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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 - 40. Chapter 40

Desperate men, in desperate times do desperate things.

-VonGrippen 'Meditations'

Arcanis System

The fighter closed on the optimum firing range for Arcanis, Kendrick reconfiguring the sensors to switch to an active scan to lock onto the planet. He frowned when it came up negative. There was a powerful ECM suite jamming his electronics, screwing with the fighters automated lock. It was no matter he would just have to get close enough to fire the weapon; he didn't need a lock to hit something the size of a planet.

It was only a matter of time till the Polian threat died. Kendrick was firmly locked into the mindset of a martyr.

He was moving at full clip, the boosters barrelling him forward at extremely high speeds, zipping into and out of the ships and habitats of the Arcanis system, a trail of white hot exhaust making him appear as a shooting star, heading towards his target.

But the computer was giving him faulty date; it was registering a vessel moving much faster than the Polians should have been able to... Much faster than any vessel that size should have been able to. It made no sense, it was difficult to resolve the sensor image his computer wasn't designed for so many objects in a system, it was getting confused, giving him faulty readings. But if the readings were correct, then...


The Fighter jinked as the Excalibur burst around a Polian habitat, a juggernaught of death surrounded by the avenging F-150 fighters. Kendrick's eyes went wide in terror as the sky around him became lit by death.

In his grave, Kardiac's smile died as the fighter curled and dived.

* * *

They had been given orders not to get too far ahead of the Excalibur; the Captains plan called for the fighters to remain close so to keep the cover fire of the Excalibur's pinpoint batteries the fighters. But the EV-II was too fast for that. It was already making a run for the planet, and was nearing its outer moon.

"Okay, He's making a run for it. Coming left." With revenge on his mind and hatred in his heart, Katz moved the stick gently to the left, pointing them in the direction of the renegade EV-II fighter. There was no way he was going to get away this time, reaching out to switch the radio frequency to prevent Excalibur recalling him...

"Knight Three, Gunsight One. You are deviating from your combat station, please advise." Nazzien snapped over the radio.

Katz realized that it wouldn't take long for the Excalibur to figure out where he was and what frequency he'd switched to. In this regard Nazzien had proven efficient switching to the right channel without hesitation. Katz had little choice but to try and stall them.

"Gunsight One, Knight Three. We're proceeding out in this direction to provide adequate cover for the Excalibur, over."

A pause. Nazzien was doubtless speaking to the Captain to find out what he should do. After a prolonged silence he continued, "Ah, Knight Three, roger. Understand. Switch to Button Three at this time, over."

Katz did not reply.

"Knight Three, this is Excalibur Departure. Switch to Button Three, over."

Katz waited in silence.

"Knight Three, Knight Three, this is Gunsight One," the controller called out anxiously. "Do you read?"

Knowing that Nazzien would order one of the other fighters to intercept him, Katz tried a trick that was as old as the radio itself. "Exca-...them...-proach...-ast...Two Ze-...-er...I c-...-arely read you...-ver" Clicking the mike on and off and whistling, here and there, Katz hoped the Nazzien would think he was merely having radio troubles and would leave him alone. Nazzien tried a couple more calls to Katz, finally giving up in frustration. It was the oldest trick in the book but--for now at least--it was working.

Bumping the throttle up an inch, and using the Excalibur's gravitational pull as a slingshot, Katz increased his closure rate on the EV-II. With the flip of a switch Katz began sweeping the area in front of him with his radar. He was not concerned about remaining hidden; as the only way to sucker Kendrick into fighting was to be sure he knew where his enemy was. The Threat Detection Display came to life; drawing its wavy bands of yellow and red as his defensive electronics system began computing how detectable his fighter was to the EV-II's search radars and EW systems. As they entered into the yellow band, which indicated that the enemy had a 50/50 chance of picking him up, Katz began to sweat. In another fifteen seconds there would be no doubt that Kendrick would have the fighter on radar, and he would find himself fighting for his life in mere moments.

* * *

Masconi stole a glance over her right shoulder. Lauren was sitting off her right wing, steady and faithful as always. The fierce look in her eyes before they departed was ingrained in her mind, and eliminated any thoughts of guilt at endangering her in this way. It was clear that her rage equalled that felt by most of the crew, and the only way to quell it would be to draw blood.

"All right, Lauren, you ready to party?" Masconi asked her.

"Ready when you are Masconi."

"Okay." A tone went off in her headset. "Enemy search radar, one o'clock. We've got him." The Threat Detection System went to a solid red.

