0015 Hours, 18 January 2113
Order of Enoch Emergency Care Facility

Tyger had watched Jama leave the hospital where Carpenter was recovering. He had offered her a ride to wherever she wanted to go, but after she saw the condition of the Blue Steel Zero, she declined. Oh well. Her loss.

He thought for a moment about where to go himself and turned on his heel and instead of leaving the hospital, he went further back inside. He had something to take care of first.

0047 Hours, 18 January 2113
Order of Enoch Emergency Care Facility

It took some work, a lot of talking and searching, but eventually Tyger had found the doctor who had tried to keep him from visiting his friend. The man sat in a hallway, head bowed and his hands gripping an empty paper cup with only the sparest remnants of coffee.

Tyger made his way to the man and placed his hand on his shoulder. The doctor jumped, as if he had bee caught doing something he had not. His look of surprise changed to one of guarded scorn. Tyger only smiled, his other hand extended and dropped fresh cup of coffee into the empty one. "It's been a long couple of days. You look like you need this more than I do."

The doctor blinked a couple of times in confusion.

"Nate's been a friend of mine for well almost a year now. He an' I've been through a hell of a lot together."

"I see... " The doctor replied slowly.

"He was there for me more times'n I care to count when I needed it. Was no way I'd not be there for him when he's down an' out. That ain't how I treat my family nor my friends."

The doctor remained silent, though he sat up in his chair and adjusted the small spectacles that rested on the end of his nose, regarding the clade before him almost a little differently now.

"Look, I'm sorry for what I did doc. But I had to see my friend. Make sure he's doin' alright... an' nothing was gonna stop me. Y'can hate me for it if you want. Wouldn't blame you a bit. But I had to at least try an' set things right. I'll let you alone, I know you've got a lot more work ahead of you, an' I have a lot of stuff I need to take care of too." At that Tyger turned to leave. He did not get very far though, for as soon as he turned around, he felt the doctor grip his upper arm. Tyger looked to the man with a slightly raised brow.

"It is not often that I see one man feel so strongly about and show such devotion to another in brotherhood or friendship. Although I do not approve of your methods, I cannot fault your reasons. Go with God my Son, bring Order to this Chaos and protect those from the Darkness beyond."

Tyger gave a slight smile. Damn you both for being right. "Thanks doc. I'll do what I can." At that Tyger left the hospital.

0126 Hours, 18 January 2113
Rho Sector—Order of Enoch Outpost

The Blue Steel Zero made a cumbersome and clumsy landing near the makeshift hanger that the Order of Enoch had established. With slow, angry steps, the weary mecha made its way into the relative safety of the building. After shutting down, Tyger fell asleep.

1132 Hours, 18 January 2113
Rho Sector—Order of Enoch Repair Facility

"What do you mean we're all out of Fiber Optic Nano-Tubes? You had a whole shitload of 'em here before!"

"We did! Until you used it all up the last time you needed repairs!"

"Gah! And you didn't get more?"

"Hello!?! Invasion, War-Zone, We're all fucking criminals! Duh!"

1432 Hours, 18 January 2113
Rho Sector—Order of Enoch Repair Facility

"... Fine... Do we have any Carbonite Tubing left? Whole right arm needs to be redone, and I won't even talk about the left."

"No... "

"Let me guess, I used up the last of it last time I came through too, right?"

"Naw. You couldn't go through all that was here even if you tried. A group of Sentinel Watch came through and confiscated it."

"What? No Fuckin' way! When I get my hands on that fat fuck Hart, I am going to make him eat an entire crate of Carbonite Tubing!"

1906 Hours, 17 January 2113
Rho Sector—Order of Enoch Repair Facility

Skirkowski sighed and looked over at Tyger. "Can't do anything more. We just don't have the parts or tools we need here. We have to go somewhere else to get this done."

"Like where? 13th Precinct? If Sentinel Watch came by here and ripped the place off for supplies, you know that the Precinct's been completely gutted... or turned into one of their bases or somethin'"

"Then where would you suggest Mr. Hot-Shot Mecha Jock? How about XSWAT HQ?"

Tyger rolled his eyes. "Hello! Enemy of the State here! Major Criminal! What kind of idiot do you take me for anyway Sirkowski? I'm crazy, but I ain't stupid.

"Coulda' fooled me! Especially the way you fly!"

Tyger was on his feet and in Sirkowski's face before she even knew what happened. "You say that again!" he growled low.

"Relax you big fuzzball. I was serious about going to XSWAT HQ. Apparently Hart grew some brains or something. You guys are off the list. Disaster Coordinator Hemelshot pulled some strings and had XSWAT reinstated as well."

