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    Topher Lydon
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Falcon Banner - 15. Chapter 15

I have travelled throughout known space.
I have seen wonders beyond compare, from
the oceans of Capri to the Devore nebula.
They pale beside the light
in my beloved Katherine's eyes.

-VonGrippen 'Meditations'

Orion Guild Hall

Darien opened his eyes in the hospital bed, staring up at a lime-green painted ceiling and wondering how he had gotten there. He focused for a moment tilting his head to look out of the window at the lush greenery outside, his head lolling back to the pillows weakly.

He felt like he had been run over by a truck, every muscle seemed to ache, and his shoulder burned. So much for being the big hero. He just wanted to lie there awhile, remembering a simpler time when he could just stay in bed, or order pizza while watching a game without the entire universe abusing him.

"Good morning, Captain Taine," an Orion nurse stated, a warm smile on her angular lips. She checked the instruments whirring and beeping beside him, "Welcome back to the world of the living."

"H-how long?" he asked tiredly his head swimming as he closed his eyes.

"A week," she fussed with his pillows before pouring him a glass of water. "That was pretty good considering the injuries you had sustained."

Darien accepted the glass of water, coughing a little as he drank. "My crew?"

"Here every day," the nurse said. "Well, the little one is, the beautiful one comes every afternoon and stays for an hour, the others... Well you don't kick a Taïrian out of a waiting room."

Darien nodded relaxing a bit, "Where am I?"

"I'll let your friend tell you," the nurse said with a smile. "It's an honour to meet you, by the way."

"Right," Darien said uncertainly, watching as the nurse left; sometimes alien customs were just strange.

He closed his eyes and yawned, wondering why, after sleeping nearly a week, he felt tired. He opened his eyes as Elias stood at the side of his bed his eyes bright and a cocky grin on his mischievous face. Shale, the hulking Taïrian rested one paw on the young man's shoulder and looked pleased to see him.

"Morning," Darien said with a soft smile. "Anyone catch the number of that truck?"

"You feeling okay?" Elias asked, glancing down at Darien wrapped up in hospital blankets.

"Sure," Darien grinned. "What doesn't kill you leaves you black and blue... where are we?"

Elias grinned his radiant smile, "An Orion Guildhall, it was Lauren's idea of the closest friendly place where you could get patched up."

"Right," Darien said shifting uncomfortably in bed, realizing that he ached but didn't hurt beyond the burning sensation in his shoulder. He tried moving his arm and found the shoulder, although a little stiff, moved without pain.

"The doctors had to repair most of the shoulder," Elias said shifting his feet. "They didn't expect you to wake up for another two days."

"Well I'm a stubborn bastard," Darien commented letting his arm drop again. "The big question is: are the rest of you all right?"

Shale just grinned and walked over to the wall-mounted television, switching it on and changing the channel. Darien sat up a little in bed staring in wonder as he recognized the Jakarta; glancing over at Shale he gave a puzzled look, but Shale just gestured to the screen.

"Captain Taine and his crew successfully brought justice to the outer sectors when Captain Taine defeated the warlord Ra'sha'gar's warship Jakarta in a battle to liberate Commonwealth outpost Theta-10. Outgunned and outnumbered, Captain Taine mounted a daring rescue of his men, destroying the Jakarta and killing Ra'sha'gar in the process..." The screen switched to show the view from the Raptor as the destroyer slid back into the jungle.

"How the hell?" Darien asked in shock...

"Nazzien downloaded the flight recorder," Elias stated. "We had to prove we weren't going to attack the guild, and Nazzien figured that was the best way to do it..."

"But..." Darien waved at the screen.

"Yeah, that started a couple of days ago," Elias replied folding his arms. "Here comes the best part..."

"... Captain Taine, a Fifth Column resistance leader was officially granted a commission in the imperial navy by the only surviving Imperial Archduke, Walker von Karin. Archduke von Karin declined to confirm rumours that he met with Captain Taine to discuss the liberation of Earth, but he did state that Captain Taine was an example of a true Imperial officer..."

