Wing Commander Rising Daystorm

Wing Commander Rising Daystorm

A Story by Pwest
"

Please forgive any errors that are in the story. This has been a personal project made for fan's of the game and in general. I own or have no rights to Wing Commander. E.A sports owns all rights.

"

                                                 

 

                                                      Rising       DayStorm.                                                                    

 

          

                        



   INDEX ( Ruling Clans of the Kilrathi Empire. )

Nar Kiranka : The ruling clan of the Kilrathi empire long before the start of the Kilrathi- Terran war. Nar Kiranka was the first clan to develop space travel.

Nar Caxki : Warrior clan noted for the brutal and tenacious attacks on human war and medical ships along the front lines. Primary control of front line worlds. 

Nar Issk: Also a warrior clan but more logical and analytical in the attacks on human warships and space stations. The have constant disputes with Nar Ragitagha.

Nar Ragitagha: Largest and possible the most egotistical of all the ruling clan’s in the Kilrathi Empire. They own most space stations, colonies, and warships within the empire. 

Nar Ki’Ra: Noblest and highly respected, experts of espionage and warfare tactics, though owns the least territory within the empire.  

Nar Sikhag: One of the lowest and least respected of the clans. Their lack of knowledge of warfare regulated them to an inner world police force at the servitude to the more powerful clans. They were disdained by many.                     

Kilra'hra : Lowborn Kilrathi non-nobles given light fighters and low ranking in the Kilrathi armies with  low stations until proven. Upon advancing Kilra'hra advance to Ailra'hra or ace status and given their choice of fighters and commander over a flight group or become a Kilrathi Vanguard with possible command over a platoon.

Thrak'hra : Of  noble bloodlines who are ace fighter pilots of their perspective clans. 

 

           Kilrathi TERRAN RANKING SYSTEM.



FOURTH CLAW

CREWMAN

 MARINE RANKS

Kilrathi MARINE

THIRD CLAW

SENIOR CREWMAN

PRIVATE

LEAST RAZOR

SECOND CLAW

PETTY OFFICER

PRIVATE 1ST CLASS

THIRD RAZOR

FIRST CLAW

CHIEF PETTY OFFICER

LANCE CORPORAL

SECOND RAZOR

FOURTH FANG

2ND LIEUTENANT

CORPORAL

FIRST RAZOR

THIRD FANG

1ST LIEUTENANT

SERGEANT

BLOOD RAKE

SECOND FANG

CAPTAIN

STAFF SERGEANT

FANG RAKE

FIRST FANG

MAJOR

GUNNERY SERGEANT

HUNTER RAKE

SHINTAHR

COMMANDER

MASTER SERGEANT

       RAKE RAZOR

KAL SHINTAHR

COLONEL

    

KALYAN

BRIGADIER

 

SPACE MARSHAL

KHANTAR

MAJOR GENERAL

KAL KHANTAHR

LIEUTENANT GENERAL 

KALRALAHR

ADMIRAL

 

           *          *          *          *          *                                                             

The orbital construction yard drifted high in the Earth's atmosphere. As the sun's life giving rays broke the planet’s zenith, they revealed a beehive of activity. Hundreds of multi-armed weld bots scurried all over the framework of Confed’s newest carrier, systematically searching out weak points. Intense white and blue arc flashes flared all over, simulating a small space battle. Earth's major space port and C.H.C (Confederation High Command) headquarters orbited close by the dockyard, which was the hub of incoming construction freighters and cargo containers. Since the carriers approval both dock yard and Earth's space port had become a current of activity. Communication traffic was at an all-time high as inbound transports request docking clearance that was  disappearing posthaste. All knew with growing annoyance that this would be the first of many problems. But little could be done to avert the looming traffic jams that would soon have many commercial and independent freighter captains on edge with frustration. If things became too bad, it would begin to affect the completion and online operation date. Delays and setbacks were something the admiralty wouldn't tolerate given the hurdles it had to overcome with the project managers and construction supervisors over the carrier. With the war raging across the front line sector of Confederation space and the blood lusting Kilrathi making gains on all fronts a frantic rush was what they wanted. The brass had set an initial date of four years for the carrier's operational readiness. Project managers had instantly scoffed at such a deadline at once, claiming something this complex and massive would need six to seven years and that was pushing it. The top brass argued that the cats wouldn't give us seven years and that they'd better find a way to get it done. It wasn't long before egos and tempers from both parties had soared to highs far above that of Mt. Everest and threatened to reach far into unexplored space. Arguments soon broke out deadlocking the project before frame had been bolted. The deadlock became so bad that Confederation High Command was forced to step in and quell the dispute. As ego's were soothed and tempers returned to Earth's precious atmosphere a grudging agreement was reached with a completion date of five years. Though the management team wouldn't guarantee all systems would be up and running. Confed brass wanted to push the envelope again, but with C.H.C looming in the shadows they knew better. For many in Sol system it was the beginning of many sleepless nights.   

 

           *          *          *

New Liberty Station (Sol System)

2639 A.D.

Twelve smooth high polished blackened leathered chairs encircled the magnificent glass table centered in the room. A small data console was centered atop the table, periodically displaying random information. On a far wall hung the Confederation flag, ironed to a sharp crisp with its silver and gold emblem displayed proudly in the center. Hanging just as crisply next to it was the United Terrean Treaty flag displaying over five hundred gold and silver stars with a much larger platinum star in it's center, a reminder to all mankind of its humanity through unity. Built into the opposing wall stood six large solar windows offering any viewers a beautiful eye view of Sol systems main dock yard and it's many projects under development. Next to the room's hatchway doors, a terminal flashed green followed by a slight hiss as both doors opened. A tall, lithe man entered almost immediately, as if he never broke stride. Following close behind him was a shorter and slightly pudgier man. Both wore high silver and grey confederation uniforms. Coming up the rear were two marines dressed heavily armored and sporting intimidating blaster rifles.

 "Wait outside", ordered the taller of the first pair. Their faces covered by blast shields hid whatever expression they may have had.  Both marines looked at each other before turning about and exiting with the doors closing behind them. 

" Computer, upon my command you will execute a full memory wipe of any preceding conversation from memory banks." said the taller of the two. 

“Order confirmed. Admiral awaiting. Command execute. “said a female computerized voice.

 “Admiral, it's not a good idea to leave your personal guard." said the second. 

“Cody, if those Kilrathi b******s can get an assassin this far behind our lines-- into the heart of Sol, then they deserve a shot at me. ", Welker replied. Admiral Welker was a tall and Swinney man who almost gave off a puny impression-- if not for his height. Few who knew him however would ever say that Welker and weak were not used in the same sentence. His salt and pepper hair and hawk like features spoke of confidence and experience. Matched with a pair of thunder cloud grey eyes and hard stress lines only caused by war he was one the confederations major sol war hero. Among the first to encounter the Kilrathi empire years ago as a capital in the confederation navy, he'd been named as one of the few who'd made first contact and survived. 



Back then, little was known about the cats except that every encounter resulted in blood and chaos. Welker had proven time and time again to be a survivor and brilliant tactician against the them. He played a vital role in the McAuliffe ambush and was a primary factor in the surviving confederation forces. Having been one of the few to receive and carry out shore leave cancellation for forces under his command. A captain back then, he’d rendezvous with Commander Winston Turner's surviving forces for a last-minute counter offensive in the hopes of relieving pressure on the marines who were in hard combat planet side.   It wasn't long before he gained the rank of admiral, at which constant fighting had led to all-out war. Winning several major engagements and playing another vital role at the recent Enyo engagement he had linked up with Geoffrey Tolwyn, a promising captain to route Kilrathi forces at Enyo had preserved systems along confeds front lines and ensured the existence of a confederation presence, which from the beginning  had its back against the wall. The cost was steep, losing close to a quarter million colonist prisoners to the Kilrathi. 

Soon after, his reputation had grown to legendary status on par with Admiral Banbridge himself as a war hero and major thorn in the Kilrathi's side. Confed had even named it’s foremost battlestation, a pearl and major stronghold, after the man for his exploites over the empire. Even the elite within the cats had to give the man grudging respect for a hairless ape human. 

“Still sir, it's just not a safe practice." Cody said. 

“Cody, if things don't change for Confed soon, then safe won't matter.” Welker waved dismissively. Both came to the table and sat. Cody studied Welker's features briefly, seeing worry and stress lines almost magically appear across the man's face.  The man was under a mountain of pressure from the situations of war not to mention this newest project the Confed. C.H.C had just approved. 

Pinching the brim of his nose Welker rubbed there momentarily before saying, “Cody I’m in mind to scratch this thing before it really takes off. " Cody Ramirez’s palms went clammy. Sweat droplets formed across his forehead despite the cool temperature in the room.  He spent six years of his life investing and researching for this ship and had called in favors owed, sacrificed his personal life, and put his career on the line to get C.H.C's blessing. To hear Welker talk about scratching the project struck Cody as nothing short of an absolute terror that he would not accept. 

“Admiral, you can't do that." 

 “Wrong Cody. These five platinum stars say and Admiral Banbridges’s personal approval  I run the show with this. " Welker stated, pointing to his shoulder bar. Cody sensed the Admiral was not coming off arrogant by any means-- he was simply stating a fact. Due to his many accomplishments and victories over the Kilrathi he didn't doubt that Welker could do almost anything he wished. Despite the fact of Welker's prowess as a tactician and commander, the Kilrathi were winning one brutal victory after another, which was a testament to their lust for battle only sharpened by their killer feline instincts. 

“Sir, we've already begun the inner framework and cargo ships are already starting to arrive with construction materials." Cody explained.

 Welker shrugged as if it did not matter. “Look son, the price tag on this thing is by far the most Confed has spent on any Capital ship within the past 50 years. We could get seven badly needed destroyers four frigates, and a number of assault transports built and ready for operation at half the cost and in less time." Welker countered. 

“To what end sir?" Welker gave him a brash and confused look. “Admiral, we don't need more ships to offset theirs."

 Sitting back in his chair Welker folded his hands and waited for Cody to continue.

 “At almost every engagement we either come away with a defeat or a stalemate at best sir. It's not enough. We need a ship, a rallying emblem of the Confederation that will spark moral and hope in our troops, while packing a punch that will put the fear of GOD into those Kilrathi b******s. This is that ship sir."

 "I don't like the idea of putting all of Confed's eggs in one basket, Cody. And that's exactly what you’re asking me to do. "

 " This is the only basket that won't break sir." Ramirez countered.

 Exhaling, Welker rose from his seat and walked to the solar windows staring out to the dock yard with his hands clasped behind his back. Watching the bright arc's flashes made by the hundreds of weld bots he stood silently in thought.

 “Cody, how you sold Confederation High Command on this is beyond me." he said after a moment. “Don’t get me wrong son, you’re one hell of a research and design engineer." he continued, turning to face Ramirez.

 “Your record speaks for itself no doubt son. Did outstanding work on modifying the hornet's proton cooling system and improving gravity boots for Confed's shock troopers. I know you played a big part in the redesigning of our fleet's Raptor class attack fighters. But hell, Cody this is just too much."  

Cody knew he had to play hard ball with the admiral but wasn't sure what his next move was. Welker was a practical man and if he thought that Confed's newest carrier not even off the construction dock wasn't in Confed's best interest then he could kill it with one word. Despite knowing this Cody needed to show certainty and strength in front of Welker if he wanted to gain any ground. 

 

“Admiral, why build ships that do nothing to give us an advantage? What's the point of our fleet if we can't gain the offensive? Last time I checked it's been a long while since we launched a campaign at getting into Kilrathi space. For the most part it's been defense, defense, and more defense." Cody stated. Welker spun staring straight at Ramirez an annoyance in his visage.  a lump of uncertainty formed in Cody's Throat, but held the Admiral's stare. 

“What are you implying, son?" Welker prompted almost suspiciously. 

“What I'm saying sir is the Kilrathi have been pushing and we need to push back if were to get ahead in the war sir, now. Our backs are against the wall here as you said. This carrier with my weapon design will be the turning point that put those b******s back on the run." 

“That’s another thing I'm uncertain about Cody. We’re building the most expensive, time consuming carrier ever and a huge part of our efforts will be going to the construction of your particle weapon system. A system that has never been successfully gotten past the theory and design stage. “Welker stated, returning to his seat.

” Here's what I see happening here. We build the damn thing putting in thousands of man hours plus billions in credits, get this ship up and running, test this particle energy weapon design you came up with and BOOM! Blow the ship up with all hands aboard. Now where would that leave us? Cody, particle beam energy has always ended up costing Confed lives’ and money and I hate to say it but it's been tried over and over by people smarter and more experienced than you.”

“Correct sir, but we have something they didn't." Cody countered.

 “And what's that?” Welker asked. 

Pulling a small holo-chip from his chest pocket Ramirez inserted it into the table console. Two blood red holo crystals appeared hovering over the table console with a small stream of data to the side. 

“Ah yes! your giant sugar canes." Welker exclaimed sarcastically. 

“Sir we first discovered these in the Brim-"

 " I've already read the reports on them Cody and know pretty much everything you do about them, which is little to nothing." Welker interrupted.

 “I’m convinced these crystals are what we need and will bridge the gap between particle energy theory and actual application sir.” Cody stated.

 Welker sat back staring at the hovering images deep in thought. “Have you been able to take a sample of them?” he asked after a moment. A slight frown appeared on Cody's face.

 “We have made minor progress; every attempt from nuclear drilling to intense sonic distilment has only rewarded us with the tiniest fracture-- it's enough for a start, sir. It's been an extensive process," Cody confessed. 

Welker exhaled, shaking his head in clear disappointment. “And you want to use these things to build a non-proven energy weapon. “He stated.

 “I personally think it's a good sign, sir." Cody said. “How so?” Welker asked. “The fact that we can barely get a sample tells me that whatever these crystals are made of is a material strong enough to channel the particle atoms and ions into them without going Boom as you said sir. "

 “Ok granted Cody, but with that said you don't really know what will happen once we start juicing these things. And I know your team racked up a nice bill for C.H.C to pick up just to get that tiny sample. Imagine what the cost will be when your actually start making way for testing, but aside from that all you really have is numbers, and no real proof. “Welker challenged.

” Correct sir, just like every other researcher who has tried before me to weaponize particle energy. Your right, all I have is numbers, but numbers don't lie admiral." Cody said. 

“Then why is it that this has never worked before son?” Welker probed.

 “Two things sir. First Confed had never had anything remotely anything close to the compounds found in these crystals, so experimentation wasn’t possible.”

” Experimentation still won't be possible, if we can’t keep the bill paid to understand of what we’re experimenting with.”, the Admiral interjected.

 ” Yes sir, conducting trial and error research is going to be exhaustively expensive but worth it in the end." Cody assured.

 “And the second?" Steeling with Admiral with a firm and serious look as he had ever made Cody said, “Me. I’m not bragging Admiral but it’s a fact I’m at the top of the field in this area of research. I don’t say that with arrogance sir, just simply stating the truth that has been proven over and over again. " 

Giving Cody a slight nod of approval, Welker studied the crystals for a moment before saying, “This is a gamble son nothing more. I don't like rolling the dice unless four out of six sides have a good outcome. I'm barely seeing three here." Cody held his breath waiting for Welker to continue. “Our backs are against the wall harder than you realize. Those cats out produce us in combat ships, troops, offensive assault, and combat tactics across the board. They control more systems and have continually stepped up the pressure on our front line systems. Your right about one thing son. We need to take the offensive if we're to have any hope of winning this war let alone surviving it. Yet I still fail to see how one carrier no matter how advanced will do that. “

“Admiral--", Cody began.

 Welker held up a hand cutting him short.

 “You convinced Confederation High Command of these, so I won't make any waves on it. C.H.C counsel would crap kittens if I did and I've got to other things on my plate at the moment that need my attention, though I still don't like the idea of it, nor the overwhelming cost of this. As you said numbers don't lie and I'm seeing a huge bill here that will damn near break our piggy bank. “At Welker's announcement Cody heard himself let loose a heavy exhale. 

 “Thank you, sir."

 “Don’t thank me yet Cody, I'm fixing to make some changes and you probably won't like them.” Welker continued. “As of this moment I'm moving you to lead project manager over this carrier. You'll be transferred to my department and will oversee every nut, bolt nano-steel beam and operational system of this carrier.

 “A sudden dizziness suddenly overtook him, almost as if he'd been hit by a left hook.

” Sir, I'm not a project manager, I have no idea how to coordinate something like this."  He protested.

 “You baked the cake on this deal, Cody so now you’re going to spread the icing. If you’re as good as the facts state, then this won’t be anything you can’t handle.”

 

” Or do I get my destroyers and frigates after all? “Welker asked pointedly.

 “Understood sir.” Cody said defeated.

 “Good, and relax son you will have my best working with you they may find a way to cut a few corners on cost 

“You’ll have four years Cody to get this beast running and combat ready.”

 "Admiral, that’s not possible!" Cody protested earnestly.  Welker gave Cody a look that words need not convey. 

“Four years, yes sir. “He said dowerly, taking an uppercut to the jaw. Welker nodded in satisfaction. 

“Good, I'm putting Alpha 1 level security clearance on this Cody. There's no way we can hide a new ship coming online in the heart of Sol system so I'm not even going to try. However maybe it will take wondering eyes off other projects we have going on in the dock yards. “Welker mused. 

"Other project's sir?" Cody echoed.

 “Never mind Cody, your task is this carrier nothing more.”

 Both knew of the {LEAK} problem that had plagued Confed throughout the war. Freelance data thieves were renowned to hijack data of both Confed and Kilrathi information and sell it to the other, playing one off the other. Initially a bidding war between the two had flared over stolen info. Due to the results of victories and resource systems taken in battle by the Kilrathi Empire, the Confederation had fallen behind in its ability to pay would be hacker’s prices for stolen Kilrathi intelligence. In an effort to que the data thieves’ Confed had launched several military operations to exterminate the data thieves’ hub’s but made out with little success. It was well assumed that spies were everywhere in ConFed ranks. To make matters worse Confed had ended up strengthening what would be a business relationship between the data- pirates and their Kilrathi agents- a relationship the cats did not mind at all. 

“Also, I want you to start screening a crew for the carrier. Pilots, techs, maintenance, operations staff, the works. Pick those with exploratory records. I want the best pulled and assigned here. I don't care where you get them from. I will personally review your selections and make the transfers. If this ship is as good as you make it out then, it'll need the best we have. “Welker said.

 Cody felt overwhelmed at everything Welker was stockpiling on his plate, as if it were not overloaded enough. Yet to those whom much is given much is expected in return, so he thought. He'd spent almost his whole career in Confed's R&D department as research engineer, he had no idea on how he was going to oversee any of this let alone where to begin. 

Nodding in understanding he asked, " Is there anything else sir?” Looking him over Cody could only guess at the admiral was thinking.

 “Dismissed."

 Standing he fired off a salute before turning and heading to the door. 

 “Ramirez." he heard Welker call. 

“Confed is putting a lot on the line with this Cody, I have a feeling that this will make or break FleetCom in the war. I hope you know what you’re doing." Welker offered. “Thank you, admiral, so do I.  “he said. 

Welker watched him exit through the hatchway doors. “Computer,” Welker said when the doors had hissed closed, “Execute."

 

                                               

 

TNN ( Terrean News Network) 

As disputes in the Gemini Sector continue to grow between Confederation Mineral Administration and the resource rich world’s in Riley system, pirate activity is on the rise. Five confirmed cargo freighters have been hijacked with their disappearance unsolved, all hands are presumed dead. Violent attacks have risen as well, totaling seven strikes on refinery and processing plants with rogue bandits making off with resources estimated at over three hundred million in credits. Riley defense forces and patrols have been stalled in locating the pirate’s base of operations and are calling for Confederation backing to assist in location and immediate destruction of their home front. Confed officials said they will send an investigation force to determine the authenticity of the allegations, but no military forces will be shifted from front line patrols at this time. Prime Minister Spaulding is demanding immediate action from FleetCom military staff. Riley system holds nine resource rich planets and is a cornerstone of confederation mining operations. As the pirates grow bolder Spaulding may have no choice but to play the waiting game as almost all of Confed forces are tied up against the Kilrathi in the war effort. 

 

Twin's Star System

Epsilon Sector < CONFEDERATION FRONT LINE.>

 

See the source imageImage result for Wing Commander Raptor

RAPTOR CLASS ( CONFEDERATION HEAVY FIGHTER)  HORNET CLASS ( CONFEDERATION LIGHT FIGHTER/ SCOUT).

“Break right! Break right d****t! , I've got tone! “Wildcat screamed into his comm set.

 Sweating Knight cursed while pulling his Raptor into a vicious hard right. Fusion fire from the pursuing Krant chewed into his fighter igniting warning lights throughout his cockpit.  Without warning a bright white light overtook his cockpit followed by several large shock waves that threatened to shake his fighter apart. 

“BOOM! No more kitty whoo hoo!!!" he heard his wing man yell excitedly. Knight swore under his breath about new pilot's or pleebs as they were commonly called among the more experienced pilots who were lucky enough to survive the harsh front line encounters against the cats out along the front. 

“D****t! You almost took me with him!" Knight shouted. “Sorry boss, just got a little trigger happy." Wildcat said excitement still in his voice.

 “Where to next? The huntin’s good right now." his wing mate asked eagerly. 

Before he could reply a distress blared to life over his com set. “Mayday all T.C.S ships repeat all T.C.S ships Jalathi bombers on direct line for Phobias.  

Priority one engage the bombers and break off their run! “came the order. " You heard em boss! Let's take it to em! “Wildcat exclaimed.

 

” Wildcat wait!" Knight began, only to have a barrage of cannon fire hammer into his Raptor followed by the angry wail of a missile lock. Shields long gone sparks and a small fire erupted inside his cockpit burning out several systems including his comset. Pulling up and kicking his afterburners Knight activated the filtration system while transferring power from weapons to engines. As his Raptor surged ahead the wail of the missile lock fell silent though he took another volley of fusion fire from his nemising pursuer. Gritting his teeth Knight punched his afterburners to full and activated a friend or foe missile. Keeping a straight course he caught sight of cannon fire shooting past on both sides of his ship.  Without warning Knight cut all power to engines while putting his Raptor into a vertical one eighty spin. The pursuing Krant raced into view as Knight fired his surprise on the unsuspecting Kilrathi. At such close range there was little the Kilrathi could do to avoid the deadly projectile. The Krant went up in shower of debris that banged and crashed into Knight's prone Raptor. “Gotcha!" Knight exclaimed. With no time to spare he redirected power back to engines and headed off in the direction of his eager co-pilot. Bringing his Raptor into a high turn Knight's gaze fell on a site that did little to easy his fears. Phobias loomed into view it's turrets alive in a blaze of firefighting, valiantly against three harassing kamchaka corvettes. Even from this distance he could make out that Phobias wasn't making out well. The corvettes had the carrier locked in from all three sides with their turret’s actively  giving a brutal beating to the carrier's armaments. Just then a bright light went up from the carrier and he saw a small section of his home for the last three years disappear and a small forest of debris begin to spread away from the carrier.

 “Mayday all T.C.S fighter's! Mayday! Phobias under attack, repeat Phobias under attack get those b******s off us!" his comset demanded. 

Surprised the communication came through Knight opened his comset. Before he could say anything, a harsh static barrage painfully assaulted his ears. Shutting down his comset he swore words only known to sailors. His hopes brightened some as he saw a series of small projectiles launch from Phobias inching their way to one of the smaller corvettes. Eyes wide in satisfaction a fierce grin appeared on his face as small explosions appeared all over the corvette followed by a larger explosion in the center that broke the corvette in two.

 As the capital ship broke away into deep space a sense of intense satisfaction filled Knight's veins knowing that all hands aboard wouldn't survive. Just then a badly damaged hornet flew into view followed by a pair of Krant's in hot pursuit. Before Knight could engage, an imperial missile launched from one Krant streaked towards the doomed hornet. Catching sight of a small figure ejecting Knight watched the missile explode into the hornet taking it up in a ball of flame temporarily blinding him before being snuffed out by space’s cold vacuum. He knew that the ensuing shock wave would rip the ejected pilot apart leaving him no chance at being rescued. As his vision returned the only remains he could see were scattered debris of the hornet. Without warning a barrage of fusion fire tore into his fighter. A flush of frustration pulsed in his blood at Wildcats abandonment. Instantly he cut engine power causing a Krant to over shoot him. As the harassing Krant loomed into view directly ahead Knight didn't wait for a missile lock instead using his own visual line of sight to target the Kilrathi. Missile away he went vertical powering his engines while hitting his afterburners putting distance between him and the Kilrathi fighter. A bright flash soon erupted signifying the enemy Krant was no more. For him it was a sight that did little to lift his spirits. 

How the hell had the cats caught them with hardly any warning was beyond his understanding. For almost the entire week Phobias patrols had little to report on returning patrols. FleetCom Intel had no information on a Kilrathi base in this system nor carrier activity. No incoming warning had been sounded or incoming jump transmission had been detected yet three Kilrathi corvette’s and several dozen fighters had magically appeared out of nowhere. He couldn’t make sense of it.  It had been pure luck that several of Phoebe’s patrols had been on return when the Kilrathi had attacked. They alone had been able to fend off the ferocious opening assault that would have ended Phobias and all hands aboard. Their sacrifice had bought Knight and other core pilots the precious moments needed to suit up and launch out to continue the fight. 

A fight that to Knight looked like they were losing. 

Veering away he caught sight of three Jalthi bombers packed tightly together making a torpedo run. “My turn now.“he growled. As the bombers crept closer Knight swept in unknowingly behind them. He turned off missile tracking, again deciding to use line of sight. A nasty grin appeared on his face as he gave a quick tap to his afterburners and firing a missile. The missile struck true taking one bomber up in huge white haze. Spreading the haze encompassed a second bomber proving too much punching through its shielding amd armorants with it too being destroyed. Luck however wasn’t totally with Knight as the last bomber got off a torpedo. Before the torpedo had cleared the bomber however, a bright stream of proton fire caught the torpedo causing it to go up in a destructive flash taking the last bomber with it. Squinting and turning his head away Knight had to quickly veer his fighter away as well, or be consumed in the blast. 

As the flash faded he caught sight of a lone hornet racing past. Nodding his head “Now that’s how you do it.” he said appreciatively. ““Say hoss where you at? I need help pronto. “ Wildcats voice crackled through weakly. Given Wildcats impulsiveness and fly by the whim of it, Knight didn’t doubt that in the least.                   

                                                    *          *          *          *          *

 

  (Kilrathi FIGHTER/BOMBER/ESCORT SHIP)                                                                                              

KAMEKH CORVETTE.

 

Second Fang Rral’Mek Kitar watched in pleasure as his Jalthi’s laser and neutron guns  blew apart the monkey ape’s puny and pathetic fighter.  Long range scouts had detected the presence of a terran carrier in this system but until recently, efforts to track its location had failed. It had been luck that the human capital ship had passed too close to an asteroid field tripping off Kilrathi hidden sensors that had pinged the ship’s location. His superiors had decided a lone carrier without escort was too rich a target to pass up. It was the perfect opportunity to test the empire’s newest weapon against the furless cowards. Whispers of some new experimental transdrive gate system  had been developed by one of the major ruling clans were rumored within certain circles in the empire but specifics had been impossible to pin down. Rral'Mek had heard some of these tail tail whispers through some of his clan's Kal Shintarh, but nothing concrete about what clan was responsible was known. He hardly cared either way. All that mattered in his eye’s was the death of the cowardly terrans and their pathetic fleets at his claws.

 Blood would spill their blood.

 For the past several months he had been on patrol detail for one of Ru’Karr’s com’s listening posts hidden deep within an asteroid field. The boring routine patrols soon became apparent thus increasing is ever present  longing for combat . It was a much welcome change when one of his clan’s Shintahr’s had given him an escort assignment and made him personally in charge over the Jalthi interceptors. Several squadrons of interceptors and Krants (that had been modified for capital ship strikes since no heavy bombers were immediately available.), a Ralari destroyer and three Kamchaka corvettes’ had been launched at once from an unknown location on an intercept course. Rral’Mek had no idea where the assault forces had came from. But he knew that no imperial forces were within a three system range. His intuition told him the empire had indeed built some type of new jump gate. It was the only rational reason that could explain how the assault force had popped in system.  All but the destroyer which suffered an engine meltdown had made it, and undetected right into the unsuspecting lap of the human monkeys. He knew that if only the destroyer had made it the battle would have been long over. A weak race, with no sense of honor or pride in themselves Rral’Mek thought to himself. Not worthy of life or even existence as a slave race in the empire to be sure. They were nothing but prey. His race were hunters, predators, acting in their GOD given right to rule the stars as they saw fit. However his superiors would be pleased. As squadron leader of the interceptors sent to provide support for the bombers, honor and glory was his. An image of his pride mate appeared on his display screen stealing him from his thoughts.

 “Honored warrior, the Krants  are taking heavy losses and the furless humans have destroyed one of our kamkcha corvettes.” A low rumbled growl escaped Rral’Meks throat. These humans have proved lucky more often than not of late, Rral’Mek thought. Knowing that there were too few of his fighters to cover the bombers and keep the ape fighters off the corvettes which were already under fire from the human carrier. Yet if the bombers were destroyed then it would be highly unlikely that the corvettes would have the firepower to finish off the terran carrier. If only the destroyer had made the jump, then this conflict would be finished, he growled to himself, cursing bad fortune.

 “Inform the Kamkcha captains I am pulling our fighter cover to protect the bombers.” He ordered. “But warrior if you pull the cover from the corvettes they will be exposed to human fighters and will not survive. “, his clan mate protested. “If they die it will be due to their own stupidity of being drawn in so close to the terran carrier and not to our strategy of battle. The captains were foolhardy and arrogant to come so close, knowing we were not at our full strength. Their fate is by their own doing.” he said. “Honored warrior if we�"““Carrier out your orders, or I shall drink your pathetic blood from the bones of your  ancestors. “Rral’Mek growled “Yes honored warrior by your command.“, his clan mate submitted. 

Switching off his screen Rral’Mek knew the battle was far from over and that more losses where to be paid by his warriors before the fall of the human carrier. Still a victory, but a more costly one to be sure. So be it, he thought, such prices where to pay in war. And the spoils went to the victor did they not?

 Putting his Jalthi in a low run Rral’Mek’s sensors picked up a pair of Krants close by, trimming the asteroid belt looking to sneak close enough for a strike without drawing any unwanted attention. Slowing his fighter as not to overshoot the bombers Rral’Mek kept a fair distance back scanning for any approaching fighters that might intercept the bombers. After a moment both bombers gave a slight touch to their afterburners while launching a heavy set of torpedos towards the damaged carrier. No sooner had the torpedos made good their launch a missile followed closely by a barrage of proton fire slammed into one bomber taking it apart at the mid-section. 

“Purr C’hat Rost!” Rral’Mek swore seeing an undetected Raptor and Hornet emerge from the asteroid field. Startled the second bomber punched it’s after burners not paying attention to where it was going while banking into a high climb. The unfortunate Kilrathi didn’t see a huge asteroid rock hurling directly in its path. A large BOOM and a shower of sparks put a quick end to the Kilrathi bomber. Powering engines Rral’Mek chased after the Hornet and Raptor while silently reminding himself to be careful so close to the giant rocks or he too could share the same fate as the foolish bomber. Opening communications Rral’Mek hailed his clan mate. 

“Yes honored warrior?” came the reply. 

“Form on my wing and provide cover.”

 “As you command my warrior.” His clan mate said knowing better to question Rral’Mek a second time. Closing the distance Rral’Mek wasted no time firing an imperial missile which struck home destroying the Hornet. The remaining Raptor went vertical heading to its home carrier and the safety of its turret batteries. With Fusion cells powered at full Rral’Mek unleashed a heavy stream of fire at the fleeing Raptor. Teeth gritted in satisfaction he watched as fusion fire tore into the Raptors shields, eating away the armor and damaging critical systems. Veering away the Raptor opted for a more clustered escape heading back towards the asteroid field. As Rral’Mek went to follow suit two huge explosions drew his attention towards the damaged terran carrier. Adrenaline coursed through his body watching a huge section of the human’s capital ship break away and off into deep space. Debris and wreckage floated everywhere from where the torpedo struck true, telling Rral’Mek that this human carrier was on its last leg. Not more than a second later a several missiles followed by a barrage of turret fire shot towards one of the harassing corvette’s. Blanketing the small ship it was too overpowering chewing into its armor. The Kilrathi ship went up in a ball of fire next to the human carrier adding more debris and wreckage. Pulling away Rral’Mek had no time to consider the effect of the loss of another corvette in the battle if he were to crush the annoying human fighter trying to make good its escape. Maxing engines to full Rral’Mek activated missile tracking looking to put a quick end to the Raptor. Entering the asteroid field the Raptor began executing erratic movements trying to confuse Rral’Mek and force him into a lapse of judgement that might cost him his life. Reflexes on edge at having to navigate through the deadly rocks, Rral’Mek felt a twinge of respect for the human fighter, knowing that at this speed the slightest error would have deadly consequences for both. 

With little room for error, Rral’Mek began firing at and around the fleeing Raptor. Hailing his clanmate on his com channel Rral’Mek ordered, “Shoot those rocks the ape man draws near, perhaps the breakage of one will crash its way into our prey.” 

“Yes honored warrior.” his clan mate responded. 

As laser and neutron fire from both Jalthi tore into the rocks around the escaping Raptor Rral’Mek knew his prey was cornered. With his clan mate hammering away at the smaller rocks Rral’Mek switched to missile tracking looking to end the game. Surprised he lucky gained a lock with the digital icon going red through the heavy asteroid debris.

 I have Sivar’s favor this day, he told himself.“Your life ends, human.” Rral’Mek growled firing. Suddenly neutron and mass driver fire blazed in followed by a missile both of which struck his clan mate’s Krant taking off a wing and putting the ship into a deadly spin. Spinning his clan mate’s ship rammed into a large asteroid pummeling the ship into nothing. Rral’Mek’s scanners picked up a pursuing Raptor behind him dodging the asteroids just as they were and making good on a surprise attack in an attempt to save its fleeing comrade. As if sensing event’s had changed the fleeing Raptor did a quick one eighty flip, (a tactic Rral’Mek learned human fighter pilots loved to employ), punched after burners and was racing straight towards him with proton cannons blazing. So be it he told himself if this was his death, it was to be a death fighting to bring glory to Sivar and honor to his clan. Putting engines to full Rral’Mek threw an unending volley of fire at the oncoming Raptor, and while doing damage, his ship was on the receiving end as well. Mass Driver  and Neutron fire ramming into his fighter Rral’Mek had little room to evade due to the dense cluster of asteroids. Jalthi’s were great interceptors and could take a beating, but only so much of a beating.  Gritting his fangs he fired volley after volley while unloading his Jalthi’s complement of missiles at the approaching fighter, determined his death would be one of honor. Systems wailed with critical damage and smoking battered circuitry all throughout the cockpit screamed as he pushed the Kant’s engines as hard as they would go. He intended to plow into his oncoming prey taking the cowardly human with him. Suddenly his eye caught sight of a missile veer off course zigging and zagging from its intended target shooting instead into a fair sized asteroid. Slamming hard into the rock the missile detonated shattering the immense bolder apart.  

A dozen fair sized boulders hurled towards Rral’Meks interceptor at deadly speeds. Seeing the Raptor jerk into an upward climb Rral’Mek followed suit, only to have a chunk of rock slam into his fighter putting it into an uncontrollable spin.  Fighting to regain control against his Krant’s stubborn spin Rral’Mek roared as he regained the fighter’s command.

This was not his intended death he knew. His was to be the death of a warrior. A predator’s death. Not a human’s death. 

Reacting on instinct, he pulled his ejection level centered beneath him. Instantly his blast shield slammed down over his face, blinding him from the constant red flash of the  impending collision. With his canopy rocketing off him felt the blast of his seat hurling him into space. He had no control over the rapid twisting and spinning that zero gravity provided and could only hope he didn’t get flattened by another high speed asteroid or worse yet be caught in the explosion of his fighter. No sooner had the thought occurred Rral’Mek felt his entire suit go from a comfortable chill to an intense heat so great he began panting in an effort to stay cool. As the intense heat faded back into a cold chill, his entire body was suddenly hammered painfully by a swarm of debris. Heart racing he felt something large and heavy crash into his blast shield so hard it left a large crack across the plate. Several other large pieces stabbed painfully into his body so hard he began to worry that he had a breach in his suit.

