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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 - 34. Chapter 34

I am the balance of judgement.

-Warlord Kardiac 'On the Eve of Invasion'

Tempus System

The HMS Excalibur jumped into the Tempus system, her massive Maser cannons powering up to charge, her zero point bore was targeting and her remaining thirty-nine missile tubes were open and ready to unleash hell upon those that had sought to betray her.

The decks were cleared for action, gunnery crews moving too and fro through the ship under the watchful eye of Lieutenant Shale who was below decks supervising. The fighter pilots of VF-54 were under going a briefing from Squadron Leader Masconi who was, reluctantly, apprising them of Tempus's strategic facilities. A tense and worn Kendrick standing impassively off to one side watching her deliver her briefing. There was an uneasy truce between the crew and the pilots of VMA-23, born of a mutual understanding that they had no part in the treachery, Darien was still not taking any chances, VMA-23 was grounded until after the battle of Tempus was over.

The Marine deck was in a state of readiness, the hostage situation in the Barracks was on going, but the marines sealed within the room were going no where, and Mayfair was concentrating on other tasks as the huge Mechs were powering up ready for a combat drop into hostile territory. He bellowed orders to his men, happy to see the yellow Wolf's head had been painted on the Marine machinery, Pride in the House, he hadn't asked his men to do that and he smiled at their patriotism.

Up on the Bridge of the Imperial flagship Captain Darien Taine stood staring down at Tempus III B and realized the sense of overwhelming power at his disposal. He could turn the surface of Tempus III B to ash in seconds, he could punch a hole through the planets mantle and shatter its core, or he could drop enough troops and machinery and fighters, providing orbital bombardment to support them and end the House of Kardiac once and for all.

Inside him the cold lack of emotions slid around his mind, replacing his anger, burying his pain. If the House of Kardiac wanted vengeance then he would give it to them.

He had donned VonGrippen's greatcoat, nodding to the hologram indicating he was ready to transmit to the planet surface. The Excalibur's broadcast transmitters were set to all frequencies. They would flood the Tempus airwaves with his message; ensuring what he had to say would be heard by everyone on the small moon.

He began slowly choosing each word with deliberate care, "By now you're defence stations are reading my ship's approach. Your sensors are informing you that this vessel is fully armed, and that I have targeted your world." He drew himself up to his full height, "I demand Major Rousseau and what he stole from the Nebula, you have one hour to comply."

He turned and jerked his thumb as the Excalibur stopped transmitting, her fighters scrambling from the flight deck, forming up into a combat spread as they took up escort positions around the Imperial warship.

Darien stood patiently, dark eyes staring over the small moon that his ship was closing upon. He was holding a gun to the head of an entire world, the thought was terrifying to him, and they were human beings down there. It wasn't the same as fighting Amsus, or Eelim or Pirates these were his fellow human beings. He should have felt something, but his mind was set into a cold pattern of logic as he watched the clock tick down.

Masconi came out on deck, the Squadron Leader taking a place alongside Darien staring down at the world that was her home, "I can't believe my government would condone Rousseau's actions, if you allow me to talk to Colonel Ramsey, explain..."

Darien looked at her slowly, studying her face. Grim and determined he could see the worry in her eyes, the desperation to prevent utter disaster from descending on her world, the conflicting loyalties playing across her face.

And through the pain, through the anger, his basic humanity shone for a moment as he nodded at her, "Do so."

She offered him a look of thanks as the ship directed a transmission to the Tempus base. Seconds later Colonel Ramsey appeared on the display, "Angelina!" he stated in relief, he glanced at Darien, "Holding my planet hostage wasn't enough for you, you now have to hold my daughter so as well?"

Darien eyes flashed in irritation, but remained silent.

Masconi shook her head, "It's not like that Colonel. Major Rousseau attacked them, stole something from the Lion's Pride and left us all to die in the nebula."

"Rousseau hasn't left the planet!" Ramsey bit back, "he's been touring our planetary defence systems on the northern continent, and he arrived back this morning."

"That's not true." Masconi stated firmly, "He was on this ship..."

"Dear god..." Ramsey stated turning pale. There was a moment's pause as an officer walked into Ramsey's office, leaning down to speak to the Colonel. Ramsey for his part looked shocked.

