satisfied with it, he held out his right hand, signaling for Chris to take it. Chris took his hand as Merlin told him, "Hold on tight. Can't lose you in one of these. If I did, my head would be on display in the Khan's chambers!"

Chris gulped and squeezed Merlin's hand tighter. Merlin smiled as he looked down then back towards the portal. Suddenly, a crash of red lightning filled the alleyway from behind. Another wizard had appeared wearing a similar cloak as Merlin's, but it was red and black in color. Merlin quickly looked back to see who it was. 'Oh shit! I don't have time to deal with a Dark Mage now!'

Once the Dark Mage set his sights upon Merlin and Chris, he broke into a very sinister smile. "Hand over the boy, Merlin. If you think about fighting here, you'll end up changing the course of history!"

"Oh, but I already have!" Merlin quickly countered as he moved his staff to his right hand. "I suppose you aren't going to take your own advice for that matter. Try and stop me, I dare you! I am leaving with the boy!" Merlin turned and showed his backside to the Dark Mage who was now fuming with rage. Chris also turned and was about to take a step forward as Merlin began to walk, but the Dark Mage had other plans.

The Dark Mage raised his staff and his right hand into the air and chanted an unknown language only Merlin was able to recognize. Within seconds, red crackling electricity began forming at the tip of the mage's fingers and was about to shoot bolts of red lightning at Merlin and Chris.

Merlin expected this and instantly spun around right as the bolt of lightning shot out of the Dark Mage's fingertips. He crouched down towards the ground, slammed his staff in front of himself, and wordlessly formed a defensive barrier. The red lightning hit hard and a rumble of thunder could be heard immediately after the hit.

The Dark Mage chuckled, "You'll have to do better than that old man! How do you expect to defeat me here if you cannot do so when you are in the 'mech cockpit? Every time we met on the battlefield, I easily won! What makes you so sure you can defeat me now?!"

Merlin chuckled so much he almost lost his balance. "So you think you know me well enough to be able to defeat me outside the cockpit. Sure, they limit our use of magic on the battlefield in 'mechs, but right here and right now, this is my turf!" Merlin's voice intensified as he flatly stated his point and slowly arose from his crouched state, emphasizing the word 'outside' and 'turf'. "Just so you know, the rules do not apply to me here." Merlin rolled up his sleeves and shifted his staff from his right hand to his left. The Dark Mage simply chuckled as if he didn't believe Merlin and thrust his staff forward so hard, a large shockwave rumbled through the alleyway towards Merlin and Chris!

Merlin shook his head and the skies quickly darkened. Chris began to look around him noticing how quickly it got dark then turned his attention to the incoming shockwave.

"You underestimated me!" Merlin bellowed as he swiftly batted away the shockwave with his right hand, then rose his arms conjuring up lightning. The air got thicker and small objects were suddenly rising from the ground. Merlin then pulled his arms back then thrust them forward again and shouted, "Guh t'ay imigh l'aet!" A massive blue and white shockwave formed several meters in front of Merlin then immediately shot forward towards the Dark Mage along with his own shockwave.

The Mage continued chuckling, but his chuckle didn't last long and his expression changed to a frown and then fear. He then realized he was way out of his league as he watched Merlin bat his shockwave away towards himself and form an even more powerful shockwave. He tried to form a defensive spell, but the first shockwave hit him before he could complete it. The second shockwave was too much, and it sent him flying into the air, and he smacked against the brick wall directly behind him with a loud crunch.

Merlin grinned, as he was satisfied with his work. "Next time, I will not hold back!" The skies suddenly started to clear up and darkness became light. Merlin looked down towards Chris and noticed he had a look on his face that was asking many questions. Merlin knew he would have to explain a lot once Chris became more comfortable with his new surroundings.

Merlin placed his left hand on Chris's shoulder after transferring his staff to his right hand. "The questions can wait. We need to get going," Merlin spoke softly at the unspoken questions Chris wanted to ask.

Chris nodded and turned to face the portal.

Merlin switched staff to his left and held his right hand out and Chris took it without any hesitation. Merlin led the way into the portal and the two disappeared into it. The portal then closed with a flash and the wind died down, returning the alleyway to its cluttered state, as if it wasn't already cluttered before.

The 31st Century – Planet Panther'a, FP Headquarters, Main Hall

A Swirling blue-white portal emerged out of nowhere as Merlin and Chris stepped out of it and looked around. Chris noticed he was in a very big room with a tall ceiling. It was a round blue room with a black floor. Chris could spot a variety of various paintings surrounded by black frames on the wall and their respective names and rank under them. There were 5 brown double doors, equally spaced, all around the room. Chris wasn't sure he liked it, but he was happy to be away from his mother. It suddenly dawned on him that thinking of his mother caused him to wonder about the events that took place inside his house. As he began to piece several thoughts together, he came to the realization that she killed his dad, and he slowly sank to his knees as the tears began flowing.

