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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 - 16. Chapter 16

Those Highlords and Archdukes that hadn't fled Earth during
the Amsus invasion were tried for their crimes under the new order.
The entire Imperial royal family had been publicly executed
amongst them VonGrippen's only heir
his teenaged Grandson...

-Archduke Francesco 'The Fall of the Empire'

Orion Guild Hall

The restaurant was lavish; everything was smartly polished and neatly folded. Darien self-consciously brushed the lines of his dress uniform as he glanced about him. It was again the only thing he had appropriate for the occasion, everything else was rough-and-tumble, and as comfortable as fatigues were they just didn't suit a fine restaurant.

He sat down across from Elias and rested on the arms of the chair. "So," he said quietly.

Elias smiled at him, "Yep."

Darien shook his head and chuckled looking up and ordering a drink from the waiter who swept over to them; he glanced at Elias who ordered the same. Alone again in the restaurant, Darien smiled and flipped open the menu, "Well I can honestly say I've never tried to eat Orion cuisine before."

Elias nodded and opened his menu looking over the complicated script. "It's a bit odd-you choose one part of the menu, pair it up with another part and then I order a sauce and the waiter then has to..." he grinned, "Well, trust me it's interesting."

Darien shifted in his chair, "I wonder what the others are doing back at the ship?"

* * *

Lauren grabbed the bowl of popcorn and jumped over the back of the couch, sitting down to watch the screen, "What'd I miss?"

"Shhh," Nazzien hissed, "I think they're about to order."

Lauren curled her legs up under her, extending the bowl of popcorn to Shale; the ingenious Taïrian had liberally bribed the restaurant owner for access to the video feeds, it was better than watching bad entertainment feeds from the Commonwealth networks.

"I still say we shouldn't be spying on them," Kendrick insisted from his chair, sipping a beer and gesturing at the screen.

"You're just sore you're out of the pool," Nazzien said firmly.

"Double or nothing," Kendrick said with an eager look. "I bet the second Darien realizes he is on a date, he leaves."

"I'll take that bet," Lauren said slapping money down on the table.

Shale grunted; holding up an additional hundred credits, he made a kissing noise and slapped it down alongside Lauren's money.

Nazzien glared, looking up at the screen and shaking his head, "Ok, ok, you're on; if they haven't slept together by now, I'm willing to bet they won't kiss by the end of the night." His credits joined Shale's on the table.

Shale just chuckled as he sat back, popping the lid off of his beer as he put his big feet up on the table, confident in the little engineer's skills.

* * *

Darien choked a little at the spicy Orion dish, grabbing for the water and shaking his head, "Wow, that was hot..."

Elias glanced up. "You're not supposed to eat it on its own," he laughed. "Orion dishes are all about combinations; look, that you mix with a bit of this." He reached out and combined the two different dishes and extended his spoon to Darien, "Try it now?"

Warily Darien eyed the spoon, but shrugged and leaned in to try it, surprised at how different they tasted when combined. "That's pretty good," he admitted with a grin. "When'd you become so good at eating Orion food?"

"Working for Jorten, I got to travel a lot of places." Elias shrugged, "Just picked it up I guess."

Darien nodded thoughtfully, sipping his wine before setting the slender glass back down, "Look, I really haven't had much chance to say how sorry I am for getting you into this mess."

Elias smiled shyly, "You got me out of a bad situation, you've been kind to me, taken care of me, hell you've rescued me twice now from slavers and pirates..." He shrugged, "I think it's the best thing that ever happened to me."

"Yeah, well I don't know about that," Darien said looking down at his plate. "What with everything that's going on, trouble just seems to like following me around." He looked up and smiled, "Least I can count on you and the others."

"I..." Elias swallowed, "...wanted to say thank you..."

"For what?" Darien asked, trying the combination again, once he clued into the combination thing the food became quite good.

"For... you know... the night thing..." Elias smiled tightly, not wanting to push too hard, he didn't want to risk losing what he had with Darien. He looked shy for a second and glanced away.

* * *

"Five credits says he chickens out," Kendrick calls.

"Done," Lauren replied with a smug smile, knowing full well Elias wasn't a quitter.

* * *

"Ah," Darien said uncomfortably, it was something he just didn't think needed talking about. It was something that made him nervous; the morality code he had been raised with on Earth had been so strict that the only way to go on was to ignore certain things. If he ignored the issue, there wasn't an issue. But Elias was trying to thank him and as much as he felt uncomfortable he knew Elias expected some kind of acknowledgement.

"I'm just making sure you're okay," Darien stated, taking the diplomatic approach. "Do you want to talk about why you're not sleeping properly?"

