Jump to content
    Topher Lydon
  • Author
  • 3,739 Words
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 - 38. Chapter 38

In the end who will remember?
The survivors? There will be none!

-Kardiac 'The final solution'

Tempus System

Masconi was pissed; it didn't seem to take much. She'd been helpless to stop the EV-II streaking about reducing the inexperienced Paladins to smouldering wreckage, powerless to do anything to stop it. And now, in the aftermath of that she was feeling even less in control. But she had one advantage in her favour that the other pilots on board ship lacked. She was the senior-most pilot on the ship now, the highest-ranking fighter pilot with the most experience. She was highly decorated and she had been trained in the best tradition of the Empire. She wasn't about to let the flight deck be caught napping again.

She marched out onto the bridge, the wreckage blocking the doors to what had once been the captain's stateroom showed the open wounds that were evident on the faces of the crew. That bastard Kendrick had done a number on both the VF-54 squadron and the ship, not to mention on the pride of some of her crewmembers. The look in the eyes of the young pilots of the 54th had been enough for her to ground the lot of them. She wasn't about to run the risk of losing more of them chasing after the traitor, blinded by their rage.

But with that came now a new responsibility, she would have to face the captain and explain why she, an outsider and a member of House Kardiac, had given orders to one of the Excalibur's crew, and removed a significant number of the remaining fighter compliment from active duty.

She approached the captain standing before the observation windows, waiting patiently for the worn young man who seemed to observe everything going on around him with the eyes of a fifty-year-old man. It was strange; she'd seen that look in her father's eyes, a man haunted by the realization that he alone was in command. She readied himself.

"Captain Taine," she squared her shoulders and met Darien's eye, "I am informing you that I am officially assuming command of Excalibur's tactical air group comprised currently of the 54th and 23rd attack squadrons. That makes me Excalibur's Chief of Air Group until this current crisis is resolved."

Darien arched an eyebrow at her, turning to face the Tempus squadron leader, weighing her and everything she had done for the ship since she had arrived on board. "I see," he said carefully. "That explains why what little remains of my fighter squadrons are still on ship instead of following my orders."

Masconi came to attention, "Sir, yes sir." She swallowed slightly, her throat was dry; Captain Taine wasn't one of those commanders who would just roll over and allow her free rein. She decided to explain her reasons, "Sir, under the current circumstances having the 54th present for the coming encounter will present an unstable element to the battlefield. One that, as the Excalibur's new CAG, I do not wish to have. I would rather go into battle with one person I know I can rely on to think clearly than a hundred who I can't. My 23rd is better equipped for operations over Tempus than those children are." She didn't say it with malice; it was plain fact in her mind. VMA-23 had served and trained on Tempus, they knew the terrain and were seasoned fighter pilots. "I should be with Colonel Mayfair coordinating your fighter support..."

"Understood," Darien stated, turning his eyes back to looking out over Tempus. "I trust you to do what needs to be done."

Masconi smiled inwardly at the trust he had placed in her, "Aye, Captain, I'll co-ordinate from the bridge." Captain Taine liked to be on top of things; a budding form of respect was beginning to impress the squadron leader.

She walked back to the CIC area of the bridge where Colonel Mayfair was co-ordinating a ground search with the Tempus Territorial Army, and slipped her TAC-link onto her head. She immediately immersed herself into the flight operations of the Excalibur and focused on the map and the attempt to catch the elusive traitor.

* * *

Kendrick stood to one side of the truck that Rousseau was using as his temporary command centre explaining his plans to the men under his command. It had taken some doing, but they had managed to strip down one of their Mechs replacing the boosters and armour on the EV-II, readying it for it's coming mission. The technicians had worked through the night adapting the parts, making sure they functioned the way they needed to.

Kendrick folded his arms. "And you're certain of the Polian threat?" he pressed.

"Now isn't the time for second thoughts," Rousseau stated, staring down into Kendrick's eyes, reassuring himself of Kendrick's cold resolve. "If you don't do this the Empire's dead. I've shown you the intelligence reports; if we don't kill them, all of them, now, it's all over."

Kendrick folded his arms sparing a glance skywards to where the Excalibur hung like a silent sentinel over Tempus.

Rousseau followed his gaze and nodded, "Not even Captain Taine can stop them." He hopped down and clapped Kendrick on the shoulder, "It's down to you to save everything we've worked for. Without you we're finished."

Kendrick shook his head, "They think I betrayed them..."

"For a greater cause," Rousseau stated. "And in here," he tapped Kendrick's chest, "in there you know what you are doing is the right thing. They're content to ignore the threat, deny it exists, and the only ones that will know the truth are you, me and god..."

