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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 - 7. Chapter 7

Una Sullis Victis

-Anonymous 'Email virus sent through Terran net'

Dragonfly was cruising through the deserted Lyle system; it was the second of three jumps that connected the Irulia system to the Haligonian Spacial Nexus. Darien kept his eyes on his instruments as he guided the blockade-runner along its course, the dark green shape of Kendrick's fighter flying in perfect formation with them about seven hundred feet away.

Elias was using the time productively, finishing the last of the work he had started on Irulia. Closing panels and bringing consoles online, he smiled in satisfaction as the Dragonfly integrated its new systems without problems.

He walked forward, wiping his hands on a rag noticing Darien's pensive look, and followed his gaze out towards the fighter. "You don't trust him?" he asked, resting a hand on the back of Darien's chair.

Darien glanced back towards the hand, then up at Elias. "I don't like being blackmailed," he replied firmly. "It pisses me off."

"He probably just wanted off that rock," Elias reassured. "And it's not as if we could have stored the fighter anyway, we have a full cargo hold."

Darien blinked and glanced up, "When did we get cargo?"

"Oh, a little bit of trading and stuff..." Elias said weakly. "We should have enough to pay docking fees at the Haligonian station if I go and sell the stuff... it's no big deal..."

Darien arched an eyebrow, "Do I want to know?"

"You pilot, and I'll sort out the finer details..." Elias grinned.

"Well you should at least take a shower first," he said, sniffing the rather pungent air around the grimy engineer.

Elias blinked, the soft blue eyes looking puzzled as he sniffed his overalls, "What? I don't smell anything."

Darien shook his head, "Man, trust me.... It's so bad I wake up and it's the first thing I smell..."

Elias paled a little, "Uh... I... err..."

Darien didn't notice the reaction as he adjusted the Dragonfly's trim; once done he turned, "So...when was the last time you took a shower?"

Elias did a quick calculation in his mind, "My birthday... almost a year ago..." He looked sheepish.

There wasn't much opportunity in space; showers were a rare commodity when water was strictly rationed. The other options, like sanitizers and cleansers, were expensive, and most two-bit operations, like the one Elias had belonged to before he had joined Darien's makeshift crew, certainly couldn't afford them. That meant long stretches of being unclean, dirt and grime building up and that caused other problems. Jock itch was one malady all too common on ships.

Elias shifted uncomfortably, "I... should go get cleaned up."

Darien nodded with a smile as he checked his readouts; they were still about four hours from the jump point and he set the controls to automatic as he unbuckled from his seat and followed Elias up into the crew compartment.

The sanitizer looked entirely out of place in the crew compartment, its pristine metal lines and frosted plexiglas door stood stark against the worn industrial metal of the rest of the ship, and Elias was staring at it apprehensively.

"You sure you installed this thing right?" he asked, his hands on the zipper to his coveralls. "I mean, I'm not gonna get electrocuted or anything because you... maybe I should check..." he turned to get his tools.

Darien smiled as he sat on the corner of his bunk and folded his arms. "Get in there, already," he insisted, marvelling that anyone so dirty could refuse a chance to get clean when faced with it.

"Well..." Elias stated uneasily, slipping out of the coveralls and undershirt. He stood in worn boxers chewing his lip as he desperately tried to think of a way to get out of this.

"My god, for someone who isn't afraid of pirates, raiders and colonists, you're really a big baby," Darien chuckled as he sat back. "I've used the thing every day, and I'm fine."

With one last reluctant look, Elias swept off his shorts and climbed into the small booth, holding onto the silver cross he wore around his neck and uttering something that passed for a prayer.

Darien shook his head at the strange young man, picking up the coveralls, emptying their pockets on the kitchenette counter and stuffing the filthy rags into the recycler where they belonged, in his opinion. The shorts and tee shirt followed, and Darien dusted his hands in satisfaction. That was one mission accomplished.

He set about making some food, leaning on the counter and flipping on the news feed. The Hegemony insisted that constant news feeds be available to all of its citizens relayed from ship to ship automatically, sometimes it was hit or miss on how old the news actually was. They'd passed a freighter about six hours ago and got the updated news feed automatically dumped to their communications net. From the time stamp it was only a few days old.

He sat on one of the kitchenette's stools resting his elbows on the counter top and watched the Amsus reporter drone on and on about the factual events that occurred in the Hegemony. Nothing but the facts, delivered in such a way that there was no suggestion of propaganda. The Amsus were such a dry people, preferring their technical details to an actual news story.

Elias emerged from the sanitizer, scampering to look for his clothes, and stopping when he realized they were gone. Embarrassed he grabbed for a pillow to cover himself and looked accusingly at Darien.

"Uh, boss?" he asked, his eyes wide, and colour tingeing his cheeks.