 His worries proved true when he heard a slight hissing sound coming from somewhere inside  indicating he was indeed leaking precious oxygen. He gave a silent prayer to Sivar that his squadron would pick up his ejection signal and even now where organizing to retrieve him back to his fellow warriors before his oxygen ran out. He was after all Second Fang being in command of fighter cover operations and came from a strong bloodline that was important in his clan. Ru’ Karr could not afford to lose warriors at the mere chance of misfortune. It was not tainted like the more common Char’Risst or half-breed blood  commonly found in the lower house of the empire and of little influence or power in the empire.  As his consciousness began to fade Rral'Mek found his memory slipping back into his youth, an era that as a cub he had tried very hard to forget. 

 

           *          *          *          *

Knight saw Wildcats situation and it wasn't good by far.  The two pursuing Jalthi’s had his wingman in a bind. With afterburners at full Knight was pushing his Raptor and his reflexes to the edge within the asteroid field trying to stay alive and save his rookie at the same time. With one Jalthi opening up fire at Wildcat he had no time to waste. At confirmation of a missile lock and sent in his own volley of neutron fire followed closely by his missile at one of the Krants. Luck was with him as the proton fire hammering home and his missile to put an end to one threat. With a wing breaking off ,the Jalthi went into an unrecoverable spin before hitting a large floating rock. The ensuing explosion broke the rock apart and sent deadly pieces  flying in all different directions including towards Knight. Quick thinking he banked a vicious left while firing his cannons hoping to pave a pathway to safety.

 “Hell ya! Nice shootin hoss, let's flip the script on these kitties!” Wildcats voice broke through his comsystem. Knowing it was pointless to reply Knight focused on clearing some of the smaller asteroids. Turning the bank into a loop Knight brought his Raptor back around almost too its exact position. Due to the dense asteroids it was near impossible for his scanners to pick up the remaining interceptor. Peering into the rocky void he made out the Jalthi a fair distance off, heading straight for WildCat, who had done a flip one eighty. 

He got an uneasy feeling in his gut as he made out both fighters going head to head in a massive fire exchange. With his Raptor closing it was all he could do to maneuver through the clustered rocks to get a target lock on the remaining Jalthi. His missile icon came alive and began homing for a lock on the enemy fighter. “Come on, come on!.” he heard himself say. Then without warning a missile that was streaking Wildcat’s way veered off course smashing into an asteroid breaking it apart. As clusters of debris spread Knight watched as both ships pulled vertical in an attempt to avoid being pummeled. 

"Eject Wildcat! Eject!" he screamed into his com seeing the deadly event unfold.

 He watched the Jalthi get struck by an asteroid, putting it in a spin and after a moment regain control being the quicker of the two climbed higher only to have Wildcats Raptor crash into it blowing both fighters apart in a destructive haze. "No!" he screamed. Tears on the rise he slammed a gloved fist into his console screen several times before it began to crack. For Knight this made seven pilots under his wing he'd lost. Seven rookie pilots in five months that he felt their blood was on his hands. It would be another death letter to a mother and father he'd never see nor meet. To Knight it was another layer of his spirit and confidence that had been peeled away by the Kilrathi.

                       *          *          *

T.C.S PHOBEUS  (CONFEDERATION CARRIER)

 

T.C.S PHOBIAS 

1 Hour Later

"Hold on mate! We've got to cut the hinges, best cover your eyes!" a thick Australian voice shouted though Knight's cockpit.

 Even with eyes covered he could still make out bright flashes through his darkened visage. "On three you dingo’s. Three!" 

With grunts and groans of effect the six hanger techs heaved over Knight's canopy pushing it over the side with one last shove. 

“Christ man, your Raptor looks worse off than my hanger." said a heavy set man leaning down and offering a hand to Knight. 

Wing Lead Michael Fanin aka, Knight grabbed hold pulling him out of the cockpit up to the docking scaffold. At a hair under six feet Michael Fanin had a slim and wiry frame. His features were average having high cheek bones, ocean blue eyes that went well with his light brown hair and a sharp chin. 

Surveying the hanger Michael wasn't sure it the statement he heard was true. A multitude of fires both hazard and chemical could be seen throughout the hanger, control teams where scattering everywhere identifying the more hazardous chemical fires and hauling damage control equipment towards them. With the ships filtration system out time was of the essence to quell the fires before toxin levels reached a deadly level. A massive barrage of cargo containers, fuel and power cells mixed in with wounded pilots and crew members could be seen everywhere. Steel beams, structure pillars and reinforced collars lay wrecked among the jumble. It looked as if any moment the whole hanger would collapse in on itself. The launch was in no better condition with large cracks sporting throughout a fair length of its strip, making safe landings near impossible. 

Catch nets were alive with fire putting up a nasty smoke in the already toxic air. Splotches of hydraulic oil, grease, gear oil blood and other unidentifiable liquid could be seen at various spots. Thick and so well mixed together Michael couldn't make out what was what. Trauma teams where on the go, trying to get control over the wounded but they were vastly outnumbered.  Tech crews had cargo lifts, loaders to the brim with materials trying to restore them in a safe area to avoid them being mixed with the fires to prevent an explosive reaction. To Micheal it seemed as if the hand of GOD came down and swiped the hanger into pure chaos. 

“Alright, enough lollygagging! More incoming fighters and no room to park them. Everyone back to stations and continue to clear the way!" the man ordered, scattering several dozen people back to the chaotic ruins. 

“This area should be evacuated Dennis. If the hanger goes there's no telling how many people we'll lose." Michael stated.

 “Hell mate the whole bloody ship is like this. Those b******s caught us with our pants down. “He said. 

Maintenance Chief Dennis Conner was the hanger's senior officer and a twenty year veteran with the confederation. A large burly man he sported a thick tan and smooth shaven face that did his complexion well. Few could tell how advanced in age he was though many onboard had an ongoing pool of almost a thousand credits. Dennis had agreed that if anyone came within two years of his age he'd confess and would be expecting a percentage of the pot. The current bet stood at fifty three with no winners yet. Having beefy forearms and a large frame added with a smooth bald head he was perhaps Phobias’s largest officer. Already having his career in FleetCom Navy completed he could have retired with premium benefits and spent the rest of his days on one of the inner border worlds back close to Sol living pleasurable and care free life. 

But when the discovery of the Kilrathi came and their thirst for battle known Dennis put aside his retirement, choosing instead to stay in service and push the Kilrathi to the edge of known space if he could. Being Earthborn Dennis had family and close ties back on Earth which was partly his aim at staying in service. Not being to Earth in almost seven years the man looked at Phoebe’s crew as a second family and the ship as a second home. Having spent a good term of service aboard Phobias he'd made friends in many different areas and the crew had affectionately dubbed him Aussie for his unique accent. For many aboard Phobias in their eyes there wasn't a man alive who knew more about every class of fighter within the confederation fighter classes’. Taking a moment to gaze at the wrecked scene before him Michael did a quick assessment hanger damage caused by the assault. He knew that if the rest of Phobias was like this, then the ship was indeed in critical condition. 

 It had been pure luck that they'd been able to destroy enough of the bombers to ward off the rest of the attack. With only one corvette left, the Krant's fighting off Confed Raptors and too few bombers left the cats had opted for a tactical withdrew which was rare for them. He looked at it as luck nothing more. If they'd forced the battle just a hair harder, then Phobias would have been lost with all hands aboard. It was a victory of survival and Michael knew it. Turning his attention to Aussie Michael gave the man a once over noting grease and oil stains blotched throughout the man's uniform. Catching sight of a few second degree burns and two nasty gashes on the man's forehead and forearm he could see fresh blood seeping. “You need to medical attention.” “Later, there's work to be done here and people worse off than me. I'm needed here and in the now." Aussie said. “True you’re needed here and in the now, but needed healthy and with a clear head. I'm betting you’re gonna be feeling a concussion before too long. “Michael explained.

” I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. “Aussie said stubbornly. Michael knew better than to argue with the man. Once he had his mind set on something he could be as stubborn as a dwarf. With things aboard Phobias the way they were, Michael figured everyone would be on edge and running with adrenaline pumping for a while.  Looking over Michaels shoulder Aussie shouted, “Get that loader away from the fire! Pointing to a stationary loader packed tight with several cargo containers loaded with power cells. Quick stepping a young technician hurried up onto the lift powered it up and began backing away. In a hurry the young man turned the loader towards a docking ramp intending to head down the hatchway corridor into a cargo bay away from the fire. Focusing on the turn the man didn't see a slight ledge off to the side. With a wheel catching hold it proved too much a dip for the lift causing the whole lift to heel over spilling the power cells and it's unfortunate driver onto the launch way. Power cell's tumbling, some broke open spilling complex chemicals and gas while others simply bounced several times before rolling thankfully to a stop. Michael swore he hear several auditable exhales from nearby tech personals. “D****t!” Aussie groaned, “As if I ain’t got enough already." Taking another look Michael noticed that the majority of techs were young and most looking a bit unsure of themselves or simply lost. 

“Where’s your core personal?" he asked. 

“ Probably dead, working on other sections of the ship or so badly wounded they no good. “Came the aggravated reply. 

“Need an extra pair of hands?" he offered. “No mate you've done your part in making sure were still alive, this is my mess here, and I’ll handle it. ". 

After a moment he continued, “Where’s Wildcat? "

 Seeing Michael blanch at the mention of his copilot’s name Aussie saw there was no need to ask. In their latest campaign the Kilrathi Empire had stepped up the pressure on taking down confederation pilots instead of capital ships. In an effort to deplete FleetCom of it's more experienced pilots the empire was looking to gain a major advantage over the human confederation. With new and unseen fighter tactics the cats had developed and put into their flight training program, the cats were gaining ground across the front as Confed veteran pilots began to become scarce. In a losing effort FleetCom academies had been hard pressed to step up training speed having to sacrifice flight maneuver training in an effort to get cadiets up to pace on the cats battle tactics while still developing countermeasures to the empires newest fighter tactics. As an end result, hot young rookies looking to make a name for themselves were trained faster but with watered down flight and combat lessons and pushed to the front line, with most dying before trading out their  yellow uniforms. 

Veterans across front line systems where put through emotion hell putting many on a long term emotional guilt trip.  

“Ah, I'm sorry man. He was a good kid.” he said grabbing Michaels shoulder. At hearing the word kid Michael blanched again. 

 “Ya, I didn't know him well enough to make that call Dennis. Look I gotta debrief and write another death letter." Michael said. 

“Look, don't be too hard on yourself. Hear me? “

“Ya, loud and clear." Michael said halfheartedly moving past the man and down the scaffold ramp. Dennis knew better than to push the issue when a man was under stress and it was clear to him that Michael was under a lot at the moment. Exiting the ramp Michael’s nose was assaulted by an ugly thick toxic fume that had him coughing instantly. Covering his mouth with his sleeve he looked back over his shoulder at Aussie. “Hydro coolant that's burning from the chemical fires. Short term exposure won’t leave any permanent damage, though if you get too much you'll have a nasty cough for a while. Smoking is a walk in the part compared to what this I’ll do to your lungs after a couple years." Aussie hollered. Nodding in understanding Michael watched him disappear into his cockpit. Heading through the hanger bay he saw it was in far worse condition then when on the ramp. Debris and ship wreckage littered the hanger. Fires were sprouting everywhere mixed in with shouts and orders being thrown about from the various med and tech crews. As he approached the hatchway doors an alarm wailed in warning stealing his attention. Turning he caught sight of a Hornet coming in on a land approach touch down on the runway heading into the ship’s deck way. Two heavy steel cables located on the runway were used to grab the landing legs of fighters performing landing operations slowing their descent into the deck way. The cables had grabbed hold of the Hornets leg's going taunt but where damaged and had broke before they had stretched enough to slow the fighter. Personal shouted and a frantic rush ensued to get away as the fighter sped towards the already damaged catch net. Breaking through the Hornet continued on crashing into several parked Raptors. 

As the fighter plowed into a pair of Raptors a new army of small explosions and grinding metal sounded in the hanger. Frantic those who could rushed to the area in an attempt to rescue the pilot. Michael thought to lend a hand but just watched the scene unfold. Feeling indifferent he turned and walked through the hatchway doors. Entering the corridor the toxic aroma instantly faded, through the wreckage did not. Broken and tangled wire hung from the ceiling deck. Sparks shot forth were exposed cables tapped together giving the corridor a heavy copper odor. Sections of lighting panels flickered in an attempt to maintain life. Personal were in a hurry with every man and work with a critical assignment that could not wait. No one glanced his way nor paid him any attention. More teck personal with mobile consoles, repair kits and spare parts seemed to dominate the personal moving through the corridor. Michael blended in the rush working his way to a turbo lift which was several yards away. Nearing the lift he made out two cadets already at the lift with one repeatedly press the service button. Cadet’s sported high yellow flight uniforms for the first thirty days in service no matter what carrier or capital ship they entered in Confed Navy. Both looked young and cocky, Michael noted.

 “Come on, come on." one said still pressing the button. After a moment the door began to slide open only to stop half way. “Good enough for me." said the youth sliding through though barely. Two other crew technicians  were in the lift. Both their uniforms unlike the cadets showed signs of stains, dried blood and sweat. The two personal looked exhausted. Michael was the last to enter. Upon Michael’s entrance the same cadet began to roughly press a level button. After several seconds nothing happened. “Worthless piece of junk carrier. “The cadet growled banging hand against the button. Annoyed Michael reached over in front of him pressing and holding the level button then releasing. “Level D12 confirmed." came the automated reply. 


            “Nice work old school, got it on the first shot." the cadet remarked, moving back with the other, leaving Michael in the front. With his annoyance going up a notch at being referred to as an old school, Michael ignored the insult just wanting off the turbo lift to find a place to himself. “Man this carrier is a waste of space. We can’t be doing so bad that we need junk like this in service." the first cadet said to his buddy. “I know, I'm surprised I even pulled this detail, being fresh out of flight school. I was for sure with my academy scores on the simulator I'd get a Kruger carrier gig or better yet one of those new Rouge multi-role carriers. I've been hearing they can take on a Kilrathi armada solo and give the kitties a run for their money." said the second. “Ha fat chance against me.", the first boasted, “In flight school I was number one in trace missile and gun kills and in the top ten percent for simulated combat fighter tactics. You’re looking at a rookie who's already an ace without one confirmed kill. More than I can say for these old dogs here. “

“Ya sad really." the second agreed. The two crew members in the lift bristled at comment; their pride clearly stung but said nothing. The cocky attitudes of both ensin’s and their total lack of regard for the surprise attack or the carrier’s crippled condition struck a nerve in Michael. Clenching his fist he was determined to mind his business and stay out of it. Continuing the second asked, " Oh ya? How long you think it'll take you to get first place in combat kills in this scrap feast?" "Real combat or simulation?" the first asked. "Real combat.” the second answered.

 “From what I've seen here most these guys, should be in wheelchairs or at least making room for us on the way up. I’m surprised they held off that assault, really. Lucky I didn’t get the chance to launch. I’d have soon these old timers how to win a battle. I mean don’t get me wrong,  they done their job, but obviously not well enough or we would have won this war by now. Time for grandpa's and grandma's to step aside for pilot's who can get the job done.” the first said arrogantly, not evening bothering to  lower  his voice. 

Michael felt a hot sweat break in his hands and feel his nostrils flare up. He was a Lieutenant and an officer. Both seemed blind to this fact. The  patornizing cockyness these ensin’s were displaying seemed to be quickly growing into outright arrogance that had Michael’s blood close to being on fire. “I mean come on these guys barely fended off a Kilrathi attack, and look at the condition of this p.o.s, it's on its last leg. I bet i can thump my finger against the hull and this bucket will fall apart. Hell, I'm surprised captain didn't call an abandon ship during the fight." “Ya, good point if you can't get the job done movie side for their betters, and let them handle the rougher jobs." the second agreed. “That or end up dead in space.. “The first whispered lowly, but not lowly enough that Michael didn’t hear it. Spinning Michael grabbed the first by his throat hard slamming him against the wall. 

“Hey! What the hell!", the second yelled grabbing Michael’s shoulder. Not even looking over his shoulder, Michael caught the cadet with a sharp elbow in the nose. Blood splattered on the young man's face bowing him over. Back kicking, Michael gave the man a sharp shot to the man's throat, sending him crashing against the turbo lift wall and into a fit of choked coughing. Not forgetting the first he gave big mouth a hard head but in his forehead while tightening his grip. The man went limp against the turbo lift wall but Michael held him prone against it. "Shut your mouth, just shut your mouth!” he shouted.

 “Stupid know nothing pleebs," he continued seething, not letting up on the semi-conscious rookie." I've been on this carrier for three years. Three years of new wannabe hotshots like you getting blown to nothing before they can even trade out their uniforms. Three years of writing unending death letters. Three years of having to train Kilrathi counter tactics to stupid known it all pleebs looking to make a name for themselves, out here." Seeing the youths face begin to turn blue he eased up on his hold allowing a pinch of oxygen to seep through. “Where were you when we old timers were out there fighting? Where you were when my friends and comrades were out there sacrificing their lives for everyone here." Leaning in close he whispered, “I watched two confederation pilots run their ships into oncoming torpedoes. Men and women with families. Would you do that? ““They gave their lives for us!" he shouted in the man's face. Feeling a fresh surge of rage Michael badly wanted to slam the rookie into the wall again but thought better of it knowing nothing good would come of it, seeing he had the man scared half to death. Looking back Michael saw the second rookie getting his breathing under control and returned Michael’s look with one of furious anger. “Aww, what's wrong? Pride stung that an old fart like me took down two academy hotshot's without breaking a sweat? “He, taunted. 

” Lucky I'm not one the kitties were up against. All I'd half to do is flex my claws and your friend’s throat would be hanging down to the floor. “Pride clearly stung big mouth's friend looked away and continued to nurse his broken nose and bruised ego.

 Turning his attention back to big mouth, Michael continued, “You watch what you say and who you say it to on this ship. If your flying skills are anything like your attitude then I'm sure I'll be writing another death letter, soon. The way you’re going though I'm sure you’re gonna make a lot of friends among us grandpa’s, I don't even see the kittens taking you out." he said grinning. Michael slammed the young man hard one more time to emphasis his point before releasing his grip. Turning Michael saw the turbo lift door was open and several people had been watching the situation with curiosity. Ignoring their stares, he glanced at the two technicians both of which gave him nods of approval while ignoring the rookies. Moving out the lift the onlookers made way for him, as he entered another wrecked and damaged hallway. It wasn't long before he found the pilot's locker room. Entering and approaching the console next to the hatchway door he coded both doors to lock upon closing. 

The room sported one hundred full sized lockers sectioned off in two square quarters. Centered in the room were several full on weight sets, a nutrition table with the latest in legalized steroids and testosterone enhancements, for those who wanted to burn off the stress of war. Six white metal tables sat opposite each side of the weights. Most had a mess of things atop which pilots had left. Several had half eaten meals left, from when the alarm sounds they were under direct attack. Behind the weights two walls could be seen sprouting forth from both sides of the locker room. Stainless steel shower heads could stood further back. All were empty. The room was dead of life, exactly what Michael wanted. Moving to his locker he sat on the bench and entered his code and was rewarded.when his locker popped open. A digital light switched from red to green unlocking. Not opening the locker he just stared at it. Shutting his eyes he began to rub his temple. 

"Well Mikey I'd say you could have handled that better." he heard a voice say. “I locked the door. “He said not looking up. 

“Ya you did, but I have something called security override." the voice answered, teasingly. "Now's not a good time.” he said still not looking up.

 “Saw there was some excitement at the turbo lift." came the response ignoring Michael’s statement. Exhaling Michael looked towards the hatchway doors to see Squadron Leader Lisa Vasquez a.k.a Lily leaning casually back against the hatchway doors with arms crossed over a very tight and generous chest. At five foot six with long auburn hair and chestnut brown eyes and a matching skin tone she was by far an exotic woman. Added with a slim figure she was sported thick pouty lips that gave most men a double take when first seeing her. Compliments of her Hispanic heritage, that gave many a man desire for her that many were hard pressed to ignore. She was also a planet jumper and marine soldier before transferring services, preferring the comfort of a combat ship over the land and surface terrain battles the war dogs and planet jumpers were known for. As Squadron Leader and top pilot of Phobias’s Hornet fighter class her pilot skills where on par with her marine hand to hand combat skills. Having served for six years she was one of the most capable and confident pilots aboard. 

When Michael had first signed on with Phobias’s it had been Lisa who'd taken him under her wing and shown him the ropes out along the front line and tactics the cats loved to use in combat. Being wise enough to listen and learn Michael knew that he wouldn't have survived if not for her guidance. He owed her his life on more than one occasion. The two had been poker rivals when he first came aboard and learned the officers lounge hosted poker tournaments for Confed credits. But Kilrathi artifacts and cultural items from different systems where  hot prizes up for grabs, since little to nothing was known about their home world. Independent researchers and scholars outside the confederation influence would pay handsomely for anything of Kilrathi origin with combat technology being at the top tier. Any items normally found or salvaged by civilians were normally confiscated by FleetComm Sector Security known as the F.S.S. or system militia. It was well known that a growing gap between freelance privateers, merchants and F.S.S had been developing over the issue. The competition had been fierce at first between the pair, with one trying to bluff or outwit the other.  It wasn't long before the two had developed a deep friendship that often happened with soldiers under the harsh stresses of war. 

 Wearing a pair of desert terrain combat pants tucked into her boots and a plain white tee shirt, Lisa filled her outfit well to the pleasured view of almost any man aboard Phobias. He noted that she bore several bruises and scars on her arms probably received during the Kilrathi's initial assault on Phobias. “We just barely survive an undetected Kilrathi assault that crippled Phobias and you want to play on a treadmill?" Michael observed. “A woman has to keep her figure in shape for you boys, no other reason I wouldn't be here now would there.” she said winking. Michael scoffed dropping his gaze to the floor.

 “I take it you weren't out there." “No such luck." she said.

 “Runway took several direct hits. Made it impossible for us to launch. You guys saved our asses." she stated. 

“Ya.” he said.

 A slight look of concern fell over Lisa’s face. “So Mikey, you going to tell me what's going on? I saw your face when you let that noob go. You looked pretty pissed.” she stated.

 

 “The guy was running his mouth about pilots and Phobias." Michael explained. “Doesn’t every pleeb do the same when they first come aboard? If memory serves, I recall a couple of hotshot remarks from yourself when you first dropped your duffel bag here."

 Moving off the hatchway door Lisa came up to lean against his locker. “How many did we lose."he asked hoping to change the topic. “No official count yet but we took a beating for sure. I'd say from how empty the hanger is close to thirty or forty.", ``she answered. Before he even realized what he was doing Michael slammed his fist into a nearby locker giving it a fair sized dent.

 “That’s almost half our fighter force.” he growled. Ignoring the locker Lisa sat down next to him.

 “What happened? This is not the norm for you, so talk to me. " she said. 

She knew him too well he knew. And it would be pointless to avoid the issue. Marines, especially this one were known for their persistence and stubbornness.
“I lost Ronnie. “He admitted. 

“That’s number seven for me. The guy was barely aboard, and still green. He wouldn't stick to my wing; the cats had major pressure on the carrier. We picked up a mayday and orders to take out some bombers that were making runs on Phobias. Ronnie went in an asteroid belt pursuing some Jalathi that were trying to be sneaky. He got a couple of Krants on him. I took one down but it wasn't enough. Ronnie got caught up on the remaining Krant. A missile came out of nowhere taking an asteroid apart. He didn’t see it and i couldn’t raise him on the comm’s, there was nothing I could do. I couldn't save him.” he explained. 

“You didn't raise him on comm?” she asked.

“Fried”, he said.” And the Kilrathi had already taken out our support. Not another Confed fighter within twenty clicks. His blood is on my hands.” Michael said. 

Lisa's visage softened slightly putting a hand on his shoulder. “Hey Mikey I'm sorry.” she offered. “It doesn’t really matter.” he said shrugging, not meeting her eyes. 

“Just one more death letter I'll half to write to grieving parents I'll never meet trying to explain how courageous their dead son was. Dead because he was stupid, when it was actually my stupidity that got him killed. ". 

Lisa's softened visage changed almost instantly to a scowl with a hard lined edge running across her jaw.

 "Oh get off your pot Michael. Everything isn't about you.” she scolded. 

"What?” he said surprised. “Quit feeling sorry for yourself. You sound like you’re a first year flight goober. We fight and  die out here every day against the Kilrathi. It's a hard price to pay, but it’s part of our job." she said. 

Caught off guard by Lisa's sudden change in attitude, Michael wasn't sure how to respond. “That’s insensitive and closed minded.” he said after a moment. 

“No more insensitive and selfish than you feeling sorry for yourself.” she scolded. With his pride and ego stirring Michael met her eyes for the first time. 

“Oh ya?” he flared. “You try living with the fact that seven lives, seven people died under your command. All in less than a year. People with families, People who I was responsible for."

 To his complete surprise and utter fury she began to laugh at him. “You think this is funny?" he asked, face turning red.

 Lisa subsided a little before answering, “That young men and women gave their lives against a brutal and unforgiving enemy. No. I was laughing at you. “

He could hardly believe he was hearing this. 

“You think you’re the only one who's lost men under your command? Undeserving horrible deaths and everyone who was a part of their lives feels their loss. You’re not going through anything anyone else has gone through and have no right to sit on your pity pot when your a*s is needed in the cockpit setting a good example.", she said.

 “Fair enough," he said with an edge to his voice, " but I've lost seven men due to my incompetence. All in less than a year. It won't be long before I start to second guess every decision I make. Inside and outside the cockpit." 

“Did you order him to break from your wing? Did you say go off on your own and take on a handful of Kilrathi fighters and prove what a hotshot you’re going to be? Oh! Wait, Ronnie did that all on his own because your com system was toast and you couldn't send any transmissions. Hmm, yup, you’re totally to blame and should never forgive yourself and live with the guilt for the rest of your days or until one day you decide it's too much and you take your own life, Lisa explained. 

“Nobody likes a smartass." Michael stated. 

“Nobody likes a crybaby neither.” she countered. “Look Mikey, I'm not trying to be cold hearted. I know you’re going through a lot right now. Hell I've been there. Lost close friends and new trainees that were my responsibility. My oldest just graduated from flight school and is soon to be shipped out. More than likely to the front lines. I haven't slept since she told me, but if she dies fighting for what she's believed in, then it's not a wasted death. It's a hard pill to swallow and it's bitter going down. But, don't dishonor his memory and what he and others have died for by taking blame for it. Weather your fault or not. Honor them, by keeping alive the hope of what they fought for. Don't let their deaths dwell on you. It will consume you and given enough rope destroy you. Fact is Mikey, Ronnie made a stupid choice and paid for it with his life. That's a common price out here, mistakes cost us against the Kilrathi. “

 

Michael knew that Lisa had kids but she had never gone too deep with him about them even with their friendship. Looking into her soft features he gave her a look of gratitude. It may not have been what he wanted to hear, but he'd learned early on that with Lisa it was often what he needed to hear.

 Taking a deep breathe he said, “Your right, how'd you get such a tough attitude?".

 " I used to bang my drill sergeant back in basic..", Lisa shrugged pointedly. 

Unable to control himself Michael busted out laughing, throwing his hands up. “D****t! I didn't need to hear that! “He said still choking on his chuckles

 Smiling she said, “Be glad you didn’t half to see it.  Told me I was so good he let me graduate two weeks ahead of class.  Shaking his head Michael didn't know whether she was being serious or joking. With Lisa,  it was impossible to tell most of the time. 

Her tone turning serious, “You going to be okay Michael?"

 “Yea I'll push through it in time, just need a hot shower and a couple hours sleep. “He said. 

Lisa's eyes sparkled at the mention of shower. “I like the way you think. I'm sure there are some interesting things we could do  in the shower.” she said smiling.

 Michael knew she was teasing. Both depended on each other in more ways than one they were more than comrades or crewmates; they were friends supporting one another in a harsh and stressful war which the outcome wasn't known. He had never made any advances on her even though she was exceptionally beautiful. And were many men aboard had tried and failed. Michael didn't want to take their friendship in a direction were they both might feel awkward after. She seemed grateful that she could drop her guard around him and be herself without worrying if he would try any anything on her. Michael had soon found she was a witty, caring, strong, and loyal friend. 

“Sorry my friend I only do blondes."

 Pouting her lips in mock disappointment, she said, “And I'm out of hair dye. Probably for the best. Last thing we need is Captain or the Commander walking in here and find our naked asses bouncing to and fro."

“Christ Lisa! Do you have any boundaries?”Michael exclaimed, throwing his hands up. 

“What?", she asked innocently. 

At that moment the hatchway doors opened to reveal a senior staff member walking in and stealing their attention. 

“Michael Fanin?"he asked.

 

“Yes sir.” Michael said standing.

 “Commander Wedgeworth wants you in her office,” he said. Michael shot a quick glance at Lisa.

 “Sir, I just touched down. I was fixing to head to debrief and catch up on a needed shower." 

“No time; Wedgeworth wants you in her office--pronto."

 "Damn the luck.” Lisa said snapping her fingers.      

 

                       




TNN ( Terrean Network News) Prime Minister Spaulding met with Confed Inspectors today taking them on a tour of the refineries hit by pirates showing the damage done by the attacks and what resources were looted.  FleetCom Inspectors toured several locations and held long discussions with Spaulding and his staff about what Confed would do to assist Riley defense forces to easy up the pressure from the pirates and locate their base of operations. Inside sources confirm Spaulding was insistent that FleetCom should send a full fleet for defense and maintaining security in Riley, claiming that mining operations where of vital importance to Confederation military operations throughout the quadrant but also in the war effort against the Kilrathi. Officials instantly rejected the proposal claiming that In-System Planetary Security was responsible for such a task and no fleet action would be shifted to Riley at this time. Confed officials did however state they would set up contracts for mercenaries and freelance privateers offering security detail for the time being. Sources report, Spaulding scoffed at such an idea knowing well the rumors and reputation of the Merc guilds demanding Confed forces play a bigger role in the defense of the  Riley systems. For the time being it looked like Mercenary operations will be the best role the Confederation will offer, despite protests from Spaulding and the Confederation Mineral Administration.

            Kilrathi  SOLDIER ( KILRA ‘ HRA)

 

“Open your eyes cub.” said the voice. 

 Despite Rral'Mek's best efforts, darkness continued to dwell in Rral'Mek's vision.

 “Open your eyes.” the voice repeated harshly.

 "Open them prr’chos, and do nothing to bring dishonor to the trail."

 At hearing prr'chos, Rral'Meks eye's fell back under his control snapping open to reveal him standing next to his father amidst densely beautiful jungle. Lush trees rose high from richly grass covered ground into the air. There magnifying branches intertwining through each other. Deep auburn and orange leaves spotted the branches so heavily it all but blocked out the blue rich sky.  He could barely make out twin suns dawning the skyline. Thickly decorated bushes sprouted from the nutrition rich soil, their leaf's equally beautiful overlapping one another in an array of yellow, blue and neon purple. The air washed with a heavy layer of different scents that burned Rral'Mek's nose with pure curiosity. To him it was beautiful to behold. 

“What is this place? “He asked his father who stood next to him.

 “Silence prr'chos! Do nothing or say nothing until told so, his father snapped, causing Rral'Mek to cringe.

 His father was of the Ti' Gros breed, a warrior class and head of his clan. His body bore proudly the scars of fierce battles fought against rivals in combat for mating rights or over merger resources found on their homeworld. Patches of his father's dark orange and black fur could be seen missing as was one of his eyes torn out in a brawl during his youth. Large claw scars dotted his upper body; he'd made no attempt to hide them under his dirty and torn tunic. One fang bore a large chip while the other sported large cracks, a sign among the Kilrathi of advanced age. Despite these aged injuries Rral'Mek’s father neither bore nor allowed any signs of weakness to show. The two stood in clearing within the jungle. Scanning the area, his eyes caught sight of a transport ship in the distance. His youthful vision made out three figures approaching from a nearby transport at an easy pace.

" The elders come. We are close to elevating our status bringing honor and a better life to our clan. There can be no mistakes prr'chos. Do not fail in your task; else I bring the news to your mother that your pathetic blood was spilled by my claws for a failed attempt to show our strength in our hour of honor. Prove you are worthy to own your life I allowed you.” his father said coldly.

 Ears flattened; shame coursed through his body at being called prr'chos. Prr' chos were the weakest and last born of Kilrathi litters. Their blood thin bodies were frail and most often times overly small. They were the runts, disdained and unwanted wretches among the Kilrathi Empire. Runts born of any caste, fell victim to the Char' Risst Kar, a duty given to house  leaders. Throats torn wide open before their eyes open, the runts were thrown away with abandonment. It was the duty of the house leader, making sure the runts were dead in efforts to keep bloodlines pure and strong for the best possible warriors to be bred. Those rare few who did survive were entitled to nothing but a harsh life, with no hope of honor. Rral'Mek had almost fell victim to this fate, if not for his father finding out a mate he had taken was of noble birth. She was of one of the six major clans with in the empire and had attended one of the trails. Seeing his father's prowess as a warrior the two had met with Rral'Mek's father's intentions clear. Being of a high rank no one in her clan had dared questioned or spoke of their breeding. His litter was a result of their brief union. His birth and bloodline had spared him this travesty, at his mother’s insistence, threatening her clan would slaughter all members of his small house if he performed the Char'Risst Kar on any of her newborns. Once every decade major and  clans of the Kilrathi would attend the dead worlds offering a step up and out of brutal environment of dead world existence. But they had to prove worthy. 

Houses existed at the bottom of the food chain. Bred on dead world planets, every day was a day of grueling existence, scavenging for basic resources, warring with rival s, or enduring the brutal elements. Minor and the ruling clans within the empire would systematically send supply ships loaded with much needed life giving bounty to the dead worlds but in various locations, thus forcing long and dangerous treks  to reach the supplies. Fights between houses over first rights were a common occurrence on the dead worlds since water and food were almost nonexistent. Rral'Mek remembered well cannibalism had past the day on more than one occasion. Weather on dead worlds was always an agonizing heat that never ended. Night offered little relief; since dead worlds were always overly close to the sun. None but the nastiest form of planet life could exist there and had little to no use other than scraps of clothing.  

The dead worlds were tortuous form of existence for any species to endure. It was all centered on culling the best possible warriors from the strongest and most blood lusting warriors for the empire. There was no room for the weak or frail. "Kerr' Rost, your house has done well. We are well pleased. Your clan continues to show great promise.” one of the elders said approaching. Instantly Kerr'Rost kneeled while flattening his ears in submission. When Rral'Mek didn't follow suit, his father issued a low threatening hiss. Kneeling and flattening his ears quickly, Rral'Mek lowered his head, but kept his eyes on the elders which stood several yards away. 

All three were of the Li' onist breed. Large and powerfully built. They wore clothes of fine linen mixed with gem studded vests covered by a platinum and gold robe with their house insignia displayed proudly over various spots. Silver claw sheaths covered there claws and feeding partly up to their paws. Multiple ear rings covered their ears with chains flowing down to clamp on their fangs which were polished to a crisp white. Their fur was just as fine being smooth and sporting a glow about them. 

A servant trailed behind each one of them carrying what appeared to be a large covered container. Even from where he stood he could smell rich delicious and fine drink within the containers. Rral'Mek knew they must come from a powerful house and have the emperor's utmost favor to dawn such clothing, food and drink openly.  All three looked immaculate compared to him and his father in their dirty and filthy tunics. “You honor our clan with your words elder of clan Nar’ Kil 'Rot .", his father said. “Rise Kerr' Rost, there is no need to continue homage so close to the end of the trials. Your clan has more than proved itself-worthy of adoption. Its integration into the Nar’ Kil'Rot  lines is looked forward to with great enthusiasm. We are privileged to grant the right of ascension.” the elder said motioning with his paw. At rising and hearing the continuing praise Rral'Mek heard a slight purr echo from his father's chest. “There is but one task to complete and relatively easy." All three turned to stare at Rral'Mek, who suddenly felt very small at the moment. One elder stepping closer bent down to examine him. Sniffing he asked disgustedly, “A purr'chos?". Shame and insecurity coursed through Rral'Mek under the elders gaze. Kerr'Rost's ears flattened somewhat at the elder’s observation but said nothing to neither confirm nor deny the accusation. “It matters not,” the lead elder of house Blood Fang said, “The trials are nearly complete. So long as your cub completes this task then your house will be adopted into our lines to our house's glory and to the honor of the Kilrathi race." What task is to be set before us, my elder?” Kerr'Rost asked. “A simple test of your youngest cub's prowess. Somewhere to the north there is a herd of Char'Prit beasts. One of the younglings bears a golden collar around its neck. Find this youngling and kill it's life-force, before the twin suns reach their peak." 

