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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 - 6. Chapter 6

You have been liberated. You are now free from the
oppression of Imperial society, you will be welcomed
into the hegemony as equals, our lost brothers
returned to the path..

-General T'miok Simin 'Speech delivered at the signing of the Imperial surrender'

It was the middle of their third day on Irulia when the colonists returned. The magistrate, being driven by Kendrick, pulled up to the ships after requesting the perimeter be shut down.

Work had been progressing steadily, they had dismantled the weapon systems they needed from the corvette and Elias was finishing mounting it to the Dragonfly's undercarriage. It had involved a great deal of modifications by the inventive young engineer; he had spent much of the second day cutting into the Dragonfly's hull, and securing the weapons turret in sections to the new hard point.

Darien stood up on top of the Dragonfly where he had been working and looked down at the magistrate. "Is everything all right?" he asked, turning and climbing down along the port-side rotary engine and jumping onto the hard-packed soil.

The magistrate appeared agitated; he shifted uncomfortably glancing back at Kendrick, and Darien felt uneasy.

"Inspector... I... my daughter..." he said in a rush.

Darien frowned, glancing at the agitated magistrate and then over to where Elias was sitting under the Dragonfly. "What happened?" he asked calmly.

The magistrate shook his head helplessly, "I don't know, we were out seeing to the new irrigation system and when we returned..."

Darien inclined his head; he knew they were asking him for his help. He was a Terran Security Inspector in their eyes, trained to help them. He was torn between his desire to leave that rock and continue his flight from the Amsus, and the feeling that he owed those people something for their kindness and hospitality.

"All right," he said, returning to the ship and emerging a few minutes later, the Terran Security badge clipped to his belt and his cap studiously left behind. They were expecting a lawman and he had to maintain the air of respectability.

Elias watched him quizzically, not saying anything to him as he climbed up into the Jeep, a slight look of concern in his eyes as they drove away back towards the settlement.

* * *

His boots crunched through the light snow to the north of the settlement. Aurora's Jeep had been found up in the foothills that sheltered the settlement's valley. Dark and craggy mountains lying off in the distance loomed ominously in their first throes of winter.

He stood on the small hill, looking down across the valley and the prairie beyond. The Dragonfly and the cripple were sitting far off in the distance, but his mind was preoccupied with the scene around him.

Aurora's Jeep had been abandoned close by a wide track used regularly by colonists looking for lumber in the densely forested areas at the foot of the mountains. It was one of those lumber trucks that had spotted the Jeep on the side of the road and had radioed it in to the village.

The Colonists had been unable to find any trace of the magistrate's daughter around the Jeep, and the freshly fallen snow hid much of the evidence. Darien was frustratingly short on leads, and understood why the colonists had called on him in desperation. There wasn't much to go on.

When asked why Aurora would be driving the road alone no one could answer. She often took a Jeep out during the day and no one had thought anything of it when she had left the settlement that day. All they could say was that they noticed nothing amiss with her as she departed.

The Jeep itself was frustratingly devoid of clues. It had run off the road, but with the snow it was impossible for Darien to say how, or why-all he could tell was that the engine had still been running when the colonists had found the Jeep.

They were clustered now off to one side, watching the Terran Security Inspector combing over the scene, anxious to do what they could to help him. He walked back towards them after another careful examination of the scene.

"Do you have anything that can perform an aerial search?" he asked, putting his cold hands back into the pockets of his leather jacket. "We need to start looking for her..."

The magistrate shook his head, "We have nothing airborne, and our colony ship was stripped down for parts to establish the colony. How about yours?" The magistrate looked hopeful.

Darien again looked southwards to where his ship sat and pulled out his radio. "Hey," he called in.

There was a pause before Elias replied, "Hey skipper, how's it going up there?"

"Not so good," Darien replied walking a little away from the colonists, back towards the Jeep. "Is the Dragonfly airborne?"

There was another long pause on the line, "I don't think so, Skipper, I haven't finished reconnecting the power to the cockpit yet. I can give you something in a day or so..."

