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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 - 37. Chapter 37

Chapter twelve, paragraph eight
verse three. Aww shit!

-Elias 'The Universe According to Matthew Elias'

Skyella Nebula

Biting cold roused him. The chill of vacuum penetrated even the thick thermal layers of his flight suit and forced him back into consciousness. He struggled to sit upright in the twisted wreckage of the cockpit; his thin body seemed to absorb the cold, even through his haze he could still feel the cold.

He winced in pain, trying to think. He was alive, that was important. At least he considered it to be important. After all, his autobiography would have a lousy ending if he just died floating in a green cloud that had nothing to do with a bad acid trip. No way, he had a reputation to maintain, he wasn't about to just give up because he was alone, floating in space half-dead and battered... his memories came flooding back to him in a rush, threatening to overwhelm him in the despair of being alone floating in space. He shuddered uncontrollably; he had survived.

He looked about him through the cracked helmet visor at the floating debris drifting through the green clouds. This was where the Polian forces and the Imperials had battled themselves to mutual annihilation. He could just imagine the desperation of the fleet going to active alert, the frantic scrambling of fighters...

He was hurt, he couldn't feel his arm, and his vision swam as blood seeped from where his head had bounced around the inside of his helmet. He coughed dryly and tried focusing his eyes. He was floating in a green cloud, his spacesuit torn in several places from the shrapnel of the dying Lion's Pride; the suit's self-patching system had sealed the holes, but not before he had lost a lot of oxygen.

He didn't know where he was, where the others were, just that he wasn't dead. He had blown open all the hatches on the dreadnaught, letting the explosive decompression sweep him bouncing along corridors and out of a blast door into space as the ship had exploded.

He felt the viscous cut on his forehead where his head had struck the inside of his helmet when he had blown the hatches and had ricocheted his way out into space.

He had to get warm; the whistling of escaping air was bad enough, but with it flowed his only hope for survival and he knew that death followed close behind. He had to survive, he just had to. You don't go through everything he had gone through just to give up and die like that.

He wrestled with the front panel of his ruined radio on the front of his suit, finally relieved when it came away. He reached inside and tore free some wiring that had come loose, using it as a tourniquet to seal the small tear in the arm of his suit. It would hold, for the moment, but there was no way to know whether help would come before his air was exhausted.

Wrapped up and able to breathe again, his thoughts began to clear; he was in danger if he stayed where he was. The drop ships probably thought he was dead, and the Excalibur wouldn't be looking for him... Darien wouldn't be looking for him if he was dead.

It was Darien, Darien the man who had rescued him from Jorten's grip. He was the same man who had saved him from the Karin slave pits and from the pirates on Theta-10. Darien wouldn't simply give up on him; he couldn't give up on him... He felt fear beginning to grip him, he was alone and he was going to die...

He had to think, stay focused on the now and try not to think about what happened when his air ran out.

"Survival," he said aloud. "How do you survive in space?"

"A ship," he answered himself.

"Good," he stated. "Where do you get a ship?" He needed a ship, one that had its own jump pods if possible, and something in better condition than most of the derelicts he saw drifting past him. He saw it then.

Its running lights glittered in the endless night as it drifted towards him. The shuttle was still attached to the mooring clamps that had once been a part of a Polian vessel. From his angle, the shuttle had been blown clear when its ship had detonated. The Polian ship had never seen it coming, the missile corvettes hidden in the nebula opening fire at point-blank range, as the Imperial fighters swept in to finish off their work.

He struggled helplessly, knowing that his only hope lay in that shuttle. If he timed it right, he would be able to use the suit's air supply to propel him; there was an emergency vent for this type of situation-controlled bursts that would use up precious oxygen, but give him limited manoeuvrability. He just had to pray he had enough air to make it across to the shuttle. The danger lay in his missing it altogether and flying off into the endless void. He considered his alternatives and realised he had no choice. He watched the shuttle float closer, and held his breath knowing that he would have only one shot at this.

He pulled on the emergency vent, feeling the sudden rush of acceleration as he flew forward; controlling his bursts, he controlled his flight as he travelled through the murky clouds. The distance seemed to stretch out and his suit's air supply warning began to chime. He stretched out and caught the edge of one of the damaged mooring clamps.

Minutes later he was inside the emergency hatch watching his pressure gauges normalize and thanking whatever gods existed for his life. He removed his helmet and took a couple of deep breaths. Glad to be alive.

