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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 - 17. Chapter 17

The Hegemony consists of five member races,
they form casts within the society of 'equals'.
And at the bottom sit the Terrans, the worker caste
At the top sit the Amsus, the warrior caste.
When one caste has shovels the other has guns,
who has equality?

-Walker von Karin 'Criticisms of Hypocrisy'

Orion Guild Hall

Darien stood, unarmed in his shirtsleeves looking at the Amsus commander. There was something anti-climactic about coming face to face with an Amsus Inquisitor after all he had been through. He realized, despite all the ingrained doctrine, he wasn't afraid. The being standing before him existed for fear, and Darien wasn't going to give the thing the satisfaction.

The Amsus had set up a command post in a bar, troops continuing to flood into the station through the captured air locks; not as fast as the Inquisitor would have liked-from what Darien could gather, they had been unable to capture the docking bays and bring the full strength of their shock troops aboard.

The Inquisitor was standing before him, reading over a file, no doubt pertaining to his prisoner. Darien glanced down at it and back up at the creature. They weren't omnipotent, they weren't terrifying, they were just normal beings with an over-inflated sense of self-worth. He smiled.

"Is something funny, Captain Taine?" the Inquisitor demanded spitting out the rank like it tasted bad.

"Yes," Darien replied, "I was just thinking how much I pitied you."

The Inquisitor would have looked surprised had the Amsus possessed anything close to the emotion, "And why is that, Captain; if anything it should be me that pities you. After all you are my prisoner."

Darien shrugged, brushing down the white dress shirt he was wearing and straightening his tie before looking at the Inquisitor, "True, however I wasn't the ones who had to risk war with the Commonwealth and the Orions just to recapture one man."

The Inquisitor stared at him impassively. "You killed an Inquisitor," it replied simply. "An example must be made..."

Darien smiled, "Yes, I killed an Inquisitor, having done that when they tried to arrest me. I killed one of your kind and wounded another, unarmed in a space," he glanced around him and smiled, "not much bigger than this room." He gave the Inquisitor a cold smile.

The Inquisitor looked uncertain, trying to see past the bluff. But he was reading the report written by one of his kind, they didn't make mistakes. The Inquisitor backed up a step uncertainly; the thought that a human, a Terran, who was unarmed, could kill an Inquisitor was absurd, and yet...

Darien smiled wolfishly, "That's what I thought, you're bullies, the second someone shows you they aren't afraid you back down."

The Inquisitor straightened up, positioning itself so that a table was now between it and the rebel captain, "You have been found guilty of crimes against the state, murder, and insurrection..."

Darien shrugged, "Wouldn't be the first time." He was surprisingly calm, knowing that the Inquisition was the self-prescribed judge, jury and executioners of the Hegemony. That being was going to kill him and Darien found he just didn't care; he squared his shoulders, "Shut up and shoot me already."

An Amsus officer pushed past the door; marching to the Inquisitor he offered what passed for a salute and began to murmur in the creature's ear. The Inquisitor remained impassive, listening and looking over at Darien.

"It appears your little resistance group is responsible for denying me the docking bays. You will order them to surrender at once."

"Funny," Darien replied, "I don't recall you saying please."

The Inquisitor rounded on him, slamming its hands on the desk-the closest thing to anger Darien had ever seen from an Amsus, "That was not a request, Captain!"

"Well then, Inquisitor, I suggest you go fuck yourself," Darien replied firing back an equal amount of contempt.

The creature stared into Darien's hard eyes, trying to gauge what possessed a mere human to defy its will. It had been a long, long time since a Terran had dared to refuse an Inquisitor's order.

* * *

The Amsus were making an assault on the command centre, their third unsuccessful attempt in an hour. Elias looked up in mild annoyance towards the sound of gunfire, settling back in to try to make sense out of the mess of code scrawling across the repeater display in front of him.

The Amsus had managed, if Elias was figuring the data out correctly, to upload a computer virus into the guildhall's computer, one that had completely blinded the weapons platforms and the guildhall's primary sensor net as well. It was a brilliant piece of work piggy-backing on a news update system that had been received a few seconds after the Amsus ships had dropped out of hyperspace and spreading like wildfire through the system. No Amsus had written it, that was for sure.

He rubbed his temples, realizing he was getting cold and looked up. The main screen showed that the Amsus had managed to shut down the guildhall's environmental systems at the source. They still had air, but a lack of air wasn't the only thing to worry about in the depths of space, cold was just as deadly.

He shrugged on Darien's dress tunic, taking just a second to smell the other man's scent on the jacket and he smiled as he bent back to work at the console. He wasn't going to just let the Amsus get away with this. He wasn't going to go back to Mars, or wind up on one of their slabs.