Reaching inside his vest, the elder removed a small pouch and tossed it to the ground next to Rral'Mek's feet. “A patch of fur removed from the younglings fur to guide your pursuit son of Kerr' Rost. Stunned at hearing his task Rral’Mek blandly reached down and retrieved the pouch. 

Char'Prit beasts were large and powerful herbivores that fed on the grassland. With a thick hide and two large tusks that jutted out their cheeks and two large flat canines from their bottom jaw they were perfect churning up the deep rooted grass, the beasts though were not an easy kill for a cub. Kilrathi often rode them as weapons of sport chasing down prisoners and running them through with their heavy bodies, or slicing them open to die with their tusks. The beasts were overly protected of one another and their young. To try and take down younglings was no easy feat he knew. 

“Complete this task and your clan will enter into our lines and much better life.” the elder finished. Kerr' Rost said nothing to his son, but instead reaching into his tunic pulled forth his Kin'Tarr blade.

 “No, your cub's claws and fangs are to be his only weapons." 

Shuddering at hearing this Rral'Mek looked to his father hoping he would forbid him this test. “My elder, this cub is young and is not fitted yet for-",

 “He is of your lines is he not?” the elder interrupted. 

A long moment passed before Kerr'Rost answered, “He is my blood."

 “Then if he's anything like you Kerr' Rost, he will complete the challenge and bring honor to your people by fulfilling the task.” the elder said grinning, thus ending the discussion. 

Rral'Mek could feel his father's anger at having to confirm his relation in front of the elders. His displeasure was evident for all to see. It was obvious he could have preferred another of his cubs for this task, but the trials called for the youngest of litter, and no Kilrathi would break the tradition of the trials. Such a violation called for the violator's life immediately. It was a death of dishonor that no Kilrathi warrior would bare. Out from the transport a small circular drone appeared and headed towards the group.

 “We will monitor your cub's progress with this, and will watch from the comfort of our lodging. You are to remain here until the trial is complete.", one elder explained.

 Looking down at his son Kerr'Rost whispered, “You have heard your task, do not fail, least I spill your  blood before the eyes of your frail mother.” his father warned. 

Heart hammering Rral'Mek began to pant as the weight of his task sank in.

 "Enough! Time grows short. Rral'Mek son of Kerr'Rost, complete your task and honor with a place of in Nar’ Kilrot is before you. Kill the calf, relish  the feel of its warm blood dripping from your fangs as your mark of hunter yet to come. GO!” the elder boomed.  

With a mixture of excitement and fear Rral'Mek raced off into the dense jungle, adrenaline racing through his body. The drone matched his pace with little effort in its silent hovering around him. It seemed as if the jungle came alive with life he couldn't see but his sense of smell and hearing told him more than he could ever see. Moving through the jungle his eyes scanned the ground for any signs of the beast's heavy tracks. It was difficult to stay focused under the heavy assault of the jungle smell's and animal life that had him pinged with excitement and curiosity. A flock of some plump strange looking two winged two tailed multi-colored birds startled into flight, hurried off the forest floor as Rral'Mek burst through a heavy bush. He had to restrain himself from leaping up to snatch one in his claws and making a meal out of the tasty looking treats. 

Hunting instincts on edge, he looked in the area where the birds had been and noticed a small stream where the birds had been enjoying the cool water. Moving to investigate his mind was focused on how he was going to find any sign of the Char' Prit herd and how he was to slay one, a young one with a protective mother close by to be sure. Pulling free the pouch he sniffed at its contents. 

A strong musty odor assaulted his nostrils causing a brief but harsh sneeze. Crouching down he froze staying idle as several birds nearby squawked flying into the air. Aside from the sound of the running stream nothing rewarding found him. 

 Anxieties began to creep into his thoughts. If he didn't find the herd by the allowed time then his clan would fail the trials. The chance for a better life would be gone for another decade and with it, his chance for honor and acceptance with his people. A small shudder coursed through his body at remembering his father's words. 

With desperation beginning taking hold, he sniffed the air again with hoping the cool breeze would bring him a new direction. Nothing. A soft yowl of frustration escaped from his throat. Suddenly from a nearby bush a medium sized rodent raced out, making a dash into and across the stream splashing him, before disappearing into the jungle. Startled Rral'Mek leaped into the air only to land knee deep in the stream. Hissing in anger he kicked the water frustrated before sloshing out and shaking off what he could from his matted fur. Without warning a thought dawned on him. All animals needed water to survive. Eyes wide with at the revelation, he shook his damp legs and ran off into the jungle following the stream. Lungs and heart pumping he caught hold of a thick low hanging branch and swung up following the tree limb into the dense jungle. Luck was with him as the monstrous limb intertwined with others allowing him to elevate his climb higher while following the course of the stream. As Rral'Mek continued his course he climbed higher as the branches’ would allow him to give him the best vantage view. Having no clue as to how much time had passed, but judging by the twin suns’ raising higher in the crystal sky it was running short. 

He would earn his father's approval with this kill, he told himself. Today he would prove worthy of being a Kilrathi. Today he would prove his bloodline. Today he would prove his hunter. Up ahead he saw a slight gap between the branches’. Picking up speed he began to pant as his foot claw’s dug into the slick and mosey tree bark. With a short growl Rral'Mek leap off one branch high into the air while reaching out for the nearby branch. Claw's grasping hold he felt his paw begin to slip on the moss. Grasping hold with the other claw he pulled himself up and onto the branch all but with the shortest of breaks. Continuing on his course Rral'Mek gazed down and saw that not only was he a far height up, but the stream was growing in width, an indication that he might be getting close. Char' Prit's, had a special love of water and even when the weather was cool were known to bask in ponds and by lake shorelines. 

If his guess was right, it was only a matter of time before he found the herd. Sure enough a heavy watery mist began to flow into his nose. Ears perking up he caught the faint sound of several animal's bellowing off in the distance. Stopping, Rral'Mek took a moment catching his breath, while his ear's scanned the area up ahead for any repeat bellows. Several bellows and the sound of splashing water answered his ears. Blood racing and instincts on edge Rral'Mek crept slowly along the branch with his eye's following the stream which up ahead disappeared into several thick bushes’. As Rral'Mek crept closer he crouched down on his belly moving behind pair a small branches offering him some slight concealment. The stream had lead into a fair sized pond with which was almost overloaded with Char'Prit. Scanning the area Rral'Mek did a quick mental count and thought it came close to several hundred at least. He had to stop himself from yowling, knowing his task had now just become way more challenging. He knew this was the herd. The calf was down there somewhere. His view from up high gave him an excellent view of the entire herd yet being able to single out one among several hundred, and a calf at that, was like trying to find a need in a haystack. Calves were everywhere, he noted, some playing in the water, others nursing, and some staying close by their protective mothers which where grazing on the rich mossy grass in the water. 

Creeping closer, Rral'Mek dared to stick his head barely past the leafs in an attempt at a better look. Removed from the shade, sunlight beamed down over him, a harsh and uncomfortable sting assaulted his eye's forcing him to squint. In the water, several bright glittery flashes’ caught his attention. Luck was with him, spotting his prey amidst almost a dozen other's playing in the pond. Judging the distance Rral'Mek guessed the calf was at least twenty yards away if not more. To make matters worse, several adult Char' Prit's loomed not far off watching them with a protective eye. Claw's raking the tree bark anxiously Rral'Mek had no idea how could strike at the beast without alerting the adults. Even if he did manage to lock his fangs around the youth, he knew he would stand no chance at fending off its mother. Watching the calf's splash in play he knew his time was drawing close to an end. Up high both suns would soon be at their high point of the day. His only chance would to launch himself onto the calf and lock his fangs around its neck while dragging it down into the watery depths drowning it. If he could keep it submerged while choking he could stop the beast’s life force and complete his challenge proving himself. It would be a far leap indeed, even from his elevated position from up high. He would only get one shot. If he missed, the younglings would scatter back to their mother's protective sides. Crawling back, Rral'Mek made sure to ingrain his prey's location in his memory. There would be no second chance.

 Closing his eyes, he took several deep breaths concentrating on the necessary steps. Claws gripped tight into the tree, he burst off as fast as he could know this would be a far leap. Heart in overdrive he ran along the tree branch headed for the bush. Approaching the bush Rral'Mek let loose a roar of challenge.

 Seconds before he charged through his concealment in the tree's making his leap, the elder's camera drone flew past him stealing his focus and attention. Slipping on the limb tree Rral'Mek lost his balance tumbling off the side. Crashing into several large branches’ Rral'Mek face slammed into a particularly oversized limb causing one of his fangs’ to painfully break loose. Hitting several more branches’ Rral'Mek took a multitude of hard blows before coming to rest on the jungle floor. The turmoil of noise caused shear panic in the herd as bellows of alarm echoed all around. Younglings broke from the water churning the clear blue into a muddy brown, scrambling to their mother's which were racing into the water in the direction of the nose. Wheezing with every breath, he tasted phlegm and other liquids in his mouth and felt it running out his nose. He tried to move his arm only to have a fiery pain course through his body which intensified with every growing moment. Knowing that several parts of his body were damaged or broken he couldn't move on his own power. 

Closing his eyes Rral'Mek tried not to focus on his wrecked body or his failure but drifted blissful arms of exhaustion. Time seemed to pass too soon before he heard the sound of his father's voice amidst others. Opening his eyes he saw his father standing over his broken body. 

“Father, I tried.” he managed painfully. 

Kerr' Rost said nothing, but instead put his foot paw over Rral'Meks face darkening his view, and making breathing more painful. 

“Your cub has failed, Kerr" Rost, perhaps your house bloodlines are not what we thought they were",he heard an elder say.

 “My elder, I offer my personal apology for the prr'chos's failure. Do not hold the whole of my house in this judgment based off this offal weakness.” Kerr'Rost said. 

“The judgment is proven true by your youth’s incompetence. If not for him you and your house would now commence to clan Nar Kil'Rot earning its place among the  clans of the empire. Your house is only as strong as your least." 

A groan of pain escaped from Rral'Mek. Ignoring his cry Kerr'Rost pressed his foot paw harder onto Rral'Mek's face digging in his claws. “Purge your bloodlines Kerr'Rost and maybe we will continue our interest in your house.", the elder said looking down at Rral'Mek. Removing his foot paw Kerr 'Rost none to gentle picked up Rral'Mek by the fur behind his neck letting him dangle off the ground. Pain flooded his body lighting up like Christmas lights. “I offer you his life as a token of my houses loyalty to your clan. Take his life and remiss your judgment on my house, noble elder." Kerr' Rost pleaded.

 “You offer unproven blood to me Kerr'Rost?” the elder asked disgustedly. “I would not dishonor my fangs with such a weak offer. My judgment stands.” he said waving his paw dismissively. Turning the lead elder headed back into the jungle leaving Rral'Mek with Kerr'Rost. 

“Father, the drone distracted me, I had the kill within my claws.” Rral'Mek said weakly. Kerr'Rost said nothing but instead extended his razor sharp claws. A throaty snarl followed. “I would feast on your blood if only to spit it out purr'chos. You would know death, but no death is too weak a punishment for you." Kerr' Rost mused . All Rral'Mek could do was flatten his ears at his father's degrading comments. 

“Instead, wear your shame openly purr'chos. You have shamed your people. A lifelong badge for all to see, your mark and place among your people, young offal." Kerr'Rost stated. With one claw Kerr'Rost put a deep slash atop Rral'Mek's head slicing down his eye and crossing the bridge of his nose. He barely felt his father's claw. The far deeper wound echoed in his mind. Shamed his people." Find your own way back purr'chos or stay here and let death take you. Either way you are of non-existence to your people. Broken and bleeding he lay on the ground looking towards to Kerr'Rost. Eyes shut he wished his father would have ended his life right then, but knew better. He knew that in allowing him to live, Kerr'Rost had given him a far greater punishment.

 

                        *          *          *          *          *          *

TRANSPORT SHIP EN ROUTE TO Phobias CARRYING ONE Kilrathi PRISONER OF WAR. 




Eye's snapping open, Rral'Mek awoke just in time to catch the butt end of a blaster rifle smash into his nose, causing an eruption of blood. Snarling in pain Rral’Mek found himself in a large, dark, room with a human soldier. Instantly he leaped forward, only to be pulled back short by a chain which was bolted into a wall. 

“Hey Hemby! Kitties awake!`` he heard one human a groutese  and overweight looking human say but didn't understand. His colleague--a frail and thin looking specimen like most humans Rral’Mek had seen--gave off a frightened and timid appearance--The appearance of prey. 

 His flight suit and armorants had been stripped and replaced by a white jumper that reeked of a musty urine like odor. Trying to move, he felt a heavy iron collar cuffed around his neck, with his paws locked into the collar also behind his neck. Feeling the back of the collar he felt a large and heavy chain which he guessed fed into the wall and was preventing him from reaching the human. Laughing, the human swung his blaster rifle again smashing it into Rral'Mek's jaw. Anger coursed through his blood at the man’s cowardly strikes. Blood swam in his jaw from the blow. Pain also thumped from several bruise’s atop his head, leaving him to suspect the human had struck him several times while he was unconscious.

 Just then a second human entered his view. Even though the area was dark Rral'Mek could see in the dark almost as well as in the light. Behind the pair he could make out several dozen large containers of some kind. He was suspected he was in some kind of cargo room. Both soldiers’ wore blue uniforms sporting large blaster rifles and bore armor vests and padding. Neither looked very intimidating to him. “We shouldn't be doing this Jerrod. If Leeba catches us in here he'll tie our butt hairs in a knot." "Screw Leeba! My wife and kid were slaughtered by these freaks, and this is my payback." Jerrod said spitting in Rral'Mek's face.  Just hurry up, we need to get him to the brig before we dock." Hemby said anxiously peeking over his shoulder towards the cargo containers.

 “Stop being a wuss, and keep watch!" Jerrod snapped. 

Shaking his head Hemby said nothing but glancing back keep wary eye back towards the racks loaded with various container and supply equipment.  Jerod’s focus returned to Rral’Mek. He stepped closer to the warrior cat,  holding his blaster rifle. Eyes locked on the human soldier Rral'Mek never broke contact watching the butt of the human weapon slam painfully across his face. The next several blows came quick and  hard into his ribs causing him to hiss and cough in pain. Blood began to seep from his nose accompanied by a harsh wheeze with every breath.

 “Kitties got some balls." Jerrod said. “Let’s see how big they are." Grinning he unzipped his pants and began to urinate on his battered prisoner. Roaring in rage and fury Rral'Mek kicked and slashed with his foot paws towards his human tormentor who remained out of reach. Laughing as he urinated on his prisoner neither him nor Hemby took notice of the little red flashing light hidden up in the ceiling recording everything. 

 

           *          *          *          *          *

 

Sargent Dwayne Leba followed by two marines ran down the corridor hallway his blood boiling. Reaching the hatchway door and finding it locked he quickly entered his security code overriding the lock. Rushing through as the doors hissed open the trio fell quietly into the darkness of the containers working their way to the back of the room. Hiding behind a large supply crate Leeba motioned for both marines to keep quiet. Just then a loud roar stole their attention. Peeking out Leeba watched angrily as a marine, Jerrod he knew by name urinated on his prisoner. A second marine, Hemby stood close by, watching nervously. Anger flooded through him at the groustest sight.

 “What in the blue blaze f**k is going on in here!” Leeba screamed jumping out from behind the supply create. Jerrod cringed at the unexpected outburst instantly pulling up his zipper up and partly through his exposed jewels. Screaming in agony he stumbled forward within reach of Rral'Mek. 

Taking full advantage of his captors suffering, Rral'Mek took Jerod's pain to a whole new level, kicking out with a muscled leg catching Jerrod in the groin. Crumpling to the ground Jerod curled up in the fetal position screaming. In view of the assault one marine trained his blaster rifle on Rral'Mek. 

"Hold fire, d****t!", Leeba ordered.

 Hemby stood in utter shock at Leeba's entrance.

 “Sir, we we-", 

“Shut up!", Leeba yelled rushing up to the man’s face. 

“Your orders were to take him to the brig, not beat him to death! " 

“Sir, he's a Kilrathi.", Hemby protested as if that alone gave was enough permission.

 “I don't give a damn!.", Leeba said angrily. Looking towards the supply create he continued," Get a med team in here now!

 “Both marines came into view one pulling out his comm and radioing for medical personnel, while the second went over to assist Jerrod who was struggling to his feet. " Leave him," Leeba said. Pointing to Hemby he continued," Cuff him and throw him the brig. Hemby went white at Leeba's orders.

 “You and he are going up on charges Conduct unbecoming of a Confederation marine, disobeying orders and torture of an extraterrestrial species. If I can make them stick you two will be dishonorably discharged with possible brig time." 

With effort Jerrod rose half-way up on two shaky legs," You some kind of cat lover, Serge?" he managed. 

Unaware he was still in Rral'Mek's range; Rral'Mek lashed out with another foot paw catching him again in his devastated jewels. Another agonizing scream sung from Jerod's lips as he fell back to the floor. Stepping over Jerod, Leeba did a quick inspection of Rral'Mek's wounds. Battered and bruised, a harsh wheeze accompanied with bubbled blood surfacing on Rral'Mek's nose. “D****t.", Leeba swore, “Get him out of here.",

He motioned to Hemby. As the marine took Hemby out the cargo hold, the pair pasted two med techs both carrying medical cases. Both saw Jerod curled on the ground rocking. “No, tend to the prisoner first.” The serge ordered, seeing them move in his direction. The two med's glanced at Leeba who remained stone faced, before moving over to Rral'Mek. 

"Uhh, he smells like piss," one of the techs complained.

 

 Seeing the two humans approach, Rral'Mek gave a wheezing hiss in warning.

 

 “Wait.” Leeba said, halting the two med techs. Stepping ahead of them, he withdrew a small device from his utility belt. Standing out of Rral'Mek's range Leeba made eye contact with Kilrathi and drew his attention to the remaining marine with his blaster trained on him. Holding up the small device he stepped up the Rral'Mek who looked between the two as if weighing his options. Inserting the pill shaped object into Rral'Mek's ear the serge stepped back and pulled out a larger device strapping it to his ear and plugging it into a battered device attached to his utility belt. 

" Do you understand my words Kilrathi?"he asked. 

Attention focused on Leeba, Rral'Mek posed both ears in his direction while watching him, but said nothing. Knowing they were close to docking he continued, “I’m Sargent Leeba with the Terran Confederation Navy. You have been captured and are now a prisoner of war. You have sustained grievous wounds. These two med technician’s will patch you up enough to get you to the brig. If you resist in any manner you will be shot without hesitation. Not an honorable death for you.” Leeba finished. As to emphasize his point the marine powered up his blaster rifle while still keeping it trained on Rral'Mek. 

On the ground Jerrod moaned and struggled to move. Just then, his comlink came to life, “Sargent Leeba we're at external docking. Phobias is requesting your security code landing verification.", came a male voice through the comlink. “Tell Phobias I'll be a minute there's a mess down here I need to babysit. Put us in a stationary orbit until I get to the bridge." 

"Understood sir." Both med techs moved warily towards Rral'Mek who in no way acknowledged them but instead kept his gaze on Leeba and the marine soldier. Setting down their medkits, they began work on Rral’Mek's injuries. Some was known about Kilrathi anatomy which had mostly been learned from autopsies of dead warriors collected after battle. Though Kilrathi were somewhat sleeker and more muscular than their human counterparts, they had the basic make up of organs and needed food, water and oxygen to survive. Their bones and muscles were much denser and sleeker though. The cats also had oversized lungs allowing them a great deal more endurance and stamina than the humans. 

“He’s going to have a severe concussion sir. There are a multitude of lacerations that will need stitching. I'd also bet from the blood running out his nose he is suffering from internal bleeding.", one med tech explained. The second had his helmet visor down and was conducting an x-ray scan on Rral’Mek’s organs. “Yes sir, internal bleeding and he's sustained four broken ribs, one of which has pierced his lung. This much damage would have killed any human. ” The second confirmed. 

“Will he live?", Leeba asked.

 “Hard to say at this point." one tech answered. 

“Do what you can to stabilize him until we can get him on board and into the med bay.", Leeba said. 

“What about him?", the second tech asked pointing at Jerrod, who lay prone on the floor. 

“When you’re done with the prisoner see to him."Leeba ordered. 

Turning to the marine he continued, “When there finished with that crap on the floor get him in the brig. I want him and the other separated from each other." 

His face covered by his blast shield, the marine's expression remained hidden, but he nodded in understanding. "I'll be on the bridge. I want this done before we complete docking." Rral'Mek had indeed understood every word that had been said, thanks to the nifty little device the human had inserted in his ear. Though the human had spoken in his native tongue the device had somehow converted it into Ki'Ril'Cha the language of his people. Rral'Mek knew better than to cause trouble at the moment opting instead to bid his time. His wounds were serious but not so that he wouldn't survive he knew. As the med personal continued their work his thoughts were focused on one thing, escape. 

Dwayne Leeba headed to the bridge frustrated. He had no love for the Kilrathi seeing how their thirst for battle and bloodlust was never satisfied no matter how many worlds they conquered or innocent lives they slaughtered. Yet seeing his own kind lower themselves to such a degrading state made it no better. He was raised as a soldier and believed in what a soldier stood for. Honor, Duty, Integrity and Sacrifice were what he believed in and lived by all his life. Yet what he had seen was not the act of a soldier but, the act of killers with no conscious or moral compass what so ever. To him Jerrod and Hemby were no better than the Kilrathi the Confederation was at war with. In his late forties Leeba had a muscular build being thick limbed having lived a life built on routine and structure. 

A six foot two and over two hundred pounds his frame was bulky with a fine amount of muscle he kept tone through daily exercise. Leeba had signed on with FleetCom Navy in his early thirties wanting to experience the thrill of space combat. Soon after his first year of flight school Leeba had was becoming burnt out on how much book work came with combat flight training. He had wanted to complete the academy flight training  in order to advance his career and make officer one day. Pushing himself he made it one more year before deciding to switch service with the marines understanding that the book work on flight mechanic’s only got worse with all the different types of fighters, bombers, and deep recon ships that were in service.   

 Already being semi familiar with pilot life, the marines offered him up front and in your face mission action that he felt he was more suited for. Deciding to fore-go his goal for officer life he had changed his mind adopting  the motto a marine's life is a simple life. Having spent almost a decade with the marines he enjoyed and lived by their code of conduct. It wasn’t long before he gained the rank of sergeant and opting to stay there passing up the opportunity for more advancement. To him the most important weapon was the soldier and it was his duty to make sure those under his command remained razor sharp. Iron sharpens iron was his concept that he lived by. His hair mostly grey added with semi wrinkled features with a well-kept goatee, most who looked upon him could see he was a man of many talents within the Confed Navy, giving off more than the appearance of a career grunt. As Leeba walked into the bridge he looked  out the transport window the huge burnt and blackened docking bay doors were there to greet him.

 Two pilot’s sat in the forward cockpit seats going over ship diagnostics. “Hey serge everything ok back there?” one of the pilots asked. “Just another day in the core.” Leeba stated gruffly, knowing that no two days where ever the same out here. Especially dealing with the Kilrathi Empire. 

 

                       





                                   

 

 

SUPPLY CONVOY  LAUNCHED FROM WELKER BATTLESTATION ENROUTE TO PHOBEUS. 



           *          *          *          *          *          *

 

Michael Fanin stood at attention in Commander Wedgeworth's office unsure of what was going on. Commander Wedgeworth sat behind her desk which was overloaded with a mixture of data pad’s holo-chips. A holo-projector was built to be centered in her desk. It displayed general information that shorted in and out of view,  due to power surges throughout the carrier. Behind her desk built in the wall was a large solar window that bore several large web like cracks up and down the panel. Scanning her office Michael noticed almost a dozen awards and commendations the commander had on her office walls, verifying her accomplishments with her career within the Confed Navy. Wedgeworth herself bore snow white hair with age and liver marks on her wrinkled face and exposed hands. Michael was surprised that someone of her advanced age would still be serving in the Navy. The commander’s eyes however were a deep rich blue which rapidly scanned a data pad she held. He didn't doubt there wasn't much that she did not miss when it came to her duties.

 “Have a seat Lieutenant.” Wedgeworth offered after a moment not looking up from the data pad. As Michael sat, the Commander continued, "1st Lieutenant Michael Fanin Confederation pilot Raptor class. Serving on Phobias for three years with no disciplinary incidents. Thirty nine confirmed kills including three capital ships. Four bronze stars, two silver and two gold. Your psy profile says your highly intelligent, though prone to impulsive decisions and work best under pressure.” 

 

Having no clue where the commander was going Michael could only respond with," Yes Ma'am I'd say that's pretty accurate." 

 

Setting the pad down and looking at him for the first time she said," I want you to prove your profile true by answering a question."

 

 “Yes, Ma'am?".

 

 “Explain how the Kilrathi caught us totally off guard with no advanced warning nor any incoming jump transmission’s. Added there's not a jump point with in 10 million clicks of this system,” she asked pointedly.

 

 A nervous chill crept in him. Instantly his thoughts returned to the rumors of the ongoing pirate hacking that plagued the confederation. 

 

“Ma’am am I under investigation here?".

 

 “Not in the least, Lieutenant, I simply wish to access your opinion on how we were caught by surprise by a Kilrathi assault force,”

 

 Sitting back in his seat Michael thought again on how the cats had magically appeared out of nowhere. “Commander I'm no scientist, but if I had to guess I'd say we just got a firsthand view of a new type of jumping technology the cats have been working on."

 

 Wedgeworth rewarded his guess with a slight smile. “Profile proven, Captain." Continuing, she said approvingly," I've been going over the flight logs of our patrols and have come up with nothing. Phobias’s long range senor's have also came up empty. I agree and think the Kilrathi have indeed found a way to mask their jump emissions making them practically undetectable until we were staring at them face to face. This is a grave threat. Not only they can mask their jump signatures, but they have also found a way to jump through space without the necessity of a jump point."

 

 Taking a deep breath, Michael weighted out what the commander was saying. If indeed the Kilrathi had found a way to mask their jump emissions, it meant that their fleets could literally get the jump on any confederation fleet or outpost with practically no warning. A sense of dread coursed through him as he thought about what it meant for the war. " If this is true, then they could very well send their core fleets straight at Earth and be at our doorstep before anyone knew anything about it." he said.

 “It is a possibility, Lieutenant. But we don't know enough about this technology-if it  does exist yet--to ascertain what it can and cannot do, `` Wedgeworth explained.

 

 "However, the possibility of it represents a threat and a risk--That, for the moment, cannot be ignored." 

 

Michael nodded, but something was still bothering him..

 

 “Commander, I understand the seriousness of this new threat but, what does it have to do with me.?” 

 

 “Directly nothing Captain, though you are one of the few to get a firsthand view of what capability this new technology-- if accurate--gives theKilrathi. However, events for you personally,have changed." 

 

"Changed in what way, ma'am?" 

 

Picking up a data pad, the commander handed it to Michael.

 

 " You’re being transferred." 

 

"Transferred? To where?" He asked, taking the datapad.

 

 Scanning over it his eyes lit up at seeing his destination. 

 

“Earth!” he exclaimed in surprise .

 

 “Yes, Lieutenant," Wedgeworth confirmed," Apparently there's a new carrier coming online and your reassignment is aboard her."

 

 In his spare time, Michael made an effort to keep himself updated  with current news of new weapons or projects that were currently in development with FleetCom R&D, but hadn't heard anything about a new carrier under construction in Sol System. Then again being on the front lines, intel was indeed hard to get out here. Holo-mail had a constant backlog of almost three months due to the pressure of war. Reading the transfer orders and seeing that they were indeed legitimate, Michael was at a loss for words.

 

 “T.C.S DayStorm? Never heard of her," he said after a moment.

 

 “First news I have had of her as well, Captain. She's to come online and operational within the week. Your transfer comes from pretty high up the admiralty chain.” 

 

Taking the datapad she scrolled down to the authorization signature, “From Admiral William Welker, so it seems.” Wedgeworth explained. 

 

Michael knew the name and seen Welker's face on the holo-news from time to time, but he never dreamed that  he would come anywhere near the man's circle. 

 

Fate, it seemed had chosen otherwise.

 

 “There’s one more thing.” Wedgeworth said. 

 

She reached under her desk,  retrieved a small black box, and placed it on her desk. Michael’s gaze  instantly fell on the box.. Taking it and pressing his thumb against the scanner,  the bottom slide down- revealing two pairs of platinum stars with a golden trim. 

 

“You’re being promoted, Lieutenant--or Squadron Commander Fanin, congratulations sir." Wedgeworth said, smiling and offering her hand.

 

 Michael was too stunned to speak.  He offered  Wedgeworth a somewhat weak handshake, still staring at the four stars that would replace his two silver stars on his shoulder bar.

 Looking at the commander, he said, “Ma’am, I'm not ready for this." 

 

“Who is sir, just remember, victory loves preparation.” was all the advice that Wedgeworth was willing to offer. 

 

Feeling a bit overwhelmed as one bomb came after another, Michael sat the little box down attempting to understand all of this. Squadron Commander was more than a rank above a fighter captain and required at least twelve to fourteen years of service before one would even be considered for such a rank. It was a medium officer ranking, but an officer nonetheless. Michael was barely passing his ninth year in FleetCom Navy. He had been aboard Phobias for the last three years and it was his home. He had friends here that he would have been proud to call family; he didn’t want to leave them behind. The thought of leaving to a new assignment back in Sol unsettled him. He was a combat pilot-- as Squadron Commander it would be a whole new venture for him. He would have sixty---if not more---pilots he would be responsible for, roster assignments, coordinating flight patrols and mission assignments, pilot briefing and debriefings. He would see very little flight time himself now being an officer aboard a new carrier. It was not a pleasing idea. 

 

His thoughts flashed back to Wildcat and the six other pilots who had died as his wingmen.

 

“Commander, this has to be some kind of mistake, I don't know anyone that high up the chain-of-command.” he said.

 

“It seems somebody knows you, Mr. Fanin, or in some way you have attracted the attention of the higher ups.” Wedgeworth said, setting down the datapad. 

 

"I'm not sure I want this ma'am; I'm just a combat pilot. Plus I’m really not in love with the idea of just up and leaving Phobias right after a battle. From what I’ve seen, this carrier is on her last leg and I know I could be of use here with repairs and what not. ” He admitted.

 

 “I understand, but you’re being reassigned for a reason and like it or not this reassignment is happening. We’re two and a half days out from Welker battle station. There’s already a supply convoy in route with additional repair personal and replacement cargo that will give us the push to Welker station where Phobias is to undergo a very long overdo  refit. Repairs will proceed fine without you.”

 

She paused before continuing.

 

 “Mr. Fanin, if I were you, I’d be focusing on packing my gear after you leave here. It’s your duty as a Confederation officer to step up to the plate.” She said. “This is a good advancement for your career Mr. Fanin. My instinct tells me you will make a capable leader.” 

 

Michael was still trying to make sense of it all when Wedgeworth continued.

 

”With that being said, there’s a transport ship that will be leaving for Sol system in four hours. You’ll be the only passenger on that ship heading back. You should arrive in six days.” 

 

“Six days!?” Michael said. 

 

Based on current navigation information, he knew that Earth-or Terra as the boarder worlds called the planet-was almost twenty two days travel by standard commercial and military jump points. The main Nav points were intensely patrolled by both system militia and Navy forces on the hunt for would be smugglers, data and cargo pirates.

 

 “Yes, six days. I’ve had personal dealings with the captain, he’ll be given Nav coordinates that will make your trip much faster.” Wedgeworth said. Michael had no idea such coordinates had even existed, but knew that such a direct route to the heart of the confederation would be classified and require the highest of security clearance. 

 

“Who’s the captain? Are the coordinates in the star charts?” he asked but he already knew the answer. 

 

“Of course not. If such information were to fall into Kilrathi hands it would prove a fatal flaw that would end the Confederation. The captain’s name is Trysten Tennying; he’s a mercenary and owner of a freelance venture corvette named Dawn’s Horizon.” 

 

Michael was shocked at learning he would be hitching a ride aboard a merc transport. “You’re trusting a mercenary captain with jump coordinates that show a way to the heart of Sol in less than a week?” he asked in disbelief. 

 

Mercenaries cared nothing for the war that was going on or who won it. Their main goal was profit--plain and simple, being much like the pirates. Many were suspected of having dealt with pirate hackers buying the stolen data and reselling it to Kilrathi agents along the front lines making a large profit from the deal. The mercenary guilds across Confed sectors assured FleetCom internal security charged with maintaining quadrant security compliance and policing cargo and traffic lanes that the dealings were of no concern for the Navy and would be handled by their own personal defense force in quelling the smuggling. The pirates, wanting no dealings with the Kilrathi, were all too happy to let the mercenary smugglers play the middle man role with their agents as long as their pockets stayed fat.

 

 “As I said, I have had past dealings with Captain Tennying he has proven himself reliable, and is a member of the Merc guild for this sector.” Wedgeworth explained. “I don’t like this at all commander.” Michael admitted.  

 

” I mean, what’s to prevent him from making a copy of the coordinates if he decides he wants to earn a fast credit and make some new friends with the fur balls?”

 

 Picking up a holo-chip Wedgeworth said,” Safety measures are already in place, Mr. Fanin. The coordinates automatically delete themselves, and are re-coded differently after every jump is made in the holo-chip and on the transport ship’s star charts. It’s impossible for a would be thief to extract the numbers which are reconfigured. There’s no way to make a copy either. At any attempt to copy there’s a sub-directive embedded in the holo-chip that will erase all data contained on it.”

 

“Why a mercenary ship Commander? Surely, we have a Draymen available.” Picking up a data pad Wedgeworth inserted the holo-chip and started a download.

 

 “Not at the moment, no. And your orders call for an immediate departure. It’s fortunate that Captain Tenning’s ship survived the assault with such little damage.” Wedge Worth stated.

 

 Michael’s suspicions were on edge about hitching a ride with a freelancing vessel with no ties to the confederation, except contract’s and bounties that FleetCom councilmen had available for those looking to freelance their services. Even worse was the idea of handing over coordinates that lead to the heart of Sol in less than a week. Still though he was not in position to protest anything, no matter how unsettling the situation seemed. A green light began flashing on the data pad telling of the download completion. Extracting the holo-chip Wedgeworth extended her hand towards Michael holo-chip waiting. “A copy of your transfer orders along with the encoded jump coordinates. ” Reaching her hand under her desk she pulled out another holo-chip a little larger than the first. “ I’ve prepared a report as well for you to give to your new Commander when you reach Sol. It contains a detailed account of the recent assault. The contents are as I’m sure you know are classified.”  




 Reluctantly, Michael grabbed the holo-chips. “Is there anything else Mr. Fanin?” Michael reframed from wanting to say more knowing that it wouldn’t do any good. Weather he agreed with it or not he had his orders. Orders that for the moment he was unsure of how he could live up to. He knew very little about officer life, nor had any formal training in flight school. Shaking his head he said, “No Ma’Am.”, though he clearly wanted to protest more he knew that little good would come from it. “Good, then suggest you get packing. Captain Tennying is already preparing his vessel for launch, time is short.”, the commander explained. Both stood at the same time with, Michael saluting and Wedgeworth returning it. Turning with holo-chip in hand he moved towards the hatchway doors when Wedgewood said,” Mr. Fanin.”. Turning Michael looked back at the commander. “Remember sir, there are no bad crews. Only bad leaders.” With a grudging nod Michael headed through the entrance and into a new chapter in his life. A chapter that he had no idea how to write.

 

           *          *          *          *          *         

EXCELLOR CLASS ( CONFEDERATION DESTROYER)

See the source image

RALATHI DESTROYER

T.C.S DAWN’S HORIZON ( MODIFIED VENTURE CLASS CORVETTE), EN ROUTE TO SOL SYSTEM. CARGO ONE PASSENGER. 