Tyger blinked a couple of times. "You gotta be bullshitting me Sirkowski. Dick managed to pull something off like that?"

"It's all over the news. I caught part of it when I went out to pick up dinner."

Tyger lifted a brow. "So lemme get this straight; while I'm sitting here up to my nose in mecha parts and he's off havin' delusions of grandeur? I've gotta bad feeling about this."

1036 Hours, 19 January 2113
XSWAT headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

"Alright, start'er up!"

The Blue Steel Zero's leg thrusters engage, but quickly begin to spin up well beyond normal operational speeds.

"Shut it off! Shut it OFF!"

Before Tyger can shut down the thrusters, they cough, sputter and die with huge pillars of billowing smoke pouring from them. Tyger looks out of the open cockpit to see the smoke. "Goddammit! What the fuck are you trying to do Sirkowski?"

"Me? Who was the idiot that left those rags near the intake vents?"

"I didn't do it! I've been up front the whole time!"

Tyger and Sirkowski: ". . . ." "Dammit Jones! Watch what you're doing!"

1206 Hours, 19 January 2113
XSWAT headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

"We need a new Quisinart, Sirkowski. This one's shot."

1328 Hours, 18 January 2113
XSWAT headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

"No you idiot! I said TINKLER Fluid, not blinker fluid! Gah! What kind of mechanic doesn't know what TINKLER Fluid is? Sirkowski! Gimmie a new assistant over here, I'm about ready to break this one! He don't know what TINKLER Fluid is!"

"What?" Sirkowski asked, barely audible over the noise from the activity in the bay. "Blinker Fluid? Tyger, we don't have time for stupid games!"

1447 Hours, 19 January 2113
XSWAT headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

"This Gyrostabilizer is going to need a new Flux Capacitor."

"Standard or Metric?"

". . . ."

1607 Hours, 19 January 2113
XSWAT headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

"Tyger, I told you that I needed three gallons of Torque INducing Kinetic Ligament EnhanceR Fluid for the joints almost three hours ago. What the hell have you been doing?"

Tyger slapped his face and drug his hand slowly downwards with a groan.

1931 Hours, 19 January 2113
XSWAT headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

"Hey, I found a Flux Capacitor, and it's standard too!"

"That's nice Jones. But we need one that's metric."

2115 Hours, 19 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters

"Goddammit Jones! I told you before! This one goes here! That one goes there! Get it right!"

0915 Hours, 20 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

Announcement over the Intercom: "Paging Master Sergeant Tyger. Master Sergeant Tyger, please report to The Disaster Coordinator immediately for assignment. Master Sergeant Tyger, please report to The Director of Metaphysical Activities immediately for assignment."

Tyger pretty much disregarded the announcement after the rank had been announced. He was just a Sergeant, and even that rank was usually pending his demotion to Corporal. Besides, he had been in XSWAT a long time, there was no such thing as 'Director of Metaphysical Activities' anyway. So he simply busied himself with some adjustments with the power relays.

"Hey, that's you!" Skirkowski said as she poked Tyger in his shoulder.

"Huh? What the hell are you talking about?" He said, elbow deep in Blue Steel Zero's internal workings.

"They called for you, you moron." She retorted with a grin.

"Yer on crack, Sirkowski. They called for a Master Sergeant. I ain't no Master-nuthin'" Tyger frowned. "Well... 'cept maybe a Master of Disaster." Tyger added with a chuckle.

Sirkowski rolled her eyes and turned away from Tyger. She returned a few minutes later and smacked the clade on the back of his head with some rolled up papers. "Why don't you get your head out of your ass and pay attention sometime?" Tyger turned and looked like he was about to hit his mechanic, until she held out the papers she hit him with. "Here. Read it."

Tyger took the small stack of papers and began to skim over them, grumbling under his breath the entire time. It wasn't long before he found out just what Sirkowski was talking about: Brogan and Carpenter got bumped up to Second Lieutenant, Yiska and Jama also got bumped up to the same rank, but they also got some niftiness thrown on. He got Master Sergeant.

At first, he could not help but be jealous, but then he realized that first, in many areas, especially in field operations, the word of a Master Sergeant was sometimes heavier than that of a Lieutenant. Second, Master Sergeants spent more time in the field and less time behind a desk. Tyger rolled his eyes. "Great. Just fuckin' great. I'm out of it for a little while and everybody gets delusions of grandeur. Oh well, at least I didn't get stuck with a bloody desk job... "

0945 Hours, 20 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters—Office of the Disaster Coordinator

"You want me to do what?"

"Take a spinner out with Brogan, get a look at and around Omega Sector come back and tell me what you've found."