Darien rolled his eyes, it was like babysitting a teenager. "I threw them in the recycler," he stated flatly. "Wear something clean from the corvette."

"Uh, right," Elias stated looking about the compartment a little lost. He shifted the pillow to keep himself covered as he looked about.

"Here," Darien said, getting up and pulling open a drawer under the bunk where all the salvaged clothes had been neatly folded and put away. He pulled out one of the camouflage uniforms that looked like it would fit and handed it over to the embarrassed engineer.

"Thanks," Elias said, sitting down on the edge of Darien's bunk to get dressed. "I feel clean," he stated as if realizing the revelation for the first time himself.

"Good!" Darien replied wandering back to his stool, watching as Elias pulled on the clothes and fiddled with the unfamiliar fasteners. "Nice tattoos," he said idly reaching out to stir the pot of Kraft dinner bubbling on the hot plate beside him.

Elias ran his hand up the gecko that was climbing the right side of his abs, done in a tribal pattern. He loved it; it had cost him nearly an entire wage packet, but it had been one of the first things he had done for himself on his own. He smiled down at it and back up at Darien.

"Yeah, I got it last year," he explained, pulling his legs up until he was sitting cross-legged on the edge of the bunk, running a hand through his scruffy blond hair that was getting too long and needed a good comb in Darien's opinion.

"How long were you working for Jorten?" Darien asked suddenly; he'd spent so much time with this young man and he realized he knew so little about the enigmatic engineer.

"Since I was sixteen," Elias stated, his fingers tracing over the gecko thoughtfully before he shrugged on the oversized shirt and began to roll up the sleeves.

"Where are you from?" Darien pressed curiously.

Elias shrugged. "Mars," he said evasively. "Hey, is that food?" he asked, trying to change the subject, as he got up to lean over Darien's shoulder.

Again Darien noticed the younger man's proximity. There wasn't much space on the blockade-runner, and living in such close quarters there was bound to be a certain amount of inadvertent intimacy. Not that he minded, he just wasn't used to it.

"What about you?" Elias said, turning and making no effort to move away. "What happened to make one of Ter-sec's finest one of the Hegemony's most wanted?"

Darien thought about it a moment and decided to explain; by the time he was done telling the story they were both sitting across the counter from each other eating the macaroni and cheese. Elias listened intently and nodded along.

"No wonder the colonial nut job thinks you're part of the resistance," he said in awe. "You..."

The trilling beep from the cockpit caused both of them to jump, and Darien sprinted for the ladder, sliding down and strapping himself into the pilot's chair as Elias jumped into his seat at the rear console.

"What's going on?" Darien called, slipping on the comm. headset and checking his instruments.

"There's a freighter under attack," Kendrick's haughty voice greeted him through the comm. system.

"He's right," Elias stated, buttoning up his shirt as he checked the sensor panels. "Looks like an Orion freighter being attacked by a triad of fighters."

Darien sat still a moment with his hands resting on the controls of the Dragonfly. It wasn't his fight. There were rules about getting involved in something that wasn't your concern. You made enemies that way, and the last thing Darien needed was another enemy.

A flash caught his eye as he looked up at Kendrick's fighter, peeling away from its formation and screaming towards the distant flickers of light that was the Orion freighter's desperate battle for life.

"What the hell are you doing?" he called into the comm. channel, but it garnered no response from the colonist-turned-fighter-pilot.

Darien rubbed his forehead, making a snap decision and he switched the Dragonfly over to manual controls. The blockade-runner angled about in space and shrieked after the small fighter, its boosters kicking it up to speed.

Behind him Elias groaned as he began to wrestle into his seatbelts, remembering what had happened the last time Darien had gotten into a dogfight. This time however they were armed, and Elias flipped a few switches activating the auto-maser turret beneath him and holding onto his console for dear life.

The freighter was suffering under the fighters' assault. It was listing badly as fires raged along its great length. One of its engines was gone entirely and the other spluttered and flickered threatening to die out altogether.

Its weapons systems, too slow to handle the fighters pin-wheeling and harrying it, fired ineffectively filled the space around it with projectile fire. The fighters stayed tantalizingly just out of reach of the slower weapons.

It was into this that the snub-nosed Terran fighter, and the larger blockade-runner entered the fight. Two of the fighters peeled off to meet the threat, tri-winged shapes that slotted together irregularly and boasted rapid-fire energy weapons.

Kendrick's fighter arced downwards, its own weapons spewing forth deadly fire as the two fighters broke, one turning left, the other breaking up and right, leaving Kendrick free to chase the third still harassing the freighter.

