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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 - 8. Chapter 8

The last thing he did was destroy the Jump gate Nexus in the
Geldan system. Effectively sealing the way behind him...
Some have argued this was the last act of a desperate man,
others stated that it was his way of building a fortress from
which he could strike back and avenge the fallen Empire.

-Archduke Francesco 'the fall of the Empire'

Haligonian Nexus

The great space station spread out like a city hanging in space. On the edge of a nebula, it was a critical refuelling station for ships not blessed with a ram scoop system. It was a city of lights, hanging on the edge of civilization, the jump gate nexus, a geodesic sphere hung behind it, the gateway to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Humanity's greatest gift to the universe was the Amsus Hegemony's greatest prize.

Traffic to and from the system was controlled through Haligonian flight control and enforced by Amsus patrol ships and raptor-class frigates. Ships flew along pre-designated approach vectors, passing under the watchful eye of the Amsus ships as they flowed to the station, and from there, if they were cleared, to the jump gate and the vastness of the universe beyond.

The Dragonfly jumped into the very edge of the system-any closer would have put them right under Amsus guns, and there would be no opportunity to slip away from them in the congested space traffic. Darien's plan was to keep as low a profile as he could, make a cargo run to the Haligonian station and wait for an opportunity to present itself that would allow him to reach the gate.

The fighter would give them the most trouble; if the Amsus recognized it visually... There was no hope they could do so from their limited radar systems, which was a small blessing; if Kendrick piloted it well and they didn't attract any undue attention they would be able to make it to the station at the very least.

Darien sat tensely in his seat, his hands guiding the Dragonfly along an approach vector that would keep them far enough away from any Amsus frigates that would get too curious. He was already working over in his head what he would say to Haligonian control when they eventually noticed him on their radarscopes.

Lauren was standing beside him, the pretty woman with her sad eyes staring out of the windows at the approaching space station framed against the nebula, the trans-galactic gate sitting just above it, glittering in the night.

"Beautiful, isn't it," she murmured quietly, leaning on the back of his chair.

Darien tilted the brim of his hat back away from his eyes. "I suppose it is," he replied.

And in a way it was, the station and the gate were his ticket out of Amsus space, freedom and a chance to stay that way lay on the other side, so close and yet so far. They were still a long way from it, and an entire Amsus battle group lay in their path.

"You're worried," Lauren observed.

"A little," he confessed, nudging the ship a few points to port and trimming the engines.

She nodded, as if confirming her suspicions, "You didn't have to stop for us back there."

"Nope," Darien replied keeping his eyes fixed ahead, "but you needed help."

Lauren nodded. "Then let me help you," she said, pointing to the comm. headset.

Darien frowned but handed it to her, hoping she had an ace up her sleeve.

"Haligonian Control, this is the Orion vessel Trinity, requesting approach vector and docking rights with Haligonian station."

"Orion vessel Trinity, we have you on our scopes, please transmit your corporate identity transponder and await further instructions." Haligonian control wasn't about to be bluffed.

"Of course," Lauren replied, leaning down to input a unique transponder signal into the box mounted to the pilot's console. The blockade-runner was designed to change its transponder code on a whim, one of the perks of picking up a modified vessel.

There was a pause and Haligonian control opened another channel, "Your transponder code has been verified, Trinity, approach along this vector..." he began to rattle off a series of co-ordinates, and Darien noticed they took them away from the nearest Amsus vessel. He looked up at Lauren questioningly.

She confirmed the course and turned off the headset to Haligonian control, smiling at Darien, "Trinity and the transponder code are a signal; Orion freighters sometimes have to carry merchandize outlawed by the Amsus. We pay good money to the administrators of Haligonian station to avoid unnecessary encounters with Hegemony vessels.

"I'll remember that one," Darien replied, adjusting the ship's course to follow the flight path laid out for him.

"My way of saying thank you for rescuing us," Lauren said, smiling broadly at him and her fingers tracing the shoulder of his leather jacket.

"All part of the service," Darien replied, trying not to think of the beautiful woman who was obviously hitting on him.

* * *

The Dragonfly had landed in one of the cavernous hanger bays beneath the station; tucked inside, it was safely away from prying Amsus eyes, just the way Darien preferred it. The fighter was sharing the same broad landing platform in the massive pressurized bay, and Kendrick was already out and stretching his legs from being cooped up too long.

Darien secured the ship and changed the Dragonfly's ignition codes as a precaution. Buckling his PKD to his thigh he walked out of the back of the ship, down the ramp and onto the landing platform, staring up at the massive chamber with ships coming and going past him.

