Chapter 2: Homecoming

In the pitch blackness of space, all was quiet in this deep uncharted area of cold emptiness, not even a single trace of sound traveled through the eerie calm of darkness. That is...until that silence was broken.

A brighting flash of light suddenly illuminated in the pitch black void. The chilly darkness hastily backing away from the brilliant light as if hissing and seething at the unforeseen intruder. Then, the brief flash of light dissipated, in its wake was something that completely surprised the surrounding darkness.

It's a ship.

The darkness could clearly see that the blocky vessel had been through hell and back. The grey and orange hull burnt and charred, the massive engines located near the back flickering pitifully to keep itself functioning with some amount of struggle. The warmth radiating from the ship was immense, no doubt caused by the blinding light and the energy that powered the entire metal monstrosity.

Around the unknown vessel, the blackness of space can only wonder what could have caused this alien phenomenon to happen. As quickly as it pondered, the surrounding darkness quickly prepared itself, for the fate in the neighboring world would suddenly shift at the arrival of these new players.

What do these people - these freedom fighters - have a part to play?

The entire bridge was in complete chaos.

The recovering crew from left to right began to reactivate their assigned station's terminals and detail out their designated reports, from the non-critical and dead to the efficiency of the ship's systems. Crew members putting out burning fires with small extinguishers while medics did their best to calm and sedate the critically injured. Bish and the engineering crew of the Allegiance work diligently to map out the status of the crippled Flagship. The lead Militia engineer couldn't help but visually grimace at the holographic data that was currently flowing in front of him on the console screen.

The condition of the Militia battleship was horrendous. Multiple layers of Titanium armor were seared off, evident by the many scarring and scorches that were clearly visible on the outermost hull, marking the many sections and hallways that were unfortunately located there inhabitable and venting atmosphere.

The Hull integrity decreased significantly, the amount of straining and groaning evident as the vessel struggled to keep itself together in one piece. Many of the weapon systems are offline or out of commission while some were intact and damaged but repairable. Half of the engines are shot and heavily damaged from the appalling amount of strain the Allegiance took during the emergency jump. Fortunately, this was something Bish and the engineering crew can easily repair.

The hangar doors for the Drop ships and Drop pods are unscathed, meaning orbital deployment of Spectres, Grunts, the Pilots and the Titans themselves in case of subsequential skirmishes were not compromised. Communication and Radar are out of the question but fortunately Life Support is still online and operational, much to the relief of the entire crew. Without it, they would've been fresh frames of dead carcasses by the time the Allegiance came out of its randomized Jump.

With the Bridge crew began to wrap up their detailed reports and tending the wounded and unconscious, James MacAllen stood out of all the rest, bruised and battered but not broken. He silently gazes out of the Bridge's slightly cracked command window, heavily lost in thought.

Despite the numerous amount of activity that was currently taking place behind him, MacAllen's attention was absently focused elsewhere, specifically the presence of a bright and lush Terran planet in front of the him and the entire Bridge. He even took note of the fact that the planet eerily parallels to that of Humanity's home-world before the time of the Industrialization - something that recently bothered him the fullest extent. Some of the crew even began to notice. Eyes began to widen with shock while some were too stunned to speak.

Finally, everyone in the Bridge stood where they were, some of them with their jaws dropping faster than lead while few took the moment to actually admire the beautiful planet, Sarah and Bish being the few of them. It was an unusual feeling for all them to have considering the fact that it was a foreign planet to the Militia. Even the Captain himself couldn't help but admire as well.

The Terran planet looked so...naturally fresh, it was overwhelmingly mind-blowing. Many of the human crew, Frontier or not, had seen the Earth in its original state when Humanity first started space-traveling all the way up to Luna. So witnessing the beautiful planet before them was an iconic memory to behold. MacAllen, shaken out of his dazed demeanor, began to speak slowly with slight apprehension.

"I don't think we are in Kansas anymore..." The Militia Captain deadpanned.