"This is insane," Darien protested. "They're making the stuff bigger than it actually is..."

"...Hegemony officials and members of the Amsus high command have vowed to apprehend Taine and his resistance fighters, but so far have been unable to find the cunningly elusive captain."

"You're popular," Elias said with a smirk.

"You can't fault them," Lauren commented from the doorway to his hospital room. She was in her Imperial fatigues, standing easy with her hair down and a sparkle in her eyes, "First you save us, then you defend the Protania and capture an Amsus ship, earn an Imperial commission and now you kill a local pirate warlord who was terrorizing the area... Like it or not you're the one out there doing these things."

Darien sighed, swinging his legs out of bed and trying to get up. He winced at the flood of pain and a rush of dizziness that made him fall back to the bed, "I have to..."

"Stay put, is what you need to do," Lauren admonished as she and Shale helped him back into the bed. "You need another day or so according to the doctors and then they might release you; until then, we've repaired the ship and your crew is taking some much needed rest and relaxation time... while you're lounging around in bed."

Darien nodded as he closed his eyes again, just for a moment he figured, until the room stopped spinning.

* * *

Lauren and Elias walked across the central square, Elias marvelling again at the massive dome above them that gave the illusion they were on a planet. The Orion Guildhall was a beautiful structure hanging in space, a holy place for the Orions.

Elias wasn't sure what was holy about it, it was a space station. Sure there were trees everywhere, lush alien foliage that hung down over the road and teased his nose with the smells of cherry blossoms. And children were playing, or working or learning...

He stopped and blinked, a lot of children.

"It's a school?" he said looking at Lauren.

Lauren frowned, "Well it's more than that, it's where Orion children learn trades; they are safe here, looked after while their parents work. Orions believe children are the responsibility of everyone, they are all parents after a fashion." She shrugged as they crossed a small metal bridge separating one tier of the station from another, "It's the reason this place is so heavily defended."

Elias nodded, the Raptor had jumped into the middle of a nest of defence platforms, and the deadly weapons had zeroed in and targeted the small ship with enough firepower to destroy a small battle group. Not the friendly welcome Elias had been hoping for, but Nazzien had done the talking, the Orion explaining who they were and what was wrong with the captain. It was only after proving they weren't pirates and Elias had peace-bound their weapon systems, physically disarming the weapon systems so they could not be fired, they had been permitted to approach the station.

The place had a newness about it-everything was clean; stores and businesses existed, all catering to the guildhall's economy and there was entertainment there but no bars. It was a place of class, of elegance and of money.

"We should get the captain some clothes," Lauren said leaning on a rail and overlooking a park where a group of children practiced Orion martial arts, while another class sat around a metal sculpture practicing mercantile skills.

"I can do that," Elias stated absently as he rested alongside her.

Lauren nodded her hand playing with a long strand of hair as she took a moment to look at the engineer. "So what's your side of the story," she said suddenly curious. "You like him?"

"I..." he shrugged. "It's hard to explain," he said after a minute or two.

"I don't have anywhere else to be," Lauren said, smiling at him. "Come on, let's go sit in the park, grab a couple of cold drinks and enjoy the sun."

She led the way down a broad flight of steps into the green park, crossing it to the small vender who was selling refreshments. He nodded to both of them and smiled as he glanced meaningfully at their Sword and Arrow patches. Lauren paid and the two crew mates carried on, finding a patch of grass at the foot of a broad fountain and sitting down.

"So," Lauren said as she sipped her drink and rested her back against the edge of the fountains base, "we're alone, we have plenty of time, spill."

Elias looked about him uncomfortably as he dropped to the ground and stretched out, resting his head on an arm. "Well," he started, "it's not what it looks like."

"Either you two are in a world of denial, or someone needs to teach you boys what it means to be in love." Lauren eyed him over her cold drink.

Elias blushed, "No, look... I... that is to say... Err..." He swallowed again, "You know why I was grabbed on Karin, right?"