Merlin noticed this and knelt down. "I'm sorry about your father. There was nothing I could do to prevent his death. The powers that be do not allow me to trifle with this kind of history, but allowed me to take you out of that time and bring you here. Life here will be difficult, but I am sure you will fit right in. Please, trust me."

Chris looked up with tears streaming down his face. "Can I at least say goodbye to my dad?"

Merlin was somewhat taken back with the boy's affection, but he smiled and nodded. "I do not see why not. To this day, it is still customary for families to grieve for their loved ones." Merlin was about to speak more, but he stopped himself from doing so and embraced Chris in a hug. They stayed like this for several minutes in silence, before the main doors behind Merlin sprang open.

Merlin slowly stood up, breaking contact with Chris, as he appeared to be satisfied with his embrace. Merlin and Chris turned to face the incoming people walking into the room. Merlin noticed it was ten of the best warriors in FP. Each warrior appeared to be very young, some slightly older than fourteen, others appeared to be well into their twenties. They all wore the same black and blue uniform with different nametags on the right side of their chest. Their left sleeves displayed the name of the rank they held, and their Clan's emblem. The emblem contained a black panther that appeared to be walking towards you with the clan letters behind it. As they all poured into the room, a young redheaded boy stepped out from behind the last man and walked over to the front. He appeared to be about seven or eight.

The taller, younger man of the group was the first to speak. "Gee, ain't that a lovely sight! It makes me want to puke at all the love here!" This had caused a few snickering among the group.

The boy with long, brown hair next to the tall man quickly elbowed him in the ribs earning him an audible 'ouch'. "Ah stuff it, JD. The boy has been through a lot!"

JD knew how to insult others and did it very well. "Let me be myself, old man." JD quickly replied as he rubbed his ribs. He also knew the 'old man' reference really got to him, earning him another ribbing, only this time it was slightly harder than the first. "OW!"

"I owe you one, this time," the lad snickered as he watched JD rub his sore ribs.

"You may be my teacher, Coolio," JD started as he spoke one of the lad's nicknames and paused a bit before continuing, "I may have been your play toy then, but I have been improving! You'll see."

To say everyone else in the room rolled their eyes was an understatement. They hated it when JD's ego swelled, as they knew how good he really was and how much he had improved. They just didn't need to hear him bragging about it at every chance he got.

"C'mon man, give it a rest. We all know when your ego swells, all the oxygen leaves the room so it could make up for that massive swelling," The tall young lad with blond hair spoke. He had the word "Rampage" titled on his chest.

JD turned his head to look at Rampage and eyed him as if he had lost a battle. The air became tense as JD's breathing became shallow and deeper. He wanted to dart to him and make him eat the words he had said. Before he could make a move, the opposite doors opened with a bang, startling everyone.

A young man in his mid twenties walked swiftly into the room eyeballing everyone, ignoring Merlin and Chris for a moment. He appeared to be a man of authority and leadership. He was probably the best leader the clan had ever seen and they have the money and medals to prove it. He wore the same uniform as everyone else did, except Merlin. His callsign read 'Wild Dawg' across his right side. He held the rank of Khan. It was the highest rank in a clan and it was very well earned. Before he started to speak, four other high-ranking men entered the room from behind the Khan.

Everyone immediately straightened themselves and stood in military fashion. "JD, while I don't mind a little bragging here and there, using it so often can and will get you killed on the battlefield. I expect you to clean up your mess and change that cocky attitude of yours." The Khan eyed the room, and then JD, closely before standing at ease.

"At ease, gentlemen." No sooner had the last word left his mouth, everyone stood more relaxed. Wild Dawg then turned his attention to Merlin and Chris. "I see you finally got back, a little later than I had hoped."

Merlin let a small grin escape. "I got held up by a Dark Mage. I did what you asked of me. I, however, need to be elsewhere as the wizards' council is summoning me."

"Surely you aren't in trouble?"

"I hope not." - Merlin turned his attention to Coolio, "Please take care of Chris. I trust your training will benefit him. I am sorry I have not had the time to train with you like I wished. When things calm down, I will be able to join you."

Coolio simply nodded and grinned as he thrust his hands in his pockets, "Sweet."

Merlin chuckled at his antics then turned to face Wild Dawg. Addressing him by his first name, "I will have my report for you later, Sam."

Sam nodded in his agreement and watched as a blue portal formed to his right. He watched Merlin enter it and the portal disappeared in a flash. He let a sigh loose as he thought for a moment how he wanted to do things. Sam had short spiky black hair with brown eyes. A large scar ran down the left side of his face, inches away from his eye. "I suppose it's time to introduce us. I'll start first. My name is Sam Hunter and my Callsign is Wild Dawg. Please call me Sam, everyone here does. I am the Khan and leader of Fierce Panthers. I see you have already met Merlin. He is well over 3000 years old, but refuses to state his true age. His name is also his Callsign. I'm sure he will explain several un-asked questions you might have for him. Welcome to the 31st century."