He collapsed feeling the pain for the first time as he gulped down air from the shuttle's life-support system. He was thankful the system was still functional after hundreds of years, and for the fact that the Polians seemed to breath atmosphere, even if it was a little thick and had musky odours mixed in with warm humidity that made him begin to sweat. He was protected from the cold and on board a vessel, he could once again turn his attention to himself. He was thirsty, tired and injured. Right then, he would have gladly traded his military life for a chance to settle down on Mars...

No, he corrected himself, even after all he had been through; faced with a hard death through exposure, suffocation or at the hands of the Kardiac's marines, he wouldn't give up his life aboard Excalibur.

A quick inspection of the shuttle showed it was worse off than he had thought, and as he sat in the cockpit, he could see just how bad his situation really was. The engineering panel was red lights across the board. The CO2 scrubbers were largely intact and the hull held pressure, but the jump drive assembly was shot. He had thrusters for manoeuvring, but he wasn't going anywhere fast, he just had to pray the Excalibur was still out there. He sank back into the crash seat despondently.

* * *

He'd been working for hours; he'd found an alien tool kit in a small locker at the rear of the shuttle, devices never designed for use by human hands. It had taken him time to figure out how they worked and what they were for before he had opened the small access panel in the floor to get at the engines, only to discover that he had no idea what he was looking at.

The alien technology was complicated, fibre optics forming a weave around... he wasn't sure what it was but it beeped cheerfully when he prodded it. He screwed up his nose and picked up one of the tools. It vaguely resembled something he had seen used to give a colonoscopy to a rabid Taïrian with a toothache-barbs and pincers everywhere. What he wouldn't give for five minutes in his repair shop on Excalibur...

He could see a section of the cabling had been melted through; biting his lip and hoping to god he wouldn't electrocute himself he leaned in to try to cut out the damaged section... His eye popped open when there was no explosion, and glanced down at the device-it looked like it just needed to be bypassed. He fished about in the tool kit and pulled out some cables that looked about the right size and shape; a little luck, and a whole lot of Elias charm and...

There was a satisfied whirr and the shuttle leapt to full power.

"And again," Elias said to no one in particular, "that's why I rock!"

He got up and set the controls of the damaged shuttle, realizing he would probably have to grow a third arm to use the three control system. Why couldn't aliens all come in a standard two arms and two legs configuration? Elias had done just fine with only two hands; he didn't need a third hand to...

He sighed as he sat down and lifted his foot; maybe if he sat like... he slid off the chair and hit the floor with a bump. Muttering various obscenities he sat back up again, that wasn't going to work. He leaned down and tried nudging the controls with his chin...

"Oh, now that's just wrong..." he murmured in annoyance, sitting back up and shaking his head. He didn't have much choice, and sighing, he brought the drives online and tried his best to steer the thing.

* * *

Darien was alone in the cramped bridge of R-403 looking at the nebula that had coiled its deadly embrace around his friend. It seemed death and Skyella were inexorably linked in a timeless dance waiting for the next hapless souls to try their luck in its murky depths.

He wondered who would die this time as he nudged the controls and steered the Raptor into the outer edges of the cloud. The storms buffeted the frigate as she swept her way through cloudbanks, electrical storms dancing along the network of cables and conductors that had been affixed to her hull to protect her from harm. Darien steered her with an expert eye, ensuring that he avoided larger debris as her point defences shot down rouge pieces of debris that got too close.

The storms were playing havoc with his sensors, returning ghost echoes and confusing them to a point where they were sure they had registered a small Polian shuttle moving beneath them. Darien had shifted to confirm it, but the scan was disrupted again as the frigate slipped deeper into the storms.

Even if Elias had survived the explosion of the Pride, there was no way he could have survived the storms. Darien felt that last ember of hope begin to die; there was too much death in his life lately, too much change. He took a long ragged breath as he manoeuvred around what had once been an Imperial heavy cruiser and spied the first of the two Imperial support carriers he was going to salvage.

The small vessel was little more than a flight deck, a control centre and space for hangars; it was designed to act as an escort carrier in an Imperial battle group and was barely more than that. Darien realized it was barely larger than the old USS Nimitz that was part of the Naval museum in Norfolk back on Earth. Excalibur was easily three times its size in volume alone.

He curved around, checking as the Raptor's wings slid up into their landing position and the landing gears slid down. He charged the grappling magnets-they would hold him tight against the hull of the carrier no matter what-and he pulled a textbook landing on one of the two auxiliary craft landing zones on the carrier's flight deck.

"You're good to go," he called back along the body of the ship to the first marine and engineering team that were descending to the Raptor's dorsal hatch. They extended the connector and locked it in place then donned space suits as they prepared to board the craft.

* * *

The small Polian shuttle erupted from the nebula, tendrils of gas curling along with it, as if it was loath to lose a three-hundred-year-old prize. Elias straightened up to get a better look, his heart sinking as he realized the Excalibur was gone.

