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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 - 5. Chapter 5

Here are several histories that stated how loyal
Admiral VonGrippen was to the Empire; on the contrary
he was defiant, opinionated and rebellious. But one thing
kept him alive, it was his unerring capacity to be right.

-Professor James Bellevance 'The Myth Behind the Man'

Darien had told Elias to stay inside the corvette as he went out to meet the colonists. He would have liked some kind of back up-Elias on top of the crippled craft with an assault rifle-but all they had was the PKD.

Darien took a couple of steadying breaths as he drew the pistol; keeping it ready he stepped out and watched the Jeep roll towards him. There were four people in it-a couple of them were carrying hunting rifles-out to investigate the landing, to see who had decided to visit their remote world.

Darien wasn't about to relax, he kept his stance easy, picking his targets; if they made any move to attack him, he knew that he could take out the two with rifles easily enough, but would he be quick enough to get the others?

The Jeep ground to a halt in the long grass between the two ships, a few hundred feet from where Darien was standing. There was a quiet conversation between a couple of the older men, and the passenger clapped the driver on the shoulder, handing his rifle over to a younger man in the back as he stepped down.

"Ho there!" the older man greeted.

"Afternoon," Darien replied, cautiously keeping his eyes on the others.

"What's your business on Irulia?" the man asked.

"Salvage and repairs," Darien called back. "We just need some time to fix our ship and we'll be on our way."

The older man glanced from one ship to the other and then back at Darien, "Do you need help?"

Darien shook his head, "We should have everything in hand..."

"Are you sure?" the older man asked smiling warmly as he stuck out his hand. "I'm Magistrate Leighton, I run the settlement about an hour's drive from here."

"I'm Detective Inspector Taine," Darien replied; playing the Terran Security card was still his best bet, especially when it came to ensuring there was no trouble. He just hoped word about him hadn't filtered to the remote colonies yet.

"Terran Security?" The Magistrate breathed a little easier, and Darien saw one of the others in the Jeep lower his rifle, "Thank god, we were worried you were here to raid our harvest."

Darien reached into his pocket and pulled out his badge and ID; flipping it open he extended it to the Magistrate, who in turn walked across to accept it. He studied it for a second before glancing back and nodding to the others, the last young man with the gun lowered his weapon.

"Well, welcome to Irulia, Inspector. Perhaps you would like to visit our settlement. We could trade and," he sniffed, "you would probably want to use a bath."

Darien self-consciously looked down at his ragged appearance and sniffed. The magistrate was right, he did need a bath. He glanced back at the corvette and realized how much there was still to do.

"I don't know..." he said uneasily.

"Go," Elias called, stepping around from behind the ship wiping his hands on a rag. "We could use a crane if they have one, something I can hoist the equipment with..." he looked hopefully at the magistrate.

"My engineer," Darien explained holstering his PKD. "Matt Elias, Magistrate Leighton."

The magistrate nodded, "We have a crane we could lend to you, perhaps a trade. You wouldn't perchance have any coffee tucked about, would you?"

Elias grinned, "Columbian, back in the ship-two cans enough?" he started across to the Dragonfly.

The Magistrate brightened, and the other old man, the driver, broke out into a broad grin.

"Coffee's the one luxury we don't get much of on Irulia," the magistrate explained to Darien.

Elias returned a few minutes later with the cans which he handed over with a broad smile, "Go skipper, I'll be fine here; I have plenty to keep me busy. I need to dismantle some systems..."

Darien didn't like the idea of leaving Elias on his own, but he knew he was right; they needed the hoist to lift the turret down from the corvette.

He leaned in, "Are you sure you will be alright on your own?"

Elias smiled politely and leaned in to mumble back, "There's two crates of working sentry guns in the corvette's hold; I'll set them up and be perfectly fine."

Darien shook his head at the engineer; if anything, sitting behind those weapons systems, he would be safer than Darien. "Anything else you're going to need?" he asked.

"Take one of the Dragonfly's radios, and if I think of anything I will just call you," Elias said dismissively as he darted back to the Dragonfly to recover a pair of the radios.

* * *

The trip into the settlement was short, Darien riding in the passenger seat of the Jeep holding onto the dashboard while the vehicle bounced along the uneven track. Irulia was still a long way from needing a road system. The Colony was still small, just the one settlement that was devoted to farming.

The town, more a large village, was built from stone-a surprise seeing as most settlements of this sort were prefabricated housing, but given the large quarry on the edge of town it wasn't surprising they had chosen stone. It gave the town the feel of an old European village, the peaked roofs and lead-lined windows only added to the feel.

The Jeep bounced along a cobble road, pulling to a halt outside a spacious house towards the centre of the town. Darien stepped down and glanced upwards to the large communications tower with its parabolic dish scanning the sky for transmissions.