"Captain," Kit stated leaning in close alongside Darien, "Excalibur is observing troop movements around the Tempus Base, fighting is breaking out."

Darien stood quietly, weighing his options before he made a decision and stared up at Colonel Ramsey, "It appears you under estimated Rousseau as much as I did."

Ramsey swallowed, "The mainstay of the base garrison are deployed to counter your invasion, they aren't close to the base..." He looked ashen grey.

Darien extended his hand as someone slipped a Tactical headset into it, slipping it on he began to issue orders, glancing up at the screen, "I am deploying my men to fortify your position." He stated with icy calm, "And Excalibur will cover your troops until they arrive," He gestured to Nazzien, the surprised Orion shrugged and shifted the targeting systems to train it on the attacking forces that were making a push on the Tempus Base.

Ramsey shook his head, "But why?"

"Because you are going to give me whatever Rousseau stole." Darien said simply, "Because you know what it is, and why he has it, and you want him to have it even less than I do."

Darien glanced at Masconi, "You have a squadron of F-120 ground support fighters sitting in my hanger bay," he stated, "And I have a troop of Marines getting ready to drop..."

She saluted him and was gone, calling for her Squadron to scramble as she went. In minutes VMA-23 was arching its way towards the planet, clearing a path for the Excalibur's pair of drop ships and the cluster of Mech Drop pods that were slicing their way down through the atmosphere to fight a ground war for Tempus.

* * *

"Paladin's, bring it out to combat spread," Kendrick ordered.

The F-150's fanned out into the basic fighting positions used in aerial combat. Each of the fighters forming trios, one fighter ahead and two behind supporting it. Kendrick's fighter team at the lead of his squadron as Flight Lieutenant Katz commanded the second team covering the Excalibur as she in turn covered the Marine drop.

"Paladin Leader this is Gun sight One," Nazzien cut over the radio chatter, the Excalibur's weapons officer was directing Combat Operations from the bridge of the Excalibur, the Orion's directions would co-ordinate how they flew in combat. Each of the Pilots knew the hard-edged Orion officer knew how to fight and they obeyed his directions without question, "Come Left heading three-zero-zero. Bandits three-zero-zero mark three-two-zero, 50 miles. Buster."

"Paladin Lead, roger, vectoring to intercept. Paladins Port three-zero-zero," Kendrick glanced at his combat radar, confirming that Rousseau's forces had launched fighters against the Excalibur, a mistake. The 120's Tempus could muster were entering Space, that made them cannon fodder for the more agile Tactical fighters. "Ninety-nine Paladin, knockers up." He stated ordering every fighter under his command to engage their armaments switches, radar systems, homing equipment, warning equipment, and all offensive and defensive electronic warfare systems. In short the game was on.

He felt the familiar rush of adrenaline seeping into his veins as he shivered. He had tasted combat many times, he had fought at Eisenhower station, but this was somehow different, there was none of the thrill of battle, these were human beings about to die by his hand.

"Ok this is it." He said into his radio glancing a final time over his instruments, at the radar that was tracking the fourteen F-120's rising to meet them, "Stick together as long as you can. Let's make sure they don't get a clear shot at the ship," He tensed, "fire at will."

He set his targeting computer to automatic, watching the red halos on his HUD light up tracking targets. The Halos turned to diamonds with a tell tale buzzing he thumbed his fire switch and loosed three missiles and watched them streak away from his fighter along with a dozen others from his other fighters. Explosions lit up the night sky as missiles struck home and others struck chaff. F-120's flashing past them on all sides. Kendrick pulled back on his stick and looped up and over the enemy fighter formation that had scattered in all directions.

"Katz team, break left." Lieutenant Katz ordered as his team broke from formation to chase the fighters that were trying to gain a firing solution for the ship killing missiles strapped to their fuselages.

Kendrick smiled at the eagerness of his Exec; the rakish Karin was becoming a fine officer and one hell of a pilot. Kendrick pulled out of his loop, an idle thought tickling his mind, that was his fifth confirmed kill, he was an ace... somehow that goal had lost its lustre.

He watched as the Halo's again turned to diamonds and cut loose with his remaining missiles, the F-120's were decimated, cut to ribbons and he sat back into his seat glancing over his combat radar.

"Paladins check in." He called over the radio.

