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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 - 2. Chapter 2

Two men, each with different views
of what the Empire should be.

VonGrippen the Knight, Kardiac the warrior

With VonGrippen's betrayal and Kardiac's surrender the Empire was doomed

-Archduke Francesco 'the fall of the Empire'

Honest Jerton's Surplus Depot

"No," Darien leaned forward in the cramped cockpit of the Amsus military shuttle he had been assigned to on this trip, the frustration in his voice was very evident. "I have been waiting for nearly nine hours, it took me four hours just to get here in the first place, I don't care about your bureaucracy, or if your administrator is busy. I've had enough; put me through now or I am personally coming over there and putting my foot up your ass!"

The pilot of the shuttle snorted a laugh as he tried to appear as though he wasn't listening. Darien glanced at him and shook his head, they were both tired, and the claustrophobic atmosphere in the shuttle was driving them both nuts. There were only so many times you could play I-spy in a patrol shuttle.

The alien on the screen slurped his displeasure, "We cannot allow you to come aboard the station, you have not..." he slurped again through his gills, "been cleared. We will notify you when the administrator is available." The screen went dark.

"Oh, I am getting sick of this!" Darien scrubbed his temples in frustration. "Feel like landing anyway?"

The grizzled old Terran Security sergeant shrugged, "What are they going to do, arrest us sir?"

Darien shook his head, "Not for that; if they are going to arrest us it will be after I wring that pencil neck's throat."

Braddock chuckled, "I'd like to see that sir... I spy with my little eye something beginning with... L."

"Landing pad?" Darien asked with a wry grin.

Braddock smiled as he throttled the shuttle to full power, ignoring the depot's ops controller's cries of protest.

* * *

Administrators office

The doors crashed open as the gilled alien flew through them, colliding with the deck as he slid to the foot of the administrator's desk.

"I have an appointment," Detective Inspector Darien Taine commented as he walked through the shattered doors, a dark look on his face as he lowered his PKD. He was wearing a patrol uniform and looked intimidating, the silver clasps glittered and reflected on the leather and wool jacket. The inspector insignia on the Terran Sec badge only attested to the intimidation factor.

The administrator reached for his com panel as Darien lifted the weapon again. "I have been very patient up until this point, Administrator Jorten, however my patience is wearing thin. We had an appointment."

The administrator lifted his hands in surrender, "Alright, Detective, my apologies at keeping you waiting, what can I do for you?" He folded his hands on the desk and smiled as if he was oblivious to the fact he had a law enforcement officer on his doorstep. "I run an honest business here..."

"You run a used starship chop shop, Jorten; you have five outstanding warrants for your arrest as well as a demand by the Amsus government that we extradite you so that you can serve your sentence on one of their penal colonies. And you have kept me waiting in a god damn shuttle for nine hours." Darien lowered the weapon again.

"You're here to arrest me?" the administrator became nervous, his eyes flicking to the badge and back to Darien's steely cold eyes.

"No, I'm here to do business with you," Darien replied as he unclipped his badge and returned it to the jacket's pocket.

"You want to do what?" the administrator asked incredulously.

"I am here to buy a ship," Darien replied. He motioned to the computer terminal with the PKD, "If you would please show me your manifest."

The administrator moved slowly, and Darien shook his head, "Not the standard manifest, I want the real one."

The Administrators jaw worked a second, "I don't know what you mean..."

Darien's eyebrow quirked, "You're lying, Jorten, I don't need to read your thoughts to know that. However if I have to call in more Terran security officers to investigate this operation of yours I can promise you it will be most unpleasant."

Jorten shook his head expressively, "Alright, what type of ship are you looking for? I recently acquired an Orion Raider that was Imperial war surplus... she's a classic..."

Darien moved to sit on the edge of the administrators desk, "I need something fast that works."

Jorten sucked on his teeth, "I have a couple of salvaged Polarin gigs, they...were found in the demilitarised zone."

"Something fast that isn't going to draw attention," Darien corrected.

Jorten went back to his manifest. "You're going undercover," he guessed with a sly smile.

"And you are asking too many questions," Darien responded as he picked up a paperweight to examine it. "I want something that will blend into a remote sector, but will still be able to get me out of a fire fight should it have to."

"One of my...associates discovered a wonderfully preserved Lacosi impulse fighter," he winced, "but it is not warp capable. That is really all I have for military surplus..."