"Sex slave," Lauren said bluntly. "You're too small to be a mine worker and kiddo, don't take this the wrong way, but your cooking sucks and you're a slob so you'd make a terrible domestic slave."

Elias sighed, "Yeah, but the reason they wanted me is I'm a construct." He gave her a moment as that settled in.

The flicker of amusement on her face was replaced by one of confusion, anger then sorrow as she looked at the small crew member. "Oh my god..." she reached out a hand to brush the strands of hair from his eyes. "How could anyone do that to a person..." She shivered, "Oh god, I'm so sorry..."

"It's okay," Elias said looking at the vibrant woman and shrugging. "It's not like I had a choice."

"No," Lauren said, "but it's still not fair." She stopped and squinted at him, "Who were you supposed to be?"

"I don't know," Elias replied truthfully. "Someone famous from a long time ago, I was made to order," he looked away, "with all the optional packages." He looked back "I even have that new car smell..."

"No," Lauren said shaking her head. "No, you definitely don't have that smell..."

"Hey!" Elias said looking indignant. "I shower!"

"I'm just teasing, kiddo," Lauren tussled his hair again. "So that explains the late night tiptoeing to the captain's quarters."

Elias blushed bright red, "You saw that?"

"The whole crew knows that, it's not exactly a secret." She grinned, "Nazzien has ten to one odds the captain's boffing you."

Elias's jaw flopped open as he stared in disbelief, "He what?"

"He, Shale and Kendrick were taking bets after that first night we were aboard the Dragonfly and Nazzien watched you pad off to spend the night with the Captain." She shrugged, "I didn't participate." She tried her best to look innocent, but Elias couldn't help getting the impression she was right there along with them.

"Look, we're not sleeping... well we're sleeping just not sleeping together..." He shrugged, "He lets me curl up with him at night when I can't sleep."

Lauren nodded. "That explains you asking me for sedatives this week," she said. "Are they working for you?"

"I'm sleeping," Elias admitted, "just not well. I'll be fine once things get back to normal."

"What is it, some kind of chemical thing?" Lauren grew curious.

"Something like that," Elias responded. "Someone had the brilliant idea that to make...us..." he indicated to himself, "more affectionate towards our owners that we be hardwired to need human contact to sleep properly. It's like an addiction..."

Lauren looked horrified, "That's... that's awful."

Elias shrugged, "You get used to it, I can last a week or so with sleeping pills, but sooner or later they just stop working and I have... to..."

Lauren shook her head. "Oh baby," she said, reaching out to wrap her arms around him and pulling him in tight. "How on earth did you survive life with that bastard Jorten?"

He looked up at her with small blue eyes, "I was lucky, when I couldn't stay on the pills there was this guy there... he didn't ask for much in return..."

Lauren felt like she was going to be sick, how could someone do that to a human being? A sudden burst of rage filled her as she pushed Elias back an inch to look into his eyes, "Darien doesn't...?"

Elias blinked, "What? No! no... he never...no!"

"Good!" Lauren stated firmly. "He doesn't seem the type; just I wanted to be sure..."

"No, he's never taken advantage of me," Elias said firmly.

There was something in his voice that had Lauren pause and look down at the young engineer. "You're disappointed!" she accused with a grin.

"I am not!" he said defiantly.

"You are!" she repeated with a broad grin; she shook her head incredulously at the young man she had felt sorry for a few minutes before and now couldn't help but tease.

"No," Elias replied blushing furiously as he tried to shake his head in denial.

"So have you asked him?" Lauren said between chuckles, lounging back and staring up at the dome far above them.

"No... I..." Elias flushed again.

Lauren shook her head at the young man, "Look, we have a few more days at the guildhall, just ask him if he wants to go to dinner with you or something. There's no privacy aboard ship, least here we've got a chance to catch our breaths and you won't have four bored sets of eyes watching you to see who wins Nazzien's pool."