The magistrate joined him and opened the front door gesturing for him to go in. Darien nodded and walked into the comfortable house, the magistrate following him with one of the cans of coffee tucked under his arm.

A pretty young woman was standing over by the crackling fireplace poking the embers; dressed conservatively, she wore a large skirt-blouse combination with a heavy cardigan. Her auburn hair hung in ringlets down the nape of her neck from where she wore it pulled back away from her face. And her eyes adopted a warm glow as she turned and saw the magistrate.

"Aurora?" The magistrate smiled and turned to Darien, "Detective Inspector Taine, my daughter Aurora."

Darien felt self-conscious; he hadn't had a chance to bathe, or even change, not that he owned another set of clothes anymore. But still, he was very aware of how he must look at that moment.

"You must have been the one causing all the fuss this morning," she said wiping her hands on her skirt before shaking his hand. "Welcome to Irulia."

"I promised him a hot bath and a meal," the magistrate said enthusiastically. "Perhaps you could show him the facilities?"

Aurora rolled her eyes at her father and motioned for Darien to follow her upstairs, showing him into the fixtured bathroom with its deep tub. "Towels are in the cupboard," she said pulling open the door and showing him. "If you need anything else, just holler."

Darien nodded his thanks as she left, unbuckling his gun belt and setting it on the chair; shrugging off his new jacket and hanging it up he began to run some water into the tub, realizing how much he really longed for a chance to get clean. He shucked off his clothes, kicking them into a pile, and pulled off his precious ball cap adding it to the pile before he stepped down into the deep tub, feeling the piping hot water relaxing him as he sat down.

For the first time since he had began to run, he felt his muscles begin to un-knot and allow him to relax. Sighing in sheer delight he sank lower into the water and closed his eyes. Cramped in a ship for the past few days running for his life, he'd forgotten the simple pleasures.

Shaved and clean he had no choice but to put his old clothes on; the patrol uniform felt grimy against his skin, but he had little choice. Emerging from the bathroom carrying his jacket, belt and hat he made his way back downstairs to the smells of home cooking.

The magistrate was standing with a younger man Darien recognized from the Jeep, the two politely waiting to sit down as Aurora busied herself laying food out on the table. Darien nodded to his hosts as he set his things down.

"I'm sorry about the uniform," he offered feebly.

The magistrate shook his head, "Nonsense, it's an honour to have a real lawman at the table tonight." He gestured to the young man who wasn't much older than Darien, "You remember my son, Kendrick."

Darien bobbed his head at the tall young man, who returned the nod with an incline of his head, "I had them bring the crane around; it's a portable one and should serve for your needs and we can drive it back to your ships tonight."

"Thank you," Darien replied. "I appreciate the help."

"And we appreciate the coffee," the old magistrate said pulling out a chair and gesturing for Darien to sit down. Once they were all seated and the meal started the old man wasted no time in diving into the questions, "So what brings you to our humble world with your salvage?"

"Convenience," Darien replied truthfully breaking open a fresh roll. "We needed a place we could set down and this seemed as good a world as any."

"I didn't recognize your ship," Kendrick said pushing his blonde hair away from his piercing eyes. "The one you salvaged, I mean."

Darien shook his head, "Neither do we " Again the truth was easier than a lie, "It was just better we grab it than the crooks that were after it."

The magistrate nodded, "I agree, no telling what would happen if a warship like that were to fall into the hands of weapons dealers. " He sighed as he sampled the chili, and added a bit of salt much to Aurora's annoyance, "So, what news of home? As you can imagine we are rather remote here, news travels slowly over the galactic wire."

Darien shifted and nodded, beginning to bring them all up to date on the news from Earth. About the Amsus enforcing a new moral code on Earth, as well as other policies implemented by the Hegemony over all its member states.

Kendrick snorted, "They're becoming more dictatorial by the year."

"Kendrick..." the magistrate warned.

"Well you know it's true," Kendrick bit back. "In the old days we had true freedom..."

"In the old days, our true freedom came at too high a cost," the magistrate replied with a stern glare at his son. "You must excuse him, Inspector, he grew up on the stories of the old Empire and I'm afraid he is a bit too impetuous."

"No worries," Darien shrugged it off. "Regardless of what we want, the Hegemony is the final authority on Earth, and we have peace. Some people just feel peace is worth the price."

"Yeah, with their draconian moral code the Amsus have systematically stripped humanity of all the civil liberties it had fought so hard to earn over the years," Kendrick pressed on. "They started with simple things like removing the right of assembly, and freedom of speech..."

"Those things were dangerous," the magistrate replied. "They challenged the Amsus rule, and considering they won the war, we got off lightly."

"They moved on to removing individual rights, freedom of religion..."

"The principal religion was the cause of the war in the first place," the magistrate replied. "It was done in the name of the God-Emperor and his clerics."