"Aww shit. How close do you want us to get?"

"As close as possible. Go in if you can."

"You're crazy!"

"And outside of your armor, you are still one of the best pilot's I've got. If anyone can pull this off, it's you."

Tyger lights up a cigarette and takes a long drag. "You're a real bastard, you know that?"

Hemelshot grins. "That's why I'm in charge."

1138 Hours, 21 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

Blue Steel Zero begins to power up, slowly at first. Jet thrusters begin their warm up cycle, everything seems to be working as normal.


"Yeah. It's about time."

Almost as if on cue, the Blue Steel Zero begins losing power. The jet thrusters whine up to an abnormally high speed and then begin to power down, belching smoke."

Tyger scrambles over to the emergency shut off and cuts all power to the malfunctioning mecha. "Dammit! What happened now?"

Sirkowski peeks out after closing the hatch with a sigh. "Main power coupling's fried. Took the control mechanisms with it. We're going to have to gut it and start from scratch. What the hell do you think you were doing?"

Tyger looks over to Sirkowski, quite surprised. "They told me they fixed it! It's not my fault!"

Long pause from both as they stare at each other, then simultaneously scream: "JONES!!!!"

1439 Hours, 21 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

After many hours of hard labor, tinkering, maintenance and repairs, the jet thrusters and other major systems seem to be up and running and finally back online.

"Alright Sirkowski," Tyger began. "Let's try this again."

Sirkowski gave a nod and stepped back. Tyger engages the jet thrusters. They sputter and cough at first and just when they seem like that they will work, the entire system simply dies.

"That is IT!!!" Tyger growls, throwing a dirty rag to the floor with no lack of anger and frustration. "I have had it with these motherfucking thrusters on this motherfucking mecha!"

2250 Hours 21 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

After even more time, work and effort, the thrusters are finally operational. In addition to that, Tyger felt it would be a good time to install the retractable forearm vibro-blade onto the left arm. A simple task, considering that most of the left arm needed to be replaced anyway.

"That's the last of it. Alright Sarge, go ahead and give it a test run"

Tyger nods "Roger. Lets see what this thing can do... "

The left arm shifts and the blade springs into place after leaping out of its housing. A low resonating hum is heard as the electromagnetic field surrounding the blade engages. Both Tyger and Sirkowski grin. Tyger shuts the blade down and retracts it. There is a grinding sound and the blade gets about halfway into the housing before it suddenly reverses itself, and flies out of the housing and off of the arm. The wayward weapon system slams into a far wall, fortunately nobody is hurt and the weapon system itself is relatively undamaged.

Tiger thumps his head on the main console and groans. "Fuck... even in the future nothing works!"

1032 Hours 22 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

"Umm, Sergeant?"

"Ugh... what is it Jones?" Tyger grumbled from the opened and exposed back and shoulders of the Blue Steel Zero as he fumbled with trying to get yet another system online. Roger Jones was tolerable, for the most part. His major failing was his lack of experience in mecha repair. Unfortunately the lack of resources and manpower meant that Tyger and Sirkowski were lucky to even have someone in the first place.

"There's some people here to see you... " Jones continued tentatively.

"What? Who?"

"Some reporter and her crew I think... " Jones replied, rubbing the back of his neck.

"FUCK!" Tyger was out of the cubbyhole he had wedged himself into, off of the mecha and in Jones' face far faster than anybody could have anticipated. "What the fuck? Do you think I actually have time to listen and talk to some block-headed reporter? I mean, it's not as if I have a shit-load of time to get my baby up and running! An' I'm ass out of luck if the shit hits the fan! Now you go an' tell that goddammed reporter to go the fuck away or I'm gonna... "

"... Going to what?" A female voice asked, bearing a tone that stated that she was more accustomed to being heard than being ignored. Both Tyger and Jones turned towards the direction of the voice, finding a tall, attractive woman dressed in a casual suit that showed almost too much cleavage and a partially forced smile. Tagging along with her was a man with a rather bulky high-definition camera. "Hi, I'm Jenny Warren from MSPN, and I'd like to ask you a few questions."

Tyger's eye twitched. The Mecha Sports Programming Network. Just fucking great. I don't need this now. Well, that explains the outfit. Gotta please the fanboys after all. Tyger pulled his cigarette out of his mouth and gave an obviously forced smile. "Yeah, sure. No problem! I've got a copula minutes I can spare. Sure."

"Great!" Jenny smiled, a little more genuinely. Almost as if on cue, the camera turned on and shifted towards Tyger. "So, Tyger, rumor has it that you are ranked number ten in the Supreme 10. How does it feel to be the first and only clade to reach such an achievement?"