"Do you have any modified freighters? Anything larger than a shuttle?"

"I have a couple of luxury yachts, and a pleasure craft. But they are not fast..."

Darien smiled, "You don't have any blockade runners?"

"I..." The administrator sighed, "I have a couple of smuggling craft I use to ferry cocaine across the border."

Darien set the paperweight down and stood up, "Then the fastest one you have." He stopped and smiled coldly, "And I want one of your people to accompany me to ensure you are not giving me a ship that will break down."

Jorten began to protest, but abandoned the attempt as he tapped his comm. panel, "Hally, send Matt Elias up here." He looked over at the inspector, "He fixes my blockade runners, and if there is anything wrong with one of them he can tell you what it is."

* * *

Lower docking area

Blockade runners, the nemesis of Imperial fleet border patrols that tried valiantly to police the frontier and ensure that the traffic of illegal narcotics such as cocaine, and banned substances such as honey mead being shipped off world were halted. Blockade-runners were typically small, fast transport ships capable of carrying enough cargo while still able to outrun most Hegemony patrol frigates. There really was no pattern to their design; Darien had even seen surplus Terran frigates converted to that purpose. Orion Raiders were favoured due to the ready availability of parts and their modular design that permitted easy modification.

There were several Raiders in the bay in various states of being loaded or unloaded, but Darien wasn't interested in one of those. They were too recognizable, drew too much attention and were usually fired on by passing Imperial ships as sport.

His companion was quiet for the most part, just watching the dark-clothed Inspector move about the ships. Darien took a moment to run a hand over the hull of a box-shaped cargo hauler that looked like it had been cobbled together from various different sources. He distinctly recognized an Amsus disruptor cannon mounted along its belly.

"It's called the Ladies Grace." Elias commented, "She's not as fast as the others, but the cannon works. She put a hole in an Imperial inspection cutter a few weeks back."

"I read about that incident," Darien said thoughtfully as he ducked under one of the ships engine spars and walked away from the vessel. "I don't need firepower, I need speed and manoeuvrability."

Elias rubbed his young face, scratching at the beginnings of a beard that looked as though it would never grow properly, "We have an old thrust lifter." He led the way through the pads to one that suspended the ugliest ship Darien had ever seen.

"She's a Dragonfly-class thrust lifter," the young man walked across the bridge to the vessels folded thrust engines. "She mounts a pair of heavy-duty booster engines on tilt struts and she can attain enough vertical thrust to lift most payloads into orbit." He smiled with a certain amount of pride, "I retrofitted this one with a pair of inboard jump drives on either side of the command gondola," he pointed to the cigar shaped nacelles that looked years out of date, "and I upgraded the deflector array on top of her. She can outrun most ships at sub-light, and with those," he pointed to the tilt mounted boosters, "she has a completely unique manoeuvring system not constrained by aero-dynamics."

Darien studied her a moment trying to decide if the vessel reminded him more of a beetle or a tortoise without its shell. "What's her weapon armament?"

"Unarmed at the moment," Elias said reluctantly. "I just didn't have anything to arm her with. Though she does have military-grade armour plating I tore off of an Amsus Raptor a year ago. Jorten needed to acquire an ECCM package capable of defeating a Terran frigate for a customer and gave us the salvaged Raptor as payment." He waved back to the Ladies Grace;"I mounted the only working disruptor on that one."

"What are those containers on the tail section?" Darien pointed towards the rear.

"External cargo tanks; they can be jettisoned in a pinch if a patrol comes upon you. Though Jorten got pissed at the last pilot that ditched his cargo to avoid an Amsus patrol."

Darien activated the hatch panel and stepped inside the cramped vessel. There were conduits and power cables lining the walls that were occasionally lined with crash padding. The way aft led down to the cargo bay with its rear ramp and cargo netting, forward were four small berths and a galley/lounge area that also gave access to the engineering spaces. They walked forward and down a ladder into the command gondola, the great cockpit windows enclosing four bucket seats with straps to accommodate the crew.

The engineering panel displayed more problems than Darien could comprehend, and the upholstery on the pilot's chair was bound together with duct tape. But she was the fastest in Jorten's stable, and she was certainly unremarkable in the looks department. He slid into the pilot's chair and ran his hands over the simple controls; there were touch panels here, but mostly it was controlled through old style manual controls. He glanced back at the techie, "What's she called?"