"Not really," Elias admitted. "It's just... you don't even think about it you just accept it and... I wanted to say that means a lot to me."

Darien smiled, "I don't mind, it's no big deal..." He glanced up at Elias's blue eyes and insistent look and he offered a small smile, "You're welcome."

Elias chewed his food and nodded, "We're pretty close..."

Darien thought about it a moment and shrugged, "We are, you're like the little brother I never had."

Elias bobbed his head, "I love you."

Darien chuckled, "I suppose that's one way of looking at it." He gestured with his fork, "Pass the Touvra root?"

* * *

"Ouch!" Lauren winced.

"Thank you very much," Kendrick reached out and picked up the money from their most recent bet. "Can I call it or can I call it?"

"Oh don't count Elias out yet," Lauren insisted, looking up at the screen; things weren't looking good, that was for sure. She cursed Darien's stubborn ignorance.

* * *

Darien looked up as Elias passed the bowl of vegetables and caught some hesitance in the young engineer's eyes; he frowned and looked down into the bowl, oh crap.

He swallowed and tried to think, this was so far out of his range of experiences; hell, it was illegal on Earth. He tried to think and wrap his mind around it, staring for a long moment at the bowl in his hands.

* * *

"He knows," Lauren said sitting on the edge of the couch.

Kendrick straightened up and leaned forward as well, "He's gonna run..."

Shale crunched popcorn completely relaxed, content to watch it play out as Nazzien got up and began to pace nervously behind the couch.

* * *

What do I say... say something... anything... tell him you think that's nice... tell him that you think of him as a brother again... tell him you like him too... tell him anything... don't just sit there...SAY SOMETHING!

"Do you want more roots?" he said dumbly, holding up a spoon and trying his best to not look absolutely terrified.

Elias was scared as well, not moving, just staring at Darien watching his reactions, wondering if he had made a mistake, if he should have just kept his big mouth shut. Wondering how that changed their friendship.

Darien nodded setting the bowl down, "So..." he said slowly, pushing his spoon through the plate in front of him, trying to think and work out what was going through his head. It was a confused rush of emotions battling each other and he looked up again. "Well..." he smiled and shrugged, "I don't know how I feel," he admitted, "but that's not a no." He added some conviction behind that and smiled warmly, "I can honestly say I've never felt this way about anyone before, but I don't know what this feeling is, I need to figure that out, you know... a bit of time..."

Elias nodded as he stared down at his plate. "Yeah..." he said sounding upset.

Darien shook his head and spontaneously reached across the table to touch the young engineer's hand. 'I mean that, I feel something, I just don't want to lead you on... okay?" he insisted.

Elias looked down at his hand in Darien's and turned it over, holding Darien's hand a moment. The first real acknowledgement that there was something there. It wasn't what he wanted, but it was a promise that Darien was willing to find out. And that had to count for something.

"I'm sorry," Elias made to pull away. "I'm forcing all this shit on you, I don't want to make you gay or anything."

Darien blinked. "Hang on here," he said with a mildly amused smile. "Who said anything about you making me anything? How'd you know it's not my charm and stunning good looks that are making you gay?" he nodded firmly.

Elias blinked at him, "Well... I have..."

"Right," Darien said with a nod. "But just because you were in a bad situation and doing what you had to do to survive doesn't make you... you know... I mean it's not as if you wanted to right?"

"...Right..." Elias said uncertainly; he had to admit Darien had a point there, though it was as confused as the rest of the conversation. Elias scratched his ear lobe.

"So before you go assuming you're the one making me gay, just remember it could all be a part of my elaborate plan to seduce you," Darien nodded firmly with a grin on his face; it sounded absolutely absurd and he knew it, but hell if it made Elias relax and smile a bit...

Elias blushed and smiled that bright smile of his.

* * *

The crewmembers of R-403 looked at each other as Kendrick dropped the money back to the table.

"So who's winning?" Nazzien asked in confusion.

"I think no one, yet." Lauren said shaking her head; Darien was such a complicated man. She was finally coming to appreciate how many different levels he operated on. Just when he seemed locked into one track he jumped it, though a few things remained constant about him-one was his constant need to do the right thing, the other was the fact that he always tried to make sure people were okay.

* * *

Darien paid the bill, smiling across at Elias as they both moved towards the door.

"We don't have to go back to the ship just yet," he said as they stepped outside into the dimly lit outer dome.

Elias looked about him at the metallic structures and buildings and the green terraces. The guildhall was dark in a simulated night, set to keep the children on a regular pattern; it gave the station an eerily quiet and still feel to it. And the two men began to walk towards the park.