Otto, stomped into Dawn’s Horizon’s bridge in a foul and nasty mood. His grey and dirty flight suit stained with its latest and smelliest addition, apart from a large cigar he had lite and was in the process of chewing on. Entering the bridge he found Captain Tennying and his co-pilot a tight lipped woman named Amanda. Both sat in their respective pilot seats, Amanda going over a preflight checklist and Tennying studying a datapad. As the Dawn’s Horizon’s only mechanic and engine technician, Otto was a skinny man with hard and gruff looking looking features, who did not fit the burly and large stereotyped image that most people thought of with mechanical technicians . With a light breaded face his features with edgy and always looked shrunk in due to his hard life and hard drinking. However aside from Captain Tennying he was the only man capable of making changings and upgrades to the vessel’s modified engine and weapon’s systems. Having been aboard for almost ten years the man knew every system and modification on Dawn’s Horizon by heart. Yet, Tennying had asked him to play host to their passenger who had come aboard drunk as a skunk. To make matters worse their passenger had seen fit to lose control blow chunks all over him, adding a new and offensive smelly stain to his already grungy uniform. Not looking up from his data pad Tennying asked, “How’s our boy?” “The b******s aboard and out cold asleep in the crew quarters.” Otto gruffed. Upon looking up Tennying’s eyes went wide in shock. “Christ man! What the hell happened!?” seeing Otto drenched in vomit which still dripped off his clothes. “Damned flyboy came aboard drunk as skunk. His a*s couldn’t  hold his liquor, so decides I’m the perfect target for him to empty his stomach out on!” Overhearing Otto, Amanda looked up from her console seeing Otto for the first time. Her slim petite  features cringing at Otto’s appearance. ,” That’s a lot of puke Otto, though it probably doesn’t smell as bad as that cigar.” she observed smiling. Smirking Tennying said, “I think I’d be washing up rather than up here on the bridge.” Huffing at the obvious Otto threw his hands up. “Captain, I’m not a freaking ship host!” he complained. “You pay me to keep the engines in line and up to speed. This ship has a lot of work left and I don’t have time to play escort for some Confed wannabe hotshot who probably couldn’t put a hydro-nit and multi-driver bolt together if he had the instructions and video right in front of him! If I’m gonna play concierge then I want more credits!” Otto bellowed before storming off the bridge. “He’s pissed.” Amanda said grinning. “I would be too, he looked like he had a pound of barf on him. I’ll give him this much, for such a skinny fellow his voice sure can carry.” Tennying said laughing while rubbing his ear. “I’m betting Watt’s and Rolland will never let him live that down.” Amanda jested, returning back to her console. “Would you?“ Tennying asked smirking .”Those two should be done securing the cargo hold, we lift off in seven minutes.” Tennying remarked. Switching on the cargo hold surveillance camera Amanda panned the camera around finding both strapping down several large containers in the hold. Activating the ships com system she said, “Come on already, we’re off in seven. Captain’s waiting.” “That’s the last one, we’re clear down here!” Watt’s a heavyset and burly man called back. Looking to Tennying, Amanda gave him a thumbs up. “Good, finish up with the preflight, I’m going to find Srri and have her look after our passenger.” Tennying said getting up from his flight seat. At the mention of Srri Amanda’s features grew serious. “Do you think that’s a good idea?” she asked? Stopping at the hatchway entrance Tennying turned to face her.” I really don’t give care. This is my ship, and Srri’s a part of my crew.” “Yes, but having Srri aboard a confederation carrier could cause a lot of unwanted problems that we don’t need. You already know Felix has no love for the Confederation. If this guy decides to make waves about Srri it could well... it’s just bad for business.” Amanda said. “I don’t plan to be aboard this carrier any longer than I half to. Besides, Srri brings us an edge when we have to deal with the Kilrathi. Plus, she’s useful in a lot of ways. If flyboy doesn’t like her then he’s welcome to leave in an escape pod if need be. Either way I’m not going to have her hiding or keeping to the shadows for the duration of this trip, no matter what this guy thinks.” Tennying said. “Hope your right in this, captain.” Amanda stated. “Look sooner or later he’s gonna know she’s onboard. It’s almost three weeks to Earth. Even with this cloak and dagger course Commander Wedgeworth gave us. Better to put her out in the deck once we clear docking, then try and hide her for three weeks. If this guy finds out about her later and asks what’s the deal we could suddenly look very suspicious to him. Last thing I want is my name on a bar from FleetCom contracts. Like you said no waves.” Tennying explained, growing annoyed. “Captain, I think you did that already just by bringing her aboard.” “Just finish the preflight check and get us launch clearance. I’ll be back.” Tennying snapped a little harshly while turning and going through the hatchway. “Damn, sorry.” Amanda muttered turning back to her console screen. Amanda didn’t really blame the captain for snapping at her. She understood the risk he was taking and had taken every time they had docked aboard a Confederation ship. It was a risk that could land all of them in a FleetCom prison cell for the rest of their days, at the least. With being executed on the spot at the very worst. Amanda had heard stories of ship Commanders who had caught would be merc’s hacking their data banks attempting to steal military star charts or other sensitive material. They and their crews were executed immediately on the spot with little to no concern for due process. FleetCom internal affairs had more than once turned a blind eye to Commanders who felt it prudent to take judgement into their own hands. To her it was an unnecessary risk and foolish. Being a new member of Tennying’s crew she was in no position to protest. Young and very ambitious she desired to one day have a ship and crew of her own, loaded down with fat contracts. 

                 *          *          *          *

 

Felix sat at a table in the ships bunk area nursing a half empty bottle of whiskey. Several razor sharp shurikens and a long knife lay scattered about the table. A soft snoring sound emanating from the bunk area was his only company. Carefully he picked up one of the shurikens making sure to keep his fingers clear of the highly explosive contents in its center. Pulling out a wet stone from his bandolier he began to sharpen the already smooth and razor sharp edge. Being a weapon’s specialist and second in command aboard the Dawn’s Horizon under Tennying, he was a brutal mercenary. He was by far not the typical norm for a human. Early in the war Confed medical scientist had begun cybernetic experiments hoping to blend the speed, strength and aggressiveness Kilrathi warriors into human soldiers. The goal was to make an enhanced combat soldier that would be on par with the cats warriors and their elite vanguard. At hearing of the possible opportunity of increased strength and speed Felix had automatically volunteered for the experimentation. He had been assured there would be no side effects nor permanent alterations to his body. Titanium gauntlets laced with pinpoint needles had been surgically grafted to his forearms and calves.

 Metallic flex hose’s ran from the ends of his gauntlets into the lower parts of his bi-cepts and calves, giving him a cyber-mechanical appearance. The experimental procedure had indeed gave him what researchers had promised, and much more than what he had expected. Along with his enhanced abilities his vision and hearing had also improved beyond the norm. It had come with a price though. The chemicals that had been used to increase muscle mass and quicken his agility had come with an unforeseen cost. Side effects due to rewriting Felix’s genetic code had soon begun to manifest themselves despite what researchers had told him. Felix  lost all the hair on his body and could not grow it back. Every vein in his body had swelled and gorged to unnatural proportions threatening to burst through his skin. His skin texture had gone from a natural light tan to a pearl white far beyond that of an albino. Sleep was all but impossible for him. The best he could manage was a semi-unconscious daze that he would drift in and out of, which he had to self-induce with alcohol or illegal drugs. He was a constant victim of insomnia while suffering from fits of psycho delusions from the lack of sleep. As a natural result from drinking and constant drug usage addiction soon set in not improving his condition or situation.

 Felix had at once wanted the implants and chemicals removed. After numerous testing medical staff had informed him while the implants could be removed his body had become dependent on the chemicals used to stimulate his enhancements. Any attempt to withdraw from them would likely cause his body to shut down, killing him in the process. At learning there was absolutely no hope of reversing his condition Confed had told him there was nothing they could do nor had the time to do further research with the war raging across Confederation front lines. They had all but abandoned the research opting instead to invest in more suitable weapons to deal with the Kilrathi threat leaving Felix and others who had volunteered to their fate. He had used what credits he had seeking medical treatment from independent medical staff in the hopes something could be done. Refusing to give up he had bankrupted himself denying the reality of his irreversible situation. As his hope began to fade he came across a promising scientist who was a leading expert in genetic alterations. 

After learning of Felix’s situation and reviewing his condition the scientist felt he could reverse Felix’s freakish side effects. The scientist however wasn’t entirely sure how his body would respond to the experimental treatment and that death would be a serious possibility. Desperate at this point, he was willing to try anything. The procedure however was very expensive. With no money he had gone to Confed asking for funding to try the operation. He had been denied with the excuse that funds were dried up with everything going to the war effort to keep the cats at bay. Feeling used and betrayed he had been forced to use his advanced talents in combat for hire. It wasn’t long before Tennying had found him and learned of his special skills. Tennying had cared little for the man’s physical appearance more interested in his combat abilities instead. The man was Tennying’s ace in the hole in dealing with hard situations that often occurred when he had to deal with the cats. Felix had no love for the Confederation or anyone in its service labeling them all in the same. When he had first learned of this assignment he had instantly protested, wanting nothing to do with Confed. With tensions mounting in the Riley system over pirate activity, freelance mercenaries were flocking there to provide cover and defense. Merchant transports loaded with raw materials had been falling prey to merciless pirates. Tired of looking to Confederation for heavier reinforcements Merchants had begun offering rich payouts to merc’s who could offer protection and escort past the harassing thief’s that were plaguing merchant traffic routes. Felix had argued with Tennying urging him to sign on with the desperate merchants seeing big credits. Plus Felix knew Tennying wouldn’t mind causing the troublesome pirates some headaches to the merchant’s delight thus strengthening their ties. Tennying though had already agreed to take this assignment despite the lull of big credits the merchants in Riley where offering. No one aboard knew that in his youth he’d been a confederation pilot himself and Wedgeworth had been his squadron commander at that time. With ties that went far back she had more than once saved his bacon during combat missions. Knowing this he didn’t mind taking on assignments that didn’t pay much returning her some favor during hard times. Scoffing Felix stated he’d had rather deal with the Kilrathi who in his eyes at least held some warped sense of honor, then babysit a petty flyboy. Yet there was little he could do being desperate for credits. If he was to have any hope of fixing himself he for the time being needed Tennying and his ties to the fat contracts the mercenary guild held. “Felix were almost ready to launch, Watt’s and Roland are finishing up securing the cargo hold. I need you in the cockpit with Amanda.” Said Tennying entering the crew quarters. Felix made no acknowledgement of Tennying, continuing to sharpen shuriken.  “Felix?” Tennying repeated. “Why’d you take this assignment Tennying?” Felix asked forgoing Tennying’s title as Captain. Frowning Tennying looked down at Felix while replying, “Because I’m the captain and this is my ship.” Looking up Felix’s bloodshot eyes matched Tennying’s stare. As to emphasize his point Tennying picked up Felix’s whiskey bottle and took a healthy swig. Instantly he spit the contents of the bottle on the ground coughing. “Christ man where do you get this stuff?!” Tennying exclaimed. Looking away Felix allowed himself a small smile. “It’s Kilrathi bourbon. Stuff will knock down a horse.” Felix muttered. Beating his chest a few times and clearing his throat Tennying took a brief look at the bottle raising an eyebrow before setting it down on the table. Tennying knew that Felix had to take some pretty strong stuff to counter the insomnia providing some temporary relief for him of his condition. Tennying had often overlooked Felix’s attitude taking into account his situation, but now wasn’t one of those times. “Look Felix, I don’t have time to deal with your crap. We’re in prelaunch get off your a*s and to the cockpit.” Tennying ordered. 

Scowling, Felix rose from his seat with Tennying all the while watching. Tennying knew Felix was on edge about being aboard a confederation ship and it didn’t help that he’d be spending the majority of this mission in the company of a Confed flyboy. “Just make sure he keeps clear of me, Captain. If not - .” Pulling out a shuriken Felix placed the sharp weapon on the nozzle of the bottle its fine blade centered. With one finger he began press on the butt of the blade. Smiling Felix applied more pressure against the shuriken. Suddenly dozens of cracks appeared all over the whiskey bottle. Quicker than the eye could follow Felix lifted his finger while simultaneously pulling the shuriken free of the nozzle. “Be a pity if our cargo was damaged somehow. Might make getting paid a bit of a challenge.” He mused. Without another word Felix turned and headed towards the bridge leaving Tennying at the table. Frustrated Tennying wasn’t about to let this Confed pilot anywhere near Felix. If it wasn’t for the man’s fighting abilities and prowess as a warrior Tennying would have long ago gotten rid of the man. Yet Felix had his value that hard to match when dealing with the Kilrathi. And weather he liked it or not they did pay better. Having Felix around made the playing field much more level in his eyes. Hearing the engines come to life, Tennyings thoughts drifted to Srri Yet here lately Felix was beginning to test his patience. Either way it would prove to be an interesting journey.

 

           *          *          *          *          *             

 

                 Michael awoke with a continental sized headache that was bidding fair to redraw the lines of his brain. After leaving Wedgeworth’s office, he’d gone back to the locker room intent on a long hot shower. Upon entering he’d found several of his co- pilots with Lisa. It didn’t take Lisa long to Probe Michael’s meeting with Wedgeworth out of him and even less time to spread the news. Soon well-wishers and comrades had crowed the locker room all wanting an opportunity for best of luck and good hunting. It was a good attempt to make cheer with warm wishes after such an intense battle. With friends and comrades all around Lisa had broached the idea of a farewell party in the officer’s lounge, and no one thought it would be a bad idea to boost morale after such a close victory over the Kilrathi. Michael had reluctantly agreed to a few rounds but a party was out of question. Lisa on the other hand was going all out. What had started out as few warm hearted toasted and best wishes, soon turned into an all-night party with Michael being the guest of honor and toastings. Rising up from the bunk his head swayed much like his vision of the room. 

“You have been sleeping for almost nine hours.” he heard a feminine voice say. Looking around with dazed vision Michael made out several holo monitors and bunks. Two large speakers and an ancient stereo system stood in one corner of the room. From what he could make they looked at least several hundred years old and yet seemed to be in pristine condition. Three tables were centered in the room, one sporting a cracked half empty whiskey bottle. He couldn’t make out anyone else in the room besides himself. At the site of the container Michael felt his stomach tie up in knots. Rubbing his forehead he laid back down. Wanting nothing more than to drift back into sleep he knew he couldn’t. 

“Have we reached the first jump point yet?” he asked his unknown counterpart. “ I do not know, as purr my captain's orders I have been safeguarding you since your arrival and have not left your company since receiving my assignment.” The feminine voice answered. Michael felt his arm hairs tingle. Something was wrong with the way this person spoke. Her choice of words didn’t sit well with him. Sitting up from his bunk and re scanning the room he made out a shadowed figure standing in the corner of the room he’d missed before. Hidden in the shadow’s Michael couldn’t make out much of her features. “Step out to where I can see you.” he said squinting. 

Without hesitation the feature in the corner took two steps out into the light. Michael saw that she wore a robe with the hood drawn up over her face. Feeling uneasy Michael’s hair on the back of neck tingled. 

“Take off your hood.” he said wearily. At the order the figure hesitated for a moment, almost as if she didn’t understand what he was saying. He was about to repeat the order when slowly she moved her hands up and removed the hood. 

Michael’s eyes popped opened wide in shock and instantly his hand raced down to his side arm pulling free his blaster. Seeing him pull free his blaster, the Kilrathi hissed at this human’s aggressive action. Michael wasted no time taking aim firing off several shots towards the Kilrathi who despite his shot’s managed to flip over a table ducking behind it. Sliding off the bunk Michael took aim at the table and released several more that burned into and through the metallic table forcing the Kilrathi  leap behind the next table.  

Growing tired of this human Srri stood up from behind the table giving Michael a clean shot at her. Firing several more shots at Srri, Michael was known to be a crack shot but the shots sailed past barely missing, her smashing instead into ancient stereo system cornered in the room. The blaster bolts made short and dirty work of the speakers leaving nothing left but smoking ruins which would slowly burn into ashes. Quick flipping over the table she closed the distance to Michael rapidly. He got off another round of shots which Srri spun and ducked past without breaking stride. Before Michael could release another volley Srri shot forth with a strong limb catching hold of Michaels blaster and disarming him with quick moment too fast for him to follow. As the blaster fell to the floor Srri pulled Michaels arm out wide while nimble sliding around behind him taking his arm with her locking it painfully behind him. Quicker than his eyes could follow she had her claws out and at Michael’s throat. He could feel her whiskers prick the back of his neck with her breathe running down his spin. “Furless coward! You dare make an attempt on my life without cause! If not for my master I would clean my claws on your corpse!” she hissed angrily. Michael tried to speak but only managed a half choked gurgle as Srri tightened down on his throat with her claws.

 Suddenly the crew quarter hatchway doors burst open with Tennying and Felix rushing into the room both sporting blasters of their own. “Srri release him!” Tennying ordered upon seeing the two. Michael instantly felt his breathe return as the pressure on his throat vanished. “Of course my master.” Srri said letting go and stepping back. All semblance of anger gone. Michael dropping to all fours catching several much needed breaths. He was almost half a foot taller than the Kilrathi and must out weighed her by thirty pounds and yet her speed and strength surprised him. 

“You’ve got a freaking Kilrathi on board!” Michael stated gasping. Felix becoming bored with the whole situation began scanning the room. As his eyes fell over the destroyed speakers and stereo his visage hardened. “Ahh! Son of a B***h! Those were antiques! With eyes that promised murder Felix turned his attention the author of his distress. “Srri, go and get our passenger something to eat. I’m sure he’s probably got an appetite after such a long rest. Felix step outside until he can get his bearings.” Tennying said to both wanting to defuse the situation. 

“As you command my master.” Srri complied, turning and moving towards the hatchway doors. Felix on the other hand stood still as a stone eyes boring into Michael's head. His breathe coming out in rag gage gasps. 

“Now Felix!” Tennying snapped. Felix’s eyes lingered on Michaels before snapping to meet Tennyings for a moment before Felix grudging turned and followed suit out the door. 

“There’s a freaking Kilrathi aboard. “ Michael repeated, still shocked somewhat.

 “Her name is Srri, she’s part of my crew here. I’m Tristham Tennying Captain and owner of this fine vessel.” he stated reaching down and giving Michael a hand to his feet. Tennying was as tall as Michael with much bulker build. Bald headed Tennying wore a deep tan almost to a burnt level. His face sported two deep scares one boring down from his eye to lower part of his jaw line and the other transversing upward at the same angle.

 Several tattoos Michael couldn’t make out lay on the other side of his face. It looked to him as some sort of language he’d never seen before. Michael’s mind still somewhat impaired from the effects of the party spent a long moment replaying everything.

 After a moment he said, “You brought a Kilrathi aboard a military vessel.” “I would have introduced myself when you came aboard but your condition at that time prevented such a meeting.” Tennying explained, side stepping Michael’s accusations. Michael felt a brief flush of embarrassment upon hearing ( condition ) knowing he’d been drunk as a skunk which it in its self was a violation of Confederation policy, though no were near the level of having a Kilrathi aboard a confederation ship. Michael’s thoughts drifted back to the conversation he had with Wedgeworth and wondered if she had any idea this captain she’s spoken of was deliberately hauling around a Kilrathi as part of his crew. “Srri has been with us for over a year now and has proven herself more than once sir. She’s very adaptable as you’ve already seen.” Tennying stated deciding to broach the subject. 

“That still in no way gives you the right to bring a Kilrathi crew member or not aboard a Confederation vessel. She could be a spy or a stealthy assassin.” Michael countered. “I’m sure we all could if the price were right. And technically Srri has never stepped aboard a confederation vessel since coming to be a part of my crew and she’s been on quite a few. ” Tennying admitted. Michael wasn’t sure how to respond to that.  

Just then the hatchway doors opened with Srri returning carrying a trey with a steaming hot meal that even from this distance had Michaels stomach on edge. Even the lingering effects of the alcohol were no match for the overpowering aroma of the meal she carried. Michael’s attention however was focused on Srri. She’d replaced the hood overhead again and had set the trey down on the only remaining table and stood silent. 

“Pull off your hood Srri.” To Michael’s surprise Srri pulled off the hood without a moment’s hesitation revealing her features. To Michaels surprise she was a stunning creature. Shorter than him a soft layer of short light golden fur covered her features. She had two large golden brown eyes that matched her fur perfectly. Her features reminded Michael of a jaguar. Dark almost black spots dawned her facial features adding to her beauty. Several inch long whiskers with a pair of fangs from her jaw stood out from both sides of her nose completing her feline complexion. Then he took note of something he’d never seen on any Kilrathi before. Behind her she sported a furry tail. She was beautiful in her own way and Michael knew without a doubt just as deadly.

 “My apologies if I upset you human. I had no dishonorable intentions towards you and still do not. My Lord Tennying has given me instructions to be of assistance to you while you are aboard the Dawn’s Horizon. There are several capsules on the trey with your meal that remove any lingering effects from the alcohol.” Srri said. Looking her over Michael found it was almost impossible to get a read on her. Despite the smell of the meal or the promise of relief from monstrous headache now plaguing him he had no intention to try the meal nor the pills. “ Srri serves as an interpreter and an ambassador of sorts when we have unpleasant encounters with Kilrathi, among other things. “, before he could go any further several red warning lights began flashing with a voice female voice booming on the intercom. 

“ Better get up here Captain.” 

“Now what.” Tennying muttered to himself. “Stay here.” he told Michael. “Maybe I’d better go with you. Might be good to have an officer around weather you need one or not.” Michael said. “Sigh’s, alright then but stay out of the way. Might be a good idea to take those pills as well. “Tennying nodded towards the table. As Tennying moved towards the doors, Michael thinking otherwise snatched up the pills and followed suit. As the pair moved through the hatchway doors Michael caught site of the freakish looking individual he’d seen before standing outside scowling. As his eyes locked on Michael’s the scowl deepened. Thankfully he said nothing but instead fell in behind Michael. “Your pet not coming?” Michael asked and instantly regretted it. Sure enough Tennying turned with a nasty frown on his face, “ Srri, her name is Srri and I’d be careful how you address my crew members. So far you’re not making a favorable impression on them.” Tennying remarked. 

Off to a great start Michael told himself, and wishing he’d kept his mouth shut. Turning Tennying continued towards the bridge with Michael following suit. He didn’t find the inside of the Dawn’s Horizon impressive at all. At least not by Confed standards. The main corridor leading to the bridge he guessed was maybe three meters in diameter. It had a grilled walkway full of rust and some clutter, parts and needed to be cleaned badly. Exposed steam pipes hung overhead sweating a nasty dirt looking like substance from them. He thanked God he didn’t see any exposed power lines or circuitry. Every couple of meters a semi lit light had been installed. Judging from the dim light they emitted Michael wondered if their power generator was up to par. He noticed several rather nasty looking grime spot’s on the walls telling him that Tennying obviously didn’t take too much pride in his ship, based off the way things were looking. Michael was glad he hadn’t tried the food after all. The air a rich with thick rustic type smell that only got worse the closer he got to the bridge. Mercenaries at their finest he told himself. 

Upon entering the bridge Michael found two large console stations centered in front a large octagon shaped window representing the front of the ship. A slender blond haired woman sat in front of one of them. A few meter’s back were two more stations just as large located each corner of the bridge. One was occupied by a slender man smoking a cigar. Looking up from the console he saw Michael, frowned and looked back down towards his screen. Christ is everyone gonna frown at me? He wondered. “Stay over out of the way and over there.” Tennying said gesturing to one side of the ship. Not wanting to make any worse impressions Michael found the corner and stood aside. “What’s the deal Amanda?” he asked. “Two contacts captain both bearing four two nine five, mark one seven zero eight, distance eleven point seven clicks.”” Seems we came in on Confed and Kitty play time.” Otto gruffed to himself. “Give me a picture.” Tennying ordered. Hitting several keys on her console a large screen lowered from the ceiling and emitted a picture for everyone to see.

 On the screen, an excellor destroyer appeared with a Ralathi destroyer in close pursuit. Michael moved closer for a better view. Suddenly the Kilrathi destroyer fired two large cannon shots from its main battery. Both shot’s slammed into the excellor’s port side causing a large rupture to appear, along with large amounts of debris. Returning fire from its port side battery the excellors cannon’s put several nice shot’s into the Ralathi’s mid-section. “I’m picking up a S.O.S from the excellor Captain.” Amanda announced. She continued, “Her reactor is on a meltdown, only a matter of time until it blow’s along with all hands aboard. Scanners are also showing massive damage to the Ralathi’s engines. Looks like the Excellor is pulling away.” Tennying stood silently studying the situation on the screen. Michael suddenly got a bad feeling at what he thought Tennying was thinking. 

“Don’t tell me you’re the kind of mercenary who’d let several hundred innocent people die just because it’s not in your contact, captain.” Michael said approaching. “Innocent? That’s a military vessel with military personnel aboard. Innocent is hardly the case here. Our contract is to take you to Earth. Nothing more, nothing less.” Tennying retorted. Michael couldn’t believe he was hearing this. “So your just gonna-““Captain! I’ve got inbound Kilrathi jump emissions! I’m picking up twenty seven, no make thirty new contacts! “Otto announced suddenly. “ What the hell.” Tennying said rushing towards Otto’s console. “Confirmed Captain,” Amanda pitched in, her features going white with dread. “Fourty new inbound Kilrathi contacts! “ It’s a strike fleet. “Michael blurted not knowing how he knew.” GOD, I hope not. “Amanda said, worry evident in her voice. Turning towards Felix Tennying said, “Felix you and Ronnie get the turrets online and ready the upgrades.” Without a word Felix left the bridge. Tennying turned back to Otto, “Otto why didn’t we pick up their transponder signals?” “Can’t say Captain, but their coming in clear now.” Otto said. Flashes of the Kilrathi’s attack on Phobias suddenly rocked Michaels mind, it was the same lay out. And this fleet again appearing out of nowhere confirmed that the fur balls did indeed have some new type of jumping technology that made them virtually undetectable until they were staring you in the face. For the confederation it was a threat that couldn’t be ignored. “Scanners picking up three heavy carriers Sivar class, six Ralatha cruisers, nine Ralathi destroyers, seven Fralathi light cruisers a dozen strike corvettes and various support ships.” Otto all but croaked. 

“Status of turret and missile systems?” Tennying snapped. Michael noted light sweat beads appearing on the man’s face. Pressing several keys Amanda read the readout. “Weapon systems up and ready upgrades and drive nominal. “She answered. Moving to Felix’s station Tennyings Fingers flashed across his console in an effort to raise him. After several seconds Felix’s face appeared on the screen. “Give me one hundred and forty percent on the reactor red line it if you half too. “ Tennying ordered. Looking Amanda he continued, “Set course for the jump point. One hundred thirty percent on thrusters.” “Wait a minute! “ Michael exclaimed stepping up, “You can’t leave those people aboard the destroyer to die.”

 Unlike Felix, Tennying was a former confederation pilot himself in his younger years before his conversion to a mercenary, and was not unsympathetic to those aboard the destroyer. But, he wasn’t about to put his crew or his ship at risk, for nothing. “Their reactor will go critical at any time. They are already dead, there’s no point in us dying with them. “Tennying explained. “ You can’t be serious. “Michael said. “ Indeed I am, “ Tennying countered. “ There are over three hundred aboard that ship, we’d be lucky to hold a quarter of her crew. And I am not under contract for a rescue. My job is to get you to Sol in one piece, I’m sorry.” Tennying said sincerely. Michael couldn’t believe he was hearing this.

 Nervous about the incoming Kilrathi and wanting to get things underway, Amanda chimed in, “Course set for two  one four, mark three seven eight. ETA, twenty one minutes.” Michael wasn’t about to stand by and do nothing. Moving to within earshot of Tennying and whispering, “So help me, if you let those people die I’ll see to it that you NEVER get another contract assignment, ANYWHERE within the confederation territories again. And if I can manage it I’ll have you and your crew arrested and brigged for bringing a potential spy aboard a confederation carrier. As GOD as my witness I will not stand by and let you bypass those people, military or otherwise they are human beings. And if there’s the smallest chance to save them then by GOD we will take it. Profits be damned! ” He threatened in all seriousness. The two locked stares. Out of the corner of his eye Michael saw Otto’s arm drift slowly towards his side arm. “Am I needed on the bridge?” Felix’s voice asked from the comm screen. Both Michael and Tennying could hear a slight eagerness in his voice. “No stay with the reactor. “ Tennying said before switching the screen off and taking Felix out of situation.  The last thing Michael needed was a pissing contest with a mercenary captain in the midst of an approaching Kilrathi fleet. Yet he was damned if he’d stand by and let Tennying fly past without making any sort of rescue attempt whatsoever. “ETA to destroyer?” Tennying asked after a moment. “Captain! There’s no profit in this! “Otto protested. “ How about the profit of a clear conscience.” Michael retorted turning  directly at Otto. Looking away Otto focused on his console his head lowered in shame. “ETA to destroyer thirteen minutes. “ Amanda said. Continuing she added, “Kilrathi intercept time thirty six minutes.” Taking a deep breath and not breaking eye contact with Michael Tennying ordered,  “Realign our vector to intercept the destroyer. Otto patch a link into the excellors computer and keep tabs on her reactor, and power down our weapons we’ll need it for extra engine power. Switching on the comlink Tennying got Felix and Ronnie on the other end. “Get to the cargo hold and make as much space as you can. One of you get to the supply hold and break out as many med kit’s as you can  also. We’re gonna have company.“ Tennying heard the beginnings of protests but switched off the com link before the took shape. Looking up from the com link he found both Otto and Amanda staring at him with blank expressions. 

“Now!” he snapped. Amanda being the first to react focused her attention back on the flight systems, “New course set nine, one, four mark two, eight, eight. Thrusters at one hundred thirty percent.” Facing Michael Tennying said, “You’d be useful in the cargo hold. “ Looking at Tennying Michael saw a brief flash of conflict in the man’s expression. With little time to spare Michael left Tennying to his thoughts, not really caring what the man was thinking, hurrying towards the cargo hold. Outside the Dawn’s Horizon’s course shifted towards the destroyer which was being covered with a series of small explosions. Behind the destroyer the Ralathi drifted further and further away. Unwilling to give up the chase so close to its prey. Two transport ships had been launched from the Kilrathi destroyer and were speeding towards the excellor with all haste. Felix and Ronnie grudgingly worked frantically clearing and moving as much containers as they could, rearranging supplies and laying out what med kit’s they could find. Upon seeing Michael both stopped working momentarily to stare at him. Neither said anything but Micheal could see them both scowling at him. Just great he thought. It appeared that making friends with the crew was fast going down the drain.  With Michael working with them they made a good amount of space ready for the incoming and no dough wounded passengers. “Were two minutes away from docking.” Tennying announced entering followed by Srri. Michael kept a wary eye on Srri who stared at him without blinking. “Otto watch that core readout, at the first sign of collapse we’re gone. “ Tennying said speaking into a headset. Regardless or not how many are left on that ship.”, he finished giving a look to Michael that left no room for argument. Just then the hull was bombarded with several large clangs and booms. “We must be passing through some debris.” Ronnie mused. “I want you over there herding the crew towards the med kits, get them packed together as close as you can. We’ll  need every inch of space we have.” Tennying said. Shall I assist him my master? “Srri asked. “ No, keep to the shadows.” Srri quickly and quietly melted behind some cargo containers. Over the intercom everyone heard Amanda’s voice announce, “Forty Two seconds to dock.” Michael moved towards the hatchway door loosely followed by Felix. Tennying intently placed himself between the pair. Knowing Felix’s dislike for military personnel he in no way wanted a situation to spark between the pair that could erupt into an inferno. Peering out the hatchway window the trio got a firsthand view of the excellor. Along with the small explosions they could see whole sections missing. Structural debris floated everywhere mixed in with numerous dead bodies that floated ah drift many dead faces frozen in fear. “If she wasn’t going up, she’d certainly be scrapped.” Michael noted. “Going up in a blaze of glory and our asse’s are parking right next to her. Felix said annoyed, with most of that annoyance directed at Michael. Before any remark could be made a portable docking cuplink extended out from the Dawn’s Horizon, several meters latching onto the destroyer. Hook’s connecting the coupling corridor withdrew several feet locking in the attachment. Instantly all three felt a heavy continuous shudder course through the ship. On a control panel next to the hatchway door a small green light appeared. “She’s pressurized, barely but holding.” Tennying said watching the process intently. 

Opening the hatchway door Tennying and Michael hurried into and down the makeshift corridor, towards the excellor’s outer hatchway door. As the pair approached, the destroyer’s outer door opened revealing a battered figure. Blood stained various spots on her uniform several second degree burns covered her neck, along with a nasty gash slanting across her face. A blood soaked bandage dressed the woman’s forearm. Despite her appearance she gave off a surety look standing upright and giving them a confident look.  “I’m Lieutenant Ross of the T.C.S Waterloo. Thank God! we were sure we were dead.” “Captain Tennying of the Dawn’s Horizon, and we still might be if we don’t give moving Lieutenant. What’s your compliment and where your captain?” he asked. “Dead,” Ross answered, “Whole bridge crew lost except for myself. Took a torpedo right in the command center. Lucky shot crippled us in the first round. Everything went to hell after that. Lost more than half our crew. Last count was one hundred eighteen out of three hundred forty.”

 Tennying sucked in his breath. “We’ll be hard pressed to hold that number but we’ll find a way.” He remarked. “Let’s get them aboard. “ Nodding the Lieutenant stepped aside while motioning with their good arm. Another officer motioned a dozen meters down were the hallway bent around the corner. The destroyer’s crew appeared heading towards them. Michael and Tennying got their first view of the corridor. Even through dim flashing emergency lights they could tell the place had been through a battering ram. Exposed electrical lines and power cables dangled from the ceiling. Some slapping into shredded broken terminals igniting sparks with every touch. Simmering steam poured through the air vent’s a bad indication of the reactors condition. Tenny and Michael found a fresh sweat breaking free on both their foreheads. As the crew made their way forward and passing the pair could see almost all bore injuries in one way or another. A least a dozen were carried on stretchers, unconscious. Lacerations and burns could found on everyone that passed by. Others had shredded limbs while a few had them missing completely which slowed progress down even more. Without warning a violent shudder rocked the corridor causing several to stumble.

 Michael was thrown to the floor, rolling dangerously close to a steaming vent. Tennying was slammed hard against the hatchway's outer frame, knocking the wind from him.

“Otto! How we doing?” he yelled into the headset after he was able to get his breath back. Several smaller shudders and a large clang followed. “Reactor’s red lining captain unstable, not long before it hits critical mass.” Otto reported. Getting to his feet Michael herded the crew personnel forward, while shouting, “Let’s go! We got no time! Hurry!” Several dozen more hurried down the corridor careful to avoid the electrical lines and steaming vents. As one crew member hobbled forward, his leg shredded and torn Michael threw an arm under the man helping,” How many more? “He asked. “One more behind me.” The man said painfully. Just then a lone crewmen burst around the corner. Michael took note that this man unlike so many other’s bore little to no injuries. Seeing the pair and running towards them, came to the man’s other side. With all haste they made their way towards the hatchway door. As they approached the exit another violent shudder rocked the corridor throwing all three. Small explosions igniting, blew through the shredded consoles and terminals. Caught off guard the injured crewman was thrown into a bundle of electrical lines. Screaming as electrical currents coursed through his body, a sizzling smoke began fuming. Screaming the poor man’s eyes alit with flame burst from his sockets before exploding in a showering goo, from the killer voltage. A nasty charred burnt odor began seeping from his body, before the sweet cold embrace of death came for him.

 “Otto!” Tennying screamed. 

“Running out of time.” Came the semi- garbled reply. Yelling over the explosions Tennying waved them forward. Needing no further encouragement Michael surged forward with the remaining crew member close behind. A few feet away from the exit Michael didn’t miss the expression on Tennying’s features, “Down!” he shouted. Already dropping, Tennying quickly spun behind the hatchway exit. The remaining crewmember however wasn’t fortunate to react fast enough. A barrage of fusion fire slammed into his back. One shot caught the heavyset man in the head causing it to erupt in a shower of brain and blood.  Crumpling the man toppled forward onto Michael.

 Peeking from behind the edge of the hatchway and pulling free his blaster Tennying saw two Kilrathi warriors. Both crouched they began firing down the destroyers corridor. Unable to fire back they had him all but trapped. Another violent surge hammered the corridor throwing Tennying out from his hiding and bowling over one of the Kilrathi. The other keeping his balance fired several more shots. Taking aim Tennying fired back, scoring two shoulder shots in the Kilrathi’s chrome armor. Both bolts shoved the warriors shoulder back, but little else with the armor absorbing the fire. Flattening himself Tennying screamed, “Felix!” “Stay down!” Tennying yelled seeing Michael trying to rise. At that moment both heard pounding footsteps approaching. “About time.”” Felix Admonished, jumping over the pair without breaking stride. With his comrade joining him both with brace blasters charged continued firing at Felix who was running head on, easily dodging the dangling power cables and electrical lines. Dodging several shot’s that sailed past, Felix was able to pull free a quartet of shurikens, bombarding all four onto one target, before stopping short. 

Covering behind his fang shield all four shirkens slammed into it. Both warriors stopped momentarily looking at the pathetic weaponry the human used. Both began a hissing laugh. Felix too began laughing. The Kilrathi’s laugh was cut short, when all four shirkens exploded violently, leaving nothing behind but a smoldering ruin. The ensuing explosion knocked the remaining Kilrathi warrior hard into the wall momentarily stunning him. Never one to miss an opportunity Tennying getting to his feet rushed over to Michael’s aide. With Michael on his feet both made haste down the corridor towards the Dawn’s Star hatchway doors. “We’ve got to get out of here!” Michael yelled towards Tennying. “We’re not leaving without Felix.” Tennying shouted back. 

