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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 - 45. Chapter 45

Captain Darien Taine, a young man that came from nowhere and now holds the fate of his entire people in his hands.
Show the Terrans what happens when they believe in something other than Hegemony Law.

-Inquisitor Thalak 'General Order'


Darien stood in the baking hot Taïrian sun watching as the Taïrians prepared for the inevitable war. The Dawn of Hope was undergoing a retrofit to serve as the flagship to the House of Taïr; the former Amsus warship had never been equipped for the hulking Taïrians, but a little of Elias's ingenuity had sent the Taïrian technicians down the right track to making it more suited to their needs.

The stone ramparts of the ancient mountain city were worn by the harsh Taïrian seasons, and Darien rested on a pillar of the loggias, his arms folded, staring thoughtfully over the army he was going to lead all the way to Earth. He had a mere half-dozen ships, a couple of regiments of troops and an air group. Without the elements of the new Imperial fleet, trapped on the other side of the Haligonian Jump Nexus, he was hopelessly outnumbered. The light brigade charging the guns of Balaclava.

"Ours is not to reason why..." he murmured aloud.

He knew his next task would be difficult. He had to lift the siege on the Haligonian Jump Nexus, open that Stargate and allow the rest of the Imperial fleet through. He rubbed his forehead; there would be no quick solutions this time around, no miraculous computer virus or sneaking commandos aboard Haligonian station, the Amsus would have tightened their security on the system in anticipation of exactly that.

"Here you are," Mayfair stated, coming out onto the upper terrace overlooking the city and the ships below. The Colonel held a tankard of ale, no doubt from one of the many banquets and celebrations going on around the planet to celebrate its liberation from hundreds of years of Amsus rule.

Darien turned from the terrace and nodded to the Karin marine. "I needed to get some air," he explained lamely, knowing full well he was the guest of honour and he was expected to be present in and around the city. He was wearing his dress uniform, but the heat had long since forced him to take off the jacket and unbutton the black uniform waistcoat, rolling up his sleeves just to stay cool.

"You know the drill, sir," Mayfair said with a wry smile. "All hail the conquering hero and the like..."

"True," Darien stated following the Colonel back into the Mountain, the sounds of life assailing him. A cacophony of beating drums, cheering and celebrating voices echoed around the broad halls. Darien drew himself up to his full height, affixing the neutral impassive look on his face as Taïrians in Imperial duty uniforms hastily thrown together from anything they could find, the Green Claw marks sigil painted on the shoulders, saluted him as they passed. He returned a nod to their salutes.

The main plazas of the city were in the grip of celebration, dancing forms in the streets, makeshift banners touting the pride of the Taïrian clans and the House Von Taïr were going up all around him. Pride and patriotism had finally come home to Taïr.

* * *

Too hot... Too damned hot. Those five words were at the forefront of Kyr's mind as he rested against the banquet table set up along the sides of the streets that had become a street party in their honour. He could understand Darien's reticence; the doctor would rather be back in his infirmary preparing for the inevitable cases of heat stroke and hangover headaches that would flood the medical bay after the little party was over.

"Too damned hot, and too damned late in the month!" he grumbled again to nobody in particular.

The young doctor's eyes were darting about him furtively, aware that he was one very small Kaynin on a planet full of Taïrians who probably considered him part of the banquet rather than a true guest. When he heard a particularly loud step, he snapped around and stopped just short of baring his teeth. What had made it was neither particularly large, nor particularly furry. It was the small, crazed engineer that had become more like family to Kyr.

"Master Elias." Kyr gave a short bow, and smiled. "What brings you here?"

Elias scrubbed a hand through his dusty blonde hair and grinned broadly. "Darien said I should keep an eye on you, make sure you stay out of trouble."

Kyr grinned. "In other words he sent you to me, so I could keep you out of trouble?"

Elias shrugged. "Guess everyone needs me outta the way."

Kyr smiled and sat down at one of the many tables. He beckoned the younger boy take a seat next to him.

"I think we all feel that way, sometimes."

Elias flopped down on the bench next to the young doctor, grinning lopsidedly. "Am I really that annoying?"

Kyr chuckled and removed his sunglasses, popping them into his shirt pocket. "I doubt it - it's just that others get jealous of you, that's all."

Elias's brow deepened, mirroring a look his Darien often adopted. "Jealous of me? Why?"