Darien had left him...

He shook his head clearing the thought as he tried to find the navigation computer, blinking at the unintelligible Polian script whizzing across the screen in every which direction.

"I never should have slept through conversational Polian," he murmured, making a halfhearted joke. Without understanding the script how was he supposed to make jump calculations? Well, he figured, if he could do it with an Orion computer he could do it with a Polian one.

If they went with a variation of the old Imperial system then the first set of symbols would be the spacial co-ordinates of where he was, which meant he would just input the symbols of the co-ordinates he wanted to go to and hope the computer could handle the rest. The question was now, where was he going?

His only real option was back to Tempus, it was the closest, somewhat friendly place, and if nothing else at least the prison food would be edible. He input the co-ordinates, crossed his fingers and began to pray.

* * *

"Lieutenant," Kit stated looking up, "I am detecting a Polian power source emerging from a jump, a shuttle..."

"General Quarters," Lauren commanded, rubbing her tired eyes. Of all the things they didn't need now. She stared at the tactical display, the small target, designated Sierra Two, lit up on it, closing on them.

"Its landing gears are extended," Kit stated.

"What?" Lauren asked frowning; that was the traditional gesture of surrender by a fighter or smaller vessel that possessed no radio.

"Is it surrendering?" Nazzien asked staring in surprise.

"Clear the flight deck," Lauren commanded. "Get some marines down to the hangar deck, we have an unknown vessel coming in for a landing."

"Yes Ma'am," Nazzien nodded issuing orders. Kit switched the bridge speakers over to the emergency channel. The tense voice of the Excalibur's Landing Signal Officer (LSO) sounded over the open comm. channel.

"Sierra Two," the LSO said frantically. "Sierra Two? If you can hear me flash your navigation lights," she ordered.

The lights on the damaged shuttle flashed once and Lauren came forward to the observation windows to watch the crippled space craft try to make a landing on the flight deck.

"I saw that, Sierra Two," the LSO said sounding matronly. "Do exactly what I say and we can get you down, do you copy?"

The lights flashed again.

"Roger, Sierra Two, can you trap the pass?" she asked into the channel. Pausing for a moment she said, "Can you land the shuttle?"

There was a pause and the lights flashed again.

"Roger, Sierra Two, keep it coming," the LSO ordered; like a midwife presiding over an expectant mother, she was there to walk Sierra Two through its landing.

"Damage control teams stand by," Lauren ordered, glancing at Nazzien who issued orders sending damage control teams to the flight deck's airlocks, rigging up the emergency nylon crash barricade. The mesh net was stretched the width of the flight deck ready to catch the shuttle if it failed to land correctly. It was a twenty-foot-high fence of vertical nylon straps designed to stop a thirty-ton aircraft flown into it at two hundred knots. It would protect both the shuttle and the Excalibur from damage.

"Pray," Lauren commented aloud as the shuttle slammed onto the deck, skipping into a bounce as it turned onto its side and slammed into the net, trailing sparks, debris and flame. Damage control teams rushed out on deck and doused the shuttle with foam to cool the craft lest its engines detonate.

There was no flame in vacuum, the risk came from the engines cooking off and igniting the fuel, still dangerous to the crews wrestling to free the shuttle wrapped in the webbing to get the pilot free. Lauren stared at the holographic display that was showing her a view of the flight deck, her hands balled at her sides as she watched anxiously as one of the damage-control firemen started hacking at the glass canopy with a diamond saw. The heat in the rear of the shuttle began to superheat the engines as they glowed threateningly. The fireman reached through the shattered canopy to pull the pilot in a damaged Imperial space suit free of the wreckage and half-carried him as the pair ran like hell for the side of the ship.

"Get clear!" the LSO bellowed over the net. "She's going to...!" The deck crews scrambled out of the way as the shuttle's engines melted through to the fuel supply, cooking off the fuel and detonating as the entire shuttle went up in a fireball, debris flying in all directions. Lauren stepped back as the display flared for a second before the fireball dissipated almost instantaneously due to a lack of oxygen. The deck crew moved in and began the process of clearing the deck so that flight operations could resume. The charred remains of Sierra Two were pushed off of the edge of the deck, sent spiralling away into space.

Lauren held her breath waiting desperately.

"Bridge, Hangar Bay One, we have him..." came Mayfair's relieved-sounding voice. "One slightly crispy engineer served southern style."

"Elias..." Lauren breathed in relief as she felt a weight lift from her chest as she walked back to the command chair, "Once the deck crews are secure we're sending VMA-23 after Kendrick..."