Darien pulled back on one of the boosters, the ship turning on a dime. The Dragonfly wasn't as manoeuvrable as these fighters, but then it was better armoured and definitely outgunned them. A mobile weapons platform, he pivoted the ship, rolling it with the outboard rotating boosters so that Elias had a clear shot with the auto-cannons.

The gatling weapons spun up to speed, sending out a hail of purple weapons-fire that saturated space, zeroing in on the first fighter and slicing it to pieces without ceremony. It shivered and exploded a second later.

The Dragonfly pivoted again, its boosters stretching out to grab space and pull the ship about in manoeuvres few other ships could duplicate. The second fighter, having witnessed the death of the first at the Dragonfly's hands, hit its afterburners and attempted to get clear of the mobile anti-fighter platform.

"Asshole," Darien murmured. "Second someone stands up to you, you run."

The Dragonfly fired again, the maser fire tracing a path through the pirate fighter, and that one died as easily as the first. No match for the Imperial technology, the corvettes had been built specifically to provide cover to larger ships of the Imperial fleet, protecting them from fighters, and Darien quietly marvelled at what that must have been like.

Kendrick's fighter swept low over the broad deck of the stricken freighter, firing shots into the tail of the fighter that was trying to lose the more advanced Terran fighter. But its avenue of escape cut off by the Dragonfly, lurking like some predator waiting for it to break from the cover of the freighter so it could bring those murderous auto-cannons to bear, the pirate fighter had no choice but to restrict its flight to hugging the freighter's hull.

Kendrick levelled his fighter off, closing the gap between them with well-timed bursts of his own boosters. And the HUD targeting grids sang as they achieved a lock and he flipped the weapon systems on again.

"For the Empire," he said in a cold and merciless tone as the third fighter died as spectacularly as the first two.

"Dude's nuts," Elias said from behind Darien in the cockpit.

Darien shook his head slowly, turning his attention back to the Orion freighter which was beginning to break apart, its superstructure beginning to collapse under the strain of the damage it had sustained.

"We need to help them," he murmured, searching about the upper sections of the ship and pulling the Dragonfly down heading for the bridge superstructure.

"If that thing blows while we're docked..." Elias warned.

Darien ignored him, nudging the Dragonfly alongside an access hatch and extending the docking sleeve. The clanking heralded his success as he slipped out of the seat and hurried back into the rear compartment and threw open the hatch onto a nightmare.

* * *

The corridor was a mess of fallen bulkheads and debris. The only illumination came from a sparking power junction that showered the area in bursts of illumination as its power surged.

Darien held the flashlight he was carrying up a little higher, glancing back to Elias who was holding the door to the Dragonfly open and looking nervously after him. Darien's mind focused on the fact that the young man was worried about him, but there were more pressing issues than that realization as the deck heaved beneath his feet. One of the lower decks had begun to give way, he didn't have much time.

He knelt down beside the first figure he came to, but moved on quickly assessing the Orion as dead. There wasn't much left of the freighter, and he was worried they'd arrived too late.

He rounded a junction and came out into what had once been the weapons control centre, a trio of figures standing close together, their weapons drawn and levelled at him as he leaned on the doorframe.

Darien shook his head. "Come on, don't just stand there!" he yelled, throwing as much authority as he could behind the order.

He turned and began to jog back up the corridor, looking behind him as the trio followed him into the corridor and back towards the Dragonfly, the doomed freighter heaving again as the bulkheads began to give way.

Elias helped Darien inside, and in turn grabbed the nearest of the rescued trio into the hatch, the other two barrelling along behind. Darien slammed the hatch closed and scrambled to detach the ship from the freighter and activated the boosters in a steady push that propelled the smaller blockade-runner away from the derelict hulk that splintered apart moments later.

"Holy crap-that was close!" Elias murmured coming forward into the cockpit as Darien picked himself up off of the deck and breathed a sigh of relief. He turned back towards the trio of Orion crewmembers and his face froze as he saw two of them with their weapons drawn.

"Aw, now that's just rude!" Elias said in frustration as he turned and raised his hands in surrender.

"Put it down, Nazzien," the female of the three, and a human, said, pushing down the Orion's arm holding a vicious-looking pistol. "They just saved our lives."

The largest of the three, a Taïrian, lowered his weapon as well, a grin breaking out across his broad muzzle. Darien felt himself begin to relax and began to lower his arms, focusing on the woman, wearing an Orion officer's uniform, third mate by her rank insignia.

"I'm sorry we didn't arrive sooner," he said helplessly, noting that Kendrick's fighter had swept back into formation with the Dragonfly.

"You the Captain?" she asked gesturing at him.

Darien nodded, "I'm the skipper of the Dragonfly, yes."

She nodded, eyeing the strange ship about her, and the jerry-rigged alien technologies that comprised Elias's technical marvel. "I'm Lauren," she said. "Were there any other survivors?" she became all professional stepping forward to stare out of the cockpit windows at the burning wreckage that had once been her ship.