Looking back over his shoulder Tennying saw that Felix was still engaged with the last Kilrathi. Recovered from the dazing blow the Kilrathi threw off his arm shield while roaring in challenge charged ahead. Felix, likewise came on. Taller and with more lean muscle, the Kilrathi knew he’d make short work of his lesser prey. To his utter amazement as they both collided, the warrior found himself being toppled backwards. The overpowering brute force of the human shook the warriors confidence. Strattled and unable to move the Kilrathi extended his razer like claws intending to tear out his adversaries throat for a quick kill. Catching the warrior’s wrist Felix slammed it hard into the floor, causing the brace baster to erupt in a torrent of fire. “Game Over.” He taunted with a sadistic grin. Driving on metallic gauntlet down he smashed and drove through the warrior’s skull. Rolling off the still twitching corpse and rising with blood soaked gauntlet, Felix felt an intense satisfaction long missed. 

“Felix! Move your a*s!” he heard Tennyings voice over the protests of the violent shudders and sparking hazards. Quick as any cat he spunk racing back towards the Dawn’s Star outer hatchway. At almost a dozen feet away Felix caught a look of complete horror Michael’s and Tennyings features. Looking behind Felix saw a nightmare come around the bend of the destroyer’s corridor. Standing a t over nine feet in height and plated with chrome colored armoring that could withstand all but the most brutal weaponry, the Kilrathi berserker mech was a pure beast for any confederation soldier, let alone an enhanced mercenary. The mechanical unit’s features mimicked that of a Kilrathi soldier, but far more deadlier. Its kur’rit blade was sharp enough to sever almost anything it came across. Six  inch claws protruded from both its impressive hands.

 Two six cannon mini-guns dawned each of its flanks for awesome long range firepower.  Sported in back and atop its shoulder sat a missile with armor coned around it. Vented thruster jets were littered all around the unit’s ex-skeleton allowing for instant dart like movements, making it even more of a threat in melee combat. “Ah s**t.” Felix groaned. Seeing three easy target’s the berserker began forward, it’s pilot safely inside and exo-skeleton out for blood. Without warning a huge explosion burst out from the docking panel that controlled the pressure and seal ment of the cup link corridor to the destroyer’s outer hatchway door. The seal broke creating a four- inch gap into cold space. A high pitch warning siren began wailing down the hallway. Instantly a high pressure vacuum filled both cup link and corridor. Felix desperate to make the last few feet inside the Dawn’s Horizon cargo hold came up short against the pull of the vacuum. Both gauntlet’s found and held a vise like grip on the Dawn’s Star’s lower hatch lip. His feet however were lifted off the ground pulled towards the hungry gap leading into cold space. Michael was able to spin inside the ship’s cargo entrance and was somewhat shielded against the pull. Tennying wasn’t so lucky however,-- being ripped off the floor--and sucked towards the vacuum. 

Felix made a desperate grab as Tennying tumbled passed but only catching air. Screaming, Tennying slammed through the gap turning his body into a bloody mist as his remains exited into the cold void. The berserker, going down on all fours , dug its metallic claws deep into the floor grid. With a death grip hold the lower  latch  lip and muscle’s bulging with strain, Felix began to walk himself slowly towards the hatchway door making progress. Seeing his prey on the verge of escape the Berserker pilot launched it’s shoulder missile, opting for an easy kill. As the fang missile streaked down the corridor near the gap, which was widening in size, it proved too much for the projectile sucking it too into the vacuum. For Felix the vacuum had bought him the precious few seconds he needed. With a shout of defiance he pulled himself around the hatch way’s side lip opposite of Michael. “Close the damn door!” Felix yelled. Needing no further encouragement Michael smashed the console button. As the outer door sealed shut, both slumped to the floor momentarily exhausted from the events. Michael knew that Tennying’s death complicated things drastically. Even though he hardly knew the man, Michael felt a keen sense of loss of a good man. He sensed Tennying had a moral code the man operated by. He knew he’d thumbed that code somewhat when he had challenged Tennying over the destroyer’s crew. Even through Tennying had complied at the sign of Michael’s threat, Michael had a feeling Tennying would have compiled without the threat. Now Tennying was gone he knew that would put a strain on the Dawn’s Horizon crew. Amanda’s voice broke in over the intercom stealing his thoughts.

 “ Cup link’s retracted and we’re pulling free from the excellor. Where’s Tennying? I can’t raise him neither can Otto.” Getting to his feet a little shakily Felix got to the com link next to Michael, completely ignoring him.

 “Tennying’s gone. “ Felix said blankly, “Get us the hell out of here.” 

After a brief pause Amanda said, “We’re gaining distance, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Need you at your station. Could use the flyboy here as well. Company’s coming. I’m showing twelve Krant’s looking to get up close and personal.” She reported. “We’re on our way.” Felix said. 

Switching off the comlink, Felix reached down, grabbing Michael by the throat. Easily jerking him up, he slammed Michael hard into the hull. Michael could see Felix’s eyes were bloodshot with heavy bags under them.  

” Military b*****d”, Felix said in barely controlled anger. “If we didn’t need a second pilot, I’d crush your windpipe here and now. “he seethed. “Tennyings blood is on your hands, and sooner or later I’ll hold you personal accountable for it.” 

Beating against Felix’s metal gauntlets, Michael could only gurgle out a choked reply feeling like his eyes would pop out of his head. From the shadows both a high-pitched yowl followed by a long menacing hiss was heard. Felix looked into a shadowy area between two creates. He barely made out the faint outline of a a set of predatory like eye’s beaming back at him. Letting Michael go he turned making his way towards the bridge, paying little or no attention to the military personnel from the destroyer despite the gratitude they showed. When Felix was gone Lt, Ross came over holding her side arm. 

“You okay? I saw him grab you by the throat. If he didn’t let  go when he did, I was going to put this blaster to use. What happened?” Sitting prone on the floor Michael took several deep breaths before replying, “Crew just lost their captain and they aren’t too happy about it.  Didn’t make it. Blames me.” Michael managed.

 “I’m sorry.” Lieutenant Ross offered. “What’s with that guy? Has a look on him like someone pissed in his coffee? And what’s with those metal gauntlets?” 

“Let’s just say he’s not overly fond of the confederation or FleetCom. Long story best saved for later. “Michael said getting to his feet. “ Everyone ok? “he asked. 

“ As well as can be though were crammed in here like sardines. Firefight with the Ralathi hit us hard. If not for you guys we’d be dead or worse. Thanks.” Lt. Ross said. “we’re not out of the woods yet.” Michael informed her.

 “What do you mean?” she asked looking confused. Michael looked at her quizzically before starting towards the bridge, with Lt. Ross hurrying to follow. To Michael she looked young and he’d bet she hadn’t been in a lot of combat situations like this. 

“Your sensors didn’t pick up the fleet?” he asked. “Our sensors went down with power grid when the torpedo took out our bridge.” She informed him. 

Nodding he said, “ A fleet of thirty Kilrathi capital ships just jumped in, and an army of fighters are on an intercept course for us.” 

Oh My God...” She gasped. 

“There’s more Lieutenant, I’ll explain later. Right now I need to get to the bridge. Stay with your crew and keep them secure as best you can. We’re in for some heavy knocks.” He continued. 

Nodding, Ross saw several of her crew who didn’t look to badly hurt. Heading towards them she got their attention. After a moment the band moved off towards a pair of unopened med kits. Doing a quick scan Michael found Ronnie kneeled down over a wounded crewman. With the imminent Kilrathi fighter threat, and the close proximity of the destroyer still looming, Michael quick stepped it out the cargo hold towards the bridge. As the Dawn’s Horizon pulled further away from the excellor at least a dozen light brown dots fast approaching and growing in size could be seen.

 Upon entering the bridge he heard Felix order, “Take the co-pilot's seat next to Amanda.”

 It was not open to suggestion, not that Michael had one. Not even glancing in Felix’s direction Michael sat, switching on the console’s operating system. Michael had never flown a venture corvette before, let alone one with modifications. The flight mechanisms were familiar but were located differently. 

With little time to navigate through the system Michael looked to Amanda for help. “Here, just manage thrusters and engine output.” Amanda said getting up his console, “I’ll take the rest. “ 

Michael noted a thin layer of sweat on her face despite the cool temperature on the bridge. She was nervous and afraid which if not for Michael’s experience he too would’ve been too. He didn’t blame her. If the Kilrathi somehow managed to capture everyone aboard then their deaths would not be quick or easy. The cats were well known for playing with their prey before granting them the peaceful slumber of death. With Tennying out of the picture,  it put Felix in command. Which even through as Tennying’s co-pilot Amanda should’ve been next but she neither had the experience nor the seniority for such a role. Felix likewise was making little headway in his new position. 

“Nine minutes till fighter intercept. Five minutes till missile range. What’s the game plan?” she asked in Felix’s direction. 

 “Distance from destroyer?” he asked, ignoring her question. 

“Three thousand one hundred meters, were still in the red zone.” she said. “Engine output at seventy percent. “ Michael stated, and secretly hinting at Felix’s next order. When Felix hesitated for a moment both Amanda and Michael looked back at him expectantly. Stress lines carved the man’s face. Both saw one of his gauntleted hands was slightly shaking. 

“Get the engines going as fast as you can. Get us to the jump point.” He said through suppressed stress.” It was obvious to both he wasn’t cut out for command.” Michael thought to himself. “What about the fighters? And our cargo hold is full of wounded, If we go all out on the engines, the wounded may not like the bumpy ride. 

Eight minutes till intercept.” Amanda stated.

 Every vein on the man’s head was bulged and hard at work making an aneurysm. With a fisted gauntlet Felix began smashing his control panel and roaring “ I hurt people! I break things! I’m a made freak! I don’t do command!” he roared in rage.

 Smoldering sparks began appearing as Felix continued smashing his station and the equipment nearby. Having enough of his antic’s Michael went for his sidearm. Otto who’d been watching silently at his station till now, beat him to the punch. A blaster shot raced past his head stealing his attention.

 “Next shot goes right through your skull. “ he threatened. “Take your damned temper tantrums somewhere else! I swear Felix you lose control at the worst possible times. Get moving!” Otto yelled when Felix didn’t immediately move. He gave Amanda and Michael a quick look lingering on Michael, before exiting the bridge under Otto’s threatening gaze. 

Holstering his side arm, Otto continued, “Tennying was x- military. I’ve never served, neither has she,” Otto said to Michael, “Given the shitbag we’re in we could really use some leadership right now.” 

Taking a deep breath Michael tried to clear his mind. Sense his arrival aboard the Dawn’s Star it had been nothing it had been nothing but trouble for him and it didn’t look like it was going to change any time soon. Could be worse he told himself trying to stay upbeat. Secretly he wished he was aboard a military transport ship taking commercial traffic lanes back to Earth. Fate it seemed had other plans. Instantly Michael increased the engine output to one hundred forty percent. All three heard the increased hum of the ship’s power core. “Otto get Ronnie working with Lt. Ross in bunking down the wounded as best you can.  Were in for some chops. Get weapon systems up and powered. “Michael had heard Tennying speak of modifications that had been done to the ship, he hoped that weapon’s upgrades had been one of them. He had no idea on how he was going to save thier asse’s from a destroyer just  aching to burst into a several hundred megaton bomb and on the other end an  armada of bloodlusting kittens eagerly advancing closer looking to turn everyone aboard into their own personal litter box. Quickly turning to Amanda he asked, “ What’s the position of those fighters.” Having an idea pop in his head he wasn’t sure if would work, but under the present circumstances it was the best they were going to get at that moment. Leaning over Michael studied her console screen. “Those Krant’s are almost in range.” Amanda warned. “Be glad there not bombers or we’d already be dead.”

 Michael said getting up from his seat, and moving to the bridge window panel. Outside on the hull of the Dawn’s Star four cruel looking proton cannons came to life, their auto tracking systems fired to life and hungrily tracking any would be targets. Two multi- projectile missile systems burst up from the hull locking in place. Their advanced tracking systems scanning. In back centered in the middle of its four Magton engines a compartment opened revealing a load of magnetic missile mines. “Weapon systems activated. “ Otto confirmed. “We should be clear of the blast, but barely.” Amanda stated. “Turn us around.” Michael said spinning from the window. “What?” both Otto and Amanda said stunned. “That’s right, Michael said hurrying to Amanda’s console, pad leaning over Amanda’s shoulder. “ Are you nutt’s?” Otto exclaimed. “Maybe.”Michael muttered to himself, getting back to his own seat.  

Continuing he said, “ This may not save our collective butt’s but it will surely buy us some time, if we survive that is.” Seeing Michael buckle on his straps Amanda and Otto wisely followed suit. Outside, the Dawn’s Star’s thrusters ignited spinning the corvette one hundred and eighty degrees with a slanted downward pitch. The ship’s afterburners came to life surging it ahead. No sooner had the afterburners died, the twelve Krant’s veered downward closing even closer to the destroyer. Almost as one twelve missile’s raced out of the Kilrathi fighters straight towards the Dawn’s Star. “Incoming missiles!” Otto exclaimed. Hoping he knew what he was doing Michael cut engine power while ordering Amanda and Otto to cut all systems except life support. 

“ What the hell are you doing!” Amanda asked sweating. “Saving our collective asse’s I hope. “ he answered, feeling his own perspiration under his arms. “We’re sitting ducks.” Otto protested. “Sitting or running a duck is a duck. “ Michael remarked. Otto scoffed, grumbled something before cutting the ship’s systems. Afterburner’s throttled full the Krant’s zoomed forward in line behind their missile’s towards the now prone vessel. If the human ship somehow survived their deadly missile’s, then their fusion cannon’s would finish the mop up. Then without warning the excellor burst into a blinding brilliant white light in a last cry of defiance. Growing in size the white light encompassed the twelve missiles before evaporating into nothing taking them with it. 

A roaring yet silent shockwave birthed from the explosion followed spanning out. As the wave hit the band of Kilrathi fighters it tore through each one instantly vaporizing them to ash’s. The powerful wave rolled through the Dawn’s Star doing a torrent of damage. The ship’s com relay tore clean off leaving a trail of debris as ran into free space. A gaseous mist spewed forth from one on the ships main engines. Sparked from inside the engines coiling, one engine exploded disappearing in a brief fireball that spread damage to a secondary engine. Armorants all over were ripped and battered bearing large dent’s. While others were ripped clean off. 

The ship tumbling upward was lost in a violent spin. On the bridge vent shaft’s began erupting boiling steam heating up the bridge and causing a heated sweat to those on board. Warning lights began flashing, signaling overheating of the reactor. All three were brutally jerked as the shockwave coursed through and passed the ship. If not for their restraining harnesses all three would have been thrown at breakneck speeds. As the shockwave died off all three sat stunned and momentarily dazed. “Were alive?” Otto asked in disbelief. “Looks that way.” Amanda croaked. “Looks maybe deceiving” Michael said rubbing his neck. He quickly began powering up his console while trying to engage a paramintere scan. Otto began powering up his systems followed by Amanda which both systems gave a slight protest before booting back to sputtering to operational status.

 “Get weapons and engines online. Reset course for the jump point. Start working on a damage assessment as well. We need to be ready for the next wave. Not that our odds have improved.” Michael said. 

“We’ve got two cooling unit failures for the reactor. I’m engaging secondary’s, should stabilize the core. I�"“

“What?” Michael asked. Amanda bore a puzzled expression. “Scanners show no approaching fighters.” She said. Unstrapping his harness Michael got up and moved to her station. Looking at her screen he shared her puzzlement.

 “There moving away from us.” He noted. “We’ve got no Comm systems, serious engine problems with some primary and secondary system’s out.” Otto informed from his console. Michael barely heard him trying to figure out why the Kilrathi weren’t bothering pursue. It didn’t make any sense to him. Kilrathi were merciless. With a wounded ship they were easy pickings that the cats would have killed for mere sport. To ignore a target such as them went against the very nature the Kilrathi all together. Then eye’s widening in understanding he had a bad thought enter his head, worsening by the second. If correct, it was a terror that he was helpless to change.

 

                 WELKER BATTLE STATION

                         Dakota System

           COM TRAFFIC AND SENSOR ARRAY CENTER

See the source image

Ensign Jameson lazed fast asleep, his feet kicked up atop his sensor console which had a continuous stream of data emanating from the screen. Around him sat numerous empty stations all devoid of life. A dozen meters away lined into the wall were several large window panels that offered a scenic view of cargo ships, tug freighters, transports and other commercial traffic. The midnight shift was always dull and boring, not that the day shift was any different, which had been nothing new for the past month. Procedure mandated at least four personal manning com traffic and sensor station’s at all times. Except for the occasional incoming and outbound transports, everything seemed at a standstill. Which for many wasn’t much of a surprise. Welker Station was a battle hardened fortress that could withstand and repel the most intimidating threats the cats could throw at her. Welker station was widely considered a jewel throughout the confederation.

 The Kilrathi would half to be crazy to assault this station, so for many that fact provided a measure of comfort to all. It was a major stronghold for Confed and was the main  protection for several jump points leading to frontline colony systems as well a central hub of activity in this sector, until recently. For almost everyone the debate’s in the Riley system was drawing far more interest and attention than the boring and endless routines aboard the station. With the pirate problems going on in Riley, mercs, and freelance soldiers were all flocking there eager for a piece of the fat contracts that were up for grabs. For the past several months patrol reports always came back the same. No encounter or incuritions were found when Confed fighters did their routine sweeps around the station’s outlining perimeters.. The arrival of Phobias crippled from a surprise attack, however had sparked a wave of rumors which was currently racing through the station. For Jameson however it was just another day. Hard asleep the young ensign wore a pair of large headphones designed for picking up mechanical vibrations and thruster echo’s created by ship engines. Hiding underneath them through were a pair of wireless headphones playing the latest updates from the holo news? As he slept he didn’t hear the numerous pings suddenly picked up by long range sensor arrays out in deep space. Nor did multiple icon flashings that began beeping, draw him from his slumber. The doors hissed open with ensin Hatcher coming through holding two cups of near boiling coffee. Leaving for a long awaited half hour break he’d gone to the mess hall for chow. “D****t!” he muttered when seeing Jameson in a hard snooze. The first couple of times Hatcher hadn’t said anything knowing how boring things had gotten lately. Yet, it was now becoming a constant recurrence. For more or less aside from an occasional freighter or two the system had turned ghost. For Hatcher though the recent inactivity didn’t warrant one to neglect their duties. As he drew near the snoring Jameson, flashing icon’s caught his attention. Curious he thought. No incoming ships were due for the next few hours. Leaning over Jameson and being careful with the coffee he set one steaming cup down, and scanning for a class count of the incoming transponder signals. As he read the feedback, the second cup slowly spilled from his hand pouring into Jameson’s lap jolting him awake with a painful yell. Hatcher, hardly heard him staring in utter disbelief at the screen.

 

·           *        *          *          *

                              T.C.S Phobias

                                  The Brig

                                    Cell-287

 

Rral’Mek heard his mother screaming.  Roaring in agony as flashes of her pierced mind Refusing to go away. More roaring, caused his ear to twitch. Images of his mother tied and helpless pounded his mind. Then fire encompassed her. Leaping up Rral’Mek jumped awake wide eyed and panting. 

Involuntarily Rral’Mek felt the remaining scar tissue of his father’s mark. First his shameful youth, now his long forgotten mother. 

Rral’Mek had no idea why these deep buried memories were forcing their way into his dreams.

 His father had rarely if ever spoken of her,when he was a cub, and when did with a dismissive attitude. All he knew was that his father feared her-- and it was that fear that had kept Rral’Mek alive throughout his cubhood. Even when his father had passed into the warrior realm, he hadn’t spoken of her. For all Rral’Mek knew she could well be dead. It was something he had never had any intention to pursue. Opening that past path of his life was something he was unwilling to do.  His childhood he’d worked hard to forget. As a warrior of the Imperial Empire and accomplished fighter pilot, it was unbefitting. 

 

Rubbing his tongue over one of his fangs and feeling the carved edges of his clan’s tattooed insignia brought him a measure of comfort. Pushing these thoughts from him he would not allow them to soften him. Once softened, then  weakened. Weakness was a trait for prey. He was a predator, he reminded himself. Strong, powerful, a hunter honor bound as a warrior. 

Looking around his cell and remembering the reality of his situation. A captured hunter, but a hunter nonetheless. 

Just then, the sound of several metallic latches unlocking drew his attention. The heavy metallic door  pulled back several inches before being slid back to reveal three armed soldiers. 

While two had their weapons trained on him, one stepped in saying, “Stand up and turn around. Joy ride’s over.”

 All three wore a serious expression that they were not to be tested. Rral’Mek had no intentions of testing them-- yet. 

“Put your hands behind you,” the leader ordered.

 After complying, Rral’Mek felt the cool mesh of what must have been a pierce and slash proof bag over his claws followed by a pair of cuffs. The process was repeated for each of his foot paws before leg chains were added. 

“Turn around.” Came another order. 

Turning, Rral’Mek found a cold, hard gaze waiting for him. Behind the man’s stare, his companions each had their weapons steadied at him.

” All we need is a reason.” The soldier warned, before stepping aside. 

“ I offer no protest human.” Rral’Mek said. 

Nodding, the soldier turned exiting the cell, with Rral’Mek close behind and the two remaining soldiers falling in behind. 

Turning out of the cell, Rral’Mek found himself in a long, narrow hallway. Large steel cell doors lined both sides, but none offered any view inside. The floor was gridded and uncomfortable for his padded foot paws. Standing on the gridded surface, he could feel a slight electrical hum emanating from the floor--causing his fur to stand on edge. He was sure that many prisoners before him who made a scene had tasted the current that waited. 

Continuing down the hallway it was midway before Rral’Mek’s sensitive nose picked up a familiar odor. Sniffing he caught scent of the two humans who’d beaten him earlier.

 A low rumble escaped his throat as he remembered the event’s aboard the transport. Though his wounds had healed well due to the medical attention of the humans he did feel a bit sore about his midsection. With more pressing issues such as escape, it was a discomfort  easily ignored. 

 

After exiting the hallway, the group entered a small octagon-shaped room. It was the brig control room. Two more soldiers sat at control stations; both looked bored. As Rral’Mek entered, one, the youngest of the pair, looked over staring at him in fascination. It wasn’t uncommon to see Kilrathi on the holo-channels since daily news was full of stories and the latest updates of the war, but to see one in person and a prisoner was rare.

” Prisoner transfer to station brig.” The soldier behind Rral’Mek said.

 “ Name and badge number,” said one of the guards, disinterested. 

“Stevens, number 82411-3C.”

 Entering the number into the ship’s transfer registration,  he waited for the confirmation to come back. 

“Go ahead.” The guard said after a moment. 

The group moved to a turbo lift. 

As they  passed, Rral’Mek overheard the younger guard whisper,” Holy Crap! I’ve never seen one in person before. They look like big jungle cats!” 

“Seen one, seen em all.” The other said.

 “Creepy.” The younger guard said. 

“Freaky is a better word.” The older said, “They’re killers. Nothing but merciless freaks that are better off dead.” 

“ Right.” The other agreed.

 Both doors closed with the lift shaft starting upwards towards their next destination. Rral’Mek knew time was running out for him. If they reached the station’s brig, his chances of escape would all but vanish. He had to make a play, and soon. But with three armed and trained soldiers, the odds weren’t in his favor. Feeling the turbo lift slow, Rral’Mek chanced a glance at the soldiers at his side. Both wore combat armor and carried standard M-47 laser rifles that could make short work of him. Even if he did somehow manage to get the jump on both, there was still the one in the back, which, even with his hunter reflexes would be hard pressed to get to. 

Doors opening, the group entered a wrecked and debris littered hallway. Lights flickered from power shortages along with console parts frizzing back and forth to life. Obviously, damaged from the Kilrathi attack, Rral’Mek picked up the faint odor of death from his nostrils. He noted no active holo-cameras in the hallway. Both soldiers at his sides wore stoic, bland expressions. It was the perfect place for a laser rifle to accidentally go off in the back of his head. 

Entering, he saw the ceiling had exposed power lines running atop. Then red neon lighting that was built into the walls began flashing followed by an emergency siren. 

“What the hell?” one of the soldiers said. 

Seeing his opportunity, it was now or never. Rral’Mek did a quick hop, bringing his knee up high and hard towards one of the soldier’s blaster rifles. The soldier’s reaction was just as Rral’Mek hoped. 

The shot aimed high tore into the pipe lining. Superheated chemicals spewed forth catching the soldier behind Rral’Mek right in the face. Screaming the man toppled forward steam boiling off his covered face. Before either soldier could react, he mull kicked one hard in the back. Thrown forward, the soldier slammed into his companion--bowling them over.

 No time to waste.

 Rral’Mek quick hobbled around ,towards the soldiers. Recovering quickly, both soldiers rolled while training their blasters on him. Roaring in defiance, Rral’Mek leapt at them as one soldier got off a shot. Not completely missing, the bolt sailed low, glazing past his leg. Ignoring the pain and crashing into both, Rral’Mek’s jaws found and latched on one soldier’s throat. Twisting he was able to get his leg chain’s around the second’s throat as well locking down tight. A low hungry growl rose from his throat as both soldiers panicked twisting and convulsing trying to break free. 

But neither his leg chain’s nor his jaws gave no yield, and after several moments  their jerking movements came to an abrupt end as death found them.

 Rral’Mek had to suppress his hunter instinct that began to surface as blood began seeping into his jaws from the human’s throat. Getting to his feet Rral’Mek noted the emergency wail and flashing red neon was still in effect. Thinking something serious was going on he hobbled to the remaining soldier who was still on the floor moaning in obvious agony. Upon closer inspection, Rral’Mek saw that the super-hot chemicals had actually melted parts of the human’s face into his hands. Finding what he wanted Rral’Mek turned, and squatting down removed his side arm. Holding and angling the weapon as best he could, he gritted his teeth at knowing what was to come. With a finger claw on the trigger, he compressed it. Pain blasted through his hands, stinging his eyes as the bolt ate through the cuffs. 

Grimacing, Rral’Mek dropped the side arm doing his best to offset the waves of pain that shot through his hands. After a moment the pain finally began to recede. Flexing his claws and feeling blood flow returning to them, Rral’Mek focused his attention back on the prone solder. Using his mouth he pulled free both claw proof mesh bags covering his hands. A gurgled wail escaped the man’s mouth as Rral’Mek’s hands roughly searched him. Rewarded, he pulled free a small flat key coder chip. Matching it against a pair of small inserts in his cuffs Rral’Mek again was rewarded when both handcuffs fell free. Rubbing his wrist, he then removed his leg shackles, before returning to search the wounded soldier and his companions. In the end Rral’Mek came away with a utility belt, a confederation standard issue  laser rifle with several intact powerpacks, several combat knives, and I.D badge and a security holo-card, and two useful looking grenades.  

 

He noticed a headset on the wounded soldier but after seeing the harsh punishment of the green chemical splattered over the human, Rral’Mek thought better of it. After securing everything on his person, his attention fell back to the prone soldier on the floor. Aiming his blaster rifle Rral’Mek hesitated pulling the trigger. The wounded soldier would obviously be scared for life, his face and hands a ugly melting pot stuck to each other. Over head the wailing sirens stopped but the emergency lights remained. A  wave of silence to overtake the hallway. He knew the human was no longer a threat to him and would no longer be able to fight for his people in his condition. Uncertainty ran through him. 

A cruel image of his father flared in his mind, bringing a wave of anger and guilt with it. His hand began to shake.

 Pushing the memories aside with a snarl,  Rral’Mek pulled the trigger. Instantly his mind was assaulted with images of his mother. 

Screaming, then overtaken by a roaring fire. 

Shaken, his breath came out in ragged gasps, forcing him to steady himself against the wall. Fighting, he reminded himself he was a hunter, a predator, loyal and honor bound to his clan and the Kilrathi Empire. His life or death would bring glory to the empire and his people-- strengthening their god given right to rule the stars as they saw fit. Slamming his fist against the wall Rral’Mek focused his thoughts on getting off this damned ship and rejoining his people.

 Continuing down the hallway, he left the three dead soldiers. He still felt a slight pang of regret at shooting the wounded soldier---as if the act was somehow dishonorable. Those who have no honor, know no honor, he told himself trying to justify his actions which somehow he couldn't explain he knew where wrong.

 Up ahead he spotted a four way intersection. Upon approach, his ears twitched in alert at several loud clangs followed by a low rumble echoing down the corridor. Blaster rifle ready, he cautiously peeked around the corner. Another long empty hallway greeted him. Large hatchway doors were stationed at certain points some closed others part way open. A large column of panel windows was at the end, where the hallway split in two different directions. 

Seeing that the coast looked clear, Rral’Mek limped around the corner towards the windows. His only company was the flashing neon lighting in the walls. He thought it odd-- the place was so deserted. Continuing, he saw nor heard any signs of life. He’d expected a damaged carrier to be alive with repair crew’s technician of some sort, yet nothing. The place was a grave, silent and cold. His sensitive ears made out another low rumble with more clangs and light metal grinding sounds. Approaching the window panels, Rral’Mek was drawn in by the scene before him. Scores of both confederation and Kilrathi fighters swarmed together in a mix of a huge firefight. 



Closer in the background orbited a monstrous battle station, it’s turret and missile batteries alive with fire in all directions. Further out in space he made out several carrier groups and capital ship battle formations. Still observant, Rral’Mek spotted a pair of Ralatha heavy cruisers supported by a trio of Kilrathi corvettes dared the stations main batteries. 

At such close range, he had a firsthand view of the events. Half a dozen torpedoes launched free from the cruisers, followed by several mass driver shots from the main guns streaking towards the station. Likewise, each of the corvettes fired a torpedo. Several Scimitar fighter bombers flew into view sights on the Ralatha. Each exploded in a snuffed fireball destroyed by the corvettes’ batteries. Rral’Mek watched somewhat hypnotized as three overly large battery cannon’s on the station rested their aim on the Ralathas. It seemed as if static somehow filled the air, causing Rral’Meks fur to stand on end. Then three powerful shots burst forth towards the cruiser, just as the torpedoes struck. Almost all, struck the massive cannon’s rotating gear’s disabling the cylinder the cannon’s sat atop of lining a series of small explosions. One bolt went wide completely missing the cruiser. The second ripped into one of the four engines directly, causing a massive explosion. Simultaneously, the third bullied into the cruisers midsection. The damage was extensive Rral’Mek noted as another engine went out failing completely. Off balance the Ralatha went into a hard spin towards the battle station. Rral’Mek could tell there was no hope regaining control, the capital ship’s velocity increasing with every turn. Drawing closer to the battle station the cruiser’s angel suddenly veered towards the main battery cannon’s. Suspecting the captain knew his ship was doomed Rral’Mek watched it smash into the station’s main guns. Colliding into the cannon’s the massive explosion causing Rral’Mek to reflexively throw up an arm shielding his eyes from the blinding light. At such a close range he didn’t want to go blind. As the light receded his eyes widened in horror spotting a monstrous piece of the Ralatha’s hull speeding in his direction. Adrenaline surging Rral’Mek dropped in a silent prayer to Sivar it didn’t plow into where he was watching. Luck was with him however, what would have been a deadly impact ended in a near miss. The wrecked hull grading past with an intense scraping sound. Heart pounding, he chanced a peek back up to the window panel before getting to his feet. Where the brutal cannon’s had been a large creator remained, littered with dozens of small creator holes alit with blue and orange flames burning. Pride and a ferrous sense of honor flooded in his blood at the destruction of the cruiser. It was a harsh blow for the human’s station. Even in death the Ralatha’s crew, his people had found honor while striking a vicious blow. The three corvettes now flanked by a pair of Ralathi destroyers moved in on gained ground. Getting a closer look at the approaching ships, Rral’Mek was able to make out their house insignia’s. His joy instantly turned to disgust. Ears flattened he hissed angrily upon recognition. All three corvettes and the destroyer belonged to House Nar’ Issk. House Nar’Issk was a major power player within the empire and in a current blood feud with House Ru’Karr Rral’Mek’s house. Both house elders had several young princes of proven bloodlines. Each house was in fierce competition against each other for the emperor’s personal favor. Which of course involved privileges to the favored house that could possibly seal a position on the ruling counsel. Both house’s had a kill on sight policy that was being heavily enforced. If the corvettes and destroyers did indeed belong to house Nar’Issk, it meant that no forces from house Ru’Karr would be involved. Rral’Mek’s eyes widened in suddenly thinking back to the rumored gate jumping technology. If Nar’Issk was responsible for its development, then it did indeed put  Ru’ Karr in a grave position.   The fact that Emperor Y’rrowl had agreed to a joint strike force of the empires mainstream fleets and ships belonging to house Nar’Issk was not a good sign . It seriously complicated his present situation and commanded undeniable favor from the Emperor to clan of Nar’Issk. Any run-ins with troops from Nar ‘Issk would be instant bloodshed. He needed off this wretched ship but was unsure how to proceed. He couldn’t wander around aimlessly. Rral’Mek didn’t want to chance an encounter, but he knew how unrealistic that would be. Things were going from bad to worse quickly. Not willing to try and navigate the human carrier, he spun heading back down the hallway, with an idea. Back tracing his steps Rral’Mek began making his way back to the security brig. By the time he reached the turbo lift his leg was throbbing. Even through the human’s shot was a glancing blow it was still painful. Taking a moment and reaching down he rubbed the wound. Thankfully he felt no blood, just an intense burning sensation that refused to leave. Remembering the button one of the soldiers pressed to operate the lift, he pressed the same. A computerized voice announced, “Emergency security measures have been activated. Hand print verification required.” To the side a small keypad on a panel screen lifted revealing the outline of a human hand. Understanding, Rral’Mek went back to where the three dead soldiers lay. Pulling free a combat knife he cut off the hand of one of the dead humans. Hurrying back to the lift, he inserted the limb lining up the digits with the outline on the scanner.” Identification accepted.”, came the response as both doors slide open. It took him a minute to remember which keys the soldier had pressed before entering them. When the lift shot off, Rral’Mek began checking his blaster rifle and readied a grenade in the other hand. He’d seen human soldier’s use these nasty things and had to admit they could indeed make short work of a Kilrathi foot soldier. Steading the rifle at the lift doors he waited patiently. As the doors hissed open Rral’Mek jumped through, ready to unleash a torrent of blaster fire at the first sight of a terrean soldier. To his surprise the security brig was empty. Ear’s upright he scanned the room while listening for anything out of place. In the corner he saw a security camera he’d missed before. Moving quickly, Rral’Mek hid himself, against the backside of the control station, out of view angled towards the hallway were the cells were located. His timing couldn’t have been better as he heard the sound of approaching footsteps.” Yes sir, both prisoners are secure. The Kilrathi was in route to the station brig when the attack happened.” Rral’Mek recognized the voice belonging to the older of the security guards, he’d seen manning one of the control station’s earlier. The footsteps were getting louder. “I’ve been trying to raise them but haven’t had any luck. It’s possible. Yes sir, ten minutes. I’ll have them ready. The footsteps picked up in pace. Rral’Mek listened attentively. Then the steps changed in sound telling him the security officer was off the gridded floor taking the hard steel stairs onto the brig floor. Popping up and catching the man completely by surprise he fired putting a hole in his chest the size of a baseball. Tumbling forward, a data pad fell from his grasp. Taking a quick moment he searched the guard coming away with another headset like the one the human sergeant had used to communicate with him. Hurrying past Rral’Mek moved down the cell block hallway, towards the area were he’d picked up is two captures scent. Nostrils flaring, he had no problem finding the area. He systematically began opening small steel window slots looking in the cells. Sliding one steel slot back he looked in finding Jenkins the scarier of the two asleep on a hard steel bunk. Slinging the blaster rifle across his back, Rral’Mek unlocked the cell door and slung it back hard making a loud bang. Jenkins jumped awake with wide panicked eyes. Finding Rral’Mek at the door his jaw almost touched the floor. “No please! It wasn’t my idea!” Jenkins cried, seeing Rral’Mek enter. Trying to backstep Jenkin’s back hit the wall. A low growl erupted from Rral’Meks throat. Fast as lightning Rral’Mek grabbed Jenkin’s by his jumper, forcing him back against the wall. Jenkins flailed at captor trying to break away with no success. Grabbing him by the hair Rral'mek brutally slammed Jenkins head against the wall. Stars swarming, Jenkins collapsed all fight instantly gone. Rral'Mek proceeded to none too gentle attach the headset to Jenkin's head he'd taken from the guard. He then hauled Jenkin's to his feet. With hardly any effort Rral’Mek bent Jenkin’s wrist inward brutally breaking it. Eyes wide all Jenkins could do was scream. “Furless coward! I should crush the bones that attach your neck to your skull.” Rral’Mek said threatening. Clutching his broken limb Jenkins began to sob. This is no warrior Rral’Mek thought to himself. Taking a step back Rral’Mek released him while pulling free his blaster rifle. “You will escort me off this vessel or I will make your death unbearable, human." “This was my first assignment.  I’m new here.  I’m not sure I know were the hanger is from here.”, Jenkins said shaking. This was not what Rral’Mek wanted to hear. “Very well.” Rral’Mek said. Jenkin’s spotted a thin line of drool escaped from the Kilrathi’s jaw as he approached. Terror filled Jenkins eyes as he could only think of what his captor was going to do to him. “No! Wait! Wait!”, Jenkins pleaded holding up his good hand. “There’s a main hanger four levels up! I remember the way now! We’re not far from a turbo lift that will take us straight to it.”, he  stammered. “Move human, and know that your first mistake will be your last breath.” Rral’Mek said  shoving him towards the cells exit. Jenkin’s stumbled through still clutching his broken wrist, with Rral’Mek close behind. “Stop!”, Rral’Mek ordered. “Where is the other?” “Other who?” Jenkins asked. “Your clan warrior.” It took Jenkins a moment to realize the Kilrathi was talking about Henderson. “I-I don’t know. “ Find his cell. When Jenkin’s didn’t initially move Rral’Mek motivated him by pressing the cold barrel of the blaster rifle against his back. Still clutching his broken wrist Jenkins began looking in cells while fighting against the pain with Rral’Mek keeping close tabs. After looking in one cell Jenkins stepped back and with wary eyes pointed at the cell. Peering in he found Henderson also asleep. Unlatching the bean hole Rral’Mek let it fall slamming into the door with a loud metal thud. Like Jenkins Henderson  jumped awake, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Focusing on the window slot he wasn’t able to make who or what the figure was peering in. As his vision came into focus he was shocked when he saw Rral’Mek staring at him through the bean hole. Shock turned to disbelief as two grenades fell through fell through the hole into his cell.  Slamming the bean hole shut he turned and walked away hearing a faint scream. 