* * *

The Amsus had set up a position outside the firing arcs of the deadly sentry guns. The old Imperial technology still demonstrated why the Imperials had very nearly succeeded in conquering known space. The advanced technology negated the Amsus numerical advantage entirely.

The only problem was that the small group trapped inside the docking bays were unable to break out and do anything to aid the helplessly outnumbered Orion children as they fought off wave after wave of Amsus troopers.

Lauren stood with her arms crossed looking back across the cavernous bays with their ships and fighters standing completely useless, as trapped inside by the Amsus battle group as they were by the shock troopers.

"They can't blow those doors can they?" Lauren asked Nazzien with a nod to the external hatches that sealed them inside.

Nazzien glanced at them and shook his head, "It would take them ages to get through the armour plating; they can probably nuke it, but they'd risk taking out half the station and their shock troopers right along with us. No, the Amsus will try to do this with boarding parties, they like things to stay simple."

He checked the load on his pistol and glanced around the blast doors towards the sentry guns, "Anyone have an idea how we're gonna get out of this mess?"

Kendrick cocked his head, glancing at the broad corridors of the Orion station and then down into the bays, "I have one..."

Nazzien followed Kendrick's eyes to a narrow dart-shaped Orion assault fighter and then at the young pilot. "You're insane!" he accused, seeing the mad gleam in the former colonists eyes.

"No, just of British descent," Kendrick replied, doing up the collar of his flight suit as he darted across the corridor and leapt the railing down into the bay. He flipped open the canopy to the fighter and climbed in, familiarizing himself with the simplified controls. The fighter was designed to train children and to an experienced pilot it was an easy task to power up the vehicle and activate its systems.

Shale, on hand still operating the Sentry gun remote control stared in disbelief as the arrow-shaped fighter lifted over the railing and settled on the slanted corridor leading towards the Amsus position. He blinked his big eyes as the fighter scraped its wings on the deck plates; its thrusters guiding it forward on a cushion of air as it rocketed towards the far end of the corridor.

* * *

There was a loud boom which reverberated through the entire dome. Darien's Inquisitor looked perplexed, striding to the windows of the bar, watching as a black dart-like object swept overhead, climbing up high to come in for a strafing run.

Darien saw it as well and wasn't as slow to react. He pitched himself up onto a chair, from the chair he sprung to the table and dived from that over the bar as the deadly auto cannon fire tore through the front end of the bar, shattering walls, glass, Amsus troopers and furniture.

Darien felt the hail of debris rain down upon him, and he looked up gingerly when the shooting stopped. There was yelling outside the bar, Amsus troopers reacting to the new threat and trying to mobilize a defence against the fighter. Darien poked his head up and looked around him at the carnage; the front end of the bar was gone, collapsed outwards and showing its view of the plaza and of the fighter arcing around overhead.

The Inquisitor was standing in the rubble pointing and issuing orders to the troopers and their officers as a couple of his troopers tried to set up a machine gun nest to fight back. Darien saw his chance; slipping towards the back of the bar he kept his head low, stopping beside the body of one of the fallen Amsus officers, a gaping wound torn in his chest from the fighter's shots. Darien glanced back at the Inquisitor as he unbuckled the Amsus officer's holster and strapped it around his waist, drawing the weapon and darting toward the back entrance and the possibility of freedom.

The Inquisitor turned his head, and Darien knew he was caught. There was a moment when the two leaders stared at each other, a moment's hesitation, and both went for their weapons. Darien had his clear first pumping two shots as he crashed through the rear doors into the kitchen of the bar, sprinting for the far doors.

The Inquisitor, bleeding from two holes in his chest came through the doors a split second later, his energy weapon discharging and singeing the air around Darien's head as the young captain slid for cover behind a broad stove.

"You will not escape," the Inquisitor stated flatly, its weapon still extended as it marched steadily along the kitchen towards its prey.

"Like I haven't heard that one before," Darien replied sarcastically poking his head up to fire off another two shots. Both hit home again, sending the creature reeling back as it absorbed the bullets, raising its own weapon and firing again.

Darien took a breath, feeling the oven begin to heat behind him; the Amsus weapon was searing through the heavy appliance... he was running out of time, and he needed an idea... any idea. He glanced around, and reached up to grasp a heavy skillet from the stove. It was thankfully cold, and heavy. He holstered the useless pistol and gripped his makeshift weapon watching the side where the Inquisitor would come around.

He saw the muzzle of the Amsus weapon sweep around the edge of the stove as Darien swung the skillet. Years of baseball camp in the summer, years of wishing he had been good enough to play it professionally had finally paid off as he connected, the skillet sending the Amsus weapon flying from the creature's hand as it connected solidly.

The Inquisitor didn't bat an eyelid to the fact that its hand had just been crushed by the Terran, its other one snaked out to catch the skillet as Darien tried frantically to swing it back again.