Kendrick nodded his head, "All right."

"Good man," Rousseau stated with a firm smile.

* * *

Katz tossed the helmet across the deck, letting it bounce and slam into the bulkhead, spinning off and under a yellow painted plane tractor that was towing one of the F-150's into its service bay. He was furious; she was grounding him and his pilots for no reason. Kendrick deserved to be hunted down for what he had done, like a rabid dog driven into the ground made to pay for the blood on his hands.

So many names scratched off of the roster, all because one man had snapped and gone insane.

He marched into the locker room and pulled off the sweat-stained flight suit, showering and pulling on his off-duty clothes and the battered G-2 leather jacket that all the members of VF-54 were permitted to wear. He wanted to avoid the other survivors of the Paladins if he could. There were so few of them now. He couldn't face them; the burning sense of guilt was about to crash down on him and for the moment Katz needed to be alone. He fled the locker room almost the moment one of this squad mates entered. He couldn't stay focused; the deaths of the past two days was just too much for his consciousness to handle. He was running through the ship, completely at a loss as to where he was running to, just that he had to escape, free himself of something no one could ever outrun-the doubts and what-ifs surrounding every decision

Squadron Leader Masconi was the new CAG, she ran flight operations and despite all the protests of the Paladin pilots, Captain Taine was resolute in his decision to keep her in place.

People stepped aside to let him dash past, none of them moving to stop the young man who was obviously battling something. To Katz it was a stream of unfocused faces, people who stared at him as if they knew about the personal well of guilt he had reserved inside.

He ran through the barracks decks, passing crew quarters where the crew was going about their business oblivious to the fact that the ship they lived on was a beacon of hope for peace, yet also the sword by which war was to be finished.

Taine had made this ship to be exactly that; he had forged the lives of the children aboard it to be his soldiers, to lay down their lives upon his command. And so they had done just that, their blood stained the deck, it stained the hands of the former Wing Commander, but more importantly it stained the soul of one Flight Lieutenant Alvin Katz.

He had taken a wrong turn somewhere; walking out into one of the ships cargo bays he saw rows upon rows of caskets, all draped with VonGrippen's falcon banner-honoured dead waiting for a burial to commemorate the sacrifice they had made all in the name of a cause hundreds of years dead. His friends, survivors of the Karin slave pits and recruits who had travelled halfway across the galaxy with him.

He wandered through the quiet bay, feeling the silence permeate the space; it was ideal for his mood. They were gone, lost in atomised fireballs, a wake of death around the Excalibur, the Tempus battlefields red with blood.

He walked through the caskets, allowing himself to be led where his feet were taking him. He finally came to the far end of the rows where someone had painted a black cross on the bulkhead, a tribute of their own that commended spirits to the embrace of the divine.

"I guess it's funny," he said bitterly, standing with his hands in his pockets staring at the cross, ignoring the tears he was beginning to shed. "I..."

Words failed him, as he collapsed to his knees onto the deck, his chin resting on his chest, trying to remember how to pray. There were answers, beyond the grasp of science, beyond the reach of technology, something that could only be answered by a higher power.

"I...I want to know why..." he murmured. "We did our best, we trained hard, we obeyed our orders, followed the cause... we were told as long as we did it right we would be fine. Why did they lie to us?"

A rumble of the Excalibur's engines was his only answer.

He thought about a poem that he had read when he was a boy, something that had struck a chord in him.

"The peace that only the dead can find," Mayfair commented from behind him. The older marine was standing respectfully back and away, allowing Katz to grieve.

The younger pilot looked back and swallowed. "It wasn't supposed to be this way," he said, finding his voice.

"No, it wasn't," Mayfair replied, stepping forward and sitting down on a couple of pallets that sat disused off to one side, "but we never counted on fanatics, madmen and opportunists. It's our job, nobody ever promised you things would be easy."

"It's all coming apart at the seams, I don't know what to do..."

"Do what you have always done, your duty. You and the rest of your squadron are just children, it's going to take you time to learn to be soldiers. Masconi's issued orders to break up VF-54 and absorb it into VMA-23." He paused letting that sink in, "You're all good pilots, we're not about to lose you to revenge. The question is are you and your squadron ready to become men?"

Katz stood staring at the colonel in disbelief. "With due respect," he couldn't get his mind around what the marine was saying, "you're an asshole, sir."

Mayfair stood up and a single short jab followed by a left hook sent the flight lieutenant sprawling to the deck Mayfair sat back down on his pallet pile and waited for Katz to get up.

Katz struggled back up to his feet, wiping the trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. "You...you can't do that..."