Sarah, snapping out of her admiration, began to scroll through the holographic display of data with a few swipes of her hands. But for each page that she rolls through, it keeps repeating and translating the same information over and over again. With each more swipe only adds more fuel to her confusion.

"That's bizarre, Third planet from the nearest star, orbited by one moon, data shows a good amount of Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon, and Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That's...that's." Sarah practically stuttered, her mind still assimilating that the fact that their "Home-world" was right in front of them.

"We're in the Sol system! That's Earth!" She exclaimed.

MacAllen's eyes widened in amazement while Bish performed an impressive spit-take with his brewed coffee in shock and excitement. The unfortunate deck officer who was the unintentional target yelped in surprise and disgust when he felt a torrent of coffee spray his face. Most of the perplexed crew shouted in shock or muttered furiously to one another, some were still comprehending the fact that they were at Earth, their former home. But something was definitely amiss. James looked closely, realization hit him like a swift kick from a Pilot. He figured out the problem.

The Earth was too clean.

Being this far to Earth should have brought complications for the Allegiance's crew. The Core Systems, including Earth, housed the largest and most powerful corporations in Human history. Successful military contracts, years of scientific research, and planetary business growth have led the mega-corporation, Hammond Engineering, to own the largest military corporation known to date: the IMC.

Bolstering with massive firepower and advance technology, they can go on par with any known military of Earth's nations and certainly any military in the Frontier. Currently the Militia's adversary, they dedicated their state of goal to extract any profitable and invaluable resources from the Frontier that can boost their economic growth. Even if it means to remove the forces that can potentially hinder their progress.

In other words, being close to a Core planet like Earth, The Allegiance was a far cry in enemy territory.

Or so they have originally thought.

A good minute or two passed away when James continued to examine the details of the planet and its surroundings.

There wasn't any orbital defense stations, no ship-yards, satellites, not even a piece of metal was to be sighted, which explained the aggravating white noise of static emanating from the Bridge's PA system. Under different circumstances, the battleship would have been instantly detected and pestered by the orbital security detail. Questions like their identities, cargo, allegiance, function, possibly everything they want to fill into the records would be asked, and that's the very thing the Allegiance and its crew wanted to avoid in both scenarios.

There wasn't a single bit of unlimited activity that would normally surround the typically active Earth. Ships like transports, cargo freighters, and Military cruisers would have come here and go from the planet and back, but the blackness of space was strangely void of any movement. Not even the audible sound of engines, save the Allegiance of course, was to be heard, making the vast of space eerily muted. The mere silence alone unnerved Sarah and some of the bridge-members.

The many details of the planet before him also brought MacAllen into a deep train of thought. The world itself slowly rotated, once again treating the awed crew with the sights of the large green continents and the broad bodies of water that heavily surrounded the masses of land. The northern and southern ice caps covered the top and bottom of the equator while the growing delicate clouds swirled over the unsoiled continents. The Earth, at the least the one MacAllen and many of the crew were used to, is a definite far cry from the one they are witnessing right now. Humanity's home world being covered in webs of glistening lights and colossal cities show the obvious difference between the two, if not, same worlds.

From all over the damaged Battleship, the fatigued crew of Pilots, Grunts, Engineers, even Frontier civilians looked out the windows of the massive hallways and bedrooms. They can only gape in curiosity and ponder the one question undoubtedly many of them would be thinking at this moment: Where the hell are they?

Rumors began to sprout from all over the vessel like a wildfire. Some like time traveling into the past, jumping far as into a new galaxy or something completely irrational, but all of them had the same effect as to put many of the crew on complete edge.

MacAllen then snapped back to the land of the living and seconds later began to take on the role of Captain once again.

"Bish, How long till repairs are complete?" MacAllen asked. The fatigued Captain felt like he already knew the answer.

If the Militia is going to be stuck in the middle of uncharted space with a new replica of Earth in front of them, then they'll have to be professional about it in the meantime.

The Intel Specialist reluctantly scrolled through a page of data. His face contorted with a look of slight despair, and gave out a heavy sigh.