"Think about it." Kyr fanned himself with the hat. "We're in the middle of the biggest party this world's ever seen, plus it's hot. It beats the hel- heck out of any weather Earth has to offer. And we can only stay for two weeks. And, in those two weeks, we have to prepare this planet for war with the Amsus Hegemony. Once it's over, we can't relax and congratulate ourselves in the sun." The young doctor smiled at a very old joke. "Now, consider all of that. And consider the fact that you have two weeks building sandcastles and practising your slow-bowl."

Elias brightened noticeably. "You play cricket?" he asked almost excitedly.

"Starting batsman for the Orion Medics for three years. You?"

"Yeah, I love it; England is taking on Sarkow in a test next week, I am looking forward to seeing who wins the Ashes." He punched the Doctor playfully on the arm. "There are a couple of the Karin marines that have set up an indoor game in one of the cargo bays, I think Colonel Mayfair doesn't want anyone to know he plays."

The Kaynin smirked, and messed the boy's hair. "Neither do I - as far as anybody's concerned, the closest I come to sport is hunting."

Elias giggled and fought off the doctor's tussling. "Yeah, Mayfair isn't very good at it, I think that is why he doesn't want anyone to know. Same with Darien and golf -- ever wonder why he uses Shuttle Bay One as a driving range?"

Kyr laughed. "I didn't know he did. Going to have to get some comedy snaps of that." He glanced at his watch. "Well, I guess I had best get back to sorting out the medical supplies we need. Tell ya what - after I finish up here, I'll sort us out a ball, and we can practise yer fielding, yes?"

Elias beamed. "Neat!"

The Kaynin chuckled and stood up, warily eyeing the Taïrians that all turned to look at him, their mouths salivating. Elias glanced at them, then back at Kyr. "Relax," he said reassuringly.

"Relax?" Kyr mumbled. "Sure now that's going to happen... have you seen a Taïrian's teeth?"

Elias shrugged and smiled warmly at his friend. "They're our allies remember... you're probably the first breakfast sausage ever to save the world."

"That's not funny," Kyr grumbled.

A couple of female Taïrians swept past them, moving to the tribal beat, an intricate dance that belied a certain grace beneath their heavyset forms. Some of the Excalibur crew were attempting to mimic the dance in the street, and Elias was certain he had seen Masconi tapping her foot.

Even Colonel Ramsey seemed to be enjoying himself. The grizzled old leader of House Kardiac was being enticed into a dance by a determined Taïrian female that had taken a special liking to him. The Colonel had futilely fended off her initial advances, and he was now stuck placating her, glancing at his other officers for some kind of rescue.

"Well, I need to get back to work..." Kyr stated firmly.

"Do you need some help?" Elias asked, jumping up and brushing the dust off of himself and dripping his plate of food onto the edge of the table.

The Kaynin considered as they wandered back to the collection of crates he had requisitioned, near to one of the Excalibur's drop ships, then pointed to the second of three crates he had picked up at the Taïrian hospital. "Take that crate into the drop ship, and begin unpacking the vials into the holder I've already got in there - it looks like a chair with holes all through it. The vials and holder are colour-coded; shouldn't be a problem for you, eh?"

Elias shook his head. "Nope." He wandered over and picked up the crate. "Who are you betting on to take the Ashes?"

"Well, out of loyalty I'd have to say England - my Liege was born there - but they really do need to watch out for the Sarkow second batting pair - both of them have evil swings and excellent pace, and one of them I know personally; she is current intra-Hegemony Olympics sprinting champion, and holder of the one- and two-hundred-metre records."

"Yeah, but when it comes to bowling no one beats the England Skip, we should take 'em if we keep focused," Elias replied setting the box down and beginning to unpack it.

Kyr nodded. "I hope so. Can I leave you here for a sec? I need to go have a word with our 'Skip'."

"OK." Elias continued to work. "Mayfair went to go find him, Darien doesn't like a fuss being made about him."

Kyr popped his Raybans and fedora back on, and headed out to see the Captain. Darien looked like a hero, it was in the way he wore the dress uniform. The black vest, with its flight wings and medal ribbons, the Knight's Cross ribbon tucked through the top button hole, hung open over a simple white shirt. It appeared so effortless and yet made him seem cut from a different cloth than all the dress uniforms around him. Darien seemed to just stand out in a crowd.