"You look good," Darien commented as they started down the broad steps towards the park.

"Thanks," Elias replied, stopping for a second and looking down at himself. "Lauren chose most of it but I think I look pretty cool."

Darien shrugged out of the formal tunic and laid it across one arm, resting his other hand on the balustrade, "You do..."

Elias smirked, "Good to know you noticed." He looked down at Darien a step or two below him and cocked his head to one side, "You're looking at me funny."

"No," Darien said, "I'm seeing you for the first time, there's a difference." He shrugged and stepped up, reaching out to brush the bangs of Elias's golden hair from his sapphire eyes. "You like to hide," he murmured. "I like it when I can see you..."

There was a flash, and Darien's eye travelled up, wondering what it was; moments later the overhead floodlights snapped on illuminating the park like it was day. Darien looked about him in confusion as a couple of Orions charged past them, disappearing through one of the access hatches.

"What the?" he murmured, walking up the steps.

Elias trotted up behind him. "Is something wrong?" he asked in concern.

Darien shrugged as he pulled his comm. link from his pocket, "Lauren, is everything okay?"

He blinked as the comm. link burst with static-that wasn't right. He turned and caught Elias by the sleeve, "Come on, we'd better get back to the ship."

The clang resounded throughout the dome, and Darien looked up towards the plexi-steel overhead, to the black dark metal object that had attached itself up there. A few seconds later more had attached themselves, sharp mechanical claws biting deeply into the metal as lasers sparked to life, neatly cutting large holes in the dome.

"Aww shit," Darien cursed, grabbing Elias as the two of them began to run, the Amsus shock troopers rappelling through the openings their breaching pods had cut for them. Alarm klaxons began to ring as the two humans sprinted towards the blast doors leading to the docking bays.

He knew it; Darien knew when he had left the PKD in his cabin on the Raptor that he would need it; without fail, the moment he tried to relax something would go wrong. At this rate he was seriously considering never taking the weapon off.

The Orions were rushing to meet the shock troopers; armed and armoured they ran past the two humans trying to form some kind of defence against the boarding Amsus troopers. Darien skidded to a halt and grabbed the first Orion officer he saw. The young man, who could barely be of age to hold a commission, looked at Darien in surprise.

"Where'd they come from?" Darien demanded.

"I... I don't know," the young man stuttered. "An Amsus battle group just arrived from nowhere, our perimeter defences are down... our fighters didn't have time to launch..."

"Gun," Darien demanded, extending his hand; the Amsus officer hesitated, handing the captain his side arm, as he looked up towards the main plaza where the sound of gun fire was ringing out.

"Go," Darien ordered, cocking the pistol and nodding to Elias. "We have to..."

He stopped, his brow furrowing; if the Amsus had just walked through the perimeter defences designed to stop them... He looked at Elias, "We have to find out what happened to the defences." He turned and started running up the corridor towards the access tunnels to the command decks.

Darien led the way, his pistol pointed down, gripped firmly in both hands as his finger braced against the trigger guard, exactly as he had been trained. He brought it up to cover Elias each time they came to a cross corridor. The sound of the battle in the main plaza resounded but there was little doubt: the Amsus were bringing more weapons to bear than the surprised Orions.

Elias had grabbed Darien's formal tunic when Darien had dropped it in favour of the gun, and kept his head down as his captain kept him covered, the two marching hurriedly towards the command centre, rounding the corner on hastily thrown-together barricades.

Some of the Orions, no more than children stuffed into body armour and given weapons, recognized him as he came round the corner, telling their companions to let the Terran captain through.

There was a hurried debate and one of the officers stood up. "Quickly, Captain." he commanded.

Darien didn't hesitate; he pushed Elias ahead of him, keeping his eyes on the corridor behind him as he crossed the barricade and into the makeshift command post. One of the Orions was frantically trying to talk into a comm. set, but was having no luck.

Darien shook his head. "They're jamming your systems," he said firmly. "That works both ways though; they can't talk to each other either." He glanced at Elias and back to the officer, "Where's your command centre?"

The Orion officer pointed, and Darien led the way through the blast doors into the strategic nerve centre of the guildhall where he saw scared faces of the children manning the stations, fresh-faced and barely at an age to be useful. Darien blinked and looked at the aging guild master who was bent over a strategic map of the station barking orders in frustration.

Darien marched up. "Do you need help?" he asked firmly, catching the guild master by surprise.

"Captain Taine..." The guild master was a wizened-looking Orion with entirely too many scars for his own good. He smiled thankfully, "Every hand helps, especially yours..."