"With the tremendous amounts of damage the Allegiance took and the limited resources we currently have right now, it will take a while for her to get back up to full strength; hell Mac it'll be a miracle if we've made it pass the moon with half our engines still operational." Bish explained.

Many of the crew-members who were nearby had heard Bish and lowered their heads in grief. The ship and it's crew won't be returning to the Frontier anytime soon. They were effectively stranded in the middle of nowhere, with limited resources and nonexistent backup. For how long it will remain this way is a mystery to all of them. However, MacAllen wasn't willingly to share their sentiment. Definitely not in this type of situation.

"We'll have to make do with what we have Bish, sooner the better." James said reassuringly, gently patting the tired engineer on the back. Bish nodded his thanks, continuing to work on the damage assessments.

He then turned to Sarah, who was attentively staring at him in silence.

"Sarah, I want you to survey a potential landing site with drones, just to be sure it is safe once we jump to the surface." MacAllen ordered while he pointed at Earth's unofficial twin.

The Commander bewilderedly arced an eyebrow, with a few others looking back from their stations in similar confusion.

"Expecting trouble Captain?" Sarah asked, albeit with a touch of nervousness in her tone.

MacAllen briefly gave her a look of amusement from that statement. But quickly at the same time it appeared, it disappeared when he fully turned towards her.

"I understand your concerns Sarah but it's a risk we're going to have to take. If I trust my instincts, then the IMC will most likely track our trajectory and follow us here."

He then slightly turned towards the black vastness of space that took up the command window.

"And probably to finish off what they've started..." MacAllen whispered distantly.

"The IMC? How?" MacAllen heard one of the deck officers exclaim. He couldn't help but let out a small smile.

"The IMC hold the tendency of following stray Militia ships and they show no mercy, I know this for a fact." He felt his jaw clench tightly.

"But we're not like any other Militia." James states, raising his voice. Many of the crew perked up from their stations.

"We're the Marauder Corps, and we sure as hell won't the IMC or any unknown planets get the better of us." A fist was raised up into the air.

"Am I right!" He continues with an unexpected amount of energy.

A chorus of 'Yes Sir!' was heard from the bridge crew as some pumped their fists in the air while most nodded their heads in agreement. Sarah also nods in acknowledgement and proceeded to begin surveillance. Bish and the Engineering corps began to start the Jump Core and the remaining engines for the emergency transition to the surface. The remaining Bridge crew resumed back to their individual tasks with a new sense of purpose. MacAllen smiled at the sudden change of atmosphere. He turns to the central command terminal.

"Elsa" He said. A hologram of a beautiful woman materializes. The avatar appeared to be in her early 20's, with platinum blonde hair braided over her shoulder, pale complexion, and adorned a rather exotic snowy dress that seems to blend in with her slender and frail physique.

"Your orders Captain?" Elsa asks prudently. MacAllen nods and a hologram of 'Earth' pops up beside the Militia A.I.

"I want you to initiate a planetary scan of Earth, just want to know what else this world has in store for us." MacAllen explained, the hologram of the planet dotting with arrows with each point of his finger. Elsa raises a holographic eyebrow at the planet's choice of name but nods and respectfully gives the officer a courteous bow with her crystal blue dress. It was never wise to question the Captain, A.I or otherwise.

"On it Sir," With that said, the A.I has a very unique way of disappearing and literally melts back in the terminal like snow on a hot summer day. James gives out a weary sigh while turning towards the Bridge's command window, inspecting the seemingly untouched planet below.

"In the meantime..." James murmured distantly.

Winston's point of view



I screamed out in terror at the top of my lungs as the boisterous screech deafened my left ear. I jerked awake, flailing my arms wildly in alertness and in the process toppled off my bed. My back hit the hard steel floor with a strong 'Thump!'.

I listlessly pulled myself up and plugged my index finger to my ear canal, twisting it to ease the screeching ringing in my ear drums. With my good right ear, I heard laughter emanating not far from me. I robotically turned my head to catch the culprit.