Two echoed booms later, the scream died into a permanent silence. It was all Jenkins could do not to vomit seeing a mixture of blood, smoke and gore splatter onto the window. Blaster trained back on Jenkins he motioned him forward. 

“ Keep your hands up and out wide.” Rral’Mek ordered. “ I can’t, you snapped my wrist in two. I can’t take the pain.”

 “ Shall I eat your broken limb to numb your pain human?” Rral’Mek heard Jenkin’s swallow. Entering Jenkins used his good hand to activate the lift. “ Are you gonna kill me?” he asked breathing heavily. Seeing his face going red Rral’Mek knew he was in pain. “ Listen, I didn’t do anything to you. I only stood watch. That was Henderson who had his fun.” Jenkins pleaded. Half-way turning he continued,” Look, I was against the idea from the start. You won’t gain anything by killing me. No honor in it.”

 “This is not about honor ape man.” The lift stopped and both doors opened. The pair entered another wrecked and damaged corridor. With Jenkins leading the way they carefully navigated their way through the littered pipes, broken ceiling panels and chemical spills. “Then what is this about?”, Jenkins asked. “My freedom.” “My freedom... and revenge.” Rral’Mek said after a moment. “But I didn’t do anything to you!”, Jenkins protested. “Guilty by association, human. You would do well to accept your situation and brace your death with honor. Yet your words drip with fear. The fear of prey. It reeks from you as if you bathed in it.” Rral’Mek said. Keeping an eye on Jenkins, Rral’Mek did a quick scan of the corridor noting how empty it and the others had been. “Tell me human. Where are the crew of your vessel? I had expected fierce resistance from your clan warriors.” “Everyone’s on the station.” Jenkins explained, “Were undergoing a refit.” Jenkins said nervous and on edge. It made sense why Rral’Mek had met so little human warriors after escaping capture. His hopes rose that his escape might be easier than expected after all. Up ahead a four way intersection came into view. Jenkins made a left with Rral’Mek close behind. Several dozen meters down the pair saw a damaged turbo lift, it’s doors halfway open. Inside, the lights flickered off and on. A few feet away from them was a maintenance cart loaded down with tools. As Jenkins began heading towards the turbo lift, Rral’Mek’s senses told him something wasn’t quite right. “Stop! Be silent!”, Rral’Mek ordered. Looking over his shoulder Jenkins watched his captor unsure of what was happening. Ears up and alert Rral’Mek scanned the area his whiskers tingling. The air was thick and heavy with a musty odor. He heard only silence. Seeing his captor momentarily distracted, Jenkins seized his opportunity. Quickly snatching up a hydro- coiler in his good hand, Jenkins spun hard, swinging the tool into Rral’Mek’s blaster rifle. Caught off guard the weapon tore free from his grasp. “You ain’t gonna kill me!” he screamed panicked and wild eyed. Swinging again the heavy tool smashed into Rral’Meks wounded leg. Pain shot through his body as he fell backwards. Heart racing, Jenkins dropped the tool turned running towards the turbo lift as best he could, screaming for help. Rral’Mek momentarily rocking on the floor, held his wounded leg before getting to his feet and hobbling towards the blaster. Firing shots into the edge of the turbo lift door barely missing Jenkins who slipped through. Growling in frustration Rral’Mek limped after him. Shoving the doors apart, and entering he found the broken lift empty. Looking up he saw a small shaft hole, a maintenance hatch of some sort in the ceiling. Seeing it was too small for his muscular frame Rral’Mek proceeded to unleash a dozen shots around the edge in an attempt to widen it. Metallic tile tore loose tumbling down as the shots tore through. A sinister grin spread over Rral’Meks face as he heard Jenkins scream from above. Holstering the rifle, he jumped and pulled himself up into the shaft.

 Atop the shaft, the lift he found a ladder railing leading up to the next level. “Furless coward! I shall clean my claws on your corpse!” he swore up on seeing Jenkins a few meters above him. Not looking down, Jenkins used his good arm to pull himself up the access ladder.  The hatchway doors to the next level sat open nearly a dozen meters up. Using all haste Jenkins kept his eye’s upward determined to get away from his enraged captor below who was quickly gaining ground.  In the doors above a Kilrathi warrior appeared. A disgusted look appeared on the warriors face at seeing Jenkins below.

 Hissing the warrior fired several shots downward slamming into Jenkins. Grip lost, Jenkins’s lifeless body fell. “Ca Riss!”, Rral’Mek yelled partly shielding himself. Crashing into Rral’Mek, Jenkins body took him all the way down smashing hard into and through the turbo lift ceiling. A nasty spiker grenade soon followed. Eyes wide Rral’Mek flung Jenkin’s corpse aside and desperately scrambled out the lift, just as the grenade exploded. Hands covering his head Rral’Mek curled up as several hundred razor sharp metal claw fangs tore the lift apart. Several found their way into Rral’Mek’s wounded leg, causing him to bite down against the pain. Blood flowing freely, he stammered forcing himself up right. White momentarily overtook his vision from the pain and blood loss. He knew he had to get away from this area and soon, the blaster fire and loud detonation of a grenade that echoed all around was sure to attract unwanted attention. No matter how harsh.  But wounded and in a semi-daze he had no idea where to go, nor hide. 

Fighting against the protests of his maimed leg, he was now forced to go at a snail’s pace half limping and dragging his leg. It was a long moment before he reached the tool cart. Unslinging his blaster, Rral’Mek’s ears perked up at the faint sound of running footsteps. Steading himself as best he could against the corridor wall Rral’Mek’s head swam from the now freely running blood from his leg. If he passed out now he was as good as dead. Two humans in grease and oil stained uniforms hurried around the corner. Upon seeing a Kilrathi in a blood soaked jumper holding a blaster their way, they both skidded to a stop throwing their hands up. Knowing his condition was worsening every second Rral’Mek knew escape was no longer an immediate option given his current state. Frustrated he said “ You will take me to this ship’s healing location, now!” unsure of the right word. Both humans looked at each other confused. One made a quick jester with his hand, Rral’Mek didn’t miss. Eyes narrowing  suspiciously Rral’Mek shot the man. As the man fell dead cries of, “Dad!” filled the hallway. Two small children a boy and girl ran from around the corner to their dying  father. 

 

·         *    *          *          *          *

K.I.S CHIR’PAR Ralatha Heavy Cruiser

FLAGSHIP OF THE ATTACKING FORCE ON WELKER STATION.

 

 Shintahr Grr’Toliss watched the attack on the human station with great pride. Events were unfolding in house Nar’Issk’s favor excellently. The joint operation between Nar’Issk’s house forces and Emperor Y’rrowl Jint’s main battle fleets was a splendid blend. Victory would soon be within reach and would strike a major blow against the terrean threat. As Claw Commander of House Nar’Issk’s fleets Grr’Toliss had outlined the attacking strategy that would be executed against the Terran battle station. A low rumbled purr emanated from his throat as he watched that strategy now unfold. 

“ Commander, there is an incoming long range transmission from Elder Pirr’Yrr.” A comm officer announced loudly from his station. Turning, Grr’Toliss folded his muscular arms behind his back careful to keep his claw bracers away from his cape. Each bracer contained a row of fang’s down the center. Symbols of past victories over rival clan leaders in Grr’Toliss’s younger years. Years he and his clan had climbed away from the dead worlds into Nar’Issk’s powerful rankings. His shoulders likewise bore two Kilrathi skulls, one from each warrior cast, with one skulls fang completely missing yet doing little to diminish it's powerful statue. Inside the other one was his beautifully crafted house emblem of Nar 'Issk displayed proudly sitting in the jaws.  The fangs were enclosed covering the emblem slightly giving it a sure hold. The emblem had been a gift from the lead elder of Nar 'Issk symbolizing his status as a high ranking commander among the Nar 'Issk clan and their endorsement of him as supreme hunter. Powerful arms blended well with his muscular chest. Grr’Toliss’s mane was bushy but well kept. Like all high ranking Kilrathi two beautifully gold and gem studded crafted fang cuffs shown from one fang. Their gold chains climbing high into his pierced ears. His vest and leggings no less magnificent in their own way was a mixture of the finest materials and armoring’s that were well hidden in the clothing. “ Put the elder on the main view screen. “Grr’Toliss ordered, eager to give news of their impending victory to the Nar’ Issk elder. “As you command my warrior.”, the comm officer said. The bridge of the Chirr’Par was impressive by Kilrathi standards. Every station was encased in human bone that had been buffed and waxed to a high shine. Kills from the hunting games on exotic planets within the empire. Names honored warriors and ailra’hra fighter pilots from Grr’Toliss’s blood line and clan were majestically inscribed on the bones, as to never be forgotten and to be looked upon as a reminder of their honored sacrifice to the empire. The customized bridge and whole of the Chirr’Par had been a welcoming gift from the Nar’Issk elders to Grr’Toliss’s clan as well as Grr’Toliss himself as a reward for completing the adoption trails. A main walkway leading to a large overhead view screen separated the command bridge with several rows of stations each facing each other. Down each side of the view screen and just as large were a row of large computerized darkened windows. Friend or Foe data icons could be seen next to all ships within its view. The main view screen likewise was encased in the bone of a Ru’Pri beast. A fierce monstrous canine like creature that could devour whole clans in a single feeding. As Grr’Toliss approached two servants stood next to the view screen with eyes and ears down cast in submission. Both held plates of steaming meats and delicacies mixed with potent spices that stirred the hunger of any Kilrathi that close by. The timing was excellent for Grr’Toliss it had been hours since he’d eaten. Grabbing a leg bone, he completely ignored the two servants. On the view screen a elder Kilrathi appeared sitting in a throne like chair arrayed of polished bone and gems. “Honored Elder, “ Grr’Toliss said lowing his head,” You grace my ship with your presence.” Lifting his head, he took a large healthy bite of his meal. Pirr’Yrr’s expression remained unreadable as he watched Grr’Toliss chew and swallow his delicacy. He knew such a brazier behavior would hardly be tolerated by many house elders, yet he felt confident his station and report would be enough to overlook it. After all if one wished to be an elder, one must act like an elder. “Yes, Grr’Toliss, it is agreed. My presence though not physical, dose indeed honor Nar’Issk’s carrier. “Pirr Yrr said. Grr’Toliss didn’t miss Pirr Yrr’s mention to Nar’Issk’s carrier instead of his carrier. “ What is the fleets condition?” the elder rasped. Pirr Yrr was ancient by Kilrathi standards and should been dead years ago and would have in Kilrathi culture. His eyes had a milky golden film over them. His main was patchy despite efforts to keep his fur growing it could be seen falling out on his face and hands. His fang’s were an ugly yellow and badly chipped all over. The elders claws were as well dull and had lost there fine edge due to the advancement of years on his body. Although dressed in the finest materials the empire had jewels, ear cuffs, and the smoothest fabric dawned the elders body. Many Kilrathi who first looked upon the elder saw a frail aged looking warrior, with almost all missing the still razor sharp intellect and cunning that had allowed the elder to climb high with the Kilrathi hierarchy. Yet as the years had past, his cunningness had instead of declined had grown allowing him to seal his position as an elder with in Nar ' Issk a powerhouse clan in the Kilrathi empire.  His bloodline was strong and well cemented in the Nar’Issk’s clan having sired over a dozen daughters in his lifetime. Daughters of beauty and purity, prizes to any Kilrathi high borne of station. To have breeding rights with one was a great advance to one’s bloodlines and a big step up the Nar’Issk social ladder. “ We have taken minimum loss. Our forces are making quick advancements on the human defenses. By all reports our claw’s close for a quick and merciless kill.” Grr’Toliss reported. Pirr Yrr sat back digesting the news before replying, “ You have done well commander. Nar’Issk will be proven beyond doubt to the Emperor and his council with this victory, though not complete yet.” Pirr Yrr stated. “ These worthless humans are no concern to the might of the empire nor house Nar’Issk. I shall erase their existence from the universe so that not even a morsel of their tainted blood will drift in the vastness of space.” Grr’Toliss promised, ripping off another meaty chunk savoring it’s deep rich spice. Human quads was fast becoming a favorite of his. “ Indeed Grr’Toliss you are a capable warrior and a powerful weapon if Nar’Issk. However” Pirr Yrr warned pointing a gnarled clawfinger and wheezing, “ do not take these human’s ingenuity lightly. Too many times have they slipped past Imperial claws. Many on the emperor’s council grow tired of this conflict.” “ This time there will be no escape. No unforeseen allies. No last minute comebacks.” Grr’Toliss countered. “ My fangs are sharpened for the death kill. With the fall of this station, so breaks their strongest weapon. Soon, they will be nothing more than cornered prey.” “FOOL! Do not allow your boldness to become arrogance Grr’Toliss. A cornered prey is when it is it’s deadliest.” As if to emphasize Pirr Yrr’s point, a bright explosive flash momentarily drew his attention to the window.  He knew a capital ship close by had just been lost, but he wasn’t about to share with this with the Nar’ Issk elder. “To long already have we fought this race. Long ago their home world should have fallen, and there remaining species taken to our hunter worlds for our amusement. Yet, they and their confederation remain despite our punishing victories.” “The time of Sivar-Eshad soon approaches. You must have victory over the station in time for the for our religious right to take place. The capture of this station will serve as perfect new territory gained to commence the celebration and tribute to Sivar.” “What is the condition of the gate? “ Grr’Toliss asked looking bored. At Grr’Tolisse’s question Pirr Yrr bared two chipped and broken fangs with a wheezing hiss escaping his throat. “The gate function is not your concern Grr’Toliss. Concentrate your efforts on the human battlestation capture.” Pirr Yrr said, side stepping the question. Seeing the elder overreact raised concern for Grr’Toliss. The gate had been sporadically functional and still experimental that had only been partially proven. Trans Jump technology allowed a ship or ships instant travel across great distances that a normal jump drive could never reach. This technology with its success had all but made the need for jump points obsolete.  The gate however was a critical part of Grr’Toliss’s strategy and could not be in jeopardy. “The station will fall as planned, my elder. And in time for the Sivar- Eshad to take place. I will not allow the many warriors who no doubt have proven themselves to be elevated beyond Kilra’hra to be denied the rite of the Sivar-Eshad. Though I tell you in all seriousness, additional forces may be needed to hold the station. Human ingenuity after all is a threat not to be ignored. You may well count that our enemies know the dawn of Sivar-Eshad approaches and is a major event held throughout our empire of our clans. We have the pounced on an unsuspecting prey. Yet you and I both know this is a major installation for the confederation and they will not let it go without a hard fight. I would certainly bet my sharpened claw’s on a counter strike during Sivar-Eshad’s festivities.” Grr’Toliss stated. He continued, “With that said honored Elder if there is a situation with the gate I should know of, then do tell. It is a critical part of my- our strategy and cannot be out of operation.” Finishing the last bite he tossed the large bone towards the two waiting servant’s while motioning for another. One servant came forward carrying his trey. Taking another morsel Grr’Toliss watched the elder trying to get a read on his expression. “We have had…… complications.” Pirr Yrr admitted taking his seat. “Complications?” Grr’Toliss echoed.  “Apparently only so many ships can be sent at a time. Several dozen powers drives have melted causing an inconvenient shutdown.” The elder confessed. Grr’Toliss’s ears flattened at the news. This was no minor setback for him. “This complicates things greatly Pirr’ Yrr. Contingency forces will needed to offset the human reinforcements that are sure to  come. “The Nar’Issk elder stiffened aback a rasped growl at Grr’Toliss’s disrespectful use of his name. “ Neither Nar’Issk nor Emperor Y’rowl will commit any more forces until complete victory is secure, Grr’Toliss. Pirr’Yrr countered. Grr’Toliss threw his meal down while stepping closer to the view screen, snarling, “ Complete victory will depend on how soon the gate will become operational. I tell you now our foothold is assured. This human installation will be ours, but more ships will be needed to safeguard our new territory.” “The gate will be functional soon. Even now repairs are underway. I am aware this foothold, will come with cost, Shintahr.” Pirr Yrr retorted. “ I will forward your progress to the emperor’s chancellor. When he hears of your success Grr’Toliss, have no doubt that he will insist the Emperor send more forces to secure our foothold.” Grr’Toliss didn’t like the situation with the gate nor Pirr Yrr’s position about immediate support forces when the gate became functional again playing on Pirr Yrr’s earlier words. Two thirds of the fleet was comprised of Nar Issk’s capital ship forces. A heavy investment on top of researching and secretly building the trans gate. Only those within the Nar’Issk’s highest position knew of its location those along side with the Emperor and his select few. Emperor Y’rowl had supplied the remaining third and would not commit anymore until the human station’s capture. The Nar’Issk elders however had deemed it a worthy investment to gain the personal favor of the Kilrathi Emperor, which so far they had. The Emperor, up on seeing the gate’s completion had agreed to the joint strike venture on Welker base and had offered resources to continue to power the gate for researchers to fine tune the machine. Nar ‘Issk couldn’t afford much more forces though, not with the looming threat of House Ru’ Karr. A fierce blood feud between the two houses was in progress and didn’t show any signs of slowing. If the Nar’ Issk elders left Nar’Issk too exposed the Ru’ Karr wouldn’t hesitate to exploit that position without haste Grr'Toliss wouldn't put it past Ru 'Karr to take the jump tech for themselves and thus take the emperor's favor. Internal clan civil wars had dominated much of Kilrathi history and were an ever present part of their culture. It was one of the ways weaker houses were culled to make way for the stronger houses to climb up the Kilrathi ladder to places of power and influence. Grr’Toliss had no doubt that once Emperor Y’rowl’s favor had been sealed clan Nar’Issk would turn it’s full attention to the troublesome Ru’Karr. He secretly hoped Nar’Issk wasn’t being  too were eager to gain the attention and favor of the Kilrathi Emperor, but then what major House within the Empire didn’t desire such state. Knowing little else could be gained from Pirr ‘Yrr Grr’Toliss lowered his head in submittance though annoyed. “ Of course, my elder.” he said. As the view screen went blank Grr’Toliss turned heading towards the com station. “Ready a report, include all ship counts, outlining advances of our battle strategy, and enemy ship count and class. Let our elder see how easily the pathetic foes perish under our claws.” Grr’Toliss ordered to his com officer. “By your lead claw commander. My lord, I have an incoming priority message from Prr’Roliss.” Grr’Toliss hissed in anger and extended his claws,” Address him again without proper reverence, and I shall carve a trophy for him out of your bones.”  The com officer’s ear’s instantly flattened in submitance at the claw commander’s threat. “Forgive me, my commander. My duties had me momentarily distracted. The fault was not intentional, my honored warrior.” “Go and prepare the report, and pray I remain in a pleasant mood.” Grr’Toliss ordered. Not looking in the commanders direction, the com officer quickly left the bridge. Pressing a flashing icon Grr’Toliss saw a young Kilrathi appear on the view screen of the com officer station. The young warrior was a spitting image of Grr’Toliss himself though his golden mane was fine trimmed and less bushy. Along with having powerful feature that were sharpened and edged ,two silver chrome colored fangs protruded from his upper jaw. His eyes were a fiery red and not the common light or darker brown found in most Kilrathi. “ Greetings my honored pride cub. Grr’Toliss greeted. “ I assume you we have our foothold aboard the human station and you are to inform me now the human’s flee from our ground forces.” Grr’Toliss stated. “ We have gained a foothold my father though the humans defend every inch with the heart of a Vrr’Chisst warrior. More ground forces will be needed to continue the press.” his son said. Pirr’ Yrr’s earlier words about a cornered prey echoed in his mind before he pushed them away. His heart swelled with pride at his son’s report. A major step had been completed. Part of Grr’Toliss’s strategy was to use the human carrier as a staging area for advancement for their ground forces, into the human battle station. From Grr’Toliss’s point of view far easier and much less costly was it to dare the crippled carrier’s broken defenses, then the menacing battle cannon’s that could demolish a capital ship with one direct shot. “ Fear not my pride cub. I have six heavily loaded troop transports for your convenience with more waiting.” In the background several small explosions and blaster fire drew his gaze. “ Careful  you do not fall prey to the furless ape’s tactics, Prr’Roliss.” He added, seeing several warriors in the background fall dead under blaster fire. “Better a death in battle, than to age into nothingness in the misery of peace.” His son retorted. Again his heart washed over in pride at his son’s response. The answer of a warrior. Prr’Roliss was his pride cub, his first born from his first litter. Believed to be the strongest and with the fiercest blood of any clan leaders they were shown and given special treatment all the stages of their lives. They were groomed from birth to one day take over the clans until adoption to the next level in the Kilrathi step ladder. A nearby huge explosion caused him to momentarily duck away. The screen went blank momentarily before Prr’Roliss’s face returned hissing angrily. “Continue your advance Prr’Roliss, I shall order the transports to launch.” “Excellent honored father. “ Prr’Roliss said giving a claw salute, “For the honor of house Nar’Issk and to the glory of the Kilrathi empire. “ Turning as the screen went blank Grr’Toliss did indeed feel lifted. Not only from the progress Prr’Roliss made but from the fierceness of his warrior son. Prr’Roliss was an excellent testament to Grr’Toliss’s bloodline. And with the battle station’s capture would secure him breeding right with one of Pirr Yrr’s younger daughters, allowing him to sire hirst litter. A soft purr began emanating from his throat as his thoughts drifted towards his future cubs children. That purr grew into a low rumble when Grr’Toliss thought of his own reward. Returning to the bridge window he continued watching the assault on Welker Station. Today was going to be a good day.

 

·         *     *         *          *         

T.C.S PHOBIAS

Main Hangar Bay

“ Harris! Get Rice and Collins over here now!” Leeba yelled over the roar of blaster fire and explosions. Popping up from behind his cargo create Leeba unleashed a punishing torrent of blaster fire towards the Kilrathi line. One shot weather luck or skill caught one warrior dead center in his forehead throwing him backwards. “ Serg!” Harris, Leebas’ second called. Quickly dropping back to safety Leeba spotted Rice and Collins both young marines sporting heavy duty Bi-Rocket launchers were hurrying towards his direction. Motioning them to hurry Leeba peeked out doing a quick survey of the hanger. Two large doriathi transports sat near the hydro-nano mesh screen that led to the launch way into free space. Kilrathi warriors were hurriedly forming up to create a front line  with more pouring out from both transports. He saw several groups setting up gatling cannons aimed at their position. Not a good sign. Further back Leeba’s gaze fell on a towering Kilrathi wearing intense looking chrome armor speaking into a built in console in his forearm. That’s the officer Leeba told himself. Even from behind his create and a good distance away Leeba was able to make out two blood red orbs in the warriors face accompanied by a wicked pair of chrome fangs. He knew the whole appearance was designed to make the Kilrathi appear more threatening and cruel. He had to admit it was working as he fought to suppress a cold chill. The hanger was a littered wreckage of fires, dead bodies and complete chaos which if his instincts were correct, would only be getting worse. His own troops not badly outnumbered, however were pressed down and  trapped behind supply containers using the hangers columns and stationary fighters for cover. They were effectively cut off from any kind of retreat forcing them into an unwanted firefight. A blaster shot fired in less than a foot from Leeba’s face causing him to flinch back. “Jesus!” he cried snapping back. Rice and Collins both rushed over from a nearby container dodging fire to Leeba’s position. “Serg! You ok?” Collins asked. “I almost got my face shot off, what do you think!?” he snapped back. Breathing heavily, Rice did a quick sneaky glance over the crate. “ If they get that front line set we’re gonna be up s**t creek.” The young soldier said huffing. “We’re already knee deep in it, so not far to go now.” Leeba retorted wiping a line of sweat from his forehead. At that moment all three heard a metal like pounding sound. Like Rice, Collins did a fast up and down. “Damn!, those furballs are locking their nasty fang shields.” She to had to duck down dodging fire that nearly took her head from her shoulders. For Leeba this was unacceptable, once that front line was made, next would be a secondary row loaded with blaster and missile fire followed up by the gatling turrets coming online and then their swift ends. He needed to but time for reinforcements to arrive. Looking up towards the roof he suddenly got an idea. “ Give me your Bi-Launcher.” He ordered to Collins. Pulling out his comlink and catching Harris’s attention he shouted, “ On my mark all units move forward!” Harris’s smolt covered features gave him a confused look. Leeba motioned for him to look up. Eye widening Harris’s boyish features went white with dread, seeing what Leebad had in mind. Following suit Rice likewise had his bi- launcher loaded and ready.” Aim for one of the bases were it connects to the rail. “ Leeba ordered. “ what if the ceiling tears down?” Collins asked worriedly. Taking aim Leeba said, “Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.” To his right where several structure columns supporting an upper deck level. A trio of marines were shielded behind them trading fire against Kilrathi troops. Catching their attention Leeba screamed,” Cover fire!” The trio gave Leeba a thumbs up, taking aim.  Popping up both Leeba and Rice fired, releasing four high explosive missiles towards the massive electric over hydraulic arm crane. Nearly the size of a small corvette, the arm crane operated on a four track rail system and was used to shift fighter/bombers, transport and fire hog to the repair and maintenance decks on the hanger’s upper level. All four missiles hit the base of the crane were the gears connected to the railing, causing a large explosive and a hailstorm of debris to shower down. Breaking loose, one of the base’s swung downward pulling the steel beams with it. The stress proved too much for the remaining base coming down as well. As almost thirty tons of hard steel tumbling down. Kilrathi warriors scrambled in panic in all directions desperate to avoid being flattened. Slamming home with a thunderous crash, part of the arm crane toppled against the transports fuel cells. The impact resulted in both fuel cells to go up in a volatile explosion. Pure chaos ensued wrecking the Kilrathi lines as Gatling turrets and warriors alike were squashed flat. Those lucky enough to survive quickly fell prey to marine blaster fire. “Charge!” Leeba screamed. “Take back ground!” he ordered. Cheering and shouting Confed marines pressed forward blaster rifles alive with fire, cutting down any Kilrathi foolish enough to be caught without cover. Trying to recover, Kilrathi warriors hurriedly retreated mostly  behind the downed crane finding cover behind it. Confed marines with Leeba leading the charge, took up positions encircling the two Kilrathi transports. From behind the arm crane warriors appeared firing their brace blaster. 

Leeba dived behind a cargo lift using the vehicle for cover. Harris and Collins who’d been close behind likewise took cover behind the lift. Just then two spiker grenades came over landing right next to the trio. Both Leeba and Collins quickly grabbed one each and popped over the vehicle to throw them back. Quicker than Collins, Leeba threw his ducking back to cover. Collins however wasn’t as fortunate as several rapid fire shots tore through her steel threaded Kevlar armor turning her body to Swiss cheese. Horrified Leeba watched the grenade fall from her lifeless hand. Adrenaline pumping he dived catching the cruel grenade in his hand. In the same motion he tossed it aside, praying he too wouldn’t not become Swiss cheese. “Get Down!” he yelled covering his head. No sooner had he spoken the grenade detonated into hundreds of razor sharp claw like shredders that pummeled the area. Rolling against the cargo lift Leeba wiped a thick layer of sweat from his forehead. He was getting to old for this. Harris began, “Serge! We can’t---“Leeba’s comlink suddenly sputtered to life with Lt. Commander Wedgeworth’s voice. 

“Keep those damn animals at bay!” Leeba barked cutting Harris off.  Into his comlink he barked, “ Where the hell are my reinforcements!” “ they are in route Sergeant.” Wedgeworth said keeping an even tone despite Leeba shouting at her. “ We are effectively cut off,” he continued, “ if we don’t get backup quick fast and in a hurry you won’t have anyone to give orders to down here.!”   Continuing she said,” All support forces are tied up in other sections of the carrier, the Kilrathi are attempting to use Phobias as a staging area for their advance. I’ve sent you everything left to help keep the hanger secure.” the commander said. “ Sergeant, sensors indicate six incoming transports headed towards the Phobias. Base cannons can’t target them there. Using Phobias as cover not giving the station a clear shot.” “ Well take them down with the fight/bombers” Leeba scoffed. “ No can do Sergeant, all forces are tied up in the stations defense. We’ve got a full plate dealing with Kilrathi capital ships assault transports and carrier fighters. We’re lucky to still have our defenses up.” She explained. “ You need to find a way to activate the hanger doors and prevent entry into the hanger.” Harris who’d been listening fired several shots towards the downed crane. “ Did I hear her right? She’s nuts the hanger’s gone! We need to fall back and regroup!.” he shouted over the blaster fire.  “ What’s the e.t.a?” Leeba asked ignoring Harris. “ At current speed and course, eleven minutes.” “Ya, good luck with that.” Leeba muttered.  “ Come again Sergeant.” Wedgeworth’s voice said through the comlink. “ I said that’s a no go Lt. Commander. It’s a shitstorm from hell down here. Like it or not the furballs are gaining ground, I don’t think we can hold the hanger. Besides the  main controls are on the hanger bridge and we’d never make it there in time.” Ducking down Harris asked,” Well, what about the emergency restraints!? We could release those and that would trigger the doors closed.” “ No good.” Leeba said shaking his head. “ The control main panel is stationed behind those b******s. We’d never get past them before they cut us down.” “’ Lt. There’s no way too---,” “ Wait! Wait!” Harris blurted, “ We can blow up the power generators!” he exclaimed. “ What?” Leeba asked. “ The generators Serg! That power the nano-mesh screen. Take those out and the screen fails! It’ll trigger the failsafe restraints releasing the doors.” It was a long shot with two transports and several  scoren of Kilrathi warriors in the way. But it was better than doing nothing. Nodding in agreement Leeba could think of nothing better and it wasn’t as if they had a lot to work with in the middle of an intense firefight. “ We might be able to do it. Call you back in nine. Leeba out.” he said into the comlink. From the direction of the downed crane the Kilrathi suddenly stopped firing. Several loud clangs followed by a long hissing echoed through the hanger. Both Leeba and Harris with a few others came partway out of their cover. More hissing added in with heavy metallic stomps could be heard. From behind the crane came roars and shouts. “ I have a bad feeling about this Serge.” Harris mumbled. “Me too” Leeba confirmed. Then leaping up from behind the crane appeared the Kilrathi Leeba had seen earlier. Crouching atop the downed crane he held his fang shild in one arm while sporting a horrid looking metal like claw whip in the other. “ Cu riss Brr’Yrril Kirrisst Gri’pros cariss c’virr, hiruillas!” he shouted to the cheers of his comrades. One marine fired a shot at the vanguard warrior. His aim true, the shot struck deep in the warriors shoulder armor. Not even flinching the warrior lashed out with his claw whip. Too exposed from cover the blade like whip struck the soldier dead center in his head carving straight through to his neck, before the vanguard pulled free. Then as his dead body fell to the floor, two berserkers in full bi-ped leaped  over the crane landing heavily onto the floor. “All units fall back! Repeat all units converge to the main hatchway exit.” Leeba ordered knowing they had no firepower that could take down the Kilrathi heavy mech units. One of the mechanical brutes converting to its quadruped form took aim on Leeba and Harri’s cover. “ Aw man, this is gonna suck!” Harris groaned seeing the berserker pound forward with thruster jets alit. It’s shoulder fang slammed into the heavy duty cargo loader, with Leeba and Harris diving away. Lifting the whole loader stuck on it’s shoulder fang, the mech unit powered almost through one of the column’s with the loader. Spinning, the loader fell away into two broken pieces. “ I really hate those things!” Harris bellowed.  Going back to it’s bi-ped stance, the pilot inside saw its prey laying on their backs. Leeba and Harris fired to no avail. Rice along with several others threw smoke and flash grenades trying to attract it’s attention. With one wicked looking claw hand it slung a piece of the loader their direction. Rolling in opposite directions they both narrowly missed being made roadkill. Pulling free his comlink he screamed to whoever was listening,” Where are my damned reinfor---“. From above and behind came several  proton shots streaking down towards the berserker. The shots struck the brute directly in it’s protruding missile head. A hard shot to make to be sure. Both mech unit and pilot inside went up in a showering explosion, the blast enveloping the berserker and the surrounding area.  Leeba took a nasty gash across his head as a hailstorm of debris littered the area. From above on the repair deck a scorn of confed marines came into view bringing a new spark of hope with them. Cheers erupted as two arrow drones zoomed over head their twin turbo blades churning rapidly and their massive proton cannon’s wreaking havoc on the Kilrathi, destroying any hope of establishing a front line. Getting to his feet Leeba quickstepped it over to Harris who likewise was getting up. “ Hurry up! We’ve got to get those generators disabled or we’ll be over run.” Leeba was unsure of how exactly he was going to knock out the generator’s. Even with reinforcements he didn’t have the firepower necessary to punch through the Kilrathi and knock out both generators. All around them the fire fight was intensifying. Even with reinforcements it seemed the best the confed marines could manage was a stand still. That standstill however would quickly turn if they couldn’t get to the generators. Running the pair ducked behind several columns supporting the upper level were the reinforcements were. “ Serge! Look!” Harris said pointing. Following Harris’s gaze Leeba’s eyes fell on a pair of fire hogs. “ Damned right!” he exclaimed. If berserkers we’re an ever present thorn to confed soldiers, then FireHogs were there clippers. Heavy duty they could pack a mean punch against berserkers, and what they lacked in quick mobility they more than made up in fire power. Both Leeba and Harris saw two powered down at a repair station in the corner of the hanger. Surveying the area Leeba found Rice and a couple others hunkered down behind some containers. Waving he was able to get their attention. “ Rice! Get whoever you can and meet  us at the columns!” Leeba shouted into his headset. Rice gave him a thumbs up, at Leeba’s transmission. Targeting one of the berserkers an arrow drown briefly came into view. The drone released a proton blast towards the berserker. On all fours the mech unit ignited thrusters and easily side leaped the shots. Two gatlin's  flanked on its back unleashed a punishing array of shots that struck the drone’s turbines. Spinning out of control, the drone smashed and exploded in the upper deck were reinforcements had entered. Screaming ensued, as several marines toppled over the railing their bodies an inferno. Knowing nothing could be done for the brave men Leeba gave them a quick death with his blaster. “ GOD, rest their souls.” Harris said crossing his heart. Dodging fire, Rice followed by three soldiers, took cover behind a column next to Leeba. “ This place is going to hell in a handbag, Leeba!” Rice exclaimed. “ What the hell are we still doing here! The hangers lost!” Leeba watched Rice’s gruff features turn to dread as he said about the incoming transports. “ Well ain’t that sweet, Serge. What are we gonna do about it?” Pulling free a power core Leeba locked into his blaster while saying, “ Me and Harris are gonna make a run for those Hogs in the corner. You four give us some cover.” “ Damn I hate this job.” Harris complained while smiling.” What if we get gunned down.?” “Part of the job.” Leeba answered. “ Why I signed up in the first place. Fierce battles, gory deaths all in the name of the human genome.” Harris laughed.” Shut up and get ready.” Leeba barked. Turning to Rice he said “ If we go down, you gotta get to those Hogs, get those generators knocked out or these b******s will have a red carpet entrance all the way to the station’s front doors.” Rice wanted to protest his serge making the attempt. He was younger and in better shape, being not even three months outta boot and eager for some action. Not saying that Serge was over the hill. Yet Leeba and Harris were the only ones who qualified to operate the Hog’s anyways. “ You got it Serge.” Rice said in all seriousness. Nodding Leeba tossed him his blaster. Taking several  deep breaths and peering around the column he said “ On three.” Rice and the three soldiers readied their weapons. “ Three!” Leeba shouted. Running full speed Leeba and Harris broke for the FireHogs as Rice and the others laid down a full auto suppressing fire. Wrecked containers, damaged fighter parts, and chemical fires were at almost every turn slowing their pace. Halfway there Harris blurted, “ I can’t believe we haven’t drawn more attention yet.” Several Kilrathi appeared next to their transport and began firing in their direction. “You got a big mouth you know that!” Leeba huffed. “ It’s what I’m known for!” Harris said, panting. Zooming into view came the remaining arrow drone, targeting the concealed Kilrathi. Two massive proton shots struck their area forcing them back behind their cover. “ We just might make it!” Harris exclaimed. Closing in on the firehogs Leeba’s hopes agreed with Harris. Those hopes came to a crashing halt when the remaining berserker leaped high into the air it’s Kur’rit blade fully extended slicing into and through the arrow drone. The loud explosion caused Leeba and Harris to look back just as the berserker landed heavily on the floor. Going back on all fours, it’s thruster jets fired as the brute began charging their way. “Run!” Leeba and Harris exclaimed together. Hurring the last dozen or so meters the pair reached the FireHogs. Quick stepping it up the elevator stairs Leeba jumped in the cockpit and fired up the Hog’s power system’s with Harris following suit. “ You go for the generators I’ll take care of fluffy.” Leeba said nodding towards the oncoming berserker. Not waiting for Harris to reply Leeba shut the cockpit hatch just as the firehog came to life. On its incinerator unit a mean looking flame appeared. Inside a main view screen two tracking sensors came to life along with several secondary systems. Weapon’s up and running Leeba took aim with the hog’s napalm grenade while stepping forward. Thruster jets firing the berserker darted sideways while returning fire with its Gatling turrets.  Slightly smaller but far quicker it took another sidestep while aiming its fang missile.  Likewise Leeba took aim with Hog’s quad action shotgun. The missile exited the berserker with an explosive burst, just as Leeba began firing. The recoil action forced his firehog to stammer backwards slightly. Heart racing he watched the missile go up in a violent haze. Not more than a dozen yards from his position. Even through the shielding and metal cockpit he could feel the intense heat of the explosion. Already knowing what was coming behind the fiery inferno Leeba reloaded and readied his battering plate. As the berserker charged through the smoke it’s should fang leveled at Leeba’s cockpit. Leeba fired another round while punching forward with the battering plate. Part of the shot with the battering plate struck true. Hammering the berserker in the shoulder. Leeba side stepped as it rushed past off balance crashing into the repair station behind him. “Serge, got a problem here.” Harris’s voice came in on the intercom. “ Never fails.” Leeba thought to himself. “What?” “Hog’s ignition circuit is fried. I’ve tried a hotwire but it’s not working. Gonna see if I can bi-pass somehow. If not then there’s no way I can fire this sucker up without over hauling some serious circuitry. “Do what you can Harris. If it won’t fire up then stay out of sight someplace safe. I’ll take a crack at the generators alone.” Serge, you can’t-“ “We’re running out of time. Stay put and low.” Leeba said cutting him off. Switching off the intercom he made his way towards the first generator. Gatlin turrets erupted to life firing their protest his direction. Brace blasters, grenades all hammering away at the fire hog to little avail. “ Ha! Ha! Sucks doesn’t fur balls!” Leeba taunted smiling. Generator in range he firered several napalms grenades that each exploded into the generator. Going up in a huge fireball. Kilrathi scattered everywhere. Some ran out from cover which were quickly gunned down by confederate soldiers without mercy. Leeba’s victory however was short lived, as out of nowhere, the remaining  berserker charging his way barreled into and bowled him over. In the same movement the brute extended it’s nasty kur’rit blade slicing down and through the fire hogs quad-shot gun arm taking the whole limb clean off. Blade raised for another strike this one aimed at Leeba’s cockpit, it was all he could do to get the hogs straight blade up in time to intercept. Leeba felt the harsh impact vibrate into the cockpit. The berserker with an extra limb to spare began to rake through the Fire Hog’s armor towards Leeba. Strattled and with limited options to work with Leeba could only think of one thing, that would probably kill him too. He began turning the hog’s napalm muzzle directly under the berserker. Gears and pulleys whined as the berserker fought to throw the limb down. With the muzzle directly under its chin Leeba knew it was now or never. Smiling he said, “Tear through this!” and pressed the napalm trigger. The explosion was on par with that of the missile except at a much closer range. The thunderous blast blew the berserker clean in two just above its midsection charring the Kilrathi pilot inside to a crispy cinder. An intense heat rose up after the violent blast wreaking havoc on the Fire Hog’s structure and it’s systems which all erupted in a volcano of sparks. Leeba’s cockpit lit up like a furnace threatening to cook him alive inside. Amazed he was still alive he quickly began to undo his harness while disengaging his motion cuffs. He needed to hurry before the napalm began melting through and things really got hot. Reaching to open the cockpit latch Leeba found that it wouldn’t budge. An old war vet and marine there wasn’t much that couldn’t shake Leeba’s confidence but panic started to set in as he tried harder to no avail. Screaming he frantically beat on the cockpit plating. Eventually the screaming gave way to the roaring fire that was setting in and overtook the Fire Hog. All the while a figure in the shadows stood observing in pleasure at Leeba’s agonized screaming. A figure wearing chrome armor. After what seemed and eternity, Leeba awoke with every nerve alive and on fire with pain. He fought to draw breath against the smoke filled cockpit. Somehow he was still alive. When he tried to move that pain soared to new and undiscovered heights. Suddenly several thuds followed by a scraping sound drew his attention. Someone was digging for him, moving debris out of the way. A breach of light flooded the cockpit that momentarily blinded him as the cockpit top was torn up and off the Fire Hog. As the pain receded from his eye’s Leeba made out a lean muscular figure standing over him. “ Rit hr’ruot chi’tuilk nas, hi’risst.” It said in a growl like voice. “What?” Leeba managed to half croak. A sinister laughing hiss echoed before it said, “ I said, You have failed, human.” The last memory to enter Leeba’s mind before unconsciousness took him were the two blood read orbs peering down at him. 

