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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 - 41. Chapter 41

To further illustrate this mans crimes, Captain Darien Taine obliterated the moon of Arcanis. The resurrected Empire, demonstrating its capacity for evil, begins a campaign of terror that the Hegemony will rise to meet, even now we are strengthening our borders in readiness to defend ourselves.

-Inquisitor R'korr 'Amsus News Broadcast'

HMS Excalibur

Excalibur burst from hyperspace, roaring about on a new tack trailing the wreckage of her shattered upper engine sail as she tried to put some distance between her and the furious Polian vessels screaming out of hyperspace behind her.

Darien watched the five ships as the chased him, intent on bloody vengeance for the death of their moon, unaware as to how close to true disaster they had come. The Arrow headed vessels were small, monitors by Kit's assessment, about all the Polian's could muster as a defence fleet, but they were still dangerous, three hundred years gave the Polians adequate time to perfect advances over the outdated Imperial technology.

"Excalibur reports she is unable to outrun the Polian forces." Kit said coming down to stand beside Darien in front of the tactical display, "The destruction of the third gravitic drive has slowed us considerably."

Darien closed his eyes for a moment, biting down the sense of loss, knowing it was shared by everyone on the crew. There would be no happy ending this time. This time they had lost two of their own to the funeral pyre orbiting Arcanis.

"Launch all fighters," He commanded, his resolve hardening as he removed his glasses polishing them as he spoke, "bring us about for a firing solution on the heavier ships... They want a fight, I am going to give them one!"

"Captain, we're outgunned..." Kit warned.

"And we were outgunned at Eisenhower," Darien snapped slamming his glasses down on the CIC table glaring at the holographic Commander, "Nazzien," he looked over his shoulder towards the Orion standing quietly at the tactical console, "arm the Zero-point bore and stand by to fire."

The Excalibur arced about in space, her forward booms rotating as the main gun of the Excalibur prepared to fire. The Polian vessels, knowing what it meant, scattered trying to get out of the Excalibur's forward firing arc, as the titanic energies crackled along the length of the weapon, energies building before they were released in a super heated blast of energy that incinerated one of the destroyers instantly.

Fighters burst from the Excalibur's flight deck, rising to meet the Polian vessels, F-120 and F-150 fighters flying side by side to defend their damaged mother ship that was fighting for its life. The wounded bear turning to lash out at the wolves that had pursued her, proving that she still had teeth.

Darien's face was lit up by the explosions reflected off of the observation windows, the F-150's covering the F-120's on a missile run at one of the frigates, hundreds of missiles letting fly as they slammed into the doomed frigate, tearing it asunder as explosions tore through its armoured length.

His crew knew their jobs, they had trained, they had become veterans on the long journey home, doing the one thing Humanity had evolved towards. The one thing the Galaxy feared, becoming a capable killing machine able to bring war to bear like a scalpel.

"Helm, hard a'starboard," He commanded, "Hold onto something!"

The Excalibur came about, presenting a smaller profile to the Polian destroyer that launched a spread of missiles to bring down the invader. Excalibur's auto-masers and CIWS's opened fire as they targeted the missiles. Endeavouring to stop the hundreds of missiles from reaching their target. Her Aegis missile system engaged hurling defensive missiles from their banks, in a matter of seconds hurling it's full fifty counter-missiles into the air streaking up to meet the inbound missiles, annihilating half of them instantly. The space around Excalibur was alive with missiles, cannon fire and fighters, explosions rippling along its length as missiles detonated before they reached their targets.

Darien gritted his teeth as the first of the three missiles to penetrate the Excalibur's defences slammed home amidships punching through the armour plating and tearing a ragged hole through the Excalibur. The second exploded into the starboard engine sail, shearing the starboard engine clean off of its sail. The final one careered into the Excalibur's exposed flight deck as it turned the flight deck into an inferno.

Darien was hurled, like a rag doll, across the deck as bulk heads collapsed and systems went offline, a fire had started back towards the CIC that a couple of crew were desperately trying to contain using a couple of fire extinguishers.

Darien coughed, wincing in pain as he stood up, using the command chair to pull himself to his feet, his ship listing dead in space as the surviving Polian vessels came about for another attack run.

"We're dead..." Nazzien said the Orion; the only officer to keep his feet during the explosions was wrestling with his weapon systems trying to bring them back online.

"Jump drives." Darien managed pushing himself over to the helm and scanning across the flickering displays, they weren't up to power, but he didn't need them to be, he wasn't intending to make a jump.

"What are you...?" Nazzien asked in shock, realizing the captain was going to engage the drives without sufficient power.

Darien didn't turn, but lifted a finger and pointed at the dark skinned Orion, "Order the fighters to pull as close to the Excalibur as they can."