Chris nodded; feeling slightly uneasy of his new surroundings, slowly forms a grin on his face. "Cool!"

Sam chuckled before starting again, "I see you already met JD, Tommy and Josh."

JD stepped forward and looked down at Chris sheepishly. His grey eyes appeared to strike fear in others who dared to try and stare down on him. The only person who could resist the feeling JD always gave was Sam. JD respects authority, but often wishes he had his own command for personal gain. He later discovers there is more to life than pursuing rank and commanding a Clan. Chris didn't feel fazed by his presence and thrust out his right hand, as he wanted to shake it. JD was surprised as well as everyone else that Chris didn't flinch one bit as most people tend to do so when they first met JD. Reluctantly, he slowly drew his right hand forward and firmly squeezed Chris's hand as he did the same. "My name is JD, short for Jack Daniels and my Callsign is Hammer."

JD stepped back and grinned as Tommy stepped forward. Chris noticed he had brown, caring eyes and he quickly warmed up to him and hoped he would be his friend. His face was scar-free and Chris wondered if he was very lucky or very good and wondered how old he was. "My name is Tommy and my Callsign is Coolio." He spoke with warmth in his voice as he held out his right hand for Chris to shake.

Josh stepped forward as Tommy finally finished his handshake. As he neared Chris, he felt a rumble in the ground as it shook slightly for every step Josh made towards him. Puzzled, he looked around then stared at Josh in his eyes. Josh had dark blue eyes and several small scars ran down his face. "My name is Josh and my Callsign is Rampage. Some of the guys shorten my Callsign to 'Ramp', please don't hesitate to call me what you like." Josh finished with a grin and thrust out his right hand for a handshake, which Chris happily shook with. Once Josh was finished, he stepped back and the young redhead boy stepped forward. Before he could do anything, Sam stepped forward and stopped once he arrived at Chris' side.

"No one knows his name and we call him John. He does something funny with his hands, but no one here knows what it is." Sam calmly spoke as he looked at the smiling boy. Before he began again, he put his hand on his head and chuckled, "I remember when he first came to us. Merlin thought he was conjuring up magic and almost killed him with one of his spells. I'm glad I was there to stop him; otherwise he wouldn't be here today.

Chris looked up at Sam with puzzlement and stared for a few moments. He had an idea and then looked back down at the smiling 7 yo and said, 'hi'. The boy started doing something with his hands as they moved with ease, as if he was trying to communicate. Chris's eyes went wide and he looked back up with Sam, trying to figure out what to say.

"Uhh, has he been to a doctor lately?" Chris asked, feeling a bit unsure in Sam's presence. He was nervous enough and Sam picked up on it.

Sam placed a hand on Chris's shoulder, "Don't be nervous around me. I don't bite." He finished with a wink. This seemed to put Chris at ease some before Sam continued, "No, our doc is away on a mission. I am hoping he'll return quickly, so we can find out more about this boy."

Chris almost fell to the floor as he heard that their doc was away on a mission. He wanted to speak his mind, but decided not to as first impressions are usually the most important. His dad had taught him that and he earned many friends as they thought he was so cool to be with. "I think he is deaf. I know some sign-language and I think he just told me he doesn't understand any of us."

Sam's expression was priceless. He was surprised, he had completely forgot a very few of the universe's population was deaf. Armed with the newfound knowledge, he immediately left the room, causing everyone to look at each other and shrug. Moments later he entered the room carrying a device and set it down a few feet from the boy and Chris. Once it was in place, he flipped it on and a holographic image of a tall middle-aged woman came into view. She simply stood there looking towards the boy with her arms at her sides.

"Ah! I had forgotten about this. I'm glad I kept it." Sam said he placed the device in front of the boy as he stood up and looked at the shocked expressions of his clan. Chris was staring at him with puzzlement written all over his face. Sam got the message and continued, "This is a device that acts like an interpreter. I used it to learn sign-language back in the early days of my life when I attended school. My parents made sure I knew every language there is available. I decided on this language because it was rare and it looked interesting." Sam watched the image change his words into signs so the boy could understand what he was talking about. Sam crouched down to the boy's level, "I'm sorry I didn't realize this sooner. I forgot what the language was as it has been so long since I last learned it." The woman on the hologram had completely interpreted Sam's message to the boy.

The boy was surprised, but if his happy expression could get bigger, it did. He started replying to the hologram, but shook his head and turned to Sam and continued to sign to him. The hologram kept her attention on the boy as she relayed what he signed. "He said he forgives you and he wants to let you know he thanks you for rescuing him several days ago. He understands the situation and accepts things as they are. His name is Aaron, and he is five years old."