Darien shook his head, looking at the snow beginning to fall again, there wasn't time for that. The weather was getting colder, and with it the greater risk of exposure for anyone lost and trapped up in those hills. He had a lot of ground to cover, and he had no idea how he was going to accomplish it.

"There's always the fighter," Elias said after a pause.

"What fighter?" Darien asked, turning his eyes back down to the Dragonfly again.

"The tac-fighter the corvette was carrying. It's modular, it's what all those boxes were in the ship's cargo hold I said were useless. It's not very useful to us, but it's designed to be assembled on a battlefield and provide fire support..." Elias paused, "Give me a couple of hours and I could probably put the thing together for you."

Darien smiled, thanking whatever deity still existed for small miracles, "Go for it." As he pocketed the radio he turned back to the colonists.

The magistrate looked at him hopefully and he nodded, "The ship we were salvaging was carrying a small tactical fighter; my engineer's going to assemble it, that should give us aerial support and help us find her."

"Thank you," the magistrate said again, clutching onto Darien's arm in gratitude. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet," Darien said, looking about him at the willing volunteers. "We need to break up into teams and try to find her on the ground; once we get the plane up things are going to be a lot easier, but for the time being we're going to have to make do."

There were nods about him as colonists began pairing up to begin the ground search of the surrounding area.

* * *

Finding a pilot for the sophisticated Terran fighter hadn't been easy. Most of the colonists weren't qualified, and Elias admitted he lacked the skills needed to fly it. That left Darien and surprisingly, Kendrick. The colonist had learned to fly on the long trip to Irulia from Earth, and he had volunteered for the job almost immediately.

At first Darien was loath to let him, but commonsense said he should be on the ground should they find anything. He was still the investigator, and if there were any clues to be found, he needed to be the one to find them. He didn't trust a ham-fisted colonist to leave a crime scene undisturbed while he found a place to land.

Darien remained on the ground with one of the Jeeps driving along the rough snow-covered hills heading roughly northwards. It had just made more sense to Darien for him to be on the ground co-ordinating and Kendrick had his pilot's qualifications. He knew the terrain far better than Darien did, and the advanced sensor package on the fighter, courtesy of the fallen Terran Empire, would give them a far greater chance of finding the missing magistrate's daughter.

He glanced up at the sleek twin triangles that made up the shape of the tac-fighter; with its aerofoils extended it was an agile bird in the sky above him, guided by the young man's hand.

Darien smiled grimly, wondering what it must feel like to be the first person since the Empire had fallen to fly such a ship. It was a part of their heritage stolen from them by the Amsus, a part they had taken back and used to save a life. Darien returned his eyes to the terrain about him as he continued to drive towards the mountains.

His radio crackled, "Inspector?" Kendrick's voice greeted him as the fighter slowed to a hover high above his Jeep.

"Yeah?" Darien asked, sparing a glance upwards at the craft.

"I am reading something on these displays, just a bit ahead of you, a cave network, but I think this ship is picking up heat signatures." Kendrick's voice sounded awed, "I've never seen anything this sophisticated before..."

"Keep focused," Darien warned as he turned the jeep towards the caves. "About how far am I?"

"Two klicks," Kendrick replied, the fighter gliding forward effortlessly as Darien's Jeep bounced along the ground trying to keep up. His eyes scanned the area around him as he tried to spot the cave opening, feeling the Jeep begin to climb a steep rise. And there, as he crested it, he spotted the caves.

"I found them," he called into the radio, watching as the fighter dipped its wings and came in low for a VTOL style landing, its wings folding up as it did so, the engines cooling off.

Kendrick was already jumping down from the fighter and slipping his crash helmet off of his head. The Terran flight suit looked so strange to Darien, but he shrugged it off as just another moment of nostalgia for a past he had never known. It was simply the only appropriate thing for Kendrick to wear while flying the advanced craft.