Vincent, in his Pilot armor, held an air horn in his left hand while he clutched his stomach with his free hand, bending over and laughing that can rival up to a stoned hyena. I scowled irritably while one of my eyes twitched, the prankster ceased his laughter while looking at me with tears in his eyes and a huge grin on his face.

Giving my cousin a very irate glare, one action registered in my mind: I flipped him off, with both fingers erected right into his face.

He resumed his laughter, but much louder this time. I could only roll my eyes at Vincent's antics but, to be honest, I've enjoyed them. It takes my mind away from the stress that come from the recent battles.

"Ha..Ha..Ha..." I murmured sarcastically, but loud enough for my cousin to hear, who slowly started to calm down. We were caught up in our little episode that we didn't notice a third person arriving silently, relaxing her shoulder on the doorframe of our room. The person's lips curled into a small smile at the scene in front of her.

"Enjoyed your nap sleepy head?" A new voice interrupted.

I turned towards the owner of the voice, with the now calmed Vincent performing the same action, but with a small rosy blush on his cheeks.

The owner-in-question was Diana Do: Vincent's long-time crush and my closest friend that I share a sisterly bond with during our time in the Frontier Militia.

Born from the refinery world of Victor, Diana was formerly the daughter of the wealthiest couple on the planet. When the IMC arrived, her parents did not take too kindly to the companies' affairs on their world and openly opposed the offending enterprise, only to be met with adverse results.

At the age of ten, little Diana was helpless to intervene, witnessing her loving parents forcibly taken away by IMC officials. They were never to be seen again. Her family was stripped of their wealth and financial power while Diana moved to Angel City on Harmony be raised by her aunt soon after.

Eight years later, she would first meet with me and Winston during a grocery errand. My cousin literally fell in love at first sight for the beautiful eighteen year old. It was a memory that I wouldn't stop teasing Vincent about, even up 'till this day.

That day was when all three of us shared a common goal: to shove a firm boot up the IMC's collective asses. With that state of mind set, the three of us joined the Militia months later, where we fought as comrades on numerous grounds against the IMC for many years; from the first battles of the raging Titan War to the Battle of the Odyssey - it was never the same for any of us again.

In terms of appearance, she's the absolute definition of beauty. Silverly platinum hair that loosely hanged down to her shoulder in curly locks, her face sculpted to a face of an angel, which seemed to complement her kind and gentle nature. The olive Pilot suit she wore showed all the smooth curves of her slender and delicate figure, while her creamy skin and bronze colored eyes gleamed in the overhead lights of the bedroom. She was easily the most beautiful woman in the female population of the Allegiance.

It was no mystery to why most of the male crew, including Vincent, were so interested to her. Even I had to admit that she was attractive, although in an intimate way that only a brother could provide.

She was the dream girl of every guy's imagination. Her angelic appearance and kind-hearted nature can woe a man into submission. However, the latter was - in some cases - a double edged sword. While she continued her career as a pilot in the Militia, she was somewhat dense to the sentimental affections Vincent gave her and the many others that followed through in the past. That was until now at least. Fate, fortunately, decided to bless my cousin with some good luck.

Prior to my escape during the raid at the IMC outpost, Vincent was detonating heads with his Kraber-AP Sniper when he spotted an oblivious Diana in the path of a rampaging IMC Ogre Titan, ready to squash her like a small insect.

With a speed that can match up to a cheetah on steroids, Vincent tackled Diana out of the way and narrowly saved her from being another bloody smear on the ground. The massive Titan that nearly crushed her was doomed to smithereens by many Anti-Titan and other Titan weaponry soon afterwords.

Ever since then, they've been closer friends than ever, much to my relief and satisfaction when he recalled the incident to me during our trip in the drop ship. At least he won't complain like a whiny bitch about his crush's obliviousness in the near future.

Coincidentally, the situation actually improved. I couldn't help but inwardly smile at the irony by Vincent's own blind eye. Unbeknownst to him, Diana secretly revealed to me about her feelings for my cousin steadily growing when we were back onboard the Allegiance. I could almost picture shipping the two close friends in a relationship.