To say Sam was floored by his response was an understatement. Everyone in the room was quite surprised to discover Aaron was really five and not eight. Chris understood most of what Aaron signed, but he missed several of the signs since he couldn't read that fast. Chris knelt down and signed, "Nice to meet you, Aaron."

Aaron grinned and leapt into Chris. Chris gave the surprised boy a tight hug for thanking him. When Aaron let go, he signed back, "Thank you! Can't read, write. Parents killed few days ago. He saved me." Aaron finished by pointing his finger at Sam. The interpreter relayed the message, translating it to spoken English causing Sam to some what blush, but he hid it well and a smile escaped from his lips. He knew he was wasting time and wanted to finish introductions to the rest of his clan.

"I'm sorry to cut this short, but I need to pull Chris into a meeting with the council," Sam said as he looked at Tommy, gaining a nod from him. Tommy used to be on the council, but stepped down to allow others a chance at council leadership. Sam then looked at the rest of the group before continuing, "We'll have to finish introductions for Chris later. I'm sorry, but I would like to get this finished before more issues arrive." Sam spoke quickly as Chris stood up. This caused some 'groans' among the group, but they reluctantly started to head off to whatever direction they decided to go.

Chris wasn't sure he was supposed to be in a meeting with them as he had 'just' arrived. He had been in meetings before with his MechWarrior4 team and he didn't think they had seemed all too important. This time however, he sensed Sam had an issue that concerned him. "But I just got here! I don't see how I fit into all of this?" Chris spoke above the normal tone he used and stopped himself from starting again as he had just about yelled. His face reddened a bit as he mumbled a soft 'sorry' and looked down towards the floor.

Sam quickly held his hand up as JD was about to open his mouth. "It's alright, kiddo. This matter does concern you. Please follow me." Sam smiled slightly before turning and walking towards the same doors he had originally entered from. The four high-ranking warriors turned to follow behind Sam. Josh looked at the group he was with and nodded before following after the high-ranking officers. Everyone, including Tommy was stunned at the sudden decision Sam had to make. He was sure there would be an announcement later on during a clan-wide meeting. But for now, it was for just the council. As they watched the council leave, they all looked at each other and shrugged.

Clan Council Meeting Room, moments later –

Sam entered the large oval meeting room first as the large brown double doors were wide open. The doors always remained open unless there was a council meeting in session. The walls were plain blue and it appeared that the ceiling was high, but in reality it was only 15 feet high. In the center of the room was a large dark cherry red oval table that sat up to fifteen people.

Sam walked over to the head of the table that was opposite to the entrance of the meeting room and waited till everyone entered. When Josh arrived at the entrance, everyone was looking at him. Grumbling to himself, "It's always me!" This brought a few snickering around the room. Even Sam had to silently chuckle at Josh's silent complaining about being the last one in had to close the doors.

Once Josh closed the doors, Sam pulled out the red wooden chair and sat. The rest of the group followed the same. Chris remained standing till Tommy pointed at a chair, "Have a seat next to me, kiddo." Chris grinned and sat next to Tommy. Sam let out a sigh as he thought what he wanted to say. "Before we begin, I need to introduce the council to Chris." Sam looked in Chris's direction and smiled before continuing, "I'm sure you're wondering why Josh is here. I'm not going to explain everything at this time, maybe he could later, but Josh was once a council member and stepped down on his own terms. As much as I would have liked him to stay, I also respect his wishes." Tommy was blushing at being complimented by Sam. He hated it when Sam always did that to him, but he also knew it was for a good reason. Sam continued, "I would like to promote Josh to the rank of Senior Council Member so we can continue to get his wisdom and advice. This is non-negotiable, Josh, we always have room for more on the council and now is a good time as any." Josh nodded his head and thanked Sam for the promotion.

"First, to my right," Sam began as he moved his right hand into the direction of one of the older looking council members. Not wanting to waste time, he continued, "is council member Simon. He is the Galaxy Commander of Blue Panthers."

Simon was well into his 40's and had a lot of experience, both as a pilot and a diplomat. His head was shaved and his brown eyes welcomed friendship to those who are willing to be friends. "Hi, Chris. Welcome to the clan. As Sam said, I lead the Blue Panthers and my Callsign is Ironfist. Everyone calls me Simon."

Chris nodded and said, 'hi,' then Sam continued, "Next to Simon is Roger. He is also a Galaxy Commander and council member. He leads the Forsaken Warriors and his Callsign is Air Fright" Sam spoke as he shifted his hand to the younger looking council member. He wasn't the youngest nor the eldest, but he was very aggressive on the field and hard on his team. He always strived to get them to work hard so they could live up to his expectations.

Chris looked at Roger and something looked familiar about him. He wasn't sure where, but it was just a feeling. Roger appeared to be 35 and had brown eyes and light brown hair with no scars across his face. When he reached out to shake Chris's hand, Chris noticed many scars on his arm and hand. Chris hesitated for a moment but eventually shook Roger's hand.