"Rog. Won't be long now," she stated.

"Knockers up, Two," Masconi ordered.

With the instinctive reaction bred by years of combat training, their gloved fingers reached for their respective Master Arm switches and engaged them. Lauren's Weapons System Display and HUD lit up with information on armament status, as did Masconi's own. The familiar rush that came before every engagement hit her with its usual intensity, and she shuddered as a cold chill ran down her spine. Some things would truly never change.

As they barrelled in on the renegade EV-II, Masconi popped her knuckles, and thought of her departed friends. She found himself filled by a surge of anger that doubtless clouded her judgment. An assault on an EV-II with in the middle of a system controlled by the sworn enemies of the Empire in a pair of fighters was not something a rational person would do, but they had no choice now, they were committed.

Masconi toggled her target selector switch on the stick and lit up the fighter. The red halo on the HUD showed that Masconi could hit the fleeing fighter even at this extreme range, but there were no guarantees and Kendrick was a skilled pilot, she needed to get closer-

Kendrick's EV-II arched and drove harder for the planet.

"Has he seen us?" Lauren called out, knowing full well Masconi would not have any more answers than she did.

"I think he's chicken," Masconi replied. The pair of fighters charted to intercept the renegade as he neared the small, cold and barely habitable moon that orbited Arcanis.

Masconi allowed herself a quick smile. Kendrick was afraid, afraid of the Excalibur and of the fighters now chasing him, so she really couldn't blame the former colony farm boy for being afraid to fight.

At that moment, and for reasons Masconi can't explain, the hair on the back of her neck stood up. She looked up as the EV-II banked, roaring in on them and an impossible rate. She blinked and it was gone...already behind them and barrelling down, its weapons firing.

"Jesus break!!" Masconi screamed, hauling her fighter into a loop more violent than any she had ever tried.

As the G's forced her into his seat, Masconi strained for a glimpse of the renegade fighter. The EV-II stuck with her turn for turn as Masconi tried to shake him, she reefed her fighter back and forth in a desperate attempt to keep from getting flamed. The EV-II prototype was faster, more manoeuvrable by an exponential factor than the hastily thrown together version she was flying; it's heavy rail cannon already spitting fire at her. Masconi had encountered Kendrick in an EV-II before only once. Some one had smiled on her that afternoon, and yet she found himself praying yet again for salvation.

"Lauren, get this son of a bitch off me!" Masconi yelled near a panic. It is all but impossible to remain unruffled when people are shooting at you, and Masconi was no exception in this case.

The EV-II refused to be shaken it was sticking to her like glue, and nothing Masconi did could shake him. She rolled to the left and yanked on the stick, doing her damnedest to get underneath him. As Lauren closed in behind Kendrick, the EV-II unleashed a torrent of fire. Masconi's right wing disappeared in a flash of light, and the Squadron Leader found himself thinking she had finally met the end.

"Well, this is it," Masconi said to herself, waiting for the next burst which would rip her plane to shreds. Thankfully, she was premature in predicting her demise, the F-150 that suddenly appeared from nowhere streaked down wards, cutting right through the EV-II.

* * *

Kendrick cursed; the damage his fighter had sustained was critical, his computer was screaming at him as its flight systems began to shut down. Katz and the damned F-150! He watched the new fighter coming back upon him to finish the job and he smiled.

"Not this time you Son of a Bitch." He powered the EV-II into a dive, heading for the moon below him. The fighter easily leaving the three others behind, as it began to super heat and began to burn up on its approach to the moons forested surface.

* * *

"You got him!" Masconi reported, wrestling to keep control of her fighter as its worn systems flared and failed in moments she too would be burning up in the atmosphere of the small Arcanis moon. It was a loosing battle, the fighter was crippled and she was going to die.

Katz's fighter manoeuvred up and into position, firing his small grapplers to stabilize the crippled fighter, latching onto it tightly, the Flight Lieutenant reluctantly being forced to break off his pursuit of Kendrick. Lauren's fighter screamed down towards the planet after the renegade.

Masconi silently wished her friend luck.

Finally alone. The moment Lauren had waited for was now at hand, it seemed she had been waiting for it her whole life. There was no other time to consider, no other world she'd rather be on. Everything she had witnessed, everything she felt now, was a distant blur in the backyard of her mind. And she waited, the silence was deafening within her head, intruding on the rigid calm she imposed over herself. This was it. There was no other way.

Finally alone...

...with him.