"Paladin-Three ok." Katz reported

"Paladin-Four," "Paladin-Five," they ran through the list, Kendrick swallowing realizing he had lost two of his squadron to the F-120's. Janes and Spitski... two men pulled out of a Karin slave pit and given a new purpose, a cause to believe in, a cause they had died for.

He closed his eyes...

"Paladin Leader this is Gun sight one," Nazzien voice echoed again, "Come right heading three-zero-zero. Bandits three-zero-zero mark three-two-zero, 60 miles. Buster."

Kendrick forced his eyes open, here they go again.

* * *

Darien gritted his teeth watching as the Paladins duelled with the renegade Tempus fighters for a second time, a few of the F-120's managing to penetrate the fighter screen only to run the gauntlet of Excalibur's point defence batteries, the Auto-maser's swatting them from the sky effortlessly.

"Excalibur this is Wolf-one, fire for effect, AA7733, over." Mayfair called over the active tactical net.

Nazzien nodded talking into his own headset, "Fire for effect, Second battery, out." His hands input data activating the Excalibur's second Maser battery, the huge bored weapons swinging free on their turrets.

"Direction 5420, distance 2300, down 35, over." Mayfair called.

"Direction 5420, distance 2300, down 35, out." Nazzien repeated the weapons training in on the designated target.

"Artillery battalion in open, ICM, over." Mayfair reported informing the Excalibur what they were shooting at.

"Artillery battalion in open, ICM, Authenticate Tango Foxtrot, over." Nazzien's hand hovered over the firing control

"I authenticate Echo, out."

Nazzien pushed the button and the Excalibur discharged a massive salvo from its primary weapons down towards the planet surface.

* * *

The first salvo from the Excalibur demolished a mountain face destroying the renegade artillery that had been raining fire down upon their positions. The Karin Marines had entrenched themselves in and around the base exchanging fire with the army forces intent on taking the base. A holding action while Ramsey moved his own forces to counter the Coup attempt.

Mayfair nodded as the heavy footsteps of on of his a Rhino artillery Mechs stamped its way forward, lifting its cannon arms swinging them to fire a devastating shot into a renegade battle tank that was attempting to cover an assault on the North side of the compound.

The Mech itself reeled as renegades cut loose with a couple of RPG's, punching great holes in the Mechs armour. The Mech pivoted its torso and cut loose with a second barrage ending the renegade assault in a burst of lethal fire.

Mayfair ducked his head as an F-120 roared overhead being chased by a pair of Black Knights; VMA-23 was true to its word, offering fire support to his troops without blinking.

"Get the son of a bitch," Mayfair murmured as he glanced back over the map one of his officers had spread out behind the wall they were covered by.

"They're making a push from here," the young first Lieutenant said, tapping the map and ducking his head up to point it out to the Major. Mayfair cringed as the Lieutenants head vanished, the lifeless body collapsing to the dirt. Mayfair already up and sprinting to the fall back position, as the renegades stormed the fortification. Pulse fire kicking up dirt behind him as he dived for cover a couple of his men standing to offer him cover fire, driving the renegades back with steady bursts.

He picked himself up out of the dust, lifting his own rifle to give fire as well, as the damaged Mech turned, sweeping the Renegades with it's machineguns tearing them and the wall to shreds.

He ducked back down, pulling out his tactical headset and pulling it on, making sure to slip his helmet back on as well, "Where the hell is that infantry?" he bellowed as the valiant Mech exploded raining bits of armour plating down upon them.

* * *

The onslaught was continual, it was a huge dogfight, the F-120's outnumbered the Paladin's 150's and fire team integrity had dissolved quickly as the fighters were driven apart, every pilot was engaged in a desperate fight for survival. The Excalibur resembled a great bear being chased by fireflies as fighters careered in all directions. It was a wild and frantic battle as the Paladin pilots duelled it out with the more experienced Tempus pilots.

The details became a blur. Kendrick still stung by the loss of Elias felt the weight of loosing his pilots in the first engagement. He wanted desperately to prevent it from happening again, and put the welfare of his pilots ahead of his own. During his efforts to Shepard his pilots, Kendrick got separated from his wingmen and found himself chased by a gaggle of F-120's screaming for vengeance as they ruthlessly tried to run him down.