Darien started forward towards the cave system as Kendrick loaded his old style bolt-action rifle and moved to follow him. "You should stay here," Darien said holding up his hand.

"No," Kendrick stated firmly. "She's my sister."

Darien nodded, there was no point in arguing, and the stubborn colonist wouldn't listen anyway. His short experience with Kendrick thus far had shown the man to have a bull headedness about him. He simply shrugged and walked towards the caves, stopping when he saw the scuffmarks in the snow.

"Some one's here," he stated quietly, gesturing to the footprints in the fresh snow leading to the caves. He drew his PKD, charging the weapon as he cautiously watched the entrance to the cave for any signs of life.

Kendrick advanced; keeping him covered with the rifle the two men entered the darkened caverns expecting trouble. Darien watched him a moment, before striding purposefully forward, his gun held at the ready, his eyes staring at the rough rock walls and the long passage leading downwards into the bedrock.

"So," Kendrick said in a low voice as they started down the passages, "you going to tell me what's with all the old Imperial gear and uniforms?"

Darien started, glancing at Kendrick in surprise.

"I went to university back on Earth-not for very long, just a year," he explained. "Before my father decided to settle out here. I think he felt the frontier would do me some good..." He paused, "The point is that this," he tapped the patch on the arm of the flight suit, "is from an Imperial battle unit. And that fighter you just had me flying is definitely beyond anything the Amsus have ever been able to produce."

Darien sighed, wondering how much to tell the other man. It was pointless to lie to him, but he wasn't about to tell him the whole truth...

The shot rang out sending rock chips flying as the bullet ricocheted off up the passageway. The two men sprang for cover, Darien returning a couple of shots blindly, hoping to get lucky and stun their attacker.

"My sister," Kendrick hissed a warning over at him, trying to squint into the gloom ahead of them.

"It's a PKD," Darien replied. "It'll only incapacitate someone set this low." He came up again and fired a couple more shots. The weapon barked out its distinctive report as he ducked back behind the rocks again.

"This is Terran security!" he called out down the passage. "Cease fire!"

Another gunshot was the reply, followed by, "Come out, come out or I shoot her!"

Darien cursed, this was the part of hostage-taking he always despised. He glanced at Kendrick and smiled, standing up and stepping out into the passage again, advancing down it into a larger cavern, his PKD still trained in the direction of the shots.

The cavern was well lit, a fire crackling in the middle of a pile of rocks, empty crates and boxes stacked around it. Off to one side an expedition tent had been set up, its guidelines hammered into the rock walls with climbing spikes. Cosy.

He recognized a panicked-looking Aurora, her eyes wild, struggling against a rough-looking older man, a rifle barrel stuck up under her chin. She didn't look hurt beyond a bruise on her face and torn clothing. She looked pleadingly towards Darien, silently willing him to rescue her.

The wild man who held her hostage pointed to Darien, "Drop it or I shoot her!"

Darien's thumb moved to the side of the weapon as he nudged the settings to where he wanted them. "If I do that, how do I know you won't shoot us both?" he called out, stalling as he got a little closer.

"Just...just drop it!" the man called again, desperation in his voice.

"Okay," Darien stated beginning to lower the weapon, but instead of dropping it to the ground he discharged the weapon into the pair. They both collapsed, the rifle falling from nerveless fingers as the two crumpled.

"Aurora!" Kendrick called, charging from the passageway, and bending down to pick her up. She stirred weakly and began to open her eyes, the mild stun blast already wearing off.

"She'll be fine." Darien replied. Adjusting the weapon's strength again and levelling the PKD at the fallen wild man, he fired again on a higher setting, ensuring the man would be unconscious at least for a few more hours.

* * *

"Who is he?" Darien asked as they stood at the mouth of the cavern. Some of the other colonists had already arrived, and along with them, the magistrate, who was busy ensuring his daughter was warm and unharmed.