Diana leaned on the doorway, both arms behind her back with an amused smile on her face. I narrowed my eyes and couldn't help but let out a small ghost of a grin. From the corner of my eyes, I could faintly see a small blush form on her cheeks when she spared a glance in Vincent's direction. Yep, I could definitely feel it happening now.

"I did, until this jackass over here-" I gestured my left thumb at my cousin, who sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. "-woke me up."

The platinum haired pilot raised a perplexed eyebrow. Then, she noticed the air horn in Vincent's possession and covered her mouth, letting out a small yet adorable giggle. I could feel my cousin's spine shivering in delight. I briefly shot a glance toward him, and his blush increased into a brighter shade of red.

Before I could make a snarky remark regarding it, I momentarily saw a shadow quickly loom over me.

My mind pretty much failed to register anything else beyond that.

My mouth involuntarily let out a surprised yelp as a river of icy water came down pouring down on me, from my head down to my bare feet. My eyes opened in wide alert and quickly rotated my head to, my shock and astonishment, find Diana holding a debatably massive bucket, still dripping small amounts of freezing water. At this point, she was nearly cracking a rib to hold back a mirthful chuckle. Letting out an exasperated groan, I puffed out the now damp hair from my face.

"Did April Fools come early this year?" I mockingly retorted, standing up to dry myself and recover from the sudden pranks inflicted on me. This prompted Vincent to repeat his actions earlier ago with Diana following suit, albeit at a higher and hysterical volume than the last. Seconds later, I soon joined the laughter in delight, all three of us experiencing a subtle moment of peace and contentment. It was nice to share a laugh or two, not as Pilots, but as a loyal and caring family. The bond we shared was the very reason why Diana changed her surname to Do, after all.

"So Cous', why did you wake me up in the first place, and with an air horn of all things?" I asked while stretching my sore body, the bones in my upper back popping and cracking in the process.

Vincent nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders and stared at me with a look of uncertainty.

"Not sure, Captain wanted us to prep up for a reconnaissance mission, said something like scouting for a landing site so the Allegiance can repair or some shit like that."

He looks at the air horn in his hand.

"-and with the air horn, I found it too funny of an opportunity to pass up." He finished with a small chuckle. I nodded in understanding, scoffing at that last statement. I inquisitively peered at Diana.

"Seriously Diana, Water? Did you and Vincent plan this?" I asked incredulously. Diana's cheeks flush with embarrassment while she hastily shook her head.

"No, I was going to wake you up with the water. Guess Vincent beat me to it." She twirled her fingers together, a nervous tick she hasn't got over yet. I shot a glimpse at my cousin, who gave a timid smile in return.

"Ladies first Vincent, Remember?" A sly grin grew on my face. My cousin gave an amused smirk at my reminder of the gentlemen's universal rule. He crossed his arms over his chest in mock indignation.

"I'll make sure to keep that in mind dear cousin." He responded dryly, compelling me and Diana to produce another round of chuckles. A sudden chill of realization passed through my mind; My mind was suddenly aware of something.

We're getting sidetracked.

I casually stride over to my locker, seizing my dry clothes and Pilot Armor, idly draping them over my forearm.

"I'm gonna hit the showers, thanks to you two Class Clowns screwing up my beauty sleep. I'll be back in a few minutes." I heard snickering behind me and rolled my eyes, closing the steel door behind me with a single pull.

Vincent chuckled when Winston closed the door behind him and proceeded to sit on the vacant bed, tossing the air horn carelessly aside. Giving out a heavy sigh, he looked down at the metal flooring, absent in thought. He was distracted enough to not notice the bed that he's currently resided on groaned and lower under a second set of weight.

"Are you okay Vincent?" She placed a hand softly on his left shoulder while she sat down next to her beloved friend.

