The engines of the big Union dropship howl and shudder as they make their final effort to slow the plunge to the surface. The normal activity of the mech bay seems to be slower than normal as all eyes watch the main doors. Anticipation for their opening is so high right now, every nerve is a-quivver.
I am so hyped up right now, I can’t even get into my mech to pilot her out.
I just can’t.
The anticipation has my hands restlessly tapping on anything inanimate near me. The railings, the work stations. My foot drums on the diamond plate beneath it. Since the last message from the Panda Underground about Operation Blind Sampson and the sudden destruction of their transmitter has had my nerves on edge ever since. Would I ever get to meet this Agent Angel? Who were those who fought long behind enemy lines, protected our friends and families left behind in the evacuation?
The muted thunder of the landing gear impacting on the ground and compressing is heard throughout the mighty ship and the shudder is replaced with the thumping and soft compression bounces of the gear taking up the massive load, and then the engines stop with a coda of settling metal.
Clouds of sound roll back from us all, and the pressure of its waves lift. Stillness fills the bay.
Everyone holds their breath waiting for the inevitable opening of the drop bay.
A klaxon blares and a new, smaller rumble begins, but it’s closer compared to the engines, and that makes it fill the world as the first wisps of sunlight shoot into the bay, growing quickly to slices and slabs of painful bright light.
That brilliant, warming sun!
That familiar, blessed star!
… how precious.
I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes, and my throat grow tight My home sun. I’m home. Home!
Thick moist air wafts into the drop bay as machinery that should be whirring to life stands idle. Everyone here is just as choked up as I am at its first scents. Thousands of memories burst forth in the minds of all here. A familiar mountain shows up as the large ramp drops further. It’s dark slopes painted by the mid morning sun far in the distance. Then the control tower for the spaceport comes into view, undamaged.
I start walking, unsteadily, like a sailor too long at sea reaches shore. Walking towards the slowly opening maw of the dropship. Someone, I think the new recruit, Tesunie, is actually walking up the angled ramp, fighting to see things for his own eyes first. He’s quickly joined by KursedVixen and Cicada1, as they now chatter excitedly, their joy unbound.
The smell of the air, no longer machined clean, but ripe, thick and filled with the life air can have only on a planet swaddles me in its essence. I too start to hurry to the ramp.
It wasn’t far.
No, it only seemed a long way away.
The tops of hangers now visible and the head of a very battered Banshee clumps past, off towards the repair yards. The foothills bathed in early spring blooms rush into view from the bluff the spaceport is located on.
The ramp is parallel to the ground and I begin standing on it as it rides down the rest of the way. The world in full view of Seraphim base. Oh the damage! The damage! We had fought so hard here. The scars were everywhere. Barracks and buildings leveled. The walls breached at points and the turrets, replaced with a hodgepodge of Davion, Marik and Liao surplus defensive emplacements, scavenged from all over the Davion front. A trio of large orbital guns, silenced by the final action of the Panda Underground’s hackers.
The sword and sun draped everywhere in paint and tarpaulin. Some of it partially torn down, others burned mostly away with flamers. ACES signs on the ground, with large mech footprints on them.
Sound begins to return as the ramp fully extends. Inside the dropship, some pilots, less caught up in the moment as I am are starting their mechs. I need to move. I need to get out of the way of the exiting mechs
I step off the ramp and onto Asuncion again for the first time in weeks. Weeks in which I thought this would never be home again.
It is some time later, that I discover I am on my hands and knees, weeping openly in joy and relief. The stress of the whole campaign and coming to accept the losses, now returned unexpectedly has rendered my mind a jumble. My composure in tatters.
As my head rises, I realize I am not alone here. My back feels the warmth of many hands, and I hear the sound of soft prayer from many mouths. There is not a dry eye among us as I look around for the first time really and truly aware of my surroundings. Virlutris is there. Selaa, Nabonz, Heavy Gun, Casaido, Dynamo Bolt, Joe Decker, WhiteLightShadow. Either they arrived and were waiting to greet us, or came off the dropship with me. Not sure what was wrong, but feeling the spirit of the moment overwhelmed me and offered the best support anyone can ask for.
As my eyes rise again, quietly mouthing praises to God, I see DTim and Alex Reed walking up, both looking haggard from what they have been through since coming home. Without a word, I’m helped as I struggle to my feet and come to attention.
“Well, ‘Dooner,” Colonel Reed smiles, “You sure don’t hold back your feelings about coming home, now do you?”
“No, sir,” I mumble. A warm hand squeezes my shoulder in support. Behind me I can feel the smiles and inward chuckles at the familiar greeting. The warmth of the esprit de corps and camaraderie is like a fire in my heart.
“It warms my heart to see all you Seraphim living up to the standard we set for ourselves.” His kind and tired eyes sweep over everyone here. His restrained joy held in his heart desiring to burst out to all. I know later it will come out in a very intimate and powerful display. Knowing him… knowing him. “You all made me real proud here.”
“I know it’s a lot to ask of you, but we need to set up for a march down to Asuncion City. Our public awaits to welcome us home.”
Slowly I raise a hand to my brow and salute. My voice cracking I respond, “Yes, sir. It will be a joy beyond measure.