Kendrick leaned back against the Jeep, his arms folded, his intense eyes scanning the fighter, "An old colonist, one of the first ones here. This colony wasn't without its problems, it had a lot of very independent-minded people, and some of them didn't want to be part of the community we built here. He's some hermit I think; judging by the caves, he's been living here awhile."

Darien shook his head, piecing together the bits of the story. The man had been a lonely and desperate old man, and she was a pretty young woman all alone. He had tried to possess her, claim her as his own. If he were half as feral as he seemed, it would have been purely instinctual.

He shook his head again, and looked over to Kendrick who was watching him. "You never answered my question," the tall blond man stated, affixing those sharp eyes yet again.

"It's just salvage," he replied, turning and walking away, back towards the magistrate.

"I doubt that," Kendrick replied, heading back to the fighter and running a hand over the olive-drab underbelly of the fighter. He looked it over, a light fighter, configured for recon patrols, outfitted with its own small jump pod and light weaponry. It wasn't the kind of equipment you just found.

He glanced back at Darien again who was dressed in the old Imperial captain's uniform and he rubbed his jaw thoughtfully.

* * *

"I want to leave as soon as we can," Darien replied, walking up the back ramp into the rear of the cockpit gondola.

Elias blinked in surprise as he pulled himself out from under the console where he was installing some new repeater displays he had taken from the corvette's bridge. "We're not going to be ready for another day at least," he said shaking his head.

Darien swore as he came forward and sat down in the pilot's chair, staring out of the front windows at the light snow falling across the prairie. He was getting uncomfortable; the colonists were bound to start looking into their story soon, and when they discovered the Amsus report on him...

"I just want to go, get as far away from here as we can," he stated firmly.

"I'll do my best," Elias reassured, wondering what had upset his skipper enough to make him want to leave ahead of schedule. He scratched his head as he flipped on the new sensor array and held his breath hopefully.

The panel jumped to life, compiling the real time data fed to it from the newly-mounted sensor suite he had fitted. It showed the ambient temperature outside, measured the atmosphere, gave a fix on the colony, its power sources, life signs... it was amazing how much data the thing could accumulate.

"It's working," Elias stated triumphantly stepping back. If he could tie it in with the weapons systems he might actually increase fire control.

"What's that?" Darien asked, standing now at the shoulder of the young engineer and pointing to a red and green circle approaching their position.

"That..." Elias said tapping some commands into the panel, "would be..." the screen resolved to show the advanced fighter heading towards them, "the tac-fighter."

Kendrick again. Darien instinctively drew his PKD and charged the weapon.

Elias looked at the weapon in his new skipper's hands and looked puzzled, "Did we do something to piss off the locals?"

"Not yet," Darien replied walking back through the gondola to the rear ramp and down into the snow.

The tac-fighter powered down its engines as it came to a rest a short distance from him, the cockpit canopy sliding back and a ladder unfolding from the fuselage. The pilot clambered up and out sliding to the snow and unhooking his helmet.

Kendrick stood patiently in the patch of light shed by the Dragonfly's floodlights, helmet tucked under his arm and his piercing cold eyes affixed on Darien approaching him.

"I wanted to thank you," Kendrick started.

"There's no need to," Darien replied. "I just did my job."

Kendrick tugged open the leather flight suit and reached inside, pulling out a piece of folded paper, "My father just got a signal from the Hegemony data net. It concerns a rogue Terran Security Officer who apparently murdered a member of the Inquisition back on Earth."

Darien felt his hand tighten on the pistol grip; they'd just run out of time.

"Don't worry, he didn't get the message," Kendrick continued. "I took the printout and erased the message from the system."

"Why?" Darien asked cautiously, still not quite believing the man across from him.

"Because of my sister," Kendrick stated flatly, "and this..." he tapped the patch on his flight suit. "It meant something once, and I know some people may have forgotten it, but I'm not about to."

"Thank you," Darien said sliding his PKD back into its holster on his leg, and accepting the piece of paper that Kendrick held out to him.

