Chapter 4 - Friends and Foes

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Technicians had been working on the Seraphim since it had been brought into the Cherub Bay. It was cleaned of the skin of debris it once wore, and now the elegant beauty of the machine was evident. It was a white-and-gold angel, armed and armored for war.

For the past few minutes, while armsmen ran back and forth looking for Eve, the technicians had been working on getting the cockpit open. They were clustered around the front of the machine with a haphazard collection of computer equipment. The Seraphim wasn't responding to any of the attempts to override the computer system, and there was nothing aboard the Ray Bradbury that could cut into a Seraphim.

Eve pulled her arm from the strange armsman's grip with a jerk as soon as they entered the Cherub Bay. Since they had already reached their destination he wasn't inclined to fight with her about it.

"There she is," said the senior Cherub-technician "Eve, how did you open the cockpit when you originally took control of the Seraphim? We can't seem to get inside."

"I'm not sure," said Eve, walking up to the group "I hadn't really thought that far ahead but when I approached it, it just sort of-"

Eve came within a few feet of the Seraphim, and the cockpit slid open with a hiss and a moan. The technicians jumped at the sound.

"-happened..." finished Eve.

"We can figure that part out later," said the senior technician "Eve, get inside. Gad, get everything prepped for launch. It'll be just like launching a Cherubim except we'll be pushing all the equipment well past the safety tolerances. Easy."

The technicians scattered, and except Gad who remained to fiddle with the computer equipment. Eve climbed into the Seraphim, and the cockpit sealed shut and adjusted itself to her presence.

It took only a few minutes of work but, with a series of groaning and snapping noises and a brief shower of sparks, the Cherub Bay spat the Seraphim unceremoniously out into space.

* * *

By the time Eve's Seraphim was launched both sides had scanned the other and knew what was about to go down. As soon as they were within range the rebel ship launched their own Seraphim.

Data points about the construct lit up on Eve's panoramic screen, but she ignored them. There was no doubt in her mind that the red, six-winged Seraphim with an unpainted silver shield arm was the same one she had fought earlier. It was the same Seraphim that had mercilessly cut down her unarmed friend. This was June's murderer.

A sound toned, and a little blinking light in Eve's peripheral vision indicated that someone without a valid friend code was attempting to open communications with her. The red Seraphim made no hostile movements.

"You're not getting off that easy," Eve said to herself.

Pushing down hard on the controls Eve sent her Seraphim shooting forward with a speed that was at once terrifying and enthralling. She activated her force sword and it snapped into existence with a silent crackle of energy. Eve aimed herself straight at the enemy like a shooting star.

At the last moment the red Seraphim moved to block Eve's attack. The force of it pushed the two Seraphim backwards the second Eve's sword clashed with her opponent's shield.

With a flap of it's many thruster-wings the red Seraphim shot up diagonally, trying to put as much distance between itself and Eve's Seraphim as possible. Eve reacted almost immediately, matching every subtle maneuver, and stayed in melee range. The red Seraphim parried three more sword swipes with desperate shield movements.

The light was still blinking, but Eve had nothing to say to the person who murdered her friend. If she saw their face there was a risk she would change her mind.

Eve kept up the pressure, bashing her enemy's Seraphim with her shield in an attempt to create an opening. The red Seraphim's pilot took this opportunity to shoot downward suddenly, finally getting out of range of Eve's sword.

As soon as Eve started trying to bring her Seraphim's mass drivers online, the controls reshaped themselves to help her. The red Seraphim was shooting away in a zigzag when the shoulder mounted mass drivers opened like eyes. Eve opened fire. Metal slugs accelerated to relativistic speeds, each able to hit with the force of an atom bomb, shot past her enemy.

Eve grunted. Apparently she wasn't a very good shot. She blasted off towards the enemy Seraphim, but it had put some real distance between them.

The red light was still blinking and Eve was doing everything she could not to notice.

The red Seraphim was just a little bit faster than Eve's. There was no way she would catch up unless the pilot made a serious mistake, and that was starting to seem unlikely. She was holding her head in her hand, trying to ignore the red blinking light when it came to her: the support ship.

Eve's Seraphim rocketed off towards the red Seraphim's mothership, and just as Eve predicted the red Seraphim came flying back to intercept. Eve changed direction in a huge arc and was able to take the red Seraphim by surprise.

Eve charged in, her sword gleaming, and cut off the enemy Seraphim's head. This would disable the primary sensor-eye but Eve knew full well this wouldn't end it as a threat.

The headless Seraphim spun to face Eve, such that it was able, and Eve slid her sword into the chest piece, mere centimeters from puncturing the cockpit and killing the pilot.

Any small movement, on the part of Eve's Seraphim or her opponents, could cause the enemy pilot's cockpit to depressurize. The two pilot sat motionless for a long moment, while the red light kept blinking.

Tearing up with rage, not sure if she was angry at herself or her opponent, Eve flipped the switch to open the communications channel with such force that she would have broken it had she been in her old Cherubim. The Seraphim's controls were unaffected.

An unfamiliar man wearing an imperial captain's jacket draped across his shoulders, almost a mockery of the uniform, appeared in a small corner of the screen.

"Please," he said "We don't want to fight. We're not your enemy."

Eve disagreed.

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