"Dragonfly." Elias leaned on the engineers console and grinned, "I spent hours rebuilding this ship, a true classic of engineering, and they don't build them like this anymore."

Darien nodded. "Let's see how she flies then," he said as he slipped off his duster and checked the instruments.

Elias punched the start-up sequence into the engineering panel. The engines of the blockade-runner spluttered to life after three unsuccessful ignitions, and the station's docking clamps released.

It was like someone had attached a seat directly to an impulse engine and set it to maximum burn. The Dragonfly hurtled down the drop shaft, Darien desperately fighting to keep the ship from impacting with the sides.

"Whoooooooooooooooot!" Elias let out a whoop of joy as he clambered over into the co-pilot's chair buckling himself in.

The Dragonfly burst from the station rotating in space as her new pilot orientated himself and caught his breath. "What the hell was that!" he demanded of the young man next to him.

Matt Elias grinned like a maniac, "That's a thrust lifter. Give her some throttle and try her out."

Darien shook his head in wonder as he pushed forward on the throttle control. The large booster engines realigned to give the vessel forward thrust and the blockade-runner slammed forward roaring through the depot graveyard past derelict hulks and swarming work pods.

"She handles like..." Darien shook his head, "I just touch the stick and we make a manoeuvre."

Elias's grin grew broader, "I know, sweet huh?"

The trilling of a panel caught both of their attention. "That's odd," Elias said as he pounded the side of a radar display. "It says here that Jorten just launched a couple of raiders."

Darien leaned over in his seat to take a look over Elias's shoulder. "Their weapons are armed," he said after a moment of trying to decipher the Polian script on the readout.

Elias turned to look at the Inspector, his dark eyes wide, "But I'm on this ship."

Darien nodded, "I don't think Jorten cares. I think we had best get this ship moving, where are the warp controls?"

"It's a basic system-we would have to clear the depot yard before we can jump..."

Darien slammed the throttle fully open, "Alright, so the hard way it is."

The Dragonfly roared along the rent hull of an old merchantman, the two Orion Raiders in hot pursuit. The ship turned and weaved its way around floating debris trying to keep as much wreckage between it and the pursuers.

The blockade-runner shook as one of the Raiders scored a lucky hit, and Darien had to roll the ship away from a pair of missiles sent to finish the job. It was getting a little too hot being two on one and the Dragonfly being the only one unarmed. He cursed; they weren't going to make it.

The first raider exploded spectacularly as the Terran patrol shuttle shot out of its ambush, the grizzled sarge targeting the exposed raiders power system with a constant stream of auto canon fire. But the second had shields, and the shuttle's gauss guns failed to scratch it as she screamed into a tight manoeuvre to get her behind the shuttle pod.

"Does this ship have an emergency recovery system?" Darien demanded as he reversed the Dragonfly's course with a simple touch of the controls.

Elias unbuckled himself and scurried up the back ladder, scrambling to the airlock back behind the cockpit gondola, next to a broad cargo ramp; the Dragonfly swept down on the doomed shuttle pod as the Raider rounded for a strafing run. He tapped some controls and zeroed in on the shuttle's escape pod as Braddock ejected, the complicated snare system snaking out and wrapping around the pod, dragging it along behind the blockade runner as its winches pulled him in moments before the Raider blew the patrol shuttle apart.

Darien pulled a sharp-vectored thrust manoeuvre as the blockade- runner streaked upwards and out of the Raider's path, realigning the ship again to make a burst for open space. The Raider tried to follow the manoeuvre, but its long turning arcs forced it to give valuable ground to the Dragonfly and the few precious moments it needed to slip the trap.

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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looks like Jerton has found out about Darien.  Now Jerton is out one ship and one great mechanic.  Of course, Darien still has to rescue Braddock.  Great action described in thrilling detail.

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Talk about balls of steel, to be able to bluff your way into a ship like that.  I have to wonder if Darien will be able to get the Sgt or not, but at least he's got a good mechanic.  Jerton either heard something or just decided to get rid of a pest the fastest way popssible.

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I think the bossman was just trying to cover his own ass.  Dead men tell no tales.  Very exciting end to the chapter!

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They may have had a fortuitous escape but they are going to need a weapons system if they are gonna survive... 

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