It gave his description, a warning that he was a dangerous rebel and a member of the Fifth Column Resistance and a statement that there was a reward for his capture. He stared at it a while. He had seen hundreds of them working for Terran Security, but he had never expected to see his name on one.

"How long do we have until they send a follow up?" Darien asked looking up at Kendrick.

The other man shrugged, "The next info package would send an update-a day or so at most."

A day or so... Darien glanced back at the Dragonfly, it would take about that long to get the ship operational and spaceworthy, the rest of Elias's modifications could be done en-route to their next destination. He might be able to shave a few hours off of that if they both worked through the night.

"I..." Kendrick said stepping forward, "I want to come with you."

Darien turned back and blinked at the colonist, "What?"

"I want to join the resistance," Kendrick stated flatly.

"I'm not in the resistance," Darien stated firmly. "I'm just a guy that got screwed."

Kendrick smiled anxiously, not willing to give up so easily, "Let me help you, we can get the work done quicker."

Darien continued to shake his head as he began to climb up the boarding ramp.

"I changed the start-up codes on the fighter," Kendrick said, his eyes setting darkly.

Darien turned to face the colonist. The man's high cheekbones, piercing eyes and defiant frown said he was serious. It was the first time Darien had seriously looked at the man. In his late twenties and adamant that his life was going to mean something...

Darien turned and looked up at Elias who shrugged helplessly. "We need the help," he said quietly.

"All right," Darien said turning back to the pilot. "I can't stop you from following us..." Kendrick had control of the fighter, and Darien simply didn't have time to break those start-up codes, "It's your life to throw away." He walked up into the belly of his ship, shaking his head. More problems.

* * *

It took them until the middle of the next morning; the Dragonfly was still a mess of open panels and crawl spaces, but she was spaceworthy. The ship shivered and rose steadily from the planet surface, the agile fighter streaking up past it heading for space.

Darien settled into his controls, adjusting the straps of the seat as he checked his gauges. The ship was holding together nicely and would be away from Irulia in no time.

Behind him, Elias came down the ladder from the upper compartment. "I stowed the last of the sentry guns," he stated, taking his seat at the rear console and looking up at the front windows as they climbed skywards.

"Great, I think we should deal with the rest of it," Darien replied, glancing back towards his engineer.

Down on the planet's surface, the wreck of the Terran corvette blew apart as a remote charge detonated what was left of its fuel reserves, reducing the whole ship to burning wreckage and sealing its fate forever.

The Dragonfly cleared the atmosphere, forming up with the fighter and its determined pilot, both ships charging their jump drives and jumping clear of the system without much ceremony. In their own ways both pilots had their own reasons for wanting to leave the system, and both had very different outlooks on the future.

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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It looks like we are adding to the crew manifest. Well, the more the merrier! I wonder if Kendrick has any idea that Elias is a construct, or even if he knows what a construct is. Well, in order to have a triangle you need three sides.

Edited by Will Hawkins
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I had a feeling that Kendrick would escape with Damien and Elias.  Damien was smart to blow the corvette up.  The Amsus would love to get their hand on it.  Kendrick will be of great value with his knowledge of the old Terran Empire and flying skills.  Hopefully Kendrick's father will not notify the authorities of their stop at the colony.  There is no way the Amsus would know they were there, and no way the Amsus could track them.  However, the Amsus would probably destroy the colony or at least Kendrick's family.

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Kendrick has the fire of youth behind him; but that may cause issues at some point.  He wants there to be a rebellion.  

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I suspect that Kendrick's addition to the merry band could create tension in the future. Darien is about getting away and finding a peaceful olace to start over. Kendrick is looking for resolution, while Elias, bless him, simply goes with the flow  how will all this play out I wonder?

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I hope that Kendrick will enhance the team, not cause division.  All their time has been spent running and reacting, Elias and Darien don't know much about each other, hopefully that will change.

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This should make things interesting, I believe Kendrick's father might be an issue...I hope not....

Interesting that Kendrick knew the uniform and insignias ...time to establish a chain of command to keep things running smoothly...

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