Roger smiled at Chris as he finished the handshake, "Good firm grip, I like that in a man."

"Thanks," Chris blushed at the compliment from Roger.

Sam switched arms as his left arm rose from its resting point and his right arm took its place. "To my left is Gail. She too, is council member and Galaxy Commander of the White Angels." Gail was in her thirties and had long brown hair that seemed to go on forever, but was only to her mid back in length. She had bright pink eyes and an infectious smile that caused you to smile every time she did, even Sam.

Gail smiled, "Hi, my Callsign is Banshee, off the field, I'm Gail. Please do not address me as 'sir' as I do not carry a protruding organ and a set of mangos." Gail finished as she watched the room burst into fits of giggles, then back to Chris.

Chris wasn't sure whether to break out laughing or simply blush madly at her use for a certain appendage only men and boys had. Suddenly the room broke out laughing from their giggling state, causing Gail to blush some. Chris eventually joined in the laughter. When the laughter died down some, they exchanged pleasantries and Sam began to introduce the final council member.

"Next to Gail is our youngest acting council member, Josh, he is Star Colonel of the Knights galaxy. Merlin, who you already met, is the Galaxy Commander of the Knights. Josh used to represent Merlin in his times of absence. The council decided for Josh to carry the Acting Council Member title due to his input and wise decisions. I would gladly give him a promotion as he is ready for a new rank, but this is for later discussion." Sam finished as all eyes were on him upon hearing the 'promotion' mentioned.

Josh's shock didn't last long as he realized he expected it and also needed to introduce himself to Chris. "My Callsign is Rampage, as you already know. It's nice to meet ya, Chris." Josh spoke with calmness as he held out his hand to Chris.

Chris shook his hand and noticed no scarring. "You don't have any scars on you. You must be real good!" Chris was amazed and wondered how good he really was.

Josh blushed and chuckled, "I had a good teacher. I'm only 18, tho." He smiled and looked in Tommy's direction and saw he was rolling his eyes. Josh had just turned 18 a month ago. He had short blond hair and light blue eyes. For a council member, he looked quite good and was thin with some muscle definition showing.

Sam stood as Josh returned his attention to him. "Now that introductions are out of the way, Chris…" Sam looked around the table before finally stopping to look at Chris then continued, "We need to get you in a simulation to gauge your skill. Please keep in mind everyone starts as a Cadet. I really didn't want to rush things and give you a few days to settle and get to know your environment, but such things aren't possible as we are in the middle of a war brewing. Everyone fourteen and older is a pilot. I've even had some at the age of twelve piloting 'Mechs and their lives ended too quickly. Your being here wasn't a chance of fate. From what Merlin told me, you were the best candidate of your time to be pulled from history to join us here and now. I'm sorry for the loss of your parents, but I'd really like for you to join us in a real battle."

Chris wasn't sure what to say. He simply sat there staring at Sam as if he was looking at an alien. Chris had been nervous before, but never this nervous. He felt his whole body get heavy and a certain uneasiness was felt from within his stomach. Chris wanted to relax for a few days and not head into battle anytime soon.

Sam was hoping for an immediate response and was about to say something after a few moments of silence but Chris stopped him. "Thanks for the offer, but I don't think I'm ready. This is too new and I…" Chris ran his arm across his face to wipe some tears in his eyes then continued, "…I just want to…" Chris couldn't finish his sentence, but Sam started talking immediately, interrupting Chris, "Don't worry, like I said, the general age is fourteen. Besides, you gave it some thought before giving your answer. I like that. It says a lot in a person and you have the ability to think first and act later, unlike a certain hard-headed Star Colonel who thinks he needs to show off his rank." Sam had to let out a small chuckle as he was talking about JD. Everyone in the room chuckled as well as they knew who Sam was referring to. He shifted his attention to Tommy, "Tommy, please show Chris his new room and give him a small handheld pad. I trust in your decision on what to show him and when he is ready."

Tommy nodded to Sam then turned to Chris, "Hey, follow me. I'll give you the grand tour of this cool place." Tommy grinned as he put an arm around Chris.

Chris turned to look at Chuck and grin. Both boys stood and made their way to exit the room. Once the doors were closed again, Sam returned to his seat to address the council on a few more issues.

"Josh, the council and I have agreed to promote you to Galaxy Commander. You are ready and we trust you to make good decisions. Merlin will now become a SaKhan and the 2nd in command of Fierce Panthers. Congratulations! The galaxy of the Knights is yours to command." Sam smiled as he pressed a small button on the table then continued, "Computer, please input this into the Clan log: As of 13:00 hours on the 13th day of the 2nd month, year 3085, Star Colonel Josh has been promoted to Galaxy Commander. Also on this day, Galaxy Commander Merlin has been promoted to SaKhan and attains Speaker of the Council." Sam then pressed another button to end recording and the computer voice spoke into the room to confirm the changes in command.