Her actions snapped Vincent out of his pondering, and rotated his head to see Diana watching him with worry and concern. He smiled gratefully, gently prying his crush's hand off his shoulder, a gesture that causes Diana's heart to beat faster when his warm hands come into contact with hers.

"I'm fine Diana, just...thinking about something." Vincent responded quietly and gazed back down. His hesitation did not go unnoticed by Diana. She pouted slightly and tilted her head in speculation. It took her five seconds to figure two and two together.

"It's Winston isn't it?" She theorized. Vincent hesitantly peered at Diana before nodding, confirming her suspicions.

"Yeah, it is. These past months of battles stressed Winston a lot, to the point where he's not even himself anymore." He took the airhorn, tossing it up and down thoughtlessly.

"Guess it gave me a good enough reason to constantly prank him from time to time." Vincent explained. He began to chuckle a bit as he remembered Winston's combination of both annoyance and appreciation when he pulled a multitude of gags behind his cousin's back, most of them when he was asleep. Diana smiled while nodding in understanding. She glanced at the bathroom's door, remembering the pranks at Winston's expense.

"I guess we're two people with the same mind, huh?" Diana joked mildly, recollecting to the water bucket incident that took place minutes earlier. Vincent couldn't help but let out a rather loud cackle at that statement and amusingly glanced at her.

"Guess so." Vincent mused. He gave Diana a genuine smile, with the latter mutually provided. Moments later, Vincent resumed back to heavy thinking, leaving Diana to her thoughts as well. An awkward silence continued, palpable in the air that not even the running shower next door was heard next door. The soothing hum of the ship's engines buzzed throughout the room.

"Do you think this is all worth it?" Vincent suddenly interjected. Caught off guard by the sudden question, Diana jerked, nearly lost her composure through shock and surprise. She quickly hid it with her beautifully serene demeanor when she turned to Vincent inquisitively.

"What do you mean?" She asked curiously. Her friend turned to her, but looked at her more seriously than the merry aura he wore moments ago. Something was definitely wrong.

"Do you think this is all worth it?" Vincent repeated sternly, startling Diana at the sudden change of mood. She can tell it was more of a statement than a question.

"The battles, the destruction, the killing we had to commit!" He yelled, raising his voice. Diana widened her eye's at Vincent's dark declaration.

"Many of the IMC soldiers and Pilots we killed probably had family and loved ones back home, and we robbed them of their happiness, so I ask again! Is this all worth it?! Is spilling innocent blood gonna bring us freedom!? The right thing to do!?" Vincent all but shouted, causing Diana to involuntarily flinch and back away slightly from the outburst. She didn't think that he would snap at her so suddenly. It made her insides churn with fear and dismay.

The agitated Vincent felt the sudden need to punch the nearest titanium wall, even if the strong metal could break the bones in his fingers. He just needed to vent his anger on something.

He looked at Diana with a small scowl. Suddenly, all the frustration and anger he felt vanished into thin air when he saw his crush's hurt and saddened expression. The tears that began to form were easily evident in her eyes. Instantly, his gaze softened with guilt, and was quick to apologize.

"Diana, I'm so sorry-" He stopped when Diana interrupted him by placing her index finger on his lips, giving him a forgiving smile.

"It's ok Vincent, I forgive you; we all get stressed." She reassured, wiping away the unshed tears. She looked down to the floor.

"Like you, I regret the moment when I have to willingly take a person's life with just a pull of a trigger. It is an uneasy task, a bitter pill for me to swallow, I know." She murmured, stunning Vincent.

"But you know the saying, it's kill or be killed; this is war Vincent. Every kill and sacrifice we make burdens us deeply, but the choices we make brings us closer our goal. Slowly but surely, we create a brighter future for all of us." Diana looked back at Vincent straight in the eyes.

"Freedom" She said softly. For reasons unknown, the determined look in her eyes sent Vincent's body to the continent of Antarctica and back. The silence allowed Diana to continue her speech.

"Freedom for all of us. You, me, Winston, the twins, the Militia and the Frontier. We won't let the IMC take that away that valuable part of ourselves and will fight until we remind them that the Frontier is our home." She pleaded, placing her hand over Vincent's.