"They didn't stop there; they enforced their ideals of traditional family values, the procreation laws... the outlawing of same sex unions and eventually homosexuality all together..."

"They were endeavouring to instil a code of common decency that had been lost in the age of the Empire..." The magistrate shook his head, "We've debated this hundreds of times, and still he won't see reason."

"Well, there's always Mars," Darien joked.

"Mars sinks even deeper into the cesspool that created it," the magistrate replied. "I am glad to hear the Amsus have finally seen fit to crack down on the colony; it was ludicrous what they were doing there a few years ago." The magistrate shook his head in disgust, "Why I even heard they could build custom human beings for..." he lowered his voice, "for the illicit sex trade."

"Constructs," Darien replied, nodding. "It's still a big problem out of Mars; they take human DNA, clone people and then program these human beings to be very...skilful." He shook his head; it had been one more problem the Terran security force had tried to deal with. The trade in human flesh, although illegal under the Hegemony, was still a boom industry for Mars.

"That's..." Aurora shivered, "that's a nasty thought, existing for the sole purpose of sex..."

"Well, back in the days before space flight, women were considered exactly the same way," the magistrate responded. "I say let the Amsus regulate a moral code. It gets rid of the perverts and deviants out there and allows common, decent people to live their lives in peace."

Darien fell silent, staring into his bowl of chili, suddenly not really that hungry anymore. He'd experienced first hand how the Amsus enforced their laws. It was brutal, it was efficient and it was absolute-and it was so typical of the Amsus race.

* * *

They'd finished supper and Darien was sitting quietly in the cab of the crane as it bounced its way back towards the ships. Kendrick was driving, the intense young man staring out of the windows into the darkness as he drove. They hadn't said much to each other the entire trip, Darien's mind was too focused on the Amsus and what they had done to his world.

They'd called ahead and Elias had thoughtfully shut down the sentry guns, and the crane rolled to a stop between the two ships. The Dragonfly was lighting the cripple with its massive floodlights, bathing the entire area in illumination. And Darien hopped down from the cab and walked across to the blockade-runner's ramp where Elias was sitting happily tinkering with some components.

"How's it going?" he asked, walking up.

Elias glanced up and smiled, "Going well; I've unpacked most of the ship's cargo-there wasn't much of use beyond the sentry guns and a few cases of ammo. I'm going to start work on the sensor suite tomorrow, get that in first and maybe tackle the Auto-maser as well."

"Right," Darien said looking back to where Kendrick was unhooking the crane from the cab.

"I also found clothes in the crew quarters," Elias added looking up. "I just piled them in the Dragonfly... I know it's a bit morbid using dead people's clothes but we don't exactly have much choice...and I didn't think they'd complain."

"Probably not," Darien agreed, sitting down next to the grease monkey and stretching out on the ramp. "Oh, by the way," he nodded up to Kendrick who was walking over to join them, "Kendrick, this is Matt Elias."

Kendrick nodded down to him, "Well I should head back to town." He looked over towards the towering bow of the corvette and back to the green arrow patch on the leather jacket. He met Darien's eyes and nodded, "If you need any help or want to trade for anything, just call us on the radio."

Darien watched the truck cab drive off, shaking his head. "I'll never understand what makes people live on worlds like this," he murmured.

"Seems nice enough," Elias replied looking about him at the starry night sky.

"Too quiet," Darien replied getting up and dusting off his pants. "Well, I'm going to turn in for the night."

"I'll be awhile yet," Elias replied, returning to his work. "I want to get a good start on these interfaces before tomorrow."

"Night," Darien grunted and headed inside the ship.

* * *

Elias was always careful; too many hard lessons working for Jorten had taught him to be overcautious. He reset the sentry system, a rather ingenious system that ringed the ships and offered him some peace of mind knowing that none of the colonists, no matter how friendly they were, were going to steal from them.

He shut the ramp behind him, putting his tools away on his makeshift workbench and cleaning off his hands as he walked back through the ship. He turned on the passive radar system to keep watch overhead in case anyone decided to drop in unannounced, and climbed the ladder into the upper compartments where Darien was sleeping peacefully.

He'd cleared the clothes that hadn't been sorted from his bunk and had passed out like a light. Elias shrugged out of his work overalls, turned down the lights and climbed into the bunk beside him, curling up and falling asleep.

* * *

Darien opened an eye feeling the warmth beside him and he instinctually wrapped his arms around it. His fingers slid over the firm back and slender form as they curled up together. He smelt Elias's distinctive odour but it didn't register as he closed his eyes again returning to a full sleep-it just felt so nice to wrap his arms around someone.

* * *

Darien awoke to the smell of strong coffee and he sat up shaking his head to clear it as he focused on the compartment around him. It was morning, and Elias was somewhere close at hand, the sound of a ratchet clicking away confirmed that.