Kyr approached as Darien was stopped by a group of Taïrians who shook his hands and pledged their loyalty again to the Empire. Darien nodded, a young lordling accepting the oaths of fealty from his men, an entourage of officers and Taïrians following him as he surveyed his army, and the liberated mountain hives of the Taïrian clans.

"Doctor," Darien greeted with a simple nod of his head, continuing to walk with a determined step as the doctor fell in beside him.

"I just wanted to tell you we're nearly done loading medical supplies," Kyr reported dutifully.

"Good," Darien stated with a half smile, as they stopped to let a group of Taïrian children rush past, trailing a green Imperial banner behind them, whooping and laughing as they ran to join the party raging around them.

"It's amazing," Darien murmured, "how much can change in such a short time."

Kyr nodded his head eyeing his Captain a moment, licking a long incisor... the only visible trace of his canine heritage. "Change is inevitable I think..."

"Was it like that for your people?" Darien mused a moment watching the children play.

"We were a manufactured race," Kyr responded quietly. "I don't think the Empire ever really intended for us to be anything more than a genetic experiment that went wrong..." He shrugged. "When the scientists realized their mistake and more of my kind started appearing... It could have gone very differently, we could have been slaves, instead those scientists chose to fight for our rights as citizenry. It took us a hundred years...but the day they recognized us as equals... more than glorified hunting dogs and cannon fodder..."

"Tell me about the Amsus," Darien said quietly folding his arms. "Why is it each time I try to access the old Imperial files locked in Excalibur's database I am refused access?"

Kyr glanced at the Captain, shrugging. "There are those of my kind that believed the Amsus were a created race that came after our own, that the Empire was experimenting to increase its army and simply lost control. But I have no scientific proof, these are all just stories I heard when I was a pup."

"It's strange," Darien said watching as one child dashed across the road again, whooping for joy, "but I look at you and I don't see a genetic mistake, I see a human being with long teeth..."

"I guess that is why we became citizens and the Amsus had to rebel," Kyr responded.

"Captain Taine." They were approached by a broad-shouldered Taïrian and a couple of smaller Taïrians, each wearing the Imperial battle stripes on their muzzles, one carrying a flat wooden box.

Darien stopped. "Yes?" he asked turning to them.

"Captain, I am Meistari Tagen." He inclined his head, a Taïrian clan master, a senior member of the Taïrian ruling council and an Elder in his own right.

Darien bowed his head formally. "Meistari," he greeted formally, showing deference for what was traditionally a senior rank to his own.

Kyr blinked as he realized that most of the Taïrians had stopped the revelry to see what was happening. A nervous anticipation swept through them as they watched.

The Meistari gestured to the box. "It is a long tradition in our clan to reward those out of clan that do great deeds for us with a gift that reflects their heroism. A reminder of the gratitude of our clan." He motioned for the box to be opened. The pair of nickel-plated old-style revolvers inside were obsolete even before the Empire. Pieces of history lovingly preserved through the years.

Darien stared at them and shook his head. "I can't accept a piece of your family's heritage..."

"These were a gift to my grandfather after the battle of Tantris by the Warlord VonGrippen, it is only fitting that they be returned to his heir."

Darien shook his head. "I'm not VonGrippen's heir, I am just..."

The Taïrian smiled at Darien. "An heir is anyone that has a rightful claim, and none here will dispute your right to lead the House VonGrippen."

Darien shifted uncomfortably. "Well, thank you," he said, accepting the pistols, admiring the craftsmanship as he tucked the box under his arm. "I should..."

"Captain," Colonel Mayfair stated, coming to his skipper's rescue, "we should continue on, the Archduchess will be expecting us."

"Right," Darien stated as he snapped his fingers. "My apologies, Meistari, but thank you for the gift, I shall carry them with pride."

The Taïrian bowed his head formally, stepping aside to allow the Imperial captain through to carry on his way. Once safely clear Darien glanced at the Colonel. "I have no desire to become the head of an Imperial House."

"The Red-coats have a long tradition of service," Mayfair replied, "but I don't think it's going to be your say in the matter anyway. You're becoming a symbol to these people and they will choose to believe what they want to believe. Whatever gives them hope can't be a bad thing."

"That depends," Darien responded quietly as they mounted the steps to the Matriarch's residence, a small palatial building protected by Taïrian Guards who waved them through without hesitation.