 

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(Terrean Network News) Attacks in Riley’s mining operations continue to worsen as pirates grow bolder in mineral raids. Several prime targets were struck in rapid succession all with pirate raiders making off with an overall estimated mineral value ranging in almost half a billion. Commercial shipping lanes as well have come under repeated assaults from pirate attacks. Despite increased security patrols by Inner.System.Security, security forces have been unable to track or locate the pirate’s base of operation. While I.P.S suspects the pirates are using more than one base to launch their attack operations, efforts to locate their bases have not successful. Whispers are spreading that pirates and would be rogue operators are getting help from the inside  the Riley system are growing and gaining favor among in system merchant’s. One merchant who requested to remain anonymous commented, “ There’s no way these repeated attacks couldn’t be so success unless these vagabonds were getting help from the inside. It would explain so much on how they are always at the right place at the right time and always with the right amount of firepower to take down security forces and raid the cargo ships and be gone before any other forces can respond. Outraged President Spaulding’s denied the claims stating that no one on his administration would have anything to do with filthy low life scum that would rob honest merchant  trade, claiming this situation could have been done and dealt with if the Confederation would deploy a security fleet to monitor in system traffic and police local commercial shipping lanes. Demands for more intervention from FleetComm have been denied. Planets in Riley and several nearby neighboring systems are in an uproar officials report at the lack of effort to fend off pirate incursions and provide better security for commercial shipping lanes and planet refineries. Riley’s mineral’s exports to confederation core world’s account for more than forty percent of its imported resources. While President Spaulding made no threats directed to the confederation, he did say that if things didn’t change or if FleetCom officials didn’t start to take a more heavier interest in the event’s unfolding in Riley then he would have no choice but to charge a higher export tax to cover the cost to add adequate protection to efficiently protect the shipping lanes and refineries as well as other penalties would be necessary to cull the pirate threat.

 

T.C.S VENGEANCE (NEW CARRIER CLASS ENTERING SERVICE FOR CONFEDERATION.)

PELICAN  CLASS( CONFEDERATION  HEAVY ASSAULT FRIGATE.)