Darien yawned loudly as he stood and shuffled to the coffee pot wrapped in his afghan, thinking about the day ahead and the work that needed to get done. Armed with a mug of coffee he sat down on the edge of his bunk and began to sift through the clothes that Elias had piled up there.

They were uniforms of varying sorts, everything from disruptive pattern material fatigues through to formal attire. He tossed aside everything that wouldn't fit him-it wasn't a time to be choosey he realized-and tucked a large number of the camouflage fatigues into a storage locker under his bunk. They were gaudy but they were warm and on the Dragonfly, anything that was warm was a must have.

He tried on one of the shirts-the dark tan on beige of a desert camouflage looked odd, but he paired it up with some uniform trousers and he figured he looked all right. The trousers had a distinctive red stripe up the outsides of them and he wondered if he could take it off without ruining the pants-a job for another time, he figured. Stamping into his boots, tossing on his leather jacket and tucking his red hat on his head he went out to find Elias.

The young engineer was working to wrestle the Dragonfly's radar system from its mounting, the sensor suite from the corvette spread out ready to be installed.

"You look ready to work," Elias said with a grin as he hopped down off of one of the landing struts.

"I was just thinking," Darien said looking back at the ship. "What would it take to install one of those personal sanitizers on the Dragonfly?"

Elias scratched his head thoughtfully, "Shouldn't be too hard; they don't use water so all you'd have to do is hook it up to one of the power relays. Trouble is finding room for it."

"That storage locker by the crew head," Darien replied, "if we mounted it in there."

"Not much privacy," Elias replied thinking about the location and how it opened right out into the main crew compartment.

"Well, I don't think it really matters that much," Darien replied nonchalantly. "Just, it'd be nice to keep clean while travelling."

"One bath and you develop a taste for being clean." Elias shook his head grinning from under his grime, "Well if you want to give it a shot, go for it."

Darien nodded and picked up some tools, heading back to the wreck of the corvette on a mission. It was his own subtle way of telling Elias he needed a shower, and he figured short of shooting the kid with his PKD and stuffing him into one, this was the next best thing.

The corvette was still creepy, despite the fact that Elias had rigged some portable light generators around the bulkheads. Darien's hand instinctively reached to rest on the pistol grip of his weapon as he climbed through the ship returning to the long dead Captain's cabin.

It was strange; he felt some kind of kinship to the man that had once been master of that vessel-a human being that had managed to make a life for himself amidst the stars and not looked back. Kind of how Darien was now, set to start his life amidst the stars.

He sat down on the swivel chair by the desk sipping his coffee. Picking up the worn volume of VonGrippen's writing, turning to a random page, he began to read.

Mankind was never meant to fit within the conventional mould, it constantly strives to better itself, to break free of that convention and be truly free. The Amsus never understood this, bound so tightly by their conservative ways they lack originality and envy it in humanity. I had the pleasure of taking the Amsus ambassador to the opera once to watch the Diva Rena Ta'Rhya perform; she astounded us all with her vocal range, hitting notes none dreamed possible.

My guest failed to be entertained, he was so focused upon the mechanics of the notes, on how it 'should' be performed that he missed the experience of hearing her performance. He couldn't understand why I was so moved by that performance. I guess human emotion is as elusive a concept to the Amsus as improvisation.

Darien looked up from the book thoughtfully; it was a rare glimpse into the mind of the Amsus by human equals, not their subjects. His own experiences with the Inquisition showed a ruthless single-mindedness that said they understood human emotion all too well, and they feared what it was capable of.

He set the book down again with the logbook, adamant that he wanted to read more, fascinated by the history. But for the time being there was work that needed to be done.

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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Kendrick is a very interesting character. He is so unlike his father and regards the Amsus as vile oppressors who are out to destroy all that is human.  He definitely feels out of his element in the small colony.  I hope Elias and Damien get to know him better.  I feel the three men are all very similar and may need each other in the future.

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Kendrick certainly expresses his views and is, I suspect, a lone gay man in this little colony. DRien is enjoying company in bed just for the feeling of being close to another person. Such a simple thing but true for most people, I think. 

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I wonder if Kendrick will request to come with the boys?  He doesn't seem a good fit for the sleepy outpost.  It's a good thing they don't get fresh news, I don't think the magistrate would have been helpful.

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I suspect they will be leaving with an additional crew member,,,and the following indicated some things never change...

"My engineer," Darien explained holstering his PKD. "Matt Elias, Magistrate Leighton."

The magistrate nodded, "We have a crane we could lend to you, perhaps a trade. You wouldn't perchance have any coffee tucked about, would you?"

Elias grinned, "Columbian, back in the ship-two cans enough?" he started across to the Dragonfly.


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