"All right," Elias said reluctantly, "but I don't..." he looked down at his rumpled fatigues.

Lauren rolled her eyes. "Ok, we have a day before they release him from hospital." She got up, helping him up as well, "Let's find a store and get you shined up."

* * *

Darien felt fine, walking through the docking bays of the guildhall staring at the Orion ships docked there-an entire wing of Orion fighters and a couple of small frigates used for training no doubt. He marvelled at how young the Orions were prepared for their place in the Orion economy, plying the space lanes or working trades. Aptitude testing placed them in the programs best suited to their talents and there was flexibility throughout the program, allowing any Orion to try for other places and roles.

The Orion people were living examples of a social capitalism. The people owned everything and they worked hard to expand that company into every avenue and endeavour. Every citizen had a vested interest in the corporation and that was what made it so strong.

Darien shrugged to himself walking into the bay storing his Raptor. He loved his ship with its sleek black lines, and broad engine cowlings with their I/R baffles, twin plasma cannons and glowing red navigation beacons. She was his; there was no doubt of that.

He had been discharged earlier that day, thankful to be away from the hospital and on his own feet again. He still felt bruised, but the doctors had worked miracles to repair the damaged bones and tendons. He wasn't sure he liked the idea of millions of tiny robots working in his system to repair the damage, but Orion medicine was centauries ahead of Terran, he just had to trust they knew what they were doing.

He stopped and looked up at the broad wings of the Raptor, craning his neck to get a better look at the Sword and Arrow that had been painted there, done in red. He chewed on that thought for a moment. It would mean trouble wherever they went, anyone seeing it would know who they were, not that entire universe wasn't already aware of him and his band of merry men.

He sighed, wondering if he should tell who ever had done it to paint it out. He walked around to the rear ramp and saw Shale busy cleaning a paint gun, the Taïrian looking up and nodding to his captain as Darien walked up the ramp.

Darien nodded back, looking around him. The mess in the cargo hold had been cleared up, though the bullet holes were still present where he had shot the two alien raiders. He winced, not liking the memory of what he had done; it had been an unnecessary killing, he could have done something to avoid it had he been thinking clearly...

He dropped the thought; he had no choice and he knew it. He had done what had to be done and he had saved his crew. He stopped at the armoury, blinking when he saw his PKD sitting there. Someone had found and returned it, and he picked it up in relief. He'd been worried that the weapon had been lost on Theta-10, but then he realized the PKD was designed to incapacitate, the raiders would have no use for it.

He unlatched the armoury door and strapped his gun belt back around his waist clipping the holster around his thigh. After all he had been through, he was starting to get used to the confident feel of being armed. When every second person he met had it in for him, Darien didn't like to be unarmed.

He climbed the rungs of the ladder up into the common area. There had been some damage done by the raiders, not much, things torn and patched as best as the crew could. And Darien sighed-it could have been far worse and he knew that.

His small cabin had been turned upside down. Books were scattered about and his clothes had been thrown everywhere. The raiders searching them for anything of value had tossed the charts and manuals carelessly to the floor, but there had been nothing-Darien didn't own anything of value. He knelt down and began picking up the books, setting them back into their places. He noted with relief that none of them had been damaged, and they were all there, even the logbook and VonGrippen's meditations.

It didn't take him long before everything was back in its place. His leather jacket had been recovered from the hold and had been draped around the back of his chair; Elias probably, the only one who knew where he kept the aged bomber jacket with its insignia, the cause of so many of their problems.

"It's a badge of honour," Kendrick stated from the doorway, leaning there with a cup of tea that he blew on to cool it down.

"I don't know if all these Imperial icons are a good idea," Darien replied setting the jacket back into its place.

"Why not?" Kendrick said with a shrug looking down at his open flight suit-a part of him now like a second skin-which he seemed to prefer to fatigues or other uniforms. "Have you seen the news?"

"That's the reason it's not a good idea," Darien insisted, checking his log computer and thankfully finding it untouched.