Darien shook his head, "No, I'm sorry, there wasn't time..."

"And the pirates," Nazzien asked, moving up beside them and searching the blackness of space for any sign of the ones that had attacked him.

"Dead," Darien replied, tapping some commands into his console and putting the Dragonfly back on course for the next jump.

The Taïrian was staring over Elias's shoulder as the young engineer checked the Dragonfly over for any sign of damage; finding none he sighed with relief and looked up at the burly creature with its warm, fond smile.

"Hi," Elias managed.

The alien nodded its head in reply and stepped back, standing impassively at the rear of the cockpit, its arms folded behind it, remaining silent.

Lauren sighed, looking away from the debris of her ship, running a hand through her blonde hair, her green eyes staring sadly at the bulkhead. She couldn't be more than about twenty-three by Darien's estimate, but she was classically beautiful.

"Where are you bound?" she asked after awhile, looking over at him.

"The Haligonian Nexus," Darien replied. "I'm more than happy to transport you there..."

Lauren inclined her head in thanks, "We'd appreciate that."

Darien nodded, returning to his seat, watching Nazzien. The dark-skinned Orion, with its shock of white hair, was eyeing Kendrick's fighter with knowing eyes. And Darien was adamant he'd make the journey as short as possible.

* * *

The Dragonfly was beginning to feel cramped-there were only the four bunks and Elias's hammock, and with each of them now filled, the crew compartment was feeling especially claustrophobic. Darien wasn't about to fall asleep yet, not with strangers onboard.

He sat down in the cockpit gondola wrapped in his afghan sipping hot coffee and watching the lights of Kendrick's engines ahead of him, guiding the way. As cramped as it was onboard Dragonfly, it was nothing compared to what it would be like onboard the fighter. Bucket seats and no room to move, Kendrick had to be going steadily insane on that thing.

He picked up the headset and slipped it on. "You awake over there?" he called out.

There was a crackle. "Yeah," came the reply.

Darien shrugged. "I can't sleep and figured you could use the company," he stated.

"Thanks," Kendrick said after a pause. "I'm sorry I charged off."

"No you're not," Darien replied taking a drink from his mug. "You did what you thought was the right thing to do, and because of you we saved three peoples' lives."

"Thanks," Kendrick replied. "I... it's just... I've never had to do that before."

"Do what?" Darien asked adjusting himself in the chair and staring out at the fighter.

"Kill someone," Kendrick responded quietly.

"Yeah, it's hard," Darien admitted, wrapping his hands around the mug and remembering the first time he had killed a man. It had been just another routine call back before he had made detective, back when he was still in uniform handling domestic disputes and drug dealers...

"How old are you?" Kendrick asked out of the blue.

"Twenty-six, I'll be twenty-seven soon, and you?"

"I'll be thirty soon," Kendrick responded. "From the way you sound, you sound much older... funny how that works, how life makes people age differently."

"Yeah," Darien replied thoughtfully, turning as Elias climbed down the ladder wrapped in a blanket of his own, a look of utter exhaustion on his face. Darien clicked off the transmitter and looked up. "You okay?" he asked in genuine concern.

Elias shrugged and sat down on the deck beside the pilots console, resting his head against it as he shrugged. "Can't sleep," he protested.

"Yeah, know the feeling," Darien replied, clicking back on the transmitter. "Looks like we aren't the only two insomniacs out here," he said with a chuckle. "Elias is up and about as well.

"Yeah, one of those nights," Kendrick said thoughtfully. "We should make it to the Haligonian Nexus when we jump in a couple of hours-any thoughts where we're going from there?"

Darien shook his head, glancing down at Elias who had fallen asleep curled up against the console, his side pressed up against Darien's feet and snoring lightly because of his awkward position-so much for his insomnia.

"I don't know," Darien admitted. "We need to figure a way to get through the Amsus cordon on the jump gates, I don't think it's going to be easy."

"We'll figure it out," Kendrick said with a yawn. "I'm gonna try to sleep..." he paused, "You know, I don't know your first name."


"Good night, Darien."

Darien slipped the headset off and set it aside sitting back into his chair, the young engineer curled about his feet, pulling the afghan closer about him as he settled in for a long, quiet night.

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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The rescue of the Orion ship was well written.  Kendrick led the charge, and interesting enough Damien chased right after him.  Kendrick will probably need to talk more with Damien about Kendrick's first kill.  The beautiful human woman was noticed by Damien, but did she catch his eye?  Elias is so cute when he falls asleep touching Damien.  

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I think a bigger ship is going to be needed, the crew is about to grow...Would like to know more about the Orion people...

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