Katz barrelled in on the group with selfless abandon, Paladin-Three succeeded in clearing his leaders tail, destroying a pair of 120's in the process. Unfortunately, the two pilots had been driven almost a thousand miles from the Excalibur. Low on fuel and ammo, and being chased by the same group Paladin-Three had successfully driven off minutes before, the two newly crowned Aces of the Excalibur flight deck made a mad dash for the sanctuary of the ship, carving a path through the enemy fighters as they both tried to make the sanctuary of the Excalibur's guns.

Katz's fighter shivered and spun lazily, it's pilot ejecting as the white fighter arced gracefully and slammed into the bow section of the Excalibur in a titanic double explosion. Katz floating in the night as Kendrick helplessly yelled over the Comm. net for a rescue team.

* * *

The Excalibur heaved under his feet, Darien instinctively gripping onto the back of his command chair as Lauren dispatched damage control teams to the section of the ship affected by the impact.

"Paladin Leader this is Excalibur Control, what the hell are you doing?" Darien's voice flooded over the radio. He shook his head in anger, Kendrick was out there taking too many risks, throwing lives away with reckless abandon as he tried to single handedly take on the Renegade squadrons. The Captain glanced over at Nazzien, "Order the fighter squadrons to break and engage!" He snapped coming down from the command chair as he watched an F-150 explode in front of the bridge observation windows.

Nazzien obeyed his Captain, intently focused on his task he remained a dutiful professional ordering the pin point batteries to tighten their fire, trying to close the holes in their defensive grids as the F-120's scored hits on the ship.

Kit looked up at his Captain, "The Excalibur is registering a power up of Tempus's planetary defence batteries."

"How many?" Darien demanded looking up at the screen as Kit lit the tactical map showing the three main planetary weapons that had fallen into Renegade hands. If they came to bear...

"I have them," Nazzien stated, his hands gliding across his board, "Deploying missiles. Targets acquired..." He shrugged, "Permission to smite the batteries Captain?"

"Smite away," Darien replied as the Excalibur fired five of its nuclear arsenal. The thermo-nuclear weapons detonated against the surface, incinerating the planetary batteries in atomic fire as they were literally wiped from existence.

He felt his pulse quicken with the realization of what he had done, swallowing it back he remained focused on the battle. "Alter our orbital flight path," he stated, "keep us geo synchronous over the base."

Lauren nodded, the Excalibur remaining fixed in place as the battle raged on.

* * *

Rousseau watched the play of battle from the shelter of the small camp tucked into the mountains, snow crunching beneath his boots as he walked into the tent that had become his command post. The men of his special operations unit were trained well, the battle for control of Tempus was a diversion, and it was working well.

The courier was being outfitted for its purpose as a refuelling station for the modified fighter an F-150 variant that had been designed and built for exactly the purpose the intended for it, a couple of small recon fighters sitting under white camouflage netting next to the larger tactical fighter rounded out the rest of their small task force.

He stared over the tactical map watching as the troops loyal to him made a valiant effort to take the Tempus base. They were out matched, the Excalibur tangling with the fighters over head was drawing air support from his ground forces as they desperately tried to silence the Excalibur's powerful guns that pounded the ground troops mercilessly.

"We're losing," one of his captains observed.

"We lost the moment Excalibur arrived in the system." Rousseau stated firmly, "It's irrelevant now, all they are trying to do is buy time for us to prepare the final solution," he stared meaningfully out of the tent and across to where the salvaged missile was waiting a couple of his service techs making sure the device still worked even after all that time inactive.

"Incoming!" One of his men roared, as a pair of F-120 fighters bearing black knight insignias roared over the camp, curling about for another look as renegades scrambled for the anti-aircraft batteries used to protect the small airfield.

"Shoot them down." Rousseau ordered coldly emerging from the tent as the two fighters swept in their maser cannons tearing holes through the tarmac as they blew through the row of fighters.

He frantically waved them off, hoping they would turn, hoping they wouldn't... one of the attacking fighters exploded, debris smashing into the trees around them setting some firs on fire.

The second one tried to pull up, but was caught in the deadly crossfire that sent it pin wheeling down to earth straight into the courier ship. The resulting explosion decimated the small vessel and sent Rousseau flying into the snow.

* * *

"That's the last fighter," Nazzien remarked as the pinpoint batteries ceased their onslaught.