"You're wrong," Kendrick stated, a fire in his eyes. "It's about hope-do you know how long it''s been since human beings had something to believe in?"

Darien turned, "Like they believed in VonGrippen and Kardiac?" He shook his head, "I have half a mind to set course for the nearest friendly world, put down and settle there... At least that way I wouldn't..."

"You wouldn't have to face the fact that you started something that's now so much bigger than just you?" Kendrick said meaningfully. "It's not those eagles that get you into trouble, it's this," he leaned forward to tap Darien's chest...

Darien looked down and frowned, "But..."

"You do the right thing," Kendrick replied. "Sure, sometimes you need a kick in the pants to start doing it but you always do it in the end. You could have just left us on Theta-10, or hid in your cabin onboard the Protania. I told you when we first met that this," he tapped the Imperial insignia, "meant something once; you're proof that it can mean that again."

Darien blew out a sigh, "And I still think you're all insane."

"Who's insane?" Lauren asked walking up the corridor and leaning on the doorway watching the two young men.

"We're just talking about the Imperial insignia," Kendrick replied. "Skipper here isn't sure it's such a good idea."

Lauren laughed, "The day the skipper tells me what I can and cannot put on..." She chuckled again, "Besides, everyone's wearing it these days."

"Okay, okay, point taken," Darien said waving the two off. "But just be careful, okay?"

"Speaking of which," Lauren said stepping aside to let Elias into the cabin.

Darien turned and blinked in surprise. Gone was the scruffy engineer with his grease marks and messy hair dressed in oversized cammos and jackboots. Darien blinked at the handsome twenty-year-old in a simple dress shirt and slacks with well-polished shoes, perfectly styled hair and a shy blush on his cheeks.

"Holy shit," Kendrick gaped. "What did you do to our engineer?" he looked accusingly at Lauren.

Darien blinked again, he'd seen Elias before... he couldn't place where, but cleaned up and stylish there was no mistaking that familiarity. Another lifetime ago, back on earth...it niggled at the back of his mind. He did a double take and shook his head, "Wow."

"Can I cook or can I cook?" Lauren said proudly, giving Elias a slight push forward into the cabin. "Kendrick, can I see you in the common room?"

"Sure, I'll be right there," Kendrick said, still in shock over the transformation.

"Kendrick... now?" Lauren insisted.

Kendrick shook his head and followed her out the door. "You know, that's just cheating!" he murmured to her.

"I know," she laughed.

Darien stood aghast, taking a moment to sit down and shake his head, "You look sharp."

"Thanks," Elias replied.

"What's her name?" Darien said with a grin as he turned to flip open the log computer. He reached up to pull down his glasses and slipped them on, settling in to update his entries.

"Her?" Elias asked in confusion.

"Yeah," Darien said turning in his chair. "You look like you're about to go on a date, who's the lucky girl?"

"There's no girl..." Elias replied nervously.

"Oh," Darien replied, "Well I am sure you'll get one looking like that." He turned back to his computer.

"...I was wondering if you would like to..." Elias swallowed again, shifting from foot to foot, "...grab a bite to eat or something?"

Darien looked up, "I need to work." He said with a shrug, "I'm sure Kendrick or Nazzien would be happy to join you."

Elias's face fell. "I... don't feel much like going, then," he said dejectedly.

Darien turned and looked up at Elias, "Ok, if it means that much to you, let's go then."

Elias's face brightened, "Cool! I'll let you get ready." He turned and darted off leaving Darien to shake his head, had everyone on the ship gone nuts as well?

Copyright © 2011 Topher_Lydon; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Damien has been oblivious and Elias in denial, but Lauren is determined to solve their problems.  I suspect Damien will have all sorts of problems with Elias being a construct.  These will be Darien's qualms about taking advantage of Elias's inborn conditioning, and not that Elias is a construct.  Rocky road to romance in their future.  Fun chapter that has the crew betting on the results.

Edited by raven1
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Well hopefully they will open up to each other. Elias is on our. Let's see if Darien is. 

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