"So what are you going to do about it, sunshine?" Mayfair asked, a smile on his face. "Someone just gave you a bloody lip, are you just going to go run and cry, or are you gonna man up?"

Katz was dumbfounded; this was his senior officer, the marine commander of the Excalibur... "Sir...I..." Mayfair stood up and closed pouring forth a couple of clean jabs before he sent the boy sprawling again. "You gonna get up, or are you gonna stay down like a little boy?"

Katz struggled to his feet again, lifting his fists reluctantly, moments later he was crashing back to the deck. This time, however, Mayfair helped him to his feet. Halfway to his feet Katz sprang, sending them both sprawling into the deck, wrestling for a handhold.

They rolled again, coming to rest at the feet of a woman looming over them with her hands on her hips, a look of anger and annoyance as Masconi stared at both of them

"This is a place of the dead!" she bellowed in her thick accent, the disapproval radiating from her. "If you boys need to spray the area with testosterone do it somewhere else, preferably out of the site of god!"

Mayfair stood and nodded his head to her, feeling embarrassment rising on his face as he smiled, "Pardon me, Ma'am, won't happen again.

Katz smiled lopsidedly as well as the two men ambled their way out of the cargo bay to find the mess hall and get a drink.

* * *

"They were called the Invincible and the Ark Royal," Kit said, following Darien's eyes out to the two support carriers that were being loaded with troops and fighters from Tempus. A full pair of battalions had been sent from Tempus with as much equipment as they could spare. All for the faint hope of liberating Earth.

"Did she know them?" Darien asked, glancing at the commander.

"We served alongside the Ark Royal once," Kit replied. "She was a good ship and designed for speed. They should be able to keep pace with us.

"Good," Darien replied. "How long until our combat radar is repaired?"

"A few days at least," Kit replied. "Lieutenant Elias is working on the problem, for now we're dependent on the carriers for our eyes unless we launch a couple of recon fighters with their AWAC's packages."

"I don't have any rigged up yet," Masconi stated looking up from the CIC table, "but I'll have a couple prepped for flight."

Darien nodded his head, "I'd rather we had our own system, in case we have to..." He took a deep breath and looked meaningfully out of the windows again. Everyone turned to follow his gaze up at the ships being loaded with a ground force that was invaluable to the liberation of Earth, each knowing that Darien wasn't about to risk trusting House Kardiac with the vessels until they proved their loyalty.

Darien leaned a little and glanced back at what had once been his stateroom. "How long?" he asked.

"Impossible to say, Captain," Kit replied. "It's on the repair schedule but it's low priority; however, one of our EVA teams was able to recover some of the items that weren't sucked into space when the missiles hit. They are tucked into a crate in your temporary cabin."

Darien nodded his head as he rested a hand on his PKD and nodded to the Commander that he was in command, setting off to find where he had been moved to and to see what had survived Kendrick's wilful and malicious reprisal.

He had been moved into one of the VIP cabins a deck below the bridge; a smaller space, but still comfortable. A desk had been set up for him to administrate from and a bunk put in the opposite corner. He shook his head, took off his jacket and tossed it onto the end of the bunk as he loosened his tie, glad to see someone had requisitioned him some replacement uniforms for the ones he had lost.

He opened the small crate, picking up the burnt books and tossing them back in dismay- the remnants of VonGrippen's life wiped away in an act of revenge. Darien sighed as he pulled out the tattered afghan that had been torn through the middle, and Darien held it loosely, thinking about those early nights onboard the Dragonfly, desperate to survive, running one step ahead of Hegemony law and Amsus inquisitors. And of the intense man on a backwards colony who was looking for a cause to believe in and that he would eventually betray.

Darien knelt down to pick up the battered logbook which was singed around the edges and had a piece of shrapnel embedded into its heavy leather-bound cover. At least that piece of the Excalibur had survived, its pages containing the history of the ship and all it had been through. He rubbed his heavy brow walking over to the desk and setting it down, pulling out the piece of shrapnel and flipping through the pages, wondering what made a man betray everything he held dear...

He stopped cold, his hand on VonGrippen's pages.

He was out on the bridge and leaning over the CIC situations table looking up at Masconi, "He's with Rousseau."

"How do you know?" Nazzien asked, walking back to join them.

"What makes a man betray everything he's ever known, everyone he's ever loved?" he asked, folding his arms.

Nazzien exchanged a confused look with the squadron leader, both looking back at him expectantly.

"A cause," Darien said simply, "and by believing there's no other way. It's the only thing he has left..."

"The stolen weapon," Masconi stated.