Nazzien swore, tapping his tactical headset, "Black Leader this is Gunsight one, pull back to Excalibur, I repeat pull back..."

The fighters broke off their attack runs on the second frigate, shrieking back to the sanctuary of the Excalibur's sporadic pinpoint weapons fire. Once most of them were in range, Darien dumped the remaining power into the jump pods, reaching out and activating the drives.

The ship shuddered, the pod's powering up creating a sphere of space around the Excalibur that it was supposed to hurl into hyperspace for the transit to the next system. It gained power, forming the bubble, Darien watching as it swept over the Polian vessel that was closing for an attack run.

The Excalibur attempted to jump, the drives flaring, but falling short exhausting the power before they could cross the threshold into Hyperspace, the ship sliding a mere foot forward.

Everything within the bubble slid a foot forward.

The Polian destroyer was sliced neatly in half, its two halves sliding away from each other as its drive section tried to power it forward, the bow carrying forward on its original vector. One of the other frigate had been sheared along its centre line, its zero-point reactor detonating, the Polian vessel collapsing in on its artificially created black hole crumpling like a tin can as the small black hole dissipated. The last frigate continuing its attack run found itself alone as the angry fighters from the Excalibur swept down upon it, tearing it to shreds with cannon and missile fire.

Nazzien stared across the shattered bridge at the Imperial Captain who was trying to bring the surviving gravitic drive online to stabilize the Excalibur's idle spin. The port engine pulled the ship back around as it overloaded under the strain and burnt out.

Darien looked up, pushing his hair back out of his eyes and bracing a hand against the helm of his ship, taking a ragged breath and watching as the last Polian Frigate died spectacularly.

* * *

They were running off of emergency lights, bathing sickbay in red as they flashed, the smell of blood and charred flesh thick in the air. The dark room was filled with moans and cries of fear from the young crewmembers and officers who had bravely fought alongside their shipmates trying to save the lives of their enemies. Long after the battle was over, the Medics continued to fight their own war.

Doctor Kyr moved from bed to bed administering what surgery he could. Sickbay had been close to the missile strike that had caught the Excalibur amidships, half his medical staff now lay on the beds they had minutes before been administering to. He had no nurses, and his spare doctors were running around the lower decks administering to the wounded who could not make it to Sickbay. He was dangerously understaffed, and already he could see the deterioration of his patients.

Darien and Masconi stepped into the ruined sickbay, both anxious about their fallen men. Kyr spying them crossed the bay and shoved medical kits into their hands. Not caring that they were the commanders of the ship and fighter squadrons. They were able-bodied people at that moment and had the basics of first aid.

"Fix what you can." He said tensely, the young Kaynin pointing to the beds, "And if anyone starts to get worse, bellow for me."

Darien looked down at the medical kit sitting in his hands, turning it over not quite sure what to do with it. But Masconi had already plunged into the midst of the fray, pressing wounds and trying her best to ease the pain of the suffering.

Knowing that he was needed, Darien crossed to a young midshipman he had seen carried off of the bridge during the first blast. He looked down at the gaping wound in the midshipman's stomach, and began to try to seal it with the medical device. It was to no avail, the wound was too big for his skills, and he tried to re adjust the device frantically...

"Doctor!" He cried out, looking up at Kyr standing over his shoulder shaking his head.

"Its too late Captain." Kyr stated staying his hand as he tried desperately to stop the bleeding, his hands pressing into the wound to stem the flow of blood.

The young midshipman's eyes turned to regard the man he had looked up to when he had come aboard the ship so wide eyed and innocent. He had been full of dreams, confident in the future that Captain Taine, hero of Eisenhower had offered, knowing that so long as he followed the man he too would be Invincible. The innocence faded with his life from those wide eyes. Leaving the Captain standing over the cost of his great victory.

Darien choked looking at the blood on his hands, trying to keep a grip. He was the Captain, he could have simply turned his back on the Polian's, walked away and left them to their destruction and the young boy on the bed before him would still be alive.

He took a deep breath, Doctor Kyr touching his shoulder, "Captain... they need your help..."

Darien steeled himself moving onto the next bed, working as hard as he could to help save a life.

* * *

"It's dead," Elias stated coming out of the elevator onto the shattered bridge, sliding a wrench into his tool belt shaking his head, "We're not going anywhere fast."

Darien was resting tiredly in the centre chair, Masconi and Nazzien alongside him. The Excalibur's CAG co-ordinating with the Orion weapons officer as they recovered fighters using the Excalibur's recovery system bypassing the decimated flight deck.

The Captain looked up from his chair, resting on the arms of it as he pressed back feeling the comforting presence of the ship, despite the fact he could feel she was in pain. "Give me some good news." He said quietly.

"Flight deck's had it," Elias said, "That missile tore it up pretty bad. And the hit amidships took out the zero-point bore, and down even get me started on the gravitic drives, they're gone, done, kaput."