The hall was vaguely reminiscent of a Viking long hall -- low tables and lots of wood, furs and open fires. It was a warm, lived-in space, a place of life. Darien smiled as he walked the length of the hall and came to attention before the high-backed chair and the Archduchess. She seemed unaffected by the heat plaguing all of them, wearing the formal great coat with pride. Darien smiled at the wizened old woman as he relaxed.

"Preparations are going well, your grace," he said with a firm smile. "We should be able to begin training your ship crews inside of two days."

The Archduchess gestured for Darien to sit beside her as food was being placed out on the tables. "I wished to ask you who you have chosen to command the Hope of Dawn?"

Darien blinked a moment as he placed the pistol case down and took his seat. "I had presumed a Taïrian would command."

There was a rumble from the assembled Taïrians as Darien glanced around in surprise. The Archduchess shook her head. "The Taïrians serve the Empire..."

Darien glanced across to where Shale was seating himself next to Colonel Mayfair, the lieutenants pin on his collar, and he remembered the Taïrian's shock at being made an officer, and Darien turned back to the Archduchess. "We're equal partners in this, we're all citizens of the Empire and we all serve together. It's a Taïrian ship, and a Taïrian crew; it is only right that it be a Taïrian captain in command. I name Shale as the ship's Captain."

Shale's large head snapped around, as there was an excited burst of conversation around them. The loyal Taïrian searched Darien's face, and glanced apprehensively at his Archduchess. The old Matriarch looked thoughtful a moment before nodding. "You do my people a great honour, Captain Taine..."

Darien rested a hand on the box of pistols. "And your people honour me, your grace. But I can think of no one better qualified to command that ship -- Captain Shale knows space tactics and he helped train my crew. And with him at my back I know I can count on him when it counts. That and he has earned the command."

"Very well, Captain Shale," she said turning to him, "I will have the commission drafted at once, congratulations."

Shale bobbed his head, shock still evident in his eyes as he digested the fact that he was the first Taïrian ever to command an Imperial warship. A smile spread across his muzzle as the realization sunk in, and what it meant for his people. The Taïrians were finally able to make their own decisions, they were no longer a primitive race that was dependent on others. The Amsus would return, and would face a species that had tasted freedom, a species that wouldn't give it up again without a fight.

* * *

Wing Commander Masconi refilled her tankard, revelling in the din of celebration around her. The pilots from VMA-23 that had accompanied her on the capture of the Amsus battle group were enjoying a well-earned break.

After constant battles, the betrayal of the last wing commander, and the stresses of a civil war on their own planet, it was good to see the young men and women of the squadron enjoying themselves. They had commandeered one of the street bars, clustered around one of the live Taïrian bands as they played rhythmic tribal music that was the norm on the alien world. Laughing, drinking and relaxing.

Her father had been swept off with some of his army officers, commandeering an officer's mess for themselves, their first campaign off world and it had been a success; they had every reason to celebrate, House Kardiac atoning for past sins.

"Evening," Lieutenant Nazzien stated joining her at the bar, the Orion Imperial Officer cutting a fine figure in the dress uniform, unaffected by the heat. "Nice to be welcome somewhere for a change, instead of being shot at."

"I don't have that problem," Masconi replied, "people generally like me."

"What's not to like..." Nazzien replied leaning on the bar and affixing a broad grin to his face.

Masconi quirked an eyebrow. "You're hitting on me," she said directly.

Nazzien shifted, suddenly uncomfortable from her reaction. "Well, you know, you're attractive in those flight leathers and..."

"And you want to sleep with me." Masconi folded her arms, her lip curling.

"I...it's...but..." Nazzien stammered.

"Well?" she asked impatiently. "What are you waiting for, a gold invitation?"

"I..." he blinked, not certain how to handle Masconi's abruptness. "There's supposed to be a..."

"Right, so we're using my quarters then," she said turning and striding off. "Come along," she barked at him.

Nazzien gaped. Slugging back the rest of his drink he followed her a few steps before turning back and recovering the bottle; tucking that under his arm he felt somewhat prepared for what was to come.

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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A very big celebration!  Nazzien tries to hit on Masconi and she beats him to the punch.  I wonder who tops?

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On 4/11/2022 at 4:23 PM, raven1 said:

A very big celebration!  Nazzien tries to hit on Masconi and she beats him to the punch.  I wonder who tops?

I'm guessing this is a time when the bottom is in charge calling the shots. Lol. 

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The ending was just too funny...Wonder if that brace of antique pistols would have any effect on an inquisitor???

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