* * *

The three ships slipped into the system, the small Raptor flanked by a pair of Imperial support carriers free of their grave and once more ready to serve the Empire and humanity.

Darien's first reaction upon seeing the Excalibur was a sense of apprehension; the wreckage of the stern section of the bridge was visible to him and there were recovery pods buzzing in space around his ship as they searched for pilots.

He stared in shock at his ship, they'd been attacked, Rousseau again... He uttered a curse as he flipped on the radio channel to the two support carriers.

"Falcon-one to Oh-One and Oh-Two,"-Eagle-one was the official call sign of any support vessel carrying the captain, a mark of honour that predated the empire; Mayfair's modification of it for Darien had caught on to the point where it had become official procedure-" hold back and await instructions." He switched the channel over to Excalibur's flight control channel, to the buzz of activity flowing there as the air boss directed the rescue efforts for pilots.

"Falcon-one, this is Excalibur," Lauren's voice greeted him. She sounded weary but glad he was back, "Welcome back, Captain."

"Roger, Excalibur," Darien stated, studying his sensor display. "You've had problems? Over."

"Affirmative, Falcon-one, will advise once you are on board. You are cleared for downwind approach to rear deck, Charlie on arrival."

"Falcon-one, roger," Darien nodded. Charlie was the signal for a clear deck and meant there was no problem with him landing on the rear deck. He checked his flaps and gears and flipped on the Raptor's landing lights.

Once he was down and aboard the Excalibur he didn't waste time; he made for the bridge, a troubled expression on his face as he picked his way through the fallen bulkheads staring at the sealed blast doors that closed off his stateroom.

He ducked beneath a shattered beam and out onto the bridge. Lauren and Kit were both standing waiting for him as he came forward.

"What the hell happened?" he asked looking back behind him at the ruin.

"Kendrick," Lauren said shaking his head. "He stole the EV-II and tore us apart."

"One fighter did this?" Darien said looking back at the debris and walking forward to stare over the engineering readouts at the damage control reports scrawling across them. The damage was isolated, but specific, the combat radar had been completely destroyed, there were reports of armour damage across the hull, and the list of fighter assets lost...

"We couldn't target the EV-II, it was just too fast," Kit explained. "It was all Excalibur could do to try to predict his movements; the pinpoint crews weren't on standby and Kendrick gave us no warning, he just started opening fire..."

"Why?" Darien asked shaking his head over the devastation that had been wrought.

"We're not sure," Kit continued. "We're attempting to repair the damage, but it's going to take us time to replace the sensor suite and return to standard operations; Excalibur's completely blind right now..."

Darien chewed his lip as he came forward and stared out of the tall observation windows. "Establish contact with Oh-one and Oh-two," he pointed to the two support carriers. "Their sensors should be working, that should give us some kind of early warning system..." He turned, "Where's Kendrick now?"

"On the planet surface. Radiation from the nuclear detonations is making it difficult for Tempus ground control to track him-they lost him somewhere over the northern continent," Kit continued.

"Find him!" Darien ordered turning. "I don't care how, just find him."

The hologram saluted and stepped off to the side to carry out the captain's orders, leaving Darien alone with an ashen-faced Lauren.

"It's not your fault," he said looking over at her.

"It was;" she said simply, "I could have..."

"No," Darien said firmly, "It's my fault, I should have left him back on Irulia where I found him." He folded his arms angrily.

"You should know something else," Lauren said quietly.

Darien closed his eyes, "More bad news?"

"No..." Lauren said softly.

* * *

Elias awoke in sickbay, his eyes opening weakly as he looked around him at the din of the infirmary. Doctor Kyr was working a triage as more marines were brought through the doors and positioned around. A couple of doctors wearing Kardiac uniforms were assisting him patching as many as they could before they swept on.

He sat up gingerly, his hand going up to the bandage on his head realizing that his arm had been set in a cast. He touched the plaster and shook his head remembering the desperate crash onto Excalibur's flight deck. He was home...

"You lay back down," Kyr said glancing at him and gesturing at him sternly with the end of his stethoscope.

"Make me!" Elias flashed him a cheeky grin as he folded his arms.

Kyr laughed despite everything that was happening around him, "Fine, just stay put; you've got a concussion and you're not supposed to be moving about." He shook his head at the insane little engineer who was no doubt contemplating his escape chances.

He moved on, kneeling beside a marine who had taken a pulse shot to the arm; he checked him over, marking it as a low priority as he gave him a sedative for the pain and moved on again.