She found herself smiling as her fighter shook violently, sparks and smoke flaring around her, trying to distract her from her target. Her engines were failing, and the primary power systems were offline. All that remained was her raw determination.

Lauren confirmed the power transfers with the control panel beside his controls. She glanced up in time to notice a section of rock clip the underbelly of the fighter, pitching her forward into the controls. The EV-II wielded downward, suddenly on a collision course with a mountain ledge.

Forcing her hands to move, Lauren reached between her legs and hauled on the ejection bar, the canopy blowing away on its explosive bolts, seconds later the ejection seat fired and she was catapulted upwards and away from her strickened EV-II as it came apart.

The parachutes glided her downwards through the thin air of the moon, crashing through trees and finally impacting with a solid jerk. She was alive and even though Lauren really didn't much care about her life right then, it wasn't even a thought; she was at least on the ground.

The cold bit deeply, it was frigid a new danger to add to the many that mounted against her. She glanced about her, thankful that the pine trees around her reminded her of the cold north back on Earth...

Blood mingled with the frosted ground, and she reached up to touch the side of her face, her fingers coming away slick with blood. The cold numbed the wound beyond feeling, and she really didn't care anyway.

She drew a small hand scanner, flipping it open as her other hand reached to draw the Pulse pistol from its tactical rig. A quick scan of the horizon told her where, and she wasted no time in beginning her walk towards the smoke rising in the distance.

Her fingers trembled and she realized it was making it difficult to make constant scans, even though the gloves she wore protected against the cold.

"They're trembling because you're afraid," she whispered to herself, angry that she was so weak, and so frail.

She leapt over a small pile of rocks, charging down the curving path her scanner laid out for her. More pine trees, some of them no taller than Lauren herself, trying to reach the sun.

Smoke was bathing the air in front of her now as it obscured her view partially. Kendrick's downed EV-II fighter no doubt, a guess that was confirmed when the wreckage came into sight ahead of her.

She licked his cold lips with a warm tongue, and placed the scanner away. Her heart was racing. She could feel the tinge in her skin under the leather flight jacket she wore.

Her gloved fist clenched around the grip of the Pulse pistol as she swung it up, walking out of the tree line towards the shattered figure clawing his way across the ground towards a part of the EV-II's fuselage, and the missile that had somehow weathered the crash.

It was charmed, a device from hell that had seen the fall of Kardiac, survived the storms in the nebula, and the firestorm in the battle of Tempus, brought to that place, to meet its destiny, a destiny it wasn't about to be robbed of...

Kendrick dragged himself the last few inches, curling his body around the missile casing, prying open the access panel and stroking the keys inside with nerveless fingers. Something about it made Lauren draw pause, a faint wisp of breath escaping the fallen pilot as she breathed carefully.

The pulse pistol was unmoving, uncaring. Lauren punched up the settings on it, and walked up, her boots crunching on frost brittle ground.

Kendrick glanced up, but not towards the approaching angel of death, instead back up towards the planet Arcanis and how close he had come.

He turned towards her and offered a faint smile, coughing on the blood a moment, before letting his fingers input another series of commands. Lauren could see his pain. As Kendrick looked frustratedly down at the crumpled pistol clutched uselessly in his other hand, as if willing it to aim at Lauren by itself. He just didn't have the strength left to lift it. Was there much point in that?

Lauren stared at the wrecked body of the man she had loved, both oblivious to the battle raging above them, her hair moving silently against the light winds.

Finally alone...

"Si...Sil...Sxxxzzzzzzzppppp-lent cROUNount-doOWNnnnnnnnnnn actiIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiii-vaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAted," A faint female computer voice barely managed to get out from the diagnostic panel attached to the warhead flickered and flared. The missile had been damaged, how badly wasn't clear, but there was no doubt the weapon was live and counting down.

Kendrick grimaced, blood now apparent from a wound he was protecting. A piece of the shattered cockpit of the EV-II was lodged into his right torso, a stained stream of blood now cooling like icicles against his jacket. He breathed slowly; looking as if he were on the verge of the death Lauren seemed to want him to have.

Lauren continued to stare, her weapon unmoving.

He chuckled between coughs, looking up at his judge jury and executioner, it would be her, had to be really, who else would they send? He choked a moment, before he could whisper;"You know... I expected this... knew I was going to die... today."

Lauren stared, feeling her pulse race harder through her body, screaming to bleed through each vein. She moved closer, holding the weapon a foot away from Kendrick's face, her eyes locked onto her target.

"You're right, you're going to die today." She said quietly.