"What works?" Darien asked feeling the cost of saving Arcanis, a small victory that had come at such a high price.

"We still have the reactor," Elias said, "And the jump drives still work, though if you try the low powered stunt again, cute or not, I will come up here and beat you senseless with my favourite wrench..." The little Engineer tried to appear threatening, but failed miserably, causing Darien a tight smile.

"How long until you can bring the holographic systems back online?" Darien questioned, "Kit might be able to give you more direct diagnostic information..."

Elias shrugged, "A day or so, but the problem is the drives... I can't repair what we don't have..."

"True," Darien said looking up at the shattered Polian ships, escape pods buzzing over them, it was only a matter of time until the rest of the Polian defence force arrived to finish the job and rescue their comrades. Unable to manoeuvre, or launch its fighters, or defend itself with its main cannon... Darien knew they were out of options. "Prepare to jump, we can't stay here, if we can make it back to the support carriers we'll at least be defended while we try to figure out what the hell we're doing."

"Sure," Elias replied, "I'll pull out the duct tape..."

* * *

Darien was waiting when Kit came back online. He hadn't left the command chair. He could feel Excalibur's pain, shared it. But he couldn't leave her, she was afraid, without her voice, she was unable to communicate with the crew. She had every right to be afraid and Darien remained with her, reassuring her with his presence while the crew tended to trying to repair what they could.

When the holographic commander rematerialized there was a look of confusion on his face as he struggled to catch up on their situation. He looked distant for a moment and then turned to the exhausted Captain that gripped a mug of coffee and sat in the command chair staring back at him.

"You are like VonGrippen." Kit said after a moment.

"I wasn't going to leave her alone." Darien replied quietly, "The last thing any of us need is to be hurt and alone."

"She wants to thank you..." Kit replied sincerely.

"Tell her I'm sorry," Darien said standing up shakily, he knew he should sleep, but he couldn't sleep as long as they remained in danger.

"She knows." Kit replied, "Where are we?"

"We're one jump from the rendezvous," Darien responded, "So far no sign of Polian pursuit, they're probably busy with the rescue operations for their defence squadron. We should be able to jump in," he glanced down at the helm station, "Thirty minutes or so."

* * *

The crippled Imperial strike cruiser jumped into the rendezvous, her battle scarred hull and trailing wreckage showed the price of victory as she came to a gliding stop transmitting a distress call for the support carriers.

The two Imperial carriers, under the watchful eye of R-403, moved cautiously to intercept the shattered Imperial vessel. Giving them all a look at the ordeal the Excalibur had been through. Colonel Mayfair had wasted no time in docking the Raptor with the stern deck of the battered warship, his crew and marines rushing aboard to lend support and aid where they could while he made his way to the bridge.

Captain Taine was sleeping in the Command chair, exhaustion finally catching up to the man, the holographic commander standing watch over the ship nodding to the Colonel as he came on deck.

"What the hell?" Mayfair asked as he picked his way through broken glass and other debris.

"We saved the Polian capital," Darien said, groggily opening an eye and turning in his chair to face the Colonel who was staring about him in shock at the ruin of Humanities dream of freedom.

"Bloody hell..." Mayfair intoned as he bent down to pick up a blast plate that had fallen, the black Striking Falcon covered in soot, he brushed it off, turning it over in his hands as he looked about him, "How bad?"

Kit informed him of the damage, and the Colonel closed his eyes taking a deep breath, "But we saved the Polians?" He said as he digested the news, looking up at the two support Carriers. The Ark Royal was moving to flank the Excalibur and cover her starboard side while Invincible protected her port flank.

"Yes," Darien repeated, closing his eyes tiredly, "But Kendrick's dead..." he swallowed trying to find a way to break the rest of the news to the Colonel.

"Good," The Colonel stated folding his arms, "Where's Lauren..."

Darien opened his eyes and looked up into the Colonel's face, the marine reading something there that didn't need words. The look of grief twisted by guilt, it said more in a single glance than any words could. And Mayfair closed his eyes bowing his head, "Christ..."

"She died saving an entire world," Darien said softly.

"Dear god I hope it was worth it," Mayfair said drawing a deep breath, as he opened his eyes, "With respect Captain you're exhausted, I'll spell you awhile if you want to get some sleep..."

"No..." Darien mumbled, "I should...stay...here..." and he faded back into sleep slouching a little in the command chair out like a light.

The Colonel rubbed his chin trying to fight the pain of his loss, he was a professional, and he'd lost loved ones before. He'd miss her smile, her vibrancy, and her presence at the Excalibur's helm. But it was the price of war; he set his jaw and stood watch for the exhausted Captain.