Darien uncoiled himself from his position at the front of the bridge before the tactical map realizing he had been standing there for what felt like hours. His hands clasped tightly behind his back as he stood and directed the battle like a conductor directing his orchestra through a requiem.

The Tempus forces were moving into position, relieving his marines as they drove Rousseau's renegades back away from the command bunker. Clean up operations would be handled by them as the Excalibur's forces paused to catch their breaths and take stock of what had happened.

The battle had been hard fought, the Excalibur had suffered some hull damage and some of her pinpoint batteries had been destroyed. Her crew had performed admirably, the shipboard losses were light, as if any losses could be taken lightly.

The valiant Paladins were returning to the ship clustered in their marshal point as they each took turns landing on the Excalibur's flight deck. They had lost five pilots to the action, and another F-150 had been completely destroyed when it had rammed the bow of the warship, and a further two were shot up so badly they would be luck if they ever flew again. Of fourteen fighters, that left the Paladins at half strength.

Mayfair's forces had also sustained the brunt of the attack, loosing a third of their Mechs in the combat on the surface the casualty numbers from the Marine detachment were still being tallied. It had been a brutal and senseless slaughter to hold the base.

Darien walked back, passing his chair as he swept off the black and red great coat, wondering at everything it meant and the weight of responsibility that came with wearing it. He gritted his teeth as he shook his head angrily.

Kit was standing staring at him, and Darien met those eyes. He read something in them, something that registered as pride, and Darien marvelled at it, pride, what did they have to be proud of? The dead certainly weren't proud...

He looked around him, and saw the look mirrored on the faces of his crew. Pride in the fact they had been tested and they had won. Pride in the fact that the fight had been a hard one, testing each of them, but they had still come through it, stronger and more confident in who and what they were.

He stopped then, the bitterness at the waste of life fading as he realized that they weren't lives thrown away, but lives spent in the pursuit of a belief: A belief in him and in his cause. Belief in the patches on their arms and all they had come to mean.

It was something the forces under Rousseau had forgotten, something he had almost forgotten. He swallowed realizing they were all looking at him expectantly.

"You all performed admirably," He stated looking about him at his crew, "Your reaction times have improved, as has Nazziens aim," he offered a joke and a few people laughed including the Orion, "Let's secure from General quarters and continue the mop up operation."

He marched from the bridge; back towards the sanctuary of his stateroom, to await the list that would arrive shortly, a list of dead or missing, one that he would have to review and then post in the mess hall.

And the name that would be at the top of the list of the honoured dead...

* * *

As his F-150 was towed into the hanger deck he removed his faceplate and helmet raising the canopy as he stared about him at the grey metal walls, and at the other fighters that were being tended to by their plane captains and crews. His muscles ached from the abuse they had taken strapped into the cockpit of the fighter for hours on end.

The tow tractor pulled his fighter into its space he tapped the brakes and brought it to a halt. His throat was dry, his back was incredibly sore and he barely had the strength to undo the safety harnesses staring up at the ceiling recalling the cries of death that had echoed across the radio.

His Plane Captain, one of the experienced crews brought up with VMA-23 climbed the ladder and began to un-strap him.

"You took a real hammering!" he exclaimed staring in disbelief at the battered fighter.

Kendrick nodded as he climbed out of the fighter on rubbery legs breathing heavily from the exertion and staring at the fighter. It had indeed taken a pounding, and he marvelled at how sturdy the old Imperials had constructed her. She had sections of her fuselage riddled with maser holes, a section of the wing had sustained a glancing blow that had peeled and burnt through a section of armour, peeling it back like a ripe banana. He was lucky to be alive.

There were others that hadn't been so lucky. He stared mutely at the fighter, before walking towards the crew elevator echoes of the horror that had occurred off of the Excalibur's flight deck still ringing in his ears.

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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Too many lost to another's hatred and greed for power and dominance.  I do hope Rousseau was one of them.  I am not sure, but did the stolen missile get destroyed in the action? 

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All organized religious groups should be disbanded and destroyed.  God maybe great but those they do things in his/her name are the worst of the worse.

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I hope to all getout that the missile was destroyed on the courier ship...Asshat was tossed into the snow when the second plane coming at him struck nearby...He needs to be captured and dealt with harshly....

Now that the planet has for all intents and purposes, where do those who fought to stop the insurrection go from here?? 

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