"We fight for a cherished independence, while through sweat and blood we will keep fighting back until we are recognized as a force to be reckoned with and strive for-" Diana slowly cupped the side of her friend's cheek with her other hand, surprising the male Pilot.

"-A better future for you, me and Winston, A better future..." She withdrew both her hands and took a deep breath, leaving a flabbergasted Vincent to absorb her words. To say that Vincent was rather stunned by his crush's choice of words, scratch that, astonished would be a massive understatement. However, He could not lie that her speech did leave a valuable point.

Wars cannot be won by themselves alone. There is always a bullet through someone's brain in order to be bring victory to one's side, whether it be friend or foe, always a sense of action involved. Wars can never be avoided; it's all part of Human nature. There can never be peace without war. Were it so easy.

Vincent mentally scoffed at the thought.

"You sure know how to make inspirational speeches, do you?" He smirked.

While Vincent was captivated by Diana's natural good looks, he and Winston also held her in high regards for the genuine and overall strong-willed personality that they've both grown to respect.

With the loving attachments that all three friends shared during the years of the Titan War, the two males know that hidden under Diana's usual soft and gentle demeanor was a strong sense of justice and integrity, born from the ashes of her former life that she bitterly wanted to forget.

Her vivid hatred for the IMC, the people who forcefully took away her feeling of peace within her past family, was just as resolute. She has no qualms about fighting or outright killing her enemy with any doubt or hesitation. It was both respectable and frightening at the same time.

Diana blushed at the compliment and internally sighed in relief when she saw Vincent's smile directed at her.

"That's what friends are for Vincent, you know that." She responded warmly. Without warning, she began to slowly lean towards the male pilot.

Before Vincent could say anything, he felt Diana's soft lips suddenly make contact, and she gave a short but delicate peck on his cheek. His eyes immediately widened like dinner plates. Vincent couldn't comprehend the sheer amount of surprise and warmth that threatened to flood his body like an overwhelming tsunami. He felt his entire body slowly shutting down, the only thing he can hear was the heart inside his chest beginning to beat faster than normal.

She kissed me.

Those were the only words that flowed continuously through his brain like a broken record, only the feeling of her soft lips within his mind's landscape.

When Diana pulled back, she didn't realize that her surprise kiss had a tremendous effect. She looked on with an odd look when Vincent stared back at her with a blank face, gaping like a fish without oxygen. The female pilot didn't even notice the rising blush that heated his cheeks as he moved his lips without any sound emanating from his vocal cords. They shut down from his shocked state too. The ludicrous sight only served to amuse Diana even further.

Before poor Vincent got the chance to even speak a coherent answer, they both heard the titanium door of the shower room open. The two turned to see Winston standing in the doorway, blinking in bewilderment. He was cleaned up, geared in his olive and orange Pilot uniform with his helmet tuckered under his right arm. His confusion slowly gave way into amusement once he realized that his two closest friends were in close proximity.

'Oh this is going to be good.'

He cleared his throat playfully.

"So, what did I miss guys?" The innocent smile on his face was comparable to the Cheshire Cat.

The two friends only stared in surprise at Winston, his teasing remark and cheerful mood contradicting Vincent's earlier claims. The pair looked at each other, then they gave a shrug. Well, they could honestly care less. It was nice to have him back to his normal self.

"Nothing" They replied in sync, with the close pair giving a sheepish smile to Winston. He returned in kind with a warm one of his own. Unfortunately, their moment of contentment was interrupted when the COM system of the Allegiance blared to life, with an all too familiar sound of Elsa's feminine voice filling their ears.

"Would Staff Sergeant Winston Do, Corporals Vincent Do, Diana Do, and Lance Corporals Nicholas and Matthew Do, report to the bridge immediately. Would Staff Ser-"

The Pilot's previous expressions turned serious, glancing and nodding to each other with a sense of duty.

It's showtime.

To be continued...