"But wasn't that going to be used to..." Nazzien's eyes widened, "They're going to attack Arcanis?"

"To stop an attack that will never come," Darien responded, shaking his head when he saw Nazzien's and Masconi's blank looks. "The Polians aren't a threat-they can barely keep order inside their own borders let alone launch an attack-but if they do attack Arcanis..."

"Then it's going to do nothing more than to get the Polians extremely pissed off," Nazzien summed up. "What happens then?"

"Then there's every reason for them to come together and smash us," Darien replied. He looked down at the tactical map and gestured, "How's the search coming?"

Masconi shook her head, "Most of the Tempus military is involved in the airlift; we're devoting as much air support as we can to searching, but it's taking time, and without Excalibur's sensors we can't cover much ground."

"What about the Ark Royal?" Darien asked.

"They're co-ordinating flight operations for the airlift," Masconi explained. "We've had to delegate air traffic control and it's a mess out there; they'd be lucky to sort through it all, let along get a chance to alter position and scan the surface of Tempus."

"Then tell Elias I don't care about the other systems, get me Excalibur's sensors back, before they slip by us in all the confusion."

"Yes, Captain," both officers nodded, returning their attention to their tasks.

* * *

Warlord Kardiac, Commander of the 1st Imperial Expeditionary Fleet, Archduke of the House of Kardiac, had been a quixotic personality. He was possessed with the delusional idea that he alone was the sword of justice for the Empire. The bishops and clerics of the Imperial order had sought to control him, but even they had underestimated his lust for combat bred in him by his fanatical loyalty to his cause. There had been nothing to stand between him and his pursuit of glory; VonGrippen had been relegated to semi-retirement commanding the defensive fleet, leaving Kardiac to reach outwards to grip the universe with an iron grip.

He was obsessive, cunning and ruthless, he was the man who had conceived the weapon now strapped to the fuselage of the EV-II that was lifting up from the surface of Tempus, keeping itself low on the horizon as it slipped up into space in the lee side of the planet, using the shadow of the moon to hide it as it made a break for deep space and a jump opportunity.

Rousseau watched it leave, knowing that they had to trust Kendrick to carry out their quest, and that they had to buy him a chance to escape the Excalibur and its support carriers before they spotted the small fighter. There was only one way to buy that opportunity.

Rousseau and his remaining platoon of Mechanized Infantry were descending on Tempus base, a last, desperate assault that all of them knew would be their last. They were giving their lives for a chance at ultimate victory, a chance to secure Kardiac's ultimate revenge against the Polians.

The base went to alert as the seven infantry Mechs bounded down on it using their boosters to move them rapidly into attack positions. Rousseau's radar threat display began to flash an ominous yellow cone off to his 11 o'clock position as the radar warning receiver detected enemy radar probing at his platoon. He smiled, let them take a good look, and know how a true blue blood died.

"Okay boys," he growled into his headset strapped into the bounding Mechs pilot seat. "Fight's on, time to go to work," he called out, cutting loose a hail of missiles at the base Mechs and infantry units struggling to get to their defensive positions. The missiles streaked ahead majestically, wavy streamers of white trailing behind them. In a matter of seconds the base ahead lit up with smoke-filled explosions as the missiles found their targets and detonated. The targeting halos on his HUD shifted to other targets, and he fired another bracket of missiles. As the missiles surged ahead, his IR detection system lit up like a roman candle. The tone in his headset alerted him to the presence of an inbound salvo from the Excalibur...

The resulting explosion wiped the last of Rousseau's renegades from the face of Tempus.

* * *

Darien stood at the weapons console, lifting his finger off of the firing trigger, a cold look in his eye, "Where's Kendrick?"

"Invincible reports she has him on her scopes running for a jump vector," Kit replied.

"No you don't," Darien stated firmly, looking at the tactical display showing the agile fighter. "Track his course and order the carriers into formation."

The last fighters touched down on the carriers and they reported their jump pods were charged. And Darien nodded in satisfaction. "Not quick enough," he murmured, still following Kendrick's flight. "I will stop you..."

The fighter shot to hyperspace, the Excalibur and her two escorts leaping after her seconds later.

Copyright © 2011 Topher_Lydon; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 19
  • Love 5
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. 
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

Now we get to see how Kendrick dies.  Hopefully a dead hero and not a dead mass murderer.

  • Like 1
  • Fingers Crossed 1
Link to comment

Kendrick has to be stopped, but can anyone convince him he is living a lie.  To really believe that would destroy him.

  • Like 2
  • Love 2
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    Want to keep up to date with all our latest news and information?
    Sign Up
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..