"Command codes accepted. Ranks have been adjusted and the clan will be notified of the news."

"Any other issues before I adjourn the meeting?"

Gail sat up a tad straighter in her chair wanting to address an issue, "I've got confirmed reports that a new Mercenary group had arrived on one of our planets. I have three scouts checking it out, but they won't interfere with anything unless a conflict arises."

"Who is this Mercenary group and what do we know about them?" Sam leaned forward in his chair as if this was news to him.

"They call themselves Absolute Elite. We have very little information on them; however, they aren't under any contract at the moment. I am led to believe they are a new group looking for work, but we will be keeping a close eye on them."

Sam sat there thinking for a minute, "When did they arrive?"

"The reports confirmed their arrival at 11:00 hours in a barren desert. Do you suppose it's a coincidence with the arrival of Chris?"

"I don't know, but keep a closer eye on them if you have to. Send extra pilots as a precaution. I don't want to take a chance and let them cause trouble with little resistance."

"Roger that." Gail pulled a small hand held pad out of her jumpsuit and punched in a few buttons then returned her attention to Sam and nodded.

"Good, any other issues?" Sam looked around and everyone shook their head 'no'. "Ok, if nothing else, then the meeting is…" Sam was about to finish but a portal had formed inside the room and Merlin exited, interrupting the meeting.

As the portal closed, Merlin took a look around and noticed everyone was staring at him. He shrugged it off and started talking as if nothing had happened, "Looks like I missed another meeting. I knew this would happen." Merlin walked around to the opposite end of the table from Sam. He continued, "I have no issues to discuss and I thank everyone for their congratulations as well as congratulations to Josh for his promotion." As Merlin was finishing his sentence, everyone's eyes nearly popped out of their heads. They knew the wizard could read minds, but they didn't know he was listening the whole time. "What? Its not like I was eavesdropping on the meeting, I just knew how it would turn out. You all should be used to this by now. And Sam, you know I really didn't want to be SaKhan, but I guess it could not be helped. We, as a clan, have grown, so should the council."

Sam chuckled at Merlin, as he knew him quite well. "I suppose anything we do or say, we can't hide it from you 'o magical one'."

Merlin couldn't help but laugh at the 'magical one'. "I am in full agreement anyhow. Before we leave, the wizards' council gave me an earful. I told them I had no choice as a Dark Mage was there. We should be on guard for him." Merlin said as he looked directly at Gail. "Gail, you've had several run-ins with him, do be careful. Something feels out of place and I can't figure out what it is yet. You may need to add extra reinforcements on top of what you are sending. I will alert the locals, unless you already have." Merlin finished as he looked for a response from Gail. Not only did Gail nod her head, the rest of the council agreed with Merlin's proposal.

Sam stood then crossed his arms as he looked at Merlin with a smile forming on his face, "Ever since I could remember, you could not beat a Dark Mage in a 'Mech. I'm surprised you are still standing here."

It was Merlin's turn to act like JD for a change, "Never underestimate a 3000 year old wizard. I am the oldest wizard alive, yet the wizards' council keeps me on a short leash. Such is the way of things these days," Merlin said as his appearance began to change from an old man with a very long beard to a young man in his 20's with long brown hair and youthful looking skin.

"Aside from not being able to use much magic while in the cockpit, I know you have been holding back. I cannot allow you to hold back anymore." Sam spoke in a tone that was calm and commanding.

"Have no fear, I was gauging his skill. He underestimates me. I do not expect him to attack us anytime soon," was Merlin's short reply.

Sam shook his head, "Good. The meeting is done. I am placing headquarters under a watch right now in the light of recent activities. Merlin, is your report ready for me to read?" Everyone except Merlin stood and departed the room.

Merlin stood and pulled out a pad from inside of his robe, handing it to Sam. "Everything is there and in order."

"Thanks old friend." Sam put his arm around Merlin and the two exited the room.

Simulation Room – 14:00 hours

Tommy had been giving Chris the tour of the FP Clan Headquarters and Chris wanted to stop and check out the simulation room. He liked what he saw. All pods looked almost exactly like the ones he used to play in at the mall. The pods were black in color and were oval shaped with a door on the side for entry and exit. Inside was a joystick with several buttons, throttle control to the right of the stick, two foot pedals and several monitors for various displays a real 'Mech would have, except there was a screen instead of windows for the main display. Playing in the pods was very close to the real thing, except you could try repeatedly or play with only one life.

Tommy knew by his expression he was really curious. "You can go in and take a look. If you want I can go over the controls with you. As I recall, I studied Earth's 21st century history a little and I don't think they're any different than what they used to be, but I'll let you be the judge of that."

Chris looked at Tommy with a mile wide grin on his face, "Coooooooooooooool!" He ran over to one of the empty pods and hopped right in. He was checking out the controls when Tommy stopped to look at him from his left side. "You were right, they all look the same! This might be easier than I thought."