Darien was all too happy to let the thing have the skillet as he propelled himself sideways back across the kitchen and towards where the Amsus weapon had fallen. He rolled colliding with the counters, coming up holding the weapon exactly as the Amsus had, pointing the muzzle towards the creature.

And for the first time, he saw genuine fear in an Inquisitor's eyes.

"Yeah," Darien said jerking the weapon at the being, "not so tough now." He glanced at the weapon, saw the telltale gauge on it and ramped it up to full, "Didn't think a dumb dirty Terran knew how to use one of these did you?" He was breathing hard, his heart racing, at any moment more Amsus would come pouring through those doors.

The Inquisitor's eyes were watching the weapon, "Captain Taine..."

Darien smiled and shot the creature squarely in the head, incinerating the Inquisitor and most of the wall behind it. He lowered the weapon, glancing back towards the bar, darting towards the rear entrance and out into the outer dome.

* * *

Elias was punching sequences into the computer, trying to dislodge the programming that blinded the weapons platforms. He was running out of time; already the air in the command centre was frigid, some of the children clustered together helplessly while the old guild master kept an eye on the battle for his station.

Elias shook his head, it wasn't going well; the Orions could keep the Amsus at bay for awhile, but so long as Amsus kept bringing in more troops... he shook his head, waves of men being thrown at the Orion forces, overwhelming them by sheer numbers. The Amsus didn't care about a trivial thing like attrition so long as they accomplished their goal.

He scanned over the code again. The Amsus just weren't that bright, they couldn't design something that complicated and sophisticated. They were brutally efficient creatures and ones that preferred to overwhelm rather than to strike strategically. They lacked a finesse that the programming he was staring at possessed.

He stopped and thought about it. He thought the problem through: even if the Amsus hadn't designed the program, they were still the ones using it, and that application would still be prone to the same weaknesses that came with all Amsus strategy-complete overkill.

Which meant... He turned his attention to the Amsus ships, and smiled, they were still transmitting, feeding the same programming code again and again into the Orion receivers, ensuring that nothing went wrong with it. He grinned, realizing that was his way into the program, and he set about modifying the original program. He didn't have much time, he used the Orion's own antivirus system for their computers, designating the code being transmitted as a new virus, and piggy-backing the new code on the same carrier wave that had brought the original virus.

He sat back to watch the chaos ensue.

At first it was a flicker, as the antivirus programs detected the infection in the system, isolating the files affected and quarantining the primary sensor systems. That forced the weapons platforms to switch from their primary systems to their secondary redundant systems.

The sensor consoles around the command centre sprang to life, being fed data at last, targeting solutions lighting up as the weapons platforms detected the looming Amsus battle group in the midst of their defensive perimeter.

Elias dusted his hands as he looked over at the guild master, "You have weapons."

The guild master nodded his thanks looking up at the huge tactical screen dominating one entire wall. "Fire!" he ordered simply.

* * *

The dormant weapons platforms, titanic behemoths that had lain slumbering awoke to find the wolves amidst the sheep. The great unmanned stations rotated on their axis, bringing missile batteries to bear, and locking on with their newly restored guidance systems.

The Amsus fleet barely had a warning before the sentries unleashed barrages of weapons fire at them. The first to die were the pin-wheeling Raptors, ill-equipped to survive a sustained attack from an orbital weapons platform they vaporized instantly. The Amsus support cruisers died next, the powerful vessels bursting open like eggs cooked from the inside out by Orion energy weapons. The last to fall was the mighty Amsus battleship, turning, its jump pods sliding free of its mountings as itSprog struggled to claw its way into hyperspace and away from almost certain death-it too was pulled asunder by wave upon wave of missiles.

The fight lasted less than ten seconds, an eternity in space, the weapons platforms turning their attention to the helpless marine drop pods that were still waiting patiently for their turn to dock with the guildhall, slaughtering them as effortlessly as they had the mother ships.

* * *

Darien looked up as the fighter curved under the dome; lit by the fireworks outside it was clear that the Elias had managed to wrestle the weapons platforms online again. His lip curled in pride as he shot another Amsus trooper that had the misfortune of crossing his path. He continued to cut a path back towards the command centre.

The Amsus weapon was long since depleted and he had dropped it in favour of the automatic; it was a more reliable weapon and worked just as well on the regular troopers who weren't blessed with the Inquisitor's ability to just shrug off bullet holes.

He slowed as he mounted a flight of steps, glancing back at the fighter that had driven the Amsus to cover in the plaza. There was only one man crazy enough to risk a stunt like flying a fighter inside a pressurized dome; Kendrick was at the very least drawing Amsus away from the corridors, the problem was he only had a small area to manoeuvre in, and evading the Amsus who were concentrating their gunfire up at him made things even trickier for him.