"Elias here's an engineer," he pointed. "He might be able to help get those weapons platforms operational..."

The guild master nodded, "They locked us out, somehow." He turned, "Rezek, show the engineer to the platform controls."

Rezek, no more than about twelve, nodded and gestured for Elias to follow him, leading him up to one of the higher tiers and a console being worked on by a group of children.

Darien shook his head in wonder as he looked at the guild master, "What happened?"

"I don't know," the guild master admitted. "They just appeared inside our defence net, we were locked out before we could activate it and then we're being boarded."

Darien nodded checking his pistol, "All right, I'll go buy you some time..."

The guild master nodded, "Good luck, Captain Taine."

Darien shook his head, "Always when I'm on vacation." He turned and grabbed one of the spare headsets from an empty station, plugging it into the comm. link he clipped to his belt, hoping that the Amsus would soon lift the radio jamming and he could reach his ship.

* * *

Lauren had one of the assault rifles in her hands, covering the doors to the first set of launch bays. Alerted by the Raptor's advanced sensor system, she had only a few moment's warning before the Amsus fleet had leapt to normal space. Enough time for her and the rest of the Raptor crew to spring into action.

There was no chance for escape, the Amsus controlled space outside the guildhall, and anything attempting to run the gauntlet would be destroyed. They were trapped, like rats, as the Amsus stormed the station in waves.

Nazzien, an Orion adult, was livid. The attack on the Protania had been one thing; this was now an unprovoked attack on a school facility. A guildhall. It pushed the man to the limits as he kept the fire up, holding back the Amsus trying to secure the launch bays and cut off any avenue for escape.

Shale was trotting to and fro from the Raptor, unloading small crates with Imperial markings, setting up a fallback position for when the three other members of his crew were driven back by the Amsus troopers. He finished unloading the crates and nodded, gesturing for Lauren's attention.

She turned back and frowned as Shale gave the signal to fall back. She had learned after long years serving with him never to question the wise old Taïrian and gave the order to fall back behind the second position. As they ran past, Lauren shot Shale a confused look, but the Taïrian's response was to merely lift the remote control and depress a switch.

The Imperial sentry guns unfolded from their cases, the gatling Masers, miniature versions of the ones mounted on the Raptor spun to life as the first of the Amsus shock troopers ran through the doors.

Shale merely waved good-bye to the trooper as the guns tracked him and opened fire, decimating him and those troopers stupid enough not to realize they were running into a trap.

Lauren smiled and took up a firing position. They were safe, but trapped in the launch bays. She just hoped Darien was faring better.

* * *

Darien marched through the halls; his pistol swung up and fired in well-practiced motions as Amsus shock troopers stumbled into his line of fire. He was cutting a path through the ones that broke through into the corridors surrounding the central plaza.

For the most part they were contained, the Orions forming secure knots of resistance in and around the outer corridors, but they just didn't have the firepower to drive the Amsus from the station. Darien kept moving from post to post, keeping his eyes open for rogue troopers that broke through.

It was a desperate situation, the Amsus were better equipped and more numerous, not to mention more experienced. It was going to be a matter of time until they overran the station. He just hoped he could buy enough time for Elias to work a miracle.

An Amsus officer rounded the corner, leading a couple of troopers, and didn't see the Imperial officer that shot him; his men, however, opened fire with automatics, driving Darien back around a corner.

He was woefully outgunned, they knew where he was, and he was running out of ammunition in the Orion pistol. He swallowed and stepped out from around the corner, shooting off a couple of shots before the hail of fire caused him to fall back.

"Shit," he murmured, glancing back up the corridor; if they got past him they would have a clear path to the command centre. He swallowed and stepped out again, the pistol clicking twice-if it had still been loaded the two Amsus shock troopers would have died where they stood.

He cursed his luck as the troopers realized he was empty and trained their rifles on him.

He had no choice, and he knew it. More Amsus troopers were charging up the corridor and there was no way he could run. He raised his hands, tossing the pistol to the deck with a curse.

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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Damn! Trapped in a station that should have been safe.  Amsus are way out of their territory and attacking the Commonwealth.  This is definitely the start of a war.  Damien's crew at the ship seem safe, but what about Elias.  Will he be able to restore the defence systems?  Nice twist to the plot that adds exciting action to the chapter.  I do think that Damien is overthinking the situation with Elias.  Elias is just what he is, and we know he won't accept someone he can't love.  The only real effect of being a construct is the sleeping problem.  Darien should also remember who made the Earth's laws he was so concerned about, the Amsus.

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