"Hehe, nothing is that easy. Want to play a few rounds with me?"

"Really? Can I?"

"Sure…" Tommy was about to start, but JD came right up to him, obviously listening to a part of their conversation.

"Play me. I don't think this old man here has what it takes." JD wrapped an arm around Tommy's neck and tugged on it before letting go."

Tommy was about to protest, but Chris stopped him. "If this is anything like I have played before, I'm game."

"Heh, heh, heh, good luck kid. Connect to pod 20. I'll be in that one," JD said as he turned to leave.

Tommy looked at Chris and thought he was crazy. "Are you nuts?! He is the most aggressive warrior we have! He's gunna rape ya in there man. I only wanted you to have some fun and not let him ruin your day." Tommy finished feeling a bit concerned for Chris's well-being.

Chris was being very cool and didn't see JD as a threat. "I'll be fine. Could you help me connect to pod 20? That is probably the only new feature that I don't know."

Tommy shook his head and reluctantly pressed a button from the left side, right next to the stick. As the pod came to life, various sorts of controls appeared on the screen and a request to connect to pod 20 had appeared on the main screen. Tommy hit another button to confirm the connection and the two pods were instantly connected. "Well, bro… good luck. The door closes automatically, but I'll be watching."

Chris nodded and returned his attention to the screen. Several 'Mechs appeared on the screen for him to choose and he picked a 65 Ton Loki. Tommy was about to leave when he noticed him choose the Loki and smiled to himself. The Loki was a very 'boxy' looking 'Mech with a missile rack on the left shoulder. The cockpit was directly in the center of the 'Mech, slightly above its chest. The arms contained a variety of weapons that could be housed within them. Not all of the known weapons could fit, only ballistic and energy weapons were restricted to the arms. The left and right torso could house a medium sized weapon or additional missiles if the pilot chose. It took Chris some time to build a specific configuration he wanted with a mix of energy and long-range ballistic weapons. Once he was ready, he picked the 'Mech, saved it as his own personal 'Mech, and a new screen popped up asking whether he wanted one life or multiple lives. Chris thought of selecting multiple lives, but instead, picked one life. His choice had caused JD to roar with laughter that could be heard outside the simulation room. Little did JD know, Chris wasn't to be underestimated.

Tommy was in the observation room looking at their 'Mech selections. He saw JD in his trademark 'Mech, the NovaCat. It was his favorite 'Mech and refused to part with it to simply use something different. The NovaCat appeared to be a moiré rounded looking mech with a huge muscular appearing torso. It weighed in at 70 Tons, had arms that housed all energy weapons and were higher up above its waist. The arms contained 3 huge cylindrical cannons and the cockpit was at the center of the 'Mech, very much like a human looked, only the cockpit appeared to look like one of those hats a Green Beret wears, only level. The only difference between the two 'Mechs was the NovaCat was able to have specialized armor that weighed more per ton than standard armor. Some pilots choose to have the standard armor, as it is lighter and easier to work around. Tommy became a bit worried at the 'Mech choices based on what JD was bringing. Just before they started playing, Sam had entered the stimulation room, finally finding Tommy, as he was looking for him. Merlin had joined the two moments later as he wanted to see what was happening.

When the simulation started, Chris immediately charged straight out, down the rocky terrain. This caused the three observers to groan out loud. They knew not to charge straight ahead in a battle, unless it was a desperate attempt to out the enemy for someone else to shoot at. Chris however, had other plans. Chris was extremely familiar with the map's layout as he had played on a similar version at the mall. This one had a different name to it and the actual battleground of the selected map reflected the same one as seen in the moon. Gravity and heat were not a problem as they had the same gravity as earth, but it was very cold. As Chris kept moving forward, so did JD. JD immediately changed his course and headed towards the crater in one of the lunar mountains. Everyone who knew JD knew how to fight against his style. One would flank in the opposite direction as JD charged straight ahead, but in this case, something was different. It was obvious that JD had learned something new and everyone was looking forward to seeing it. Once Chris had noticed a large hill to his left, he immediately changed plans and made it to the hill, lowering himself so he could hide and watch for movement. Chris remembered to switch to the outside view and watch from there as if he was looking in 3rd person view. Every 'Mech, simulation and real, had a monitor built into the cockpit that showed what things looked like in 3rd person view. Piloting was done in 1st person, but 3rd person helped when hiding behind a hill.

It didn't take long for JD to show up, but he came in from behind Chris. JD had seen Chris change direction and hid as he cleverly positioned himself 700m from behind. He had a perfect view of Chris's Loki and let loose a few of his green lasers towards Chris's rear torso, causing a few sparks as the hot energy weapon tore a slice into his armor. After 2 more seconds, JD let loose the second group of lasers that hit Chris's right torso, again, from the back as Chris slammed it into full speed while turning towards the left. Chris knew where the shot was coming from and barely managed to avoid getting killed. Several alarms were going off inside his cockpit to warn him of low armor in a selected area of his 'Mech. Chris spent a few seconds looking over everything to make sure things were 'ok' and begun to plan his next move.