Tyger took a drag from his cigarette and rolled his eyes internally. This was going to be a long day...

0921 Hours 22 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

"WOW! Sho dish ish da Blue Schteel Shero! Ish everything I thought it would be! And more!"

Tyger groaned from the cockpit of his mecha, muttering a low string of curses under his breath. Due to the interview yesterday with MSPN, Tyger, Jones, and Sirkowski had to work a lot harder and later to make up for the lost time. Jones only made things more difficult due to his lack of experience, although he was learning quickly. That was something at least. Tyger worked a lot later than both Sirkowski and Jones, and ended up falling asleep inside of the cockpit at some late hour. He had no idea what was going outside, but something in the back of his mind told him it was not good.

"Yes, this is, in fact, far more than I had ever expected. To think that this is the actual Blue Steel Zero, the next step in the Blue Steel Project. Amazing."

Sounds like fanboys. Tyger then grumbled again as he tried to block out the sounds and go back to sleep. He really didn't need this. First MSPN and now drooling fanboys? How could it get any worse?

"I hope we get to meet the pilot! I heard he's dreamy."

Of course... Tyger peeked over the edge of the cockpit with narrowed eyes. Yeah, fangirls too. Perfect. Now how could it get any worse?

"Can I help you?" Jones inquired to the small group. He did not seem to be in the best of moods either, given that he had to work overtime too. Just as well, none of them really had a place to go anyway.

"Oh, yesh!" a pimply overweight teenager slurred. "We are looking for the pilot of dish fine mashine right here."

Jones lifted a brow and looked to the Blue Steel Zero. It had seen better days, but it was a lot better than when it had come in a few days ago. He shrugged his shoulders then. "Oh, alright. I'll go see if I can find him then."

Dammit! I'm really going to have to learn to stop saying shit like that! Tyger glowered silently from his hiding place. Damn you Jones...

1545 Hours 22 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

Tyger stood outside of the hanger, glowering at the still ruined skyline. They had lost more than half of a day due to Tyger's fandom. He tried to find the whole thing upsetting. Tried to find some reason to utterly hate it. But he couldn't. He found himself more upset by the fact that this attention caused him to lose half a day of work that needed to be done. It couldn't be helped now that he thought about it. He took a long drag from his cigarette and sighed. Changes were on the horizon. He could smell it. Whether this was good or bad, he had no way of knowing. "Either way, I'll be at the front of it, facin' it head on... kickin' ass an' takin' names." Tyger grinned at that. So what if what Jama had said at the hospital was true. So what if 9th was going to break up after the dust settled. They were still his family, and that is what mattered.

He remembered a simple phrase he had heard during some old, classic old-school movie, about a creepy little monster from space that was neither loved nor wanted. He thought about himself and where he came from. He thought about what Jama had said to him in the hospital, what Carpenter had tried to pound into his head for a long time. Even Hemelshot and Brogan got their digs in. He recalled that simple phrase from that old movie then: 'Ohana. Supposedly, from that old movie, it meant family.

"I've sailed the seven seas, been to the far reaches of this spinnin' ball of dirt. I went inta space an' even to Hell itself... but only Angelus has given me the one thing I've always wanted, an' never had... 'till now. Thanks. I'll make sure yer patched up good as new like my baby. I promise ya that."

1820 Hours 23 January 2113
XSWAT Headquarters—Vehicle Repair Hanger

The remainder of the repairs had gone smoothly from then on. For some reason, things seemed a lot clearer to Tyger then. He could not put his finger on it for certain, but it seemed to him that after yesterday evening, everything just seemed to fall into place. Not that he was complaining. Just twenty minutes ago, the Blue Steel Zero was up and running once more, looking as good as new.

There were differences of course. The stencils that he had placed on the hull were redrawn, but room was made for another one: a simple, more conventional shield—completely different than what Tyger had chosen for Hemelshot, with the letters "A C" upon it. He noted that he would have to find something more fitting later, but for the moment, that was sufficient to represent his mother.

Tyger felt the thrumming purr of the Blue Steel Zero underneath him. It felt good to be back in the cockpit, that was for certain. He looked to the photograph of his old crew, while he was a pirate. Another of 9th Squad taken at some point that he could not remember, but it was before Burton's death and well before Brogan signed on. That was corrected with a separate photograph and some tape, so that everyone was there. The last picture was of Marcy just after her graduation from XSWAT. He kissed his fingertips and placed them over the picture. "The sky's the limit baby. Ain't nothin' gonna stop me now."

With a sudden jerk, the Blue Steel Special powered from the landing area near the hangar and lifted into the sky, arcing upwards and onwards on pillars and wings of fire.