He shook his head, why was it that the moment the battle was over the real one began? The Imperials were remarkably adept at killing each other; their technology was unparalleled in its destructive capabilities. He knew that Darien had fired nuclear weapons at the surface of Tempus, and he could just imagine the horror around the blast sites as rescue workers tried to find survivors from the holocaust that had rained down upon them.

An evil, necessary or not, was still an evil, and he dragged his mind away from the ecological disaster that the small Tempus moon would be subjected to as a result of one man's betrayal and another man's restitution.

He looked up to spot Elias halfway to the doors and he simply looked at him as sternly as the small doctor could manage, pointing towards the bed Elias was escaping from. Suitably chastised Elias returned there, plopping down and folding his arms to wait for his next opportunity to escape.

The doors slid open, as Darien was through them, the captain standing uncertainly for a moment, staring across the sick bay at Elias. Elias smiled a lopsided grin at Darien standing there in a rumpled uniform and his leather jacket; he looked every inch a hero, and Elias swallowed back the urge to throw his arms around him and just stay safe in those arms awhile.

"You're okay?" Darien asked worriedly.

"A little banged up, but no worse for wear," Kyr sniffed as he walked past. "Can't say the same for some of the others here."

Darien glanced around the sick bay, at the injured. Pilots were groaning in their beds, marines were laying on the floor or sitting in chairs clutching injuries. Tempus had been a costly mistake, every moment they were there invited nothing but disaster. Darien itched to cut his losses and leave Tempus to sink into its own cesspool, but he was an Imperial Captain and he had a mission.

"Do you need anything?" Darien asked looking at the small doctor.

Kyr shook his head, "Yeah, for people to stop shooting other people... aside from that I have doctors from Tempus helping out and we have all the medical supplies."

Darien nodded. "We'll pull through this," he said confidently.

"I hope so, Skipper," Kyr stated firmly.

Darien smiled at the young Kaynin doctor, before he looked back at Elias. His uncertain eyes trying to reassure the turmoil inside him that the young engineer was actually there. That he was really alive.

Elias looked shyly up at Darien, his sapphire eyes sparkling from where his fringe had fallen across one eye, chewing on his lip as his foot made to take a tentative step forward. He hesitated again, but gave in as he swept into Darien's arms gripping him tightly.

Darien leaned his chin down to rest atop that blonde head, returning the tight hug refusing to let go and not caring who was watching. That was his Matty... his. And no rule, regulation or order from a 300 year dead Empire was going to stop him from holding onto what was his.

"I missed you." Darien murmured chastisingly.

"Why?" Elias asked, leaning back and looking up innocently.

"I thought... well..." Darien flustered.

"You love me!"

"I never said that." Darien said shaking his head.

"You did so!" Matt nodded, "You said you missed me..."

"That's not an I love you." Darien said still keeping his arms firmly around Elias's waist.

"Is in my book." Elias gave a firm little nod, "The Elias abridged dictionary defines you missing me as 'you love me'."

"I see... you know I'm going to have to see proof of that." Darien said nodding to the door, "With the Doctor's permission, you look like you haven't eaten in days..."

Kyr glanced up from where he was working, "Go, but bring him back later, I need to run a few tests..."

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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Chapter Comments

In my opinion:

I don't like what the author did with Kendrick. The only salvation for Kendrick after killing several of his own pilots is to die heroically defending Excalibur against Rousseau.  Kendrick saved their lives so many times, and Damien and Lauren did nothing to deal with the problems Kendrick was experiencing.  If fact, both Damien and Lauren made them worse and abandoned Kendrick.  

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I am delighted that Elias made it. Darien will be whole again. 

Who is Matty?

Kendrick didn't have the support he needed, nevertheless, he, like all of us is accountable for his decisions and actions. Even so, I am sad about him. I think this might have been avoided. 8n this instance an example of a relationship in the workplace gone bad. 

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On 4/11/2022 at 12:40 PM, raven1 said:

 Kendrick saved their lives so many times, and Damien and Lauren did nothing to deal with the problems Kendrick was experiencing.  If fact, both Damien and Lauren made them worse and abandoned Kendrick.  

I agree with Raven1.  This might have been avoided. Now that it has happened though, I don't see many good ways out for Kendrick. I hope Topher has a plan. 

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I don't see Kendrick's situation as different from current workplace shooters.  They are people holding down jobs, raising families, meeting friends, until a bunch of bad things happen close together, and it pushes them over an edge their coworkers, friends, and family didn't even know existed.  How many people are struggling secretly, just waiting for that trigger?

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The only saving grace for Kendrick is if he takes The Ass*ole and the missile out. In hindsight he should never have been left on his own so much as they were coalescing as a crew...There is sadly, no comeback for him...he's gotta be permanently gone...

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