"Damn! Almost!" JD muttered under his breath and continued pursuit as his NovaCat was faster than Chris's Loki. JD knew that his NovaCat ran hot with six lasers, but he cleverly grouped them in three's to lessen the heat output, as he didn't have too many heatsinks to cool his' Mech.

Chris was smiling to himself, but he also sighed a breath of relief as he barely escaped. He turned to face JD's Charging Nova and slammed his throttle forward, only to hit reverse the moment he popped over the hill high enough to fire his weapons at one of JD's arms. As he was coming back down, his 'mech was hit by a dual blast of lasers, causing his torso to turn red. 10 Seconds later, Chris popped again, letting loose the same weapons: his was a mix of green lasers, and Gauss Rifles1, plus a compliment of long range missiles. He again shot at the same targeted arm, blowing it off with his shot. On his way back down, he let loose his missiles, hoping to rock JD as he moved in closer. Long range missiles weren't as effective as they are within 400m, so he had to use them the best he could. As the heat alarms sounded the cockpit, he relaxed a few extra seconds then popped, only to see JD was nowhere to be found. He spent some time scanning, only to get blasted in the center by a few lasers from JD who was about 600m to his right. Chris had been looking left when the shot was fired. As he turned to target JD's other arm, he was too late as the NovaCat had already gone behind the hill. Assuming he would pop in the same place, Chris just stood there and waited, but a gut feeling told him to go back down, so as he threw his Loki in reverse, JD popped up with awesome speed and finished off the Loki with one good arm.

Chris had decided to stop as he had seen enough. He shouted, 'whoo', and shut the simulation pod down. As he was exited, he looked around and finally found he had an audience up in the observation lounge. Everyone in the room was grinning as it had grown from three people to 10. JD had leapt of his pod and quickly made his way to Chris.

"Not bad, kiddo! You managed to get an arm with that and I'm impressed." JD said as he gave Chris some praise about how he handled himself on the field. JD was about to continue, when Sam stopped him and shook his head. He mouthed 'later' to JD and he shrugged it off.

Chris noticed Merlin watching as everyone was giving him some praise and turned to the wizard, "Merlin?"


"Thanks. What happened to your beard?" Chris asked as he tilted his head to the right.

Merlin chuckled at his question, "I changed my appearance to my younger self. My beard gets in the way when I am in the cockpit."

"Oh!" was Chris' simple, yet short reply. He giggled at the sight of Merlin in the cockpit with a long beard and shook his head at the images. Merlin saw a little of what Chris thought and silently chuckled to himself.

Tommy had been going over the mission review to see what happened for further analysis then joined the guys, giving Chris his congratulations and encouraging him to keep practicing. This was causing the boy to blush. "For someone who has balls to go up against JD and lose to him, yet still feel happy about it, I gotta say I'm impressed. Maybe with a little more training here and there, you might be as good as JD. Time will tell, that is if you are willing to improve." Tommy smiled with a twinkle in his eye as several more guys from the observation lounge joined them. Chris had got his fair share of handshakes and congratulations. Sam was the last to talk to him.

"Thought you wanted a few days?" Sam thrust his hands in his pockets and let them rest in there as he shrugged his shoulders.

"Uhh, well, I wanted to check them out, but JD pulled me into a round, so I went along with it."

Sam chuckled, "You're lucky you weren't alone. JD is often hot tempered, but this time, something is different. I'll worry about that later, but that was some nice work, really."

"That wasn't what I was trying to do." Chris scrunched his face in as if he were trying to figure out what Sam meant.

"Hmmmm…interesting. Don't worry about it." Sam wasn't sure what to think. He thought this child was one hell of a warrior, certainly not cadet material, but showed lots of room for improvement. He knew seeing him in the sims for one time wasn't enough. There would have been many more chances should Chris be interested in doing more than just one Round with JD. One thing was for certain: if Chris continues at this rate and improves, he could quickly become be their ace pilot.

"Well…" Sam began, changing the subject, "Shall we head to the mess hall and see what's cookin'?"

Chris immediately forgot about what recently happened, as the mention of food suddenly became a top priority. He was about to say something when his stomach growled loudly. He blushed a little and nodded his head, 'yes'.

"Ok, let's go eat." Sam finished as everyone followed him and Chris towards the mess hall.

To be continued……

1Gauss Rifle – this weapon has been known to cause high damage in exchange for high weight and low recycle time, depending on if it were a lighter version of the weapon or not. Its color, when shot, was blue and is often slow moving. This weapon takes incredible skill to use when the target is moving to the left or right, or even jumping in the air.

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