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Michael sat at a table in the crew quarters of the Dawn’s Star nursing his drink alone. After having barely escaped the surprise strike force and with a belly full of  personal event’s aboard the Dawn’s Horizon had been well,  repairs had taken almost a full day just to get the ship jump operational if only partially. The rest of that time had been tending to the wounded personal of the destroyer, which many required medical attention only to be found aboard a med ship. However Michael and the mercenary crew made due the best they could with what supplies were available. After making the first jump Michael had inserted the new course coordinates in the ship's computer and put an extra security firewall around the information not wanting to take a chance on any would be hi-jacker making an attempt to steal the data. When Amanda and Otto had first learned of the new coordinates they had been somewhat shocked such a direct route existed to Earth with so few jumps. However exhausted and still dealing with Tennyings death they made no inquiries to see the chart route. Otto had spent numerous hours trying to fix the comm’s relay running by passes and changing out different circuit components without luck. The Comm’s system was totally fried. The best they could manage was a short garbled Transmission that couldn’t get past half a million clicks. They had no way to warn Welker station or any nearby Confed ships long range sensors could pick up of the approaching Kilrathi fleet. This among other things had Michael on edge of late. The jump into Sol was the last jump and the end of their voyage so to speak. He had a suspecting feeling that Felix putting Tennying’s death on his shoulders might come looking for some pay before they parted ways. Michael  had been doing everything he could to avoid an encounter with Felix be any means. After witnessing Felix’s battle prowess against the Kilrathi soldiers and the berserker aboard the destroyer he knew didn’t stand a chance against the man. The hatchway doors opened suddenly with Srri entering carrying a trey with some warm steaming food on it. Involuntarily Michaels arm slipped down closer to his sidearm. “I would have thought we have gone beyond this point, human. Again I mean you no harm.” Srri said not missing his movements. Taking a deep breath Michael let his arm relax and moved it away from his blaster. Srri approached and sat the meal down on the table while stepping back. “Is there anything you might require while I am here?” she asked. The food looked warm and smelled delicious and weather Michael wanted to admit it or not he was starving. His appetite getting the better of him, he began to dig in the meal. Srri took his silence as a no and turned to leave. “How did you end up on board a human mercenary ship?” Michael asked, his curiosity getting the better of him. Turning she said “On my home planet I was sold into slavery. “Pausing from his meal he looked up at her curious as if to say silently say slavery? ”Tennying bought me and freed me from my previous owner to be in his employ.” Swallowing Michael savored the food. It was a type of broth stew he had never tasted anywhere before in his life. His stomach instantly growled, its loud demand for more pinging both their ears. “I am pleased you find the meal enjoyable.” She stated. “You were a slave?” he asked “Am” she corrected. “I didn’t know Kilrathi enslaved their own kind.” He said. “You humans,” she said pausing,” You see only one side of the Kilrathi and think that is all to us. You know little.” “I know the Kilrathi are merciless killers.” Srri shrugged not disagreeing. Not wanting to get into another pissing contest Michael changed course. “How did you become a slave?” he asked taking another bite. “My clan leader sold me and two of my cublings into the slave market many years ago on my home world before it was destroyed. Before Tennying took ownership of me I was under the rule of a Kilrathi pirate lord well known in the Vagga regions of the empire. He owed Tennying for favors past and gave me to him to square away the debt. Tennying was in need of a what is the human word? Translator? When it came to dealing with Kilrathi independents and pirates. Kilrathi independent’s, Michael thought to himself. Upon hearing this Michael’s ears perked up. “Tennying must have had a lot of dealing with local pirates then huh?” he asked, hoping Srri would let slip some bit of information that the Confederation would be interested in learning. Srri bared her fangs somewhat at him. He didn’t hear a hiss that normally followed with such a jester. Michael got the impression she was smiling at him. “Tennying was a very versatile and capable man with many contacts within the Kilrathi Empire and the human Confederation. I give him credit due to your species his barterning skills were formidable both in Kilrathi and your confederation dealings. ” She said not giving away anything crucial. “You don’t seem too upset at his loss.” Michael observed. Srri issued a low hiss at Michael’s statement. “I will  mourn his loss in my own way human. The time of the Sivar- Eshad soon approaches for the Kilrathi, it will be a time of honoring those worthy of my kind.Tennying was a warrior worthy to be called a Kilrathi, though he is not of my race. You do not know nor understand the ties we shared in your brief venture with us. However I do credit him more honor than you. Seeing how you use his death to try to manipulate information out me to use against his crew or myself who has done nothing but try to aide your comrades from perishing and against their better judgement. That fact that you would be more interested in his contacts and ties within the Kilrathi and the confederation so soon speaks volumes of you human.” Srri retorted. Michael felt a rush of shame overtake him. Srri had struck a nerve. A deep nerve that made him feel guilty. Even though Michael hardly knew Tennying he knew the Dawn’s Star had not only their captain, but had lost a good man.” Your right, I’m sorry. For his loss and yours.” Michael said solemnly. “As am I.” Michael was off balance with Srri he’d never encountered a Kilrathi like Srri before, let alone had the chance to talk to one for any length of time. While he knew without a doubt she was deadly and not to underestimated by any means he found himself enraptured with her, with his curiosity getting the best of him every time. “Now that he is gone what will you do now?” “I will bring him honor by following his last command to my utmost ability.” “And that is?” he asked. “To the safety and, well being of yourself. My blood oath, loyalties and service now fall to you, my master.” She said bowing. “What!” he exclaimed. “No, no, not gonna happen. I don’t need your services thanks anyways.” “What would you have me do?” Srri asked blankly. “I don’t care, go back to your uh- previous owner-““He would likely kill me upon sight least detach my head from my shoulders.”.“Look I-“Otto’s voice broke in over the intercom. “Hey flyboy you might want to get up here we’re coming up on your carrier.” Jumping up Michael headed towards the hatchway doors with Srri in tow. Turning he said “Stay here.” “Yes my master” Srri said bowing. “Don’t call me that.” He said hurrying through the doors. Making his way to the bridge he had several near run ins with broken pipes and exposed components that still had to be worked on. Almost three days of non-stop repairs and they had barely made a dent in what needed to be fixed. Upon entering the bridge Michael found both Otto and Amanda peering out the front cockpit windows staring into space whispering to one another. Guessing they had hadn’t heard him enter Michael approached the pair and looked in the direction they staring. Upon gazing at his new home Michael’s eyes went wide with wonder. The T.C.S Vengeance, was massive and sleek at the same time. Even at this distance he could tell it was not the standard carrier Fleetcom was used to putting into service. Its launch way was nearly twice as wide and again as long. He could barely make out what had to be six portside transport docking bays big enough to fit a medium size corvette like the Dawn’s Horizon. The bridge, comm, and operations centers were all well-guarded with multi Gatling and missile systems. Not to mention the many single and double turret systems layered all over the carrier giving it an impressive defense system aside from the intense green armor plating. In stationary position close to the carrier were two capital ship’s none had laid eyes on before. Oddly designed it looked neither slim nor huge but somehow evenly proportioned. All three could see eight fair sized cannon batteries sporting both sides of it’s midsection with three overly large cannon batteries spinning in a three hundred and sixty degree rotation. Both ships were almost a third the size of the carrier, and  looked like they could do a good amount of damage to any capital ship that came into their threat zone in a very short time. . “Those things look like they came out of Star Wars.” Amanda remarked. Both Michael and Otto turned to give her a look of unbelief. “What?” she asked shrugging. “What do you think those things are?” Otto asked, pointing to two overly large blood red crystals that were built in the left and right wing of the carrier. “I haven’t got a clue.” Michael whispered more to himself than to Otto still gazing over the Tiger’s Claw. “Look at the end of the runway.” She said pointing. All three saw the number 56 painted in bright red on the end of the launch way. “Let’s see if we can pull it up in FleetComm registration banks.” Amanda stated. Michael turned to look at her, knowing that a person needed authorized clearance to pull up any classified information on confederation capital ships. There was no way a mercenary ship would have access to Fleetcom ship registry let alone that of a new carrier still coming online unless it was stolen or hacked. Not looking in Michael’s direction Amanda began entering a series of codes into the ship's computer too fast for him to keep track of.  Upon entering the ships name all three waited for feedback. A moment later a computerized voice read the feedback. “T.C.S Vengeance Deep Strike Carrier. Crew 1200. Fighter/Bomber Compliment 180. Supply/ Assault Transports 8. Ten single and double turrets, four missile batteries. Further information authorized personnel security clearance level Alpha  1 required.” “Deep strike carrier? “ Michael said. “Never heard of that class.” “Sounds like it can take a punch and still give one hell of an offense. And that’s just off what we know. See what you can pull up on those two smaller ships. “Otto stated. Amanda’s hands began flashing across the console screen again with Michael trying desperately to follow. After a moment she said, “ I can’t find anything on the internal spec’s, just outlining design and title. Pelican class Heavy assault frigate.” “ Assault frigate? That’s a new one.”, Michael said to himself.  Just then the ship’s intercom flared to life, “T.C.S Vengeance to approaching ship, state your course and cargo.” Surprised they had comm systems at this range. Amanda clicked on her headset “T.C.S Tiger Claw this is the Dawn’s Horizon registration number 121-A56B12 barring course 72518 mark 337 were packed down with injured we rescued from an excellor in a fight against a Ralathi. Requesting Med-e-vac and emergency med units via our location. Also have one passenger in route your location.” They waited several moments for a response. “Dawn’s Horizon registration code verified and accepted. Give us a moment or two to get the med vac’s launched our operation’s system’s still getting up on its feet. Who’s your passenger?” Squadron Commander Michael Fanin number 90-MV721. Another long wait. “Confirmed Mr.Fanin, looks like you’re the last one.” “Last one what?” Michael asked. “Get your gear packed the Wing Commander is on his way over to pick you up in a shuttle. Vengeance out.” “Coming to pick you up in a shuttle? That’s a first.” Otto stated. Michael had to agree, in his nine years serving with the confederation he’d never heard of such a thing. They were less than an hour from starting docking operations and to him it seemed like a waste of time and fuel to ferry a newly made officer so short of a distance. Yet this was a new assignment for him and he had every intention to getting things started off on the right foot. It still seemed odd that the Wing Commander was personally coming to pick him up. Wing Commander was three ranks below that of a Lt. Commander and was considered a medium officer ranking. Still though Michael would have thought with a new carrier coming online that the ship’s W.C. would be busy with other more important issues than playing escort for a newly arrived staff member. Michael turned to heading towards the bridges exit. Before entering he stopped. Turning he found both Otto and Amanda staring back at him. After a moment he said. “I’m sorry for Tennying. I didn’t know him very well, but I know he was a good man. And thank you for rescuing those people aboard the destroyer. I understand the confederation isn’t perfect but their still human beings.” Amanda lowered her head while giving a small nod. Otto just continued to stare a Michael. After a brief moment he saw a slight smile on Otto’s lips. “Thank you for saving our lives flyboy. I know that we wouldn’t have made it out of that situation without your help. Your right Tennying was a good man.” He said. Michael nodded his appreciation. “Sorry about the puke also Otto.” Otto’s smile vanished and was replaced instantly by a frown. Before Otto could reply, Michael turned and hurried off the bridge heading to the crew quarters. He was wary and on the lookout for Felix. He wouldn’t have put it past the man to try and have one last encounter with him hoping it would turn into something violent. Luck was with Michael however for there was no sign of Felix anywhere. Michael hoped it would stay that way until he was aboard the shuttle. Quickly Michael threw what few items he had out of his duffel bad back zipped it up while throwing it over his shoulder. Turning to exit the crew quarters he found Felix his arms crossed watching him. “I’m sorry about Tennying he was a good man.” Michael offered. Silence. “Look Felix I don’t want any problems with you.” “ Too late.” Felix said flexing his metal gauntlets and calming walking towards Michael. Pulling his blaster free and aiming it at Felix he continued “Killing me will in no way honor Tennyings memory.” “No, it won’t your right about that.” Felix agreed. “But I’ll feel better after.” Michael aimed at Felix’s head. “Don’t make me kill you.” Grinning Felix kept approaching. Felix’s eyes suddenly went wide with fear. Then behind him Otto appeared hold the muzzle of his blaster pressed to the back of his skull. “Told you Felix the next shot would go through your skull. You wanting me to make good on my promise?” “ I was just helping our passenger with his gear.” Felix said seemingly not all that worried about Otto’s blaster pointed in the back of his head. “Ya sure you were.” Otto said agreeing. “Thanks Otto, but I had everything under control.” Michael said holstering his blaster “Un-huh. Shuttles almost here. Might want to step on it flyboy.” Grabbing his duffle and slinging it onto his shoulder Michael headed passed Felix who took the opportunity to whisper “See you soon.” “Looking forward to it Felix.” “Before you go there’s something i gotta know.” Otto said. Turning back around Michael gave a quizzical look. “Back when those Krant’s where hot on our butt’s you took us back in the blast range of the destroyer. How did you know we wouldn’t cook with kitties when the excellor blew?” Otto asked still pressing his blaster to back of Felix’s head. “ I pulled up the modifications that Tennying had done to this ship. One of them was he had his vessel refitted with Tripolium armor. Tripolium has a much higher heat tolerance than standard armor that Confed uses, for it’s fighters. Much more pricey, but better material. It was a gamble would survive the blast which all but crippled us but we survived.” Michael said. “ That’s pretty clever.” Otto said nodding. “ You ever need a job we could use someone with your skill here.” he Offered. Smiling Michael turned leaving the crew quarters he made his way towards the ships port side docking terminal. Unsurprised he found Srri there waiting for him. “Greetings my master.” “Don’t call me master. How did you know I’d be here?” he asked. “This is the only docking port this vessel has” she said. “Look” Michael said, “I understand you wish to honor Tennyings memory by following his last directive. But this is kind of overkill. Do you have any idea what would happen if they found you aboard a Confederation ship and what would happen to you, and me? Besides I’m still not sure I might not tell security your aboard the Dawn’s Horizon the moment I step on the shuttle.” “You will not” Srri said. “How do you know?” “Instinct” Srri said. Michael involuntarily rolled his eyes. “And what does that mean?” he asked. “I believe the closest word you humans would use would be called intuition. Though there is not too much of a difference.””Really?” he said. “ How so?” he asked curiosity overtaking his will to be silent. “ One involves a primal focus inherited and strengthened from one generation to the next. The other is more taught and culled through trial and error than inherited. I leave it to you to determine the difference, human.” Srri, said.  Michael knew he would say nothing of Srri’s presence despite his better judgement. As an officer it was his duty to report such a situation immediately not only as a security issue but as safety as well. Not only was she deadly on a physical level but on an intellectual level as well.  Yet due to the past events and Srri’s actions he felt like he owed it to her and to Tennying somehow. That reporting her would somehow sting some unknown moral code his intuition wanted him to follow.  Behind Srri came several light thuds and a small bang signifying that docking operations had begun. Moving off Srri said “This will not be our last encounter, human.” “What makes you say that?” Smiling she said “Intuition?” Michael allowed himself a small grin despite himself. “Farewell Michael Fanin our paths will cross again soon enough, until then I have little doubt honor and glory will not stray far from your path keeping you on the course to becoming a  true warrior. I will remain in your service my-- Michael” she said. Before he could say anything Srri gave him a deep bow turned and left the port side terminal bay. And just in time, as soon as she had stepped out of sight the Dawn’s Horizon  port side hatch door opened and Michael’s ears were both assaulted with the faint sound of a tune he had not heard since he had been in grade school. Unsure of who the artist was he listened for a moment soon recognizing the artist. It was Tchaikovsky the War of 1812. Approaching the shuttle’s outer hatchway door he entered his security code activating the door. As the door opened the faint tune turned into a thunderous roar that almost brought him to his knees it was so deafening. Entering the shuttle he found it was not decorated to standard guidelines of other confederation shuttles he had been aboard. Soft white carpet lined the floor of the entryway. Pictures of people he had never seen were in various spots on the wall that didn’t have circuitry. Even though the pictures where of different people Michael noted they all had similar features. He wouldn’t have been surprised if they were somehow all related in some way.  In one corner he spotted a mini-bar with a wide variety of different boozes and shot glasses. An oversized chair that matched the carpet sat next to the mini bar. By all accounts the shuttle looked more like something you’d see on a space luxury liner than a military carrier. Walking into the entryway and rounding a corner Michael found two more oversized and very comfortable looking chairs in the hull of the shuttle. A young man with rich dark black hair wearing a pristine  blue and white uniform that was ironed to a crisp sat in one nursing some type of tonic. His eyes were closed and he had one finger swinging back and forth to the rhythm of the music. Eyes still closed he sat his drink down on a nearby table and picked up what Michael assumed to be a remote. Sure enough a moment later the music died away. “Tell me Squadron Commander Michael Fanin what is FleetComm policy code 27-161?”Caught off guard it took Michael a moment to remember something he’d been taught back in basic nearly ten years ago. “Policy code 27-161 states upon introduction of a superior officer a salute is warranted by the sub ranking officer to his/her superior.” Michael stated barely remembering the statue. “I’m still waiting for a salute Mr. Fanin.” Instantly he dropped his duffle and keeping a straight face snapped off a polished salute. Setting his drink down the young officer calmly rose from his seat clasping his hands behind his back gave Michael a once over. After a moment he returned the salute. “I’m Wing Commander Fletcher Burns of the Vengeance. “ Instinctually Michael didn’t care for the man based off this initial encounter. The young officer appeared to have a brazen attitude and gave Michael the impression of being a snob. Still though as Wing Commander of the Vengeance he was going to be Michael’s superior officer and the man he would half to report too. Deciding to play nice and extending his hand he said, “Hello sir, it’s nice to meet you. I’m looking forward to my duties aboard my new assignment.” Ignoring Michael’s hand Fletcher turned and went back to his seat. Gritting his teeth Michael began to regret his decision to accept the promotion and his transfer to this new carrier. Not offering Michael to sit Fletcher said, “I’m not here to be your friend Mr. Fanin, nor are you here to be mine. I’m here to perform my duties as your superior officer and you are here to execute my orders to the best of your abilities without question. Do you understand this Mr. Fanin? ““Yes sir.”. “ Don’t get me wrong Mr. Fanin I don’t want us to start off on the wrong foot. I have nothing against you personally. Your combat record is quite impressive along with your skills as a fighter pilot. I have no doubt that your skills will be put well to use with to the confederation’s gain. And with my guidance and instruction as your superior officer I’m quite sure that your skills as a fighter pilot and a new officer will only grow. All things being said Mr. Fanin I am by the book, period.” By the Book huh, Michael thought to himself doing a quick glance around the shuttle looking at its decorating which were sure to be against FleetComm policy. “Do you have any questions? “ Burn’s asked picking up his drink and sipping it. “None at this time sir.” “Excellent.” Fletcher said smiling for the first time. He continued,” There is a ceremony waiting on our arrival in the main hangar bay. Your cloths will by no means do. I’ll not have my officers looking as you do aboard the flagship of the confederation. There’s a room in the back behind the mini bar. You’ll find your officers uniform in there. We have about thirteen minutes before we dock. I suggest you change into something more respectable.” “Ceremony?” Michael asked. “For your arrival, I’ve ordered all your pilots there at attention for inspection and introductions.” Fletcher reported. Michael felt somewhat shocked and very much annoyed. As Squadron Commander aboard the Tiger’s Claw Michael had some sixty pilots he’d be responsible for. He didn’t feel or want a ceremony at his arrival. There was nothing in FleetCom guidelines that called for one for any new officer’s arrival aboard any confederation ship. He had a good feeling that the only book Fletcher went by was his own.. The whole idea to Michael seemed absurd and well silly. Not to mention far more pressing issues that needed to be brought to attention such as the Kilrathi Fleet that surely now had begun it’s attack on Welker Station, and the new jump drive technology that cats had developed that somehow allowed them jump virtually undetected into confederation laps with no for warning whatsoever. “Ah, sir I appreciate the ceremony but there are some things that you need to be aware of. My flight here wasn’t all rainbow and teddybears. The Kilrathi may have developed some type of new jump technology that makes them all but undetectable. Until their knocking on your door. I have a holo-chip with video footage of a surprise attack on Phobias sir from Commander Wedge--” “Later Mr. Fanin, right now go change into your uniform before we begin docking operations. Time is short and I’ll not have things go to par. Now hurry.” Annoyed Michael steeled his rising anger at the man’s interruption. He didn’t care for Fletcher in the least. The man came off as arrogant and self righteous. He was reminded to the arrogant cadets in the turbo lift back on Phobias. He could well see similar traits in them given a few years mixed in with a couple promotions up the Confed ladder. Michael wondered how such a person somehow made it to the rank of Wing Commander. If his pilot skills were anything like his attitude then Michael would have been amazed at how Fletcher would have survived any type of combat situation, having a by the book attitude all the time. Even though it was this was his first encounter with Fletcher Michael knew the young officer operated on a do as I say not as I do policy. Yet this was his new assignment and he was determined to things started on the right foot, not matter what challenges lay before him. “Yes sir.” He said, picking up his duffle bag and heading to the small cabin in the back. Hardly surprised, he found the room was just richly decorated as the rest of the shuttle. As he began changing the sound of music soared loudly into the room. Outside the shuttle began its approach into one the docking bays. Space traffic outside was heavy as cargo freighters and supply tugs were busily hurrying around the carrier performing their duties in a futile effort to make deadlines. Slowly the shuttle made its way into the docking bay passing over maintenance and dock personal which were rushing everywhere each many undergoing tasks that hadn’t been completed yet. Off to one section stood two rows of pilots standing at attention. Most wore bright crisp yellow uniforms signifying their completion of flight school and basic space combat academy. Mixed in however where a few of the blue veteran uniforms here and there of seasoned pilots. The majority however wore yellow. As the shuttle set down, steam from several vent’s located on its sides hissed out angry steam boiling down on to the brand new cryton steel flooring. Inside just as Michael had finished putting on his new Squadron Commander pins the music suddenly stopped as Burn’s entered wearing a slight frown. “Are you ready? We are here, Mr. Fanin. Michael couldn’t hide his own slight frown as he said, “Ready sir.” “Good, make sure you perform your inspection of your pilot’s if any are out of uniform or not groomed to Confed standards you are to personally reprimand them. Is this guy serious? Michael asked himself. Make sure their hygiene is up to Confederation standards as well.  Already he knew better than to make waves with this guy. Ever since coming aboard the shuttle Michael’s opinion of his new Wing Commander was getting lower and lower and this recent event wasn’t doing anything to improve the situation. Keeping a stern face Michael gave Fletcher a curt nod before making his way off the shuttle, wanting nothing more than to put some distance between him and the arrogant Wing Commander. He could only hope his new assignment did not have more officers with Burn's personality lurking about.. Exiting the shuttle he found two rows of pilot’s mostly cadets waiting for him. Upon seeing him a crisp clean unified salute was given almost in unison as he made his way down the shuttle ramp. Most were very young and wore what Michael could see were blank but serious expressions. Most of them didn’t even look like they could grow a full beard. Jesus their kids, Michael thought. Returning the salute he took a moment to survey the scene in the docking bay. He’d never seen any hangar bay in such pristine condition. Everything looked brand new. Cargo containers, chemical barrels, crew and fighter tugs looked fresh off the assembly line floor. Even the fighters looked as though the paint hadn’t even dried yet. Used to seeing fighter technician's covered in grease hurrying about in cargo loaders or working on various fighter parts, almost everyone here tech’s and all had clean uniforms. To his surprise the temperature was pleasantly comfortable, unlike most hangar bays aboard Confed ships which one could break a clean sweat just from walking from end to the other. Wanting to hurry Michael walked briskly down the column giving every cadet a once over. More concerned with this newest technology threat the Kilrathi had cooked up and his given fear that Welker station was  at this very moment be under heavy assault he needed to locate a commanding officer sense his senior officer wasn’t taking him seriously. As he made his way towards the end of the column Michael spotted two older and more experienced officers at the head of the column. Both had dark blue uniforms like his and looked just as clean. As Michael approached a shout of, “ Senior Officer on deck!” echoed past his shoulder. Having a good idea of who it was, Michael did a quick about face while snapping up a sharp salute. Sure enough Fletcher was already heading down the shuttle ramp carrying a jeweled rod  wearing a deep frown staring in his direction. “Mr. Fanin, this is the second time in your very short arrival here that you have failed to follow protocol. You’ve already been told how I am by the book, yet I get the impression that you feel that you’re exempt from following protocol. I would have thought by now you’d seen that I believe very heavily in ceremony and Confed tradition, two markings that if we are to win the war must be followed to a Tee. It is becoming apparent that I am again wrong in your appraisal.” Fletcher said very loudly. “Sorry sir, I’m just wanting to get things underway sir. I didn’t think you’d want me hanging around waiting for you to finish your drink.” Michael said just as loudly unable to restrain his annoyance. Fletcher’s loud and brazen comment in front of the pilot’s was uncalled for and possible might have undermined Michael’s authority as a new officer. Fletcher’s prissy attitude was starting to get the better of him. Fletcher’s frown deepened as he walked within earshot of Michael. Just great Michael told himself. I haven’t been aboard ten minutes and already I’m in a pissing contest with the Wing Commander, way to go he told himself. “I knew the moment I saw you you’d be trouble. Well, you’d better listen up. As of now you’re on my s**t list. You so much as piss in the wrong direction, and I’ll bust your a*s in rank and kick it back to that piece of junk carrier in front lines. You get me, Mr. Fanin?” “Yes, sir.” Michael said through clenched teeth, wishing he was already there. Without breaking eye contact Fletcher took it upon himself shouting, “Assembly dismissed!” Likewise Michael didn’t break eye contact letting Fletcher know that he wasn’t about to be pushed around by anybody. The tension between the pair was easy for anyone to see. Pilots looked at each other oddly  before they began to break ranks and head off in different directions. Michael felt relieved at the Fletchers change of mind. The whole ceremony was uncalled for and not necessary with far more important pressing issues to deal with. It was Fletcher who broke away first turning and walking towards a hatchway exit. Michael used the moment to draw a deep breath. Off to a great start he told himself. From over his shoulder he heard someone say, “Don’t mind him sir, Fletcher is a born prick plain and simple. “ Turning he found the two pilot’s he’d seen earlier in front of the column standing there. “Yeap, Fletcher was born with a silver ladle up his a*s.” Said another, a beautiful looking woman Michael noted, smiling at him. She continued, “Rumor has it his family is rich and has a lot of influence in FleetCom. They know a couple of big shot’s way up the military channels. Mostly political connections and such. But every encounter I’ve had with him he’s always made an a*s of himself. To Michael it made all made a lot of sense as to why someone so young would have already reached the rank of Wing Commander and acted with such an arrogant flare. “Well, I hope his combat skills are better than his attitude.” Michael said. One pilot to the woman’s left, a slender and young looking man laughed at Michael’s statement. “Fletcher in a fighter? Right. “He said. “Anyways sorry you didn’t make it down to us for proper introductions,” the man continued, “ If Fletcher was as by the book as he professes then he would know this was your detail to dismiss the pilot’s not his.” Michael nodded already knowing. “Well, I’m Michael Fanin callsign Knight newly arrived.” He said. “Glad to have you aboard.” The man said. “We’re your Squadron Leaders. I’m Anthony Taylor call sign Jester. I’m head over your Raptor division. a*k*a Vengeance Raptors.” “I’m Jessica Miller call sign Vas, Squadron Leader over your ferret division a*k*a WarDogs.” the pretty woman said smiling while extending her hand. Nodding Michael took her hand. It was warm soft and smooth.  Michael saw her eyes light up. Michael offered her a smile in return. Jessica let her hand linger in his forcing Michael to be the first to break the hand shake. A  third man a heavyset looking individual stepped forward with a salute while saying very directly, “Bret Reed, call sign Buster. Squadron Leader over your Scimitar Division, sir a*k*a WartHogs.” Returning the salute Michael said, “Good to meet you sir.” Reed gave Michael a stiff nod before stepping back. “ Inspection and flight roaster detail for the Scimitar’s should be completed and ready within a few hours, sir. I’m sure you will want some time to degear and wind down for a bit. I’ll get with you before night shift comes on for your approval of the upcoming flight roaster and inspection reports. If you will excuse me, I have some unfinished work I need to attend to with a few bombers still not properly outfitted. We are to make our maiden jump within twenty four hours and I have a lot of work to catch up on, sir.” “ By all means then take care your business. I’ll see you before the shift change then. ” Reed gave another salute then turned and briskly walked over to wear several loader techs were busy around a pair of Scrimtar bombers. “ He seems gun- ho.” Michael observed. “Now he is by the book.” Anthony said, Continuing, “Me and Buster served on the Lancer together, take my word for it sir, you won’t find a more capable fighter/bomber here. He’s been due for a role like this for awhile now in my opinion.” Taylor stated. “ Good to know.” Michael said. Thinking back to the event’s of Phobias Michael sizeged the moment asking, “ LIsten, my trip here wasn’t a pleasant cruise by any means. The Kilrathi have made some scarey tech advances I can’t go into about. Who’s the Senior Command Officer here”, he asked. “ Guy named Jones, Author Jones if memory serves right. Only briefly met him once when I came aboard.  He should be up on the bridge with the Admiral. But unless it’s dire important I wouldn’t suggest interrupting the commander.” Taylor said. “ It’s dire important” Michael echoed.”Even though I can probably guess why. Why didn’t you notify Fletcher?”” Tried to, he wasn’t trying to hear it.” Michael said. “Knew it” Anthony said. Just then warning lights flashing with several hazzard crews in loaders speeding to one section of the hanger. A large outer dock door began opening. Continuing to open all three watched the light blue nano-gel screen shield come into view. The screen gell which covered the external hatchway port was paper thin and yet was the only barrier that separated the people in the hanger bay from the deadly void of space . With the doors all the way open the trio saw a large transport ship approaching lined up for entry. Michael from seeing the outer design of the ship already knew it was the Dawn’s Horizon but kept silent watching. It would be his first time seeing how much damage the ship had taken from the attack.  The Dawn’s Horizon passed through the gel barrier making a loud ploop like sound has it entered the hanger. Immediately engine sputter like sounds began echoing off the ship's main engines. Tears and neutron scars ran all over the main bulkhead streaming down the underside of the Dawn’s Star’s belly. The ships com tower had been blown almost clean off it’s framework and was barely hanging on by several scrap pieces of cable mixed in with torn wire. Upon entering the oxygen filled hanger sparks began firing to life added and mixed in with small fires over the corvette. Steam from exhaust ports began hissing in protest as the transport hovered in mid air trying to line up with the landing pad. Large smoldering craters were all that remained where several turret batteries had been. Thruster engines sputtered, fighting to stay alit in a losing effort to keep the Dawn’s Horizon aloft. “ My God.”, Jessica said at seeing the almost crippled transport hover in. “ Ya it was no fairy tale cruise.” “ What happened?”, she asked. “ Long story, which now isn’t the time to retale, if you will forgive me. I need to get this halo- chip to the commander. Events have unfolded that need to be addressed. “ “ No your right.”, she agreed. “ Come on I’ll show you to the bridge.” “ Be a good idea to follow her.” Anthony said. “ I’d play escort as well. But I’ve got my own inspections to make that will you’ll need to double check as well. I’ll be in touch with you around the same time as Bret sir,  with my throne for your side.” Anthony said smiling warmly. “ Sounds good.” Michael said returning Anthony’s salute. “ If you’ll come with me there’s a turbo lift not far that will take us to the bridge. “ , she said. Nodding Michael fell in at her side as she made her way towards the exit. As the pair headed towards the turbo lift Michael’s eyes were roaming the hanger bay taking everything in, being taken aback at how pristine and new everything looked. It was far different from many carriers that were stationed in the front lines. While cleanliness and order were very much a part of any carrier operation. With constant Kilrathi encounters, and one major offensive after another it was increasingly difficult to find the time and energy for maintenance and crew tech’s to find time to keep things in tiddy order, with fighter, and ship repairs always pressing down on them. “ Pretty impressive, don’t you think?”, Jessica asked. “Very”, Michael agreed. “ From what I understand she’s the first ship with this type of design spec. I don’t know too much about her, though when i first came aboard I looked her up in C.H.C registry banks and aside from the standard info found out very little about her.”, she said. “ I tried the same, and ended up with the same results.” Michael admitted, as the pair approached some turbolift doors, that were intersected of a four way corridor. Almost everyone Michael saw wore brand new uniforms and were heading one way or another. Material loaders and freight movers were ever present overly large  and cumbersome could be heard and easily seen moving in the current of personal. The hallway was just as immaculate as the hanger had been, the floors not steel made nor gridded like the older Yorktown class carriers were just as dark, sturdy but  plate made from a mixed of material’s Michael couldn’t make out.  The walls were a color of a deep grey mixed with Confed’s standard fighter color of emerald green. One long continuous Light with two angry red beam lines was centered in the ceiling providing illumination the length of the corridors.  Doors opening the pair setted inside. “ How long have you been aboard?” Michael asked, as the lift doors closed shut. Looking up at him she offered a warm smile with full lips that made her eyes sparkle. Aside from a slim and generous body Michael noted that the woman was exceptionally beautiful having look smooth dark brown hair that was offset by a pair of large soft brown eyes, accompanied by a pair full lips. “ I transferred here a couple of weeks ago and it’s been full steam since in getting things up to spec, not much has changed, from the way things have been this getting on her feet.” “ So I’ve noticed. Everyone looks like a man on a mission here.” Michael agreed. It was good to see people and driven with a purpose, it helped in keeping one’s mind off harsher realities in war time. “ As I’m sure you know the Vengeance is fresh out of drydock against the wishes of the construction engineers who built her. But Admiral wasn’t having any of it. Rumor has it they had four years  to meet his deadline and not a day more. But when your dealing with a man like Welker you either deliver or get your a*s handed to you on a silver platter, from a fleetcom sense.”, she stated. “ I definitely agree with you there. “ Michael said, hearing story after story of the Admirals accomplishments. “ Well, it looks the they made it by the skin of their teeth. So all's well that ends well, Welker gets his carrier on time so he gets to move on, and the engineers live to breathe another day.”, he said. She started laughing, a soft but rich laugh that had Michael raising an eyebrow at her. “ Yea right, guess you don’t know our Captain if you will, is the Admiral himself.” At this knews both Michaels eyebrows went up high. Welker is taking command of this carrier?” Michael asked surprised. “Yes sir, though there’s been no official announcement, rumors are running wild he’s making this the flagship, of Confederation forces in all our territories.” “Really?” Michael said, “ Well this is welcomed news”, he continued. The last flagship the T.C.S Viceroy had been with all hands aboard during one of the battles in the Enyo episode by a surprise attack by the Kilrathi, since then FleetCom hadn’t named any carrier nor warship an official flagship for Confederation forces.  “ Be my first assignment serving under an Admiral.” , he stated. Continuing, “ Uh, it’s been a hot minute and we aren’t moving.” jessica sighed facepalming herself while giggling, “ I’m sorry i forgot to enter the bridge level.” she said looking up at him. “ I was distracted.”, she confessed smiling. Michael noted her features reddening a little. “ It will be mine as well.”, turning to the lift console and entering the bridge level. “I knew we had something in common.” Michael said smiling. “And thanks for playing concierge. So I assume you still have your inspection and patrol roaster to perform?”, he asked.  “ Not a problem and nope. I knew you’d be arriving sometime today. I had mine completed yesterday, it’s ready for you to review and sign off on when you get the chance. “ How’d you know I’d be arriving today?”, he asked impressed she was already ahead of his other two Squad Leaders. Both felt the turbo lift slow to a stop. With the doors opening, the pair exited into another corridor. Dark green and grey carpet lined the floorway with the confederation emblem sewn in the carpet every dozen meters. Large panel windows lined one side of the hallway with single and double hatchway doors on the other. Michael noticed it was significantly cooler here than in the hanger bay. “ I know you arrived from the Phobias a front line carrier, where you were serving as Squadron Leader over the TigerSharks, Raptor class, and that you’ve been there for about three years. During that time you’ve lost six wingmen in engagement’s against the furballs and that weighs on your conscience. You could say your deadly in a fighter with over eighty confirmed kills. Your a capable pilot among other things. Your a man of genuity, passion and vercue, and you believe in what you stand for which even though this is your first assignment in a lead officers role, it will make you a good I think.  Stopping her he asked, “ How do you know all that?” “ I have my sources, sir.”, Jessica said teasingly. “ Nothing wrong with doing a little homework on your commanding officer.”, she continued. “ No but you kinda got me against the wall.”, he admitted. Michael was amazed at how on point she was. As a Squadron Leader below ,Squadron Commander, there’s no way she would have access to his personnel profile, yet everything she had said was spot on. “ Good that’s where I’ve found most men do their best at.” Michael scoffed despite himself. She was direct, brazen almost crossing the boundaries on unprofessional  conduct with a superior officer. (Damn the conduct) he thought to himself.  Jessica had a witty sense of humor with a touch of flambancy. She seemed like she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and Michael liked that about her. He liked her period. “ Okay then tell me about yourself.” “What do you want to know?”, she asked grinning. “ Well for starters, where did you transfer from?” “ I’m fresh from flight school, this is my first assignment.”, she answered. Again Michael was taken aback. “ Hold on, you mean your fresh from boot?” “ Yes sir, twenty three days out.”  “ No actually combat nor Kilrathi engagements under your belt?”, he asked his features going seriously. “ Not yet, just what I went through in simulator combat training programs and Kilrathi counter tactics. Though I’m looking forward to showing what i can do. My instructors gave me a five star rating across the flight board in every area. “Only thing I’m really lacking is logging hours in cross fighter tactics.” Jessica confessed. Continuing she said, “ But it’s  amazing what showing a little cleavage can get you. “ she said, laughing. Michael did not share her humor. “ How many hours have logged and in what fighter class. “ I’ve got about nine hundred hours in the hornet. And pushing two hundred in a Scimitar.”, she said. “ Why?” Michaels thoughts instantly drifted back to his last engagement with the Kilrathi aboard Phobias and the events that led to Wildcats death, and his past wingmen.  Before he could answer the ship’s intercom flared to lift. “ Condition Yellow. Attention  senior officers report to officer bay Delta four. Repeat  senior officers report to officer bay Delta four.” “ I’ll bet my my pilot wings, this won’t be good.” Jessica stated. Overhead the two red neon beams lining the continuous light panels began flashing a high yellow. “ Ya, the yellow alert kinda makes that clear.” Michael said unintentionally sound like a smartass. Several groups of officers began exiting nearby hatchway doors rushing towards them. “This must be important.”, Jessica mused ignoring his earlier remark. “ Looks like your up, sir.” We’re one level above Delta, follow me I’ll make sure you don’t get lost. “ turning she headed back towards the turbo  lift with Michael in tow. “ You okay, sir?” “Hm, yes why?”, Michael said his mind still in past event’s. “ You look troubled.”, she noted.  Ahead the turbo lift was fast filling with staff officers. “ I’m good.”, he lied not wanting to pursue the subject of her lack of fighter experience. The pair were the last to squeeze into the lift before the doors hissed shut. The fact that jessica was fresh from the academy and with no actual combat experience outside of training and the simulator by no means sat well with him. Added her first detail was as a Squadron Leader aboard the soon to be flagship. Was FleetCom so hard up for pilots it had no choice but to use pleebs coming out of boot for junior command positions. He didn’t give two cents how good her academy record was nor how many high marks she gotten from her instructors. It didn’t mean squat to him compared to frontline battle tactics the Kilrathi loved to use. He knew a ship like this would not get some cushy back system gig. If the rumor was true about this carrier as the Confederations new flagship, Michael had no doubt it would be frontline action and leading counter offensives across the board, with Welker being in command. However now in the turbo lift was not the time to breach the subject. The doors hissed open revealing a hallway much like the one leading out from the hanger bay. Michael didn’t really need Jessica to escort him being able to follow the crowd in the lift, yet he wasn’t about to dismiss her company finding it enjoyable nonetheless.  Exiting Michael kept pace with her along with everyone else heading down the hallway and turning at several corners.  Coated on the many single and double hatchway doors was Delta level followed by a number that as the group moved towards the end of the corridor was getting smaller. At the end the pair could see a growing number of personnel entering a pair of open hatchway doors guarded by two marines in full combat armor.  Michael made out a senior officer ushering in people in a hurry. A dozen or so meter’s away Jessica stopped saying, “ Here you are sir, Delta four officers briefing with red carpet courtesy.” “ Thanks again for the escort.”, Michael said, just as a senior officer hollered at them, “ Hey you two hurry up! The Admiral won’t wait all day for us to assemble. Your slowing the flow of traffic.”, he said while motioning them in. “I’m not an officer. I don’t want to get reprimanded for going in there.”, Jessica said looking at Michael. “ Your with me. Anyone makes waves at you being in there, I got you.” Michael said leading her into the room followed by other officers trying to move around them heading into the briefing room. Shrugging she followed Michael into the room, finding it nearly packed with officers of all levels and rankings. Not to Michaels surprise he didn’t find any open seats, scanning the room. The briefing room itself was the size of a large cargo hold. Seven rows on new leather seats lined the center each with fifteen seats. He made out three more rows on each side with the same number of seats. In back of the room sitting atop a thick carpeted grey and green stage was a huge stainless steel FleetCom Confederation emblem built into the wall. One large FleetCom United Planet Systems flag and the Confederation Navy flag were stationed on either side of the emblem both ironed to a crisp and displayed proudly into the wall. Four more polished leather chairs sat in front of the FleetCom flag. Three of which held what Michael assumed were the Senior command staff. Michael caught the rank bars of one the officers, a large muscular looking man as the ship commander in deep conversation with two other officers.  Centered in the stage sat a dark grey and green podum with a brass Confed icon bolted in its front. Not finding any open seats Michael with Jessica close behind opted to move to back the back wall near the hatchway doors seeing a small space which the pair could stand. Making their way through the crowd of officers. Both well heard whispers and murmurs on what this emergency meeting could be about. Indeed it must be something serious to pull all officers from their duties in the midst of readying a carrier fresh out of drydock. Jessica kept close to Michael while not hiding behind him but rather trying to stay unnoticed by any polished brass that might make a fuss about enlisted personnel and a rookie at that being present. Sure enough both heard a voice address from behind Michael saying, “ Mr. Fannin this briefing is for officers only, it is not acceptable for enlisted personnel to be present for contents of the briefing. “, the voice said overly condsendily. An irritated flush overtook Michael hearing the speaker behind him. Having only met the man once he instantly knew who the voice belonged to. Looking over his shoulder he sure enough he found, the  T.C.S DayStorm’s  Wing Commander and his personnel supervisor Fletcher Burns standing behind him holding a grey military crop and wearing a deep frown. Not wanting to upset the man further, Michael decided to try and downplay the situation. “ My apologies sir, she was in the process of escorting me to the ship commander when the yellow alert sounded. She was making sure I arrived at the correct place in time for the briefing.”, he said pointedly. Fletchers eyes narrowed, “ Your fresh off the transport ship. Why would you want to see the ship Commander?” Pulling free the holo-chip from his pocket he said, “ Remember I was explaining to you event’s that had unfolded with the surprise assault on board the Phobias? It’s my duty to report this to someone in the chain of command. You were- “ “Ah, yes! The supposed new Kilrathi technology you were talking about.. “ Fletcher said cutting him off while taking the holo-chip. Michael had to suppress his rising anger at the man’s continuing arrogance.  Fletcher  gazed at the holo- chip inspecting it to  make sure it wasn’t damaged nor broken before replying, “ Weather true or untrue I’ll make sure this gets to the right person. As for you two, I’m putting you both on report for Breach of Decorum by enlisted personnel and superior officer.”, Fletcher announced. Both Michael and Jessica turned to look at each other momentarily. Seeing the faint outlines of a smile threatening to break through her features Michael likewise shared in her sentiment. Breach of Decorum would likely be laughed at and thrown out, being a minor infraction at best not a serious offense, in war time. Then again Michael told himself it had the possibility to be a serious issue if the information presented in the briefing was of a critical nature. Both heard the double hatchway doors closing as the last of the late comers scurried through the doors followed by the guards who took positions either side of the doors. The room died down to quiet murmurings as Admiral Welker walked briskly onto the stage to the podum. As Welker surveyed the room, the hush grew into total silence all eye’s being drawn towards him. After a moment he began with a clear, sure voice, “ Let me be the first to officially welcome you aboard the T.C.S Vengeance, soon to be named the flagship of confederation within our territories. After a brief pause he continued, “ As of now this is the most technological  carrier within our fleet, having modified tracking, com and sensor arrays, rapid multi- launch capabilities, advanced armorants, long range multi - gallagher anti torpedo systems and other prime weapon systems. In short, if it’s been made Confed bought and slapped it in here. This is our gauntlet and we're gonna crack some Kilrathi jaw’s with it.”the Admiral exclaimed. The Admirals opening announcement was received with cheers and applause. “ Now to protect the confederation’s newest flagship they have also approved the design and construction of a new class of ship with similar advancements. Most of us have seen them in stationary orbit.  These new frigate assault ship’s have been dubbed Pelicans and have whopper offensive capabilities against capital ships.  Were the DayStorm goes, they go. If this carrier is the gauntlet boys and girls then those frigates are a brutal pair of brass knuckles that once the jaw is broken will knock their fangs out as well.” Again cheers and applause came from the Admirals audience. Make no mistake everyone, these three ships have  capabilities that are unmatched by anything we currently have with in the Confederation arsenal. Welker allowed himself a slight pause before continuing, “Now the desert is out of the way let’s get down to the main course.”. Welker had Michaels full attention, already having a dreadful feeling at what was coming. Seeing no reason to beat around the bush Welker got straight to the point. “ Everyone as of this moment, Welker battlestation has fallen to the Kilrathi empire.”, the admiral announced gravely. Gasps and shouts of disbelief came from several personnel in the room. Michael shut his eyes while taking a deep breathe at hearing the news. Behind him Jessica gasped in shock. “ With the fall of the battlestation, this gives the Kilrathi Imperial Empire uncontested control over a four system stretch. This demands an immediate response from us.  Three of which contain critical jmp vectors reaching far into confederation space, where there are several systems with civil colonies. Ladies and gentlemen these civic colonies are for lack of a better word defenseless.  There is currently no Confederation presence in any of these system colonies. I’m talking death tolls in the hundred thousands if not millions. These are frontier settlements, boys and girls. Families, community living, second and third chancers. No military operations, research, or facilities.” Many officers in the room knew well the stories of how brutal the Kilrathi empire was and could well picture the fate of those colonists if they fell into the claws of the Kilrathi. “ Along with the station’s capture those b******s also got their claws on a confed carrier, and took down five destroyers that were in stationary orbit around Welker. At this news Michael heard another gasp escape from Jessica. His gaze turning towards her, he saw her cover her mouth seeing, tears welling up in her eyes threatening to break free. He had to suppress a strong urge to go comfort her.  “Information is sketchy on how they got the jump on us. Intelligence believes initial troop and crew loss is estimated to be somewhere around two thousand either KIA or MIA.”, the admiral explained. There was total silence as Welker dropped one bomb after another on his audience. Before he could continue a bald headed and portly looking officer came up on stage and began whispering in his ear. “ I’ll leave further details to Commander Taylor.”, After a brief pause Welker continued,” Make no mistake everyone, this is a situation of dire porposions. And demands our immediate and full attention.” Turning to Commander Taylor Welker said, “Your up Commander.” With Welker leaving the stage followed by his portly comrade Taylor took the podium.  Commander Taylor wore a crisp grey uniform with two high polished gold and platinum emblems attached to his shoulder sleeves. Two bronze colored ribbons hung on his opposite shoulder draping partway down the arm. On the man’s upper arm, a set of heavily ironed gold and platinum stripes were easily  view, draping partly down signifying his rank as a ship commander.  Three white bars dressed his fore sleeves identifying to all who looked his fifteen active years of service with Confed forces. Taylor’s features were similar to Welker's in their sharpness though the commander carried more muscled bulk compared to the Admiral’s slimness.  Taylor sported a finely trimmed through thick goatee and sideburns. His hair being a dark brown was almost a perfect match with his rich brown eyes which looked just as sharp as the Admiral’s and aired just as much confidence.  Everyone who looked at the man could sense him being a man of quick to take action and give direction having intense focus. “ Thank you Admiral.”, he said taking the podium. “ Everyone welcome aboard the T.C.S DayStorm the newest of Kilrathi kickass capital ships, that will soon put us  back on the offensive were we belong.'' Taylor said assuredly. Michael saw several nods of agreement throughout the briefing room. “ As the Admiral was saying with the capture of the Phobias and Welker station added in with the loss of five destroyers and the empire effectively taking control of four linked systems is paramount. This is unacceptable. The initial assignment of the DayStorm upon leaving Sol was to jump to Welker meeting up with the Phobias which had plans to undergo a refit and upgrade operation, overhauling the entire vessel.  Several groups of escort and support ships were scheduled to arrive as well. Upon the completed assembly, we were to form the Telser Battle group, launching an offensive campaign into four frontier systems belonging to the Kilrathi. We were to imprint a Confederation footprint in those systems and effectively stamp out any Kilrathi presence. “ Taylor explained. “ As of now these plans are scrapped.” Michael took a moment looking over his shoulder at Jessica. Her eyes were puffy and he could see tail tail signs she’d been crying. He wanted to ask if she was alright but didn’t want to get distracted from the briefing. “  There are at least forty capital, assault and escort ships in the assaulting fleet. Intel has no idea how such a large number of ships slipped past our scanner arrays and frontline patrols to get the drop on us.” “ Commander Taylor, if I may interject, sir.” Fletcher interrupted loudly. Taylor looked slightly annoyed, turning in the Wing Commanders direction. “ Sir, my apologies for cutting in, but given the gravity of this situation, I have potential information straight from the front lines, that  may give us a clue on how the cats got their claw’s on Welker station..” “Let’s have it Mr. Fletcher.”, the commander said impatiently. Reaching into his pocket Fletcher pulled out a holo-chip. “ Commander this contains video footage and a detailed report of a surprise attack Phobias underwent while in route to Welker station. Supposedly the cats appeared out of nowhere using the same type of technology. Though I haven’t had a chance to view yet, sir.”, the Wing Commander explained. “ Good work, Mr Fletcher, this may provide some insight on how those b******s got so far behind our frontlines.” Taylor said approvingly. Nodding to one of his aides who was already heading towards burns, he took the holo-chip, then disappeared into the crowd to start reviewing the data.  After a moment Taylor added, “ Mr. Fletcher go with him and oversee things. Prepare a report for me to give to the Admiral. Don’t worry about the briefing I’ll fill you in one on one. “ “Of course, Commander it would be my utmost pleasure.”, Fletcher said a bit smuggly. “ Good, thank you Commander.”, Taylor acknowledged. Kiss A*s  Michael thought to himself. “ Kiss A*s.”, he heard Jessica echo, watching Fletcher make his way through the crowd  almost at the same moment. Looking at her, he could see the faintest of worry lines appearing with more tears trying to crash through. “ You ok?”, he whispered. She shook her head in answer. Michael wanted to press her but didn't’. She was clearly upset and worried.  “ With events unfolding as they are all the assault and escort ships that were to  make up Telser fleet with the exception of us are being rerouted in defense of the frontier colonies, should the Kilrathi advance. Confed is currently scrambling cap ships from sector fleets to form a defensive perimeter around the Dakota system in an attempt to contain Kilrathi forces should they decide to advance. “, Taylor explained. “ How so, sir?”, asked an officer in the crowd. “ If they have this new jump tech, then what good does setting up a perimeter. They can just jump out and reappear somewhere else.” “ Yes, that’s true, but as most of us know the festival of Sivar-eshad has begun. Intel believes it’s highly unlikely those b******s will make any advance while tributes to their heathen war-god are being celebrated. But we are taking no chances. With the capture of Welker station the Kilrathi have effectively spearheaded our front line in the enigma sector and taken a position to advance further with little to no response from Confed forces for the immediate.” All knew the Siva-Eshad accrued every year since the war had started. It was a serious celebration for the Kilrathi in which many religious ceremonies took place honoring Sivar. It was a time when many Kilrathi performed the Pu’kcal, in making atonement for confession of minor dishonors. FleetCom ever the opportunist took advantage every year by launching offensive campaigns, multiple supply depot raids, planet strikes, anything the upper brass could think of to upset the Sivar-Eshad. More often than not, they met with partial success in most of these operations to plant a thorn in the cats’ side. At Taylor next statement his tone grew serious, with an ugly expression taking over the commanders features. “ Now to kick off there festivities, the Kilrathi thought it would be cute to send us a video transmission. The contents are unbecoming and beastly. “ Stepping away Taylor returned to his seat as the podum lowered disappearing into the floor. Behind the podum the FleetCom emblem split in two along the wall supporting it, revealing a huge flat screen hidden inside the wall. As the room went dark the screen came to life showing an aerial view of  the inside of a wrecked hangerbay. Michael recognized it as the Phobias's  main launch bay. He could see what looked like a whole battalion possibly two in lined formation. In front of the battalion’s was a single line of confederation personal down on their knees heads downcast.  Flying in close the air drone passed in front of the Confederation prisoners giving  a close up inspection. Many had blank, numb expressions as if they knew what fate awaited them and that no power or course could save them. Very few held a look of defiance, possessing that never ending human spark that no  matter what adversity befell them would never ever die out. It was the spark of hope. Behind each kneeled prisoner stood a single Kilrathi vanguard in full glistening armor, their fang shields giving off a chrome reflection against hangar bay lighting.  As the drone flew down the line doomed prisoners, Michael recognized L.Commander Wedgeworth and Aussie in the line. Both wore sad defeated expressions and supported several deep bruises and scars. A dreadful feeling came over him at sighting his former Commander and old friend being in the claws of the Kilrathi. Yet there was nothing he could do, except pray for them, that would save them from whatever gruesome fate the cats had in store for them.  A hovering plate form came into view carrying four figures. Silence was the only thing heard as the plate form drew in close to the aerial camera drone.  Two high ranking Kilrathi stood centered on the platform. One the larger of the two wore shoulder guards made of what appeared to be Kilrathi skulls while sporting a pair of impressive looking fanged forearm bracers. A thick orange cape dressed and flowed from his back complimented a finely crafted metallic chest piece with a dark chrome tint. His muscular face was outlined in finely crafted rare metal ear and fang cuffs  linked together with sparkling chains. The smaller of the two was equally impressive. The warriors frame was sleek but well defined. He wore the armor of a Cur’Ra’Gal or Clawguard. Like the Vanguard armor it left the lower abdomen and biceps exposed and vulnerable. However for Vanguard warrior’s and the elite Ailra’hra it was a small price to pay given the extra flexibility and movement it allowed. For Kilrathi warriors it was an excellent trade.  Beautifully made and pregaps the struddest and strongest among anything the Kilrathi had, it was only for hunter/killers of the Ailra’hra. Imprinted on his chrome chest piece was his house emblem large and magnificent displayed. The elite sported no fangshield, just a wicked looking brace blaster supported by a sharp looking claw gauntlet. Atop his head was a cruel looking metal helmet covering his upper head stopping short of his jawline. It had the outline of a lion. His face and ears were mostly covered a protective measure. The eye sockets allowed two blood red orbs to peer through. The whole design was custom, and made to provoke fear and uncertainty in armed combat, which more often than not worked well. Standing behind and off to the side was a Kilrathi female dressed in an array of fine robes. Her fur was smoothly combed and glistened against the lighting. A multitude of tiny gems where studded into her gangs which equally sparkled in the light. Likewise, more gems where encompassed around her eye sockets. Atop her head sat a crown made of some white silver, attached to the front piece and trailing down around her nose was noseguard  with a crest of Sivar displayed  on it. Beside her stood a frightened young woman, with a look of desperation on her face. The elder of the two stepped forward to address the camera, “ witness now the fall of our grand station before our might!.”, his voice thundered throughout the hanger. “ Your defenses overran, your troops  captured, your station ours!” Will there ever be a worthy challenge we may write into our history after your destruction from your kind?” A sinister laugh accompanied him as he continued, “ Little humans, you give us not a tail or war, but a tail of amusement. Be grateful the only existence offered by us will be on  our hunter worlds for our pleasure. Even our slaves hold a higher station of honor to us, than your species.” Motioning to the Vanguard, each on extended their Kur’rit blade locked inside their armed bracer. Blade snapping out the Vanguard raised their arms high ready to strike. Spreading his arms wide the elder taunted,” What a glorious prize we take, to the glory of Sivar and the honor of the emperor! With this station we invoke the rite of Sivar- Eshad, for the blessing of our dominant right as warriors to rule the stars through the endless void!”, he finished. Arms stretched wide a mighty roar burst from his mouth and carried throughout the hanger. As one the line of vanguard thrust their blades down and deep into the hearts of their prisoners. Continuing they put their foot paws in the backs of their victims while pulling free their blades. Roaring in unison the line of Vanguard shoved their kur’rit blades into the back of the helpless prisoners skulls with such force the blades exploded through their faces spraying blood and gore onto the decking. As numerous dead bodies fell to the floor, the Kilrathi priestess grabbed the woman’s  hair jerking it back violently while shouting, “Sivar- Eshad tir ris ti’rath nar jar’ratcht nar der ru’lit eir cha!”. Sinking her fangs deep into the woman’s throat the priestess bit down hard. Blood coursed down the woman’s neck as a gurgled scream struggled to escape her throat. Eyes locked on the airel camera she tore the woman’s throat free. Another roar echoed through the hanger backed with another unified roar from the Vanguard. “ Soon Earth itself will fall to the power of our claws to the glory of Sivar! Your species is unworthy of the honor of life.”, Grr’Toliss roared powerfully. “ The only remains of your existence will be the tales echoed through space of our victories! Come humans, if you dare! Our tribute to sivar shall be made with your blood!” Grr’ Toliss challenged. As the screen went black outraged shouts and cries for immediate retaliation filled the briefing room. For Michael a roaring inferno of rage threatened to consume him at having just witnessed the video. AS Commander Taylor tried to settle the crowd Michael looked over his shoulder only to find Jessica had disappeared. Surveying the room she was nowhere to be found. 

 

                        

           *          *          *          *          *

 

T.C.S Phobias

Both the little girl and boy ran to their dead father, full of tears. “ Ryan! Halie! Get behind me now!”, said the second man with his arms raised. Both small children reluctantly left their dead father hurrying behind the second man. “ Please don’t kill us.”, he pleaded. Rral’Mek had his weapon trained on the man but could barely see him. Dizzy and uncoordinated his consciousness was fading fast. He needed to stop the flow of blood and rest before darkness overtook him, but needed to get a safe place. The hallways aboard an enemy ship wasn’t an ideal location to treat nor bandage his wounded leg. He didn’t want to chance an encounter with a human patrol or forces from the Nar’Issk clan stumbling upon him.   Exhausted he found it becoming harder and harder to think. Quickly Rral’Mek spun his weapon catching hold of the nozzle not liking what he was fixing to do. Both the man and two young children watched him uncertainty. Taking a deep breath he raised the butt of the rifle up high. Swinging down as hard as he dared he slammed the rifle into his wounded leg. An explosion of pain firered through his leg like electricity in a circuit. Grimacing his eyes watered as he tried to fight back the waves of agony that coursed from his wound. Anger amplified his will to survive ,coursing through his body. Though nothing pleasurable came from pain, it did indeed let you know you were alive. Heart pumping the dizziness faded and his  vision cleared if only to be for a short while. Seeing what might be a chance to escape, the man with the children began to sneak away. Rral’Mek had his laser rifle back on them in the blink of an eye. All three froze. Fishing through the utility belt Rral’Mek found and pulled free a translator earpiece like the one he had. Growling he tossed it to the man, while letting the nozzle of the rifle make his intentions clear. Cautiously and with his free hand out wide the man bent down picking up the earpiece and inserting it in his ear. “ You will take me to a healing station, now!” Rral’Mek ordered. “ Let the children go and I will.”, the man replied. Feeling the dizziness already starting to return, he firered a shot that sailed past the man’s head while growling,” You are not in a position to offer terms!” “ Okay! Okay! Please just don’t shoot us.” “Go” Rral’Mek pressed. “ Ryan, Halie get in front of me and stay quiet.” When both of them had moved in front of the man, he scooped each one up in his arms.  With Rral’Mek close behind the man headed down the hallway, slowly and cautiously making sure to make no sudden movements would upset his captor. After making several turns at various junctions they came to a set of maintenance stairs leading down. Every stair provided Rral’Mek a new level of agony, from his throbbing leg that grew with every step. He had to fight to keep from growling at his bleeding affliction. He refused to show weakness. The pain however  was helping him keep from slipping into unconsciousness, but for how long he didn’t know. Both the boy and girl were watching him with their faces partly buried in the man’s shoulder. Annoyed at their stares Rral’Mek flattened his ears and hissed looking away. He had shot and killed the cubs father in front of them. This bothered him, when as a warrior it shouldn’t have, yet it did. Exiting the stairway, they came to another junction. This hallway like the others had burnt wall consoles, loose exposed pipes dripping coolant from the ceiling that were mixed in with power and wirelines.  Rusted and bent ceiling panels littered the floor making it that much more difficult for Rral’Mek to navigate through. Eyes losing focus but still alert numerous blaster fire covered the hallway walls telling him of a battle recently fought. He could still smell a burnt metallic odor emanating from the walls were laser burns had been made from the fighting. Several broken security cameras dangled from the junctions corner walls their exposed wiring sparking periodically. On the left corner wall was a hatchway door with a large red cross on it. With Rral’Mek following, the man went to the door and set down the little boy who stood hunkered close by. His eyes were red and swollen from crying. “Uncle, I need to pee.”, he whispered. “Shush, you’ll be okay. Just do you best to hold it. If you can’t don’t worry, I won't tell anyone. Cross my heart.” the man replied, trying to comfort his nephew.  He began entering a code in a nearby console. “Is he going to kill us?”, the little boy asked scared. “Hush, we’ll be okay. “he replied trying to hide his nervousness, looking back over at Rral’Mek who had his eyes locked on him. It didn’t pass his attention the blaster was aimed straight at his back. Protesting with a harsh grating sound the doors struggled open. Ears perking up Rral’Mek scanned the area looking and listening for any approaching footsteps that might have been attracted by the sounds. Silence. He was drained and was having a hard time keeping his hands steady as weakness threatened to overtake him. “This is one of the med-bays.”, the man informed him. ``Go in.” “You said you wanted me to take you to a med center. I’ve done that. You don’t need us anymore.” Snarling Rral’Mek took aim at the man’s head. “Okay! Alright! Take it easy, you win calm down.” “Get moving!”. Putting his arms up, the man entered the medical-bay with Ryan and Halie close behind. Rral’Mek last to enter leaned against the hatch way’s inner frame, exhausted. Forcing himself inside he slid down against the wall as a new wave of dizziness hit him from the extensive bleeding. “Close the doors.”, he said trying to sound harsh. Nodding he moved cautiously to the panel, and closed the doors, which again shuddered and scraped in protest. Rral’Mek exhaled in temporary relief. The medical bay was lined with two rows of gatch beds bolted into the floor. Display screens, scanning equipment and various medical equipment was neatly arranged beside each bed. A large continuous circled console system was in the middle of the room, it’s lighted button’s flickering in and out. Stationed in the center was a holo-graphic system revealing various personnel profiles and medical information. At the back of the bay was another hatchway door sealed shut, with four med-carts, their roll tops sealed as well.  A small office cubby sat in one side of the far wall, it’s door sitting open and motionless. With the med-bay being dark and cool, the floor plating was like ice causing Rral’Mek to shake despite himself. Window cabinets were spaced out among the beds. Vails, bottles, gloves, and other assortments in easy view. He knew he was close to losing consciousness, which could not be allowed. He needed food and rest, but more importantly he needed to stop the run of blood seeping from his let. “Find me food and drink. “gasped. To emphasize his point, he slung the rifle across his lap. Moving away the man kept a wary eye on his captor and his niece and nephew. “Please don’t hurt them.”, he said searching the med bay. A short growl escaped Rral’Mek despite himself.







© 2019 Pwest


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Added on December 28, 2019
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Pwest
Pwest

louisville, KY



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