"What's the lesson? We're all running in circles, going nowhere... There are dreams I've had where everyone I knew died, they are all just shadows within portals in the mind." He closed his eyes and winced, refocusing on his accuser, "You've come so far Lauren, from a mercenary working a dead end career on an Orion freighter..."

Lauren had no control over the hand that struck the friend she once loved. It felt good, somehow, to unleash that kind of pain. But something else itched inside of her head, clawing at her. And she smiled, and leaned closer.

"You think this is better? You think me being like this makes me stronger?" Her voice was laced with anguish, "All I want to do is press this pistol into your head and discharge until the battery is dead... all I want is see you pay for what you have done! And you think this is coming far?"

Kendrick managed to lift a hand and pulled her weapon against his forehead, the blood on his hand running down over Lauren's staining both. "You could just send me back to the darkness Lauren, but can you live with your own soul accompanying mine to hell?"

"You murdered people, and now you want me to do the same thing?" Lauren yelled into Kendrick's face, trembling. "Why? Why do this... this..."

Kendrick coughed, his hand sliding from Lauren's as racking coughs ravaged his body, when he settled the blood bubbled from the corner of his mouth, his words fainter, "I've never been the one you wanted me to be have I? At one point I wanted to give you everything, if only to make you happy..." he closed his eyes against the pain, "Was I blind?"

Lauren dropped her pistol, tears swelling on the corners of her eyes. She propped Kendrick's shoulders up against the missile, and searched frantically for ways of stabilizing him. She could see the wounds, the blood, and the piece of the EV-II. There wasn't much she could do. Lauren looked up at Kendrick again, staring...

"We were both blind... We didn't know what we were doing. We were both lost trying to be something we're not, living up to someone else's dream..."

Kendrick watched Lauren prop him upright, paling as he coughed again, "I'm alive," his eyes closed again, "Don't leave me... I'm trying to fight this... but..." a tear rolled down his cheek mixing with the blood and grim from the crash. "I have no answers for you Lauren... I barely remember who I am..."

"Unlock the missile, Kendrick," Lauren said after a long time. "Don't fight me. Stop this."

Kendrick looked over at the open panel and the display still counting down, the characters garbled beyond recognition, he looked back, "You don't want me back," his voice sounded resigned, as he could persuade Lauren to believe it. "I have to stop this here Lauren... wipe the slate clean...some...how..." he fell silent, his breathing becoming more and more irregular, "I'm scared Lauren..."

Lauren hugged Kendrick closer to her, his body cold. "I've been scared most of my life." she laughed a little, coughing herself. She found himself staring for a long time at the missile, but she really didn't see it. "I never knew you were lost..."

Kendrick's eyes were wide with panic, staring up at the clouds sweeping by above them, "Hold me... I'm scared..." His voice sounded forlorn, lost...he coughed again, but there was no force behind it, "Will you love me when I'm gone..." He tried to catch Lauren's hand and pull her closer, his voice barely a whisper, "Everything I...I Wanted to be the one...You wanted..."

"I know... Let it go..." Lauren hugged him closer, as if she knew. "I dreamed of death... Let it go."

Kendrick's eyes slid closed a final time.

The missile beeped and whirred, it's warhead beginning the final activation cycle, and a minute at most remained.

Lauren cried, holding the limp body in her arms. It was right this way somehow. There wasn't supposed to be another way. She couldn't get away, even if she wanted to, there wasn't time...

"I love you Kendrick..." She whispered.

And she cried again, resting back against the missile, knowing, dreaming, and understanding. She pulled out her comm. link looking up to where the Excalibur battled for its life, hoping that it somehow worked.

"Excalibur, get out of orbit! Get out of here! Now!!" She yelled, as he cradled him against her, and pulled his body tight, the beacon of the end of her life. "Darien... I believe..."

The detonation from space was unparalleled, never before had a weapon of such destruction been used against a planet. The moon began to implode, the crust cracking and splitting as the molten layer erupted to the surface. Moments later a chain reaction deep within the moon swept outwards, the moon became a pyre as it split apart sending a shockwave of destruction outwards, a massive wave of energy sweeping in an arc through space.

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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I guess there was a poetic justice to this ending; in a way I am not sure that Lauren could have gone on from this; she truly loved him.

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On 11/29/2022 at 10:12 PM, CincyKris said:

She could have stopped him from detonating the missile by shooting him, but she didn't.  

It was already activated when she got there. He wasn't going to turn it off and she didn't know the disarm code.

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