Darien shook his head as he ducked through one of the side corridors, climbing towards the command centre, passing the area in which he had been captured. He grinned, noticing the Tac-headset and his comlink were right where the Amsus had tossed them when he had surrendered to them. He recovered the small device and clipped it on, ducking back as a couple of troopers took pot shots at him.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," he said into the microphone as he leaned around the corner and squeezed off a couple of shots at his attackers.

"Skipper?" Lauren called frantically through the headset.

"One in the same," he replied, leaning around again and firing off a couple more shots, this time winging one of the troopers. "May I ask which one of you let that damn fool loose with a fighter?"

Lauren laughed, "I guess he thought he'd create a distraction."

"Yeah it worked," Darien replied, checking his clip as he stepped away from his cover and finished off the wounded trooper, his second shot sent the remaining trooper sprawling. Darien didn't stop, he continued forward climbing through the tunnels, "How's my ship?"

"Right where you parked," Lauren replied and Darien winced as he heard the all too familiar sound of maser cannons firing.

"What the hell was that?" he asked, pressing the headset earphones as he kept his eyes peeled for any troopers sneaking up on his position.

"Shale set up the sentry guns," Lauren replied. "They're doing a nice job of keeping our little pest problem under control."

"Mmm," Darien said coming around a corner, his weapon swinging to and fro keeping his posture perfectly balanced, exactly true to his training; he wasn't going to be taken by surprise again. "I'm just trying to round up some cavalry and I'll see about a rescue," he stated with a smile.

"Oh I wouldn't bother," Lauren replied, "At this rate it's going to be us rescuing you for a change."

Darien chuckled, dropping to one knee and spinning, firing from the hip and sending a trooper running for cover. "Well then, what are you waiting for, join the party." He stood up and jogged around the last corner, his smile fading as he saw the carnage around the command centre, "Oh dear god..." he said quietly.

"What?" Lauren called. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Darien replied, swallowing as he picked his way through bodies, most of them young Orions. The horror of the sight sobered him; he shook his head and walked towards the barricade his mind reeling from the shock.

There was a rustle and four rifles poked up and trained on him. Grubby Orion faces with strained eyes looked at him blankly; he held his hands up, and hopped up and over the barricade. The young Orion officer, one of the few survivors, saluted him despite having a savage cut across his brow.

Darien swallowed as he returned the gesture, "The guild master?" he asked, looking towards the doors.

"Inside, Captain Taine," the young officer replied. "We did as you ordered, we held our positions..."

Darien nodded his head. "That you did," he stated, holstering his weapon and entering the cold command centre.

Elias's feet were sticking out from under an access port, and Darien shook his head at the industrious young man who was trying to restore the heat to the room. The grizzled Orion guild master leaned across his station map watching as the Amsus were being driven back into the main plaza by his students.

Darien nodded to the old man. "The Inquisitor is dead," he stated flatly. "They have no leadership left."

"We destroyed their fleet," the old man replied gesturing to the now empty tactical grid, "Your engineer would make a good officer on an Orion ship."

"I somehow doubt he'd leave my crew," Darien replied with a smile. "I think I offer a pretty comprehensive benefits package."

"Indeed..." the Orion stated, missing the feeble attempt at humour. "My people again find themselves in your debt, Captain Taine; this is the second time you and your crew have come to our aid."

Darien shrugged. "Don't thank me," he insisted. "It's not over yet."

The guild master smiled, "Don't dishonour the deed by denying you were the one that took it."

Darien nodded, "My people tell me they should be able to break the siege on the docking bays shortly..."

"They are also owed thanks," the guild master stated. "They held back the tide keeping the Amsus from landing more troops."

Darien nodded. "Did you catch that?" he asked into the mike.

"Sure did," Lauren replied. "Tell him that I deserve a raise the next time I sign onto an Orion vessel."

"No way," Darien replied. "Then I'd have to find a way to match it and that could start a bidding war we'd all sooner avoid."

"Speak for yourself," Lauren said.

Darien smiled as he leaned down to help the Orion guild master co-ordinate the final push on the plaza, and the end of the Amsus invasion of the guildhall.

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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The crew have done it again, by taking on an impossible task and trashed the Amsus invasion.  Kendrick was definitely insane, but bought them all the time and freedom needed to kill the Inquisitor and Elias to get the defence system back on line.  Lauren, Shale and Nazzien kept the Amsus from overrunning the ship.  The Orions were great kids.  They acted and fought as warriors.  

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Darien and the crew are proving most adept in battle strategy. From detective to Captain of the resistance has been a huge learning curve for Darien. He has got a super team and the mutual support and respect is evident. 

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I can only imagine how it will play out when news that the Asmus went to war against children...

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