* * *

"I have it," Elias declared on the third day of the repairs. With help from the Tempus engineers from the Invincible and Ark Royal the repair teams had managed piece together many of the Excalibur's systems. The damage to the main hull of the Excalibur was being patched and at the very least her weapons systems could be repaired. Fighter operations had been supplemented by the support carriers moving the flight deck down the list of priorities freeing up maintenance crews to help fix other systems.

Darien was still sitting in his chair on the bridge, the Excalibur's logbook balanced across his lap as he updated it, watching as the ship was slowly being restored to some semblance of its former glory.

A short memorial service had been held the day before. The chaplain's eulogy was short and to the point, it didn't come close to giving a true picture of the sacrifice Lauren had made. The service was an attempt to bring some closure to the events of the previous week. But to the command crew of the Excalibur, it only served to rub salt in the open wounds.

The ship was in desperate need of something, anything to lift their spirits. Taine had been on the bridge, napping in his leather command chair during the forenoon watch when the growler phone rang, and Chief Elias invited him to the engine room. Taine arrived to find the only worktable covered with plans, and the young engineer grinning like a crazed maniac.

"I just had the craziest idea," Elias announced.

"Why does that scare me?" Darien asked folding his arms as he watched engineering assistants crawling to replace some of the burnt out relays, tearing out the conduits that fed power to the missing engines.

"Well we have no engines right?" Elias said walking around the worktable and pointing to the plans of the Excalibur he had sitting there, "And we don't have any replacements, or the time to build new ones."

Darien nodded, "We're already running out of time to make it to Hegemony space." He said thoughtfully, the time they had gained running through Eelim space had dwindled over Tempus and the aftermath.

"Well what if I said I just found two perfectly good ion drives," Elias said smugly.

Darien's eyes narrowed, "Where would you find ion drives?"

Elias pulled a set of engineering diagrams out from beneath the Excalibur's showing the plans for the support carriers. Darien blinked at them and looked up at Elias, "We can't take the engines from the carriers... we don't have a capabilities of that kind of repair job. Besides the crew, equipment and marines... we can't house that many people aboard Excalibur."

"Who says I want to take them off the carriers?" Elias replied giving his patented, relax I'm an insane techno-god look.

Darien stared over the plans, looking over the carriers, deigned for rapid movement and escort duties they were lightly armed, all armour and engines, mobile fighter platforms... Darien looked up, "Ok you had best explain this."

"We need engines, they have engines. Our flight decks screwed, they each have one. If I dock them here," he leaned over the Excalibur's plans, "And we modify the docking ports, brace them tight against the hull they can act like harbour tugs."

"You're saying we tow Excalibur?" Darien asked frowning over the plans.

"It's a bit more permanent than that." Elias explained, "it's going to give us almost the same amount of speed as the gravitic drives had, and if I can reconfigure the jump drives..." he looked up at Darien meaningfully.

"You'd triple the number of jumps we'd be capable of." Darien said staring in awe at the simplicity of Elias's plan.

"You got it Skipper," Elias said with a grin, "it's going to take a lot of work without a ship yard, but we can make up the time if I can rig the jump drives."

"Do it," Darien said, turning to head for the bridge, stopping a few feet away and looking back at the young man, "We haven't had much time alone lately have we?" He said softly.

Elias paused gathering up the plans from the worktable, "No..." he said swallowing.

"I'm sorry," Darien said sadly.

Elias beamed at him, sapphire eyes flashing, "Go command your ship," he said with a smile.

* * *

Excalibur was a ship, like her namesake, re-forged. The Support carriers Invincible and Ark Royal had been pulled close alongside the Excalibur, her engineering crews spending much of the day before cutting the engine sails free, abandoning the damaged sections they had no chance of repairing. It was a precise manoeuvre, the two support carriers docking on opposite sides of the warship, engineering crews in space suits leaping to work setting support scaffolding in place.

Darien watched from his vantage point on the bridge, as technicians were busy replacing shattered consoles and repainting the blackened fire damaged bulkheads behind him. The engines were the mechanical heart of any ship, and he felt the renewed vigour spreading through Excalibur, as the plan to attach the carriers became common knowledge. There was an excitement, and a boost to morale from knowing they weren't going to be idle for long. The crew worked harder to restore the ships pride, She was vastly different than how she had appeared before the battle to save Arcanis, but she was still the Excalibur, and as the support Carriers settled into the places where they would remain, breathing new life into her, crew's already painting out the Kardiac house insignia, decorating them with the Striking Falcon's, the pride of House VonGrippen and the Empire.

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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An interesting strategy to take out the Polians, but it did not make any friends.  You would think that the Polians would realise that their capital could have been the target and wonder why the moon was blown up instead.  What is the Archduke is to?

Edited by raven1
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A lot of work to do. I hope that Excalibur can be fully restored. She is a wounded mother.

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