Scarlet Duelist of the Spacelanes
In the early twenty-second century, WDF starfighter pilot Benjamin "Gryphon" Hutchins and some of his comrades co-invented a remarkably dangerous and exhilarating sport. This sport involved getting hold of the hottest, fastest, most maneuverable, sturdiest, most heavily armed small ship you could find (usually a heavy starfighter), slamming on the loudest rock, jazz or funk music you could handle, and racing through the Zeta Cygni asteroid field, a Class A-1-A hazard to navigation just inside the orbit of Zeta Cygni II (Planitia).
In this unusually dense field of space rocks, which ranged from gravel-size to roughly battleship-size and crowded together in precisely the manner that hard science types tell us asteroids do not, Golden Age Wedge Defense Force small-craft pilots were trained and tested in the fine art of hazard-avoidance navigation. Particularly sadistic instructors were known to seed the area with mines, either of the exploding variety or, more commonly, the cannon-platform variety, and then make the students sweep it.
Gryphon, WDF Supreme Commander MegaZone, and 3WA Trouble Consultants Kei Morgan and Yuri Daniels took this standard training exercise, made it harder and more dangerous, and then turned it into a race, a timed course with pylons, required maneuvers, and elapsed-time bonuses for accurate gunnery. As their careers went on, they refined the sport whenever they were back in the Zeta Cygni system, adapting equipment to suit, adding more and harder bonuses (for picking up objects, for example) and power-ups (special modules which, if captured, could be jacked into a racer's computer system to enable a new weapon or defensive system).
As the "rules" of the game evolved, the participants were grouped by spacecraft type into Stock Fixed-Configuration, Stock Veritech, Modified Fixed, Modified Veritech, and the Unlimited Class, where pretty much anything was allowed equipment-wise. Aside from the classes, the only real rule was that racers were not to fire their weapons at each other or attempt to make each other crash. Other than that, it was a no-holds-barred free-for-all of speed, naked aggression, and rock-blasting - almost as exciting as actual combat, and almost as dangerous, too.
In those good old days, as one of the WDF's top thrusterbusters, Gryphon raced in all the classes: Stock Veritech in his VF-1FS Hyper Valkyrie, Stock Fixed in an ExoSal Rapier II, Modified Veritech in a tuned and tweaked VF/A-4 Alpha Legios, Modified Fixed in a chopped-and-rodded Koensayr BTL-A4, and Unlimited in a super-fast little scarlet dart of his own design he called Swordfish.
The Swordfish first flew in 2160. She was composed of a single Rolls-Royce AF-14C fusion turbine (the same engine that powered the venerable VF-1 Valkyrie Veritech fighter), a pair of WDF Armory FPG-19 fusion pulse lasers (also standard Valkyrie equipment), a GX-19 particle projector cannon pod, and not much else. Fast, maneuverable, but somewhat underarmed, Swordfish nevertheless did well, contending for the Unlimited Class title every year for the first ten and winning it seven times.
In 2171, during the final race of the season, Gryphon and the Swordfish had an unfortunate altercation with a course hazard which nearly punched both their tickets for good. The scarlet ship was trashed and her owner spent a week in sick bay (a not-inconsiderable time for a regenerative Detian). Speculation began to run wild throughout the asteroid racing community as to what Gryphon would field to replace the Swordfish in 2172, or if he would give up the Unlimited Class after his brush with annihilation.
In 2172, he surprised everyone by returning to the field with a rebuilt Swordfish, recognizable but different. He kept tight-lipped about this new ship's capabilities, preferring to wait and let people discover exactly what she could do in her first race. And find out they did; Gryphon and the Swordfish II dominated the Unlimited Class that year, and several years thereafter. Even when the competition, through constant upgrading, started getting competitive again, the Red Comet held her own.
When Gryphon retired from the Unlimited Class in 2201, Swordfish II went into storage with 17 UC titles. The Smithsonian Institution inquired as to the possibility of displaying the ship, but was politely informed that its owner wanted to hang onto her for a while, just in case. As luck would have it, the Exile intervened, and the ship remained in storage for over two centuries.
In the summer of 2405, Utena Tenjou, who happened to be a close friend of several of Gryphon's children and an IPO Space Force reserve captain (and of whom Gryphon was rather fond himself), passed the examinations for her Republic of Zeta Cygni starship master's certificate. Gryphon and Corwin Ravenhair, his eldest son, put their heads together and decided to present her with a ship to be master of for her upcoming sixteenth birthday; so they hauled Swordfish II out of storage and set about refurbishing the long-neglected racer for service as a personal transport with teeth. They installed a hyperspace motivator, revamped the weapons load, added redundancy to the life support systems, and generally kitted the ship out to be useful for something other than ten-minute asteroid races - using the best of modern technology to do so without detracting from her racing capabilities in the process.
The new, improved Swordfish II made her debut on December 27, 2405, and promptly scored her first victory in two hundred four years with her new master at the controls, beating out a borrowed WDF YF-11 Thunderbolt III Veritech fighter prototype. She now serves as Captain Tenjou's personal transport.
NAME/MODEL#: Swordfish II, Model 2405 DESIGNER/MANUFACTURER: Hutchins/Ravenhair COMBAT DESIGNATION: Unlimited Class asteroid racer CREW: 1 POWER SYSTEM: ExoSalusia FR.3a power converter and fusion reactor PROPULSION SYSTEM: Rolls-Royce AF-15C axial fusion turbine (rated at 1200 KTU) SPEED RATING: 200 MGLT FLIGHT CONTROL SYSTEM: Torplex Rq8.Y flight control avionics package MANEUVERABILITY RATING: 120 DPF NAVIGATION: GENOM N-s6 Navcon computer system FTL: GENOM ND9 hyperspace motivator unit (hyperdrive) HYPERDRIVE RATING: 0.5 WEAPONS: Four GENOM L-s9.3 blaster cannons (single fire or fire-linked) One WDF Armory M3C Devastator-class heavy plasma cannon SHIELDS/ARMOR: Forward/Rear Projecting WDF Armory shields (rated at 110 SBD) Composite reinforced titanium hull (rated at 30 RU)