There was a thrill of life about the station that he had come to miss, spending as much time aboard a ship as he had done lately. It was good to feel civilization again, even if it was briefly. He was still a wanted man, though, and the Amsus would have alerted the local station security about him, so his best bet was to lie low until it was time to leave.

He sighed as he watched a pair of ships sweep up past him, their landing lights on as they touched down on a pad across from the Dragonfly, powering down as they settled on their landing struts.

"Hey," Elias said coming up beside him and resting a hand on his arm, "you okay, Skipper?"

Darien glanced at the young man and nodded, "Yeah I'm fine. I think I am going to stay with the ship though while you deal with the cargo. If you don't mind handling it alone?"

Elias shrugged, "I'm cool; I'm gonna sell it off and pick up a few things we need in the station's commercial district, maybe get a haircut and stuff..."

Darien nodded, looking over to where Kendrick had peeled off the jacket of his flight suit and was leaning against his fighter chatting to the Orion, Nazzien. The stoic Taïrian, who Darien had come to learn was called Shale, was standing a little way away, never participating in the conversation, but listening intently.

"Jesus, Raptor!" Elias hissed a warning as the large frigate swept up past them, its engine struts and wings folding back as its landing gears extended. It easily dwarfed the other smaller vessels in the hanger bay, as it roared its way up to dock on a specially designed landing pad high above them. Like the birds it was named after, it perched ominously, ready to swoop down and attack at a moment's notice.

Everyone on the Dragonfly's docking platform froze, looking up at the dark shape looming above them, mirrored black steel and red landing lights reflecting off of its hull adding to the menace of the ship. Its powerful energy cannons slung under the main body of the craft, along with the gaping torpedo tube in the forward 'head' section of the frigate, showed exactly how lethal that craft really was.

"There goes the neighbourhood," Kendrick said, joining his two companions staring up at the ship. "Think they spotted us on the way in?"

"I doubt it," Lauren said, Nazzien and Shale in tow, her hand resting on her pistol as she watched the hatch that led into the station for any sign of trouble.

"Better play it safe," Nazzien warned, his grey eyes locking on Darien. "Hide the Imperial hardware until you're ready to get off this station."

Everyone looked across at the small tactical fighter, and Elias shrugged, "I can dismantle it and store it in the cargo inventory until we're ready to leave. But that'll take a bit of time."

Lauren shrugged, "I can help, I have engineering training." She looked up at Shale. "Watch the doors," she barked at the lumbering form, who nodded his head obediently and stamped off towards the hatch.

Darien eased his PKD in its holster; taking a final look up at the Raptor he decided to start unloading the Dragonfly's cargo. The more crates on the landing platform the less likely anyone would be to investigate the ones that would contain the fighter.

It took surprisingly little time to reduce the fighter to its modular sections. It was another testament to the versatility of Imperial engineering. It was crated in no time at all and set with the rest of the cargo containers from the Dragonfly's cargo hold.

Darien stepped back, and nodded with satisfaction, noting the Hephastian manifest logos on the cargo containers. He looked over at Elias who grinned back at him innocently, checking things off on a clipboard as he walked around the crates.

"What?" he asked his grin not slipping.

"You're a man of many talents," Darien conceded, shaking his head in wonder.

"True genius isn't limited to one field," Elias commented, slipping the clipboard under his arm. "I'm off to go make us some money and pay our docking fees. Wish me luck!"

Darien shook his head and grinned after the versatile young man as he strode off to find a dealer interested in purchasing whatever it was he had smuggled out of Hephastian.

Lauren watched him leave and joined Darien over at the boarding ramp to the blockade-runner, "I should go and make contact with the Orion shipping guild, let them know about our ship and the pirates..."

"This is good-bye, then?" Darien asked, realizing in the short time he had spent with the strange Terran-Orion officer had been quite pleasant. She was friendly and competent at what she did, a rare find that far from Earth and the home sectors.

"I don't know," Lauren replied with a grin, glancing over at Kendrick as he chatted with Nazzien again. "I think there are a few reasons for me to come back and visit before you take off on your suicide run for the jump gate."

Kendrick glanced over at her-seeing her watching him, he flashed her a bright smile before going back to his conversation.

"Well, if you need a place to stay while you're waiting for your lift back home," Darien offered.

Lauren glanced at the Dragonfly; remembering its cramped conditions and she shook her head, "I think I'll find a good hotel on the station, advantage of being a company girl." She grinned at him, "Think your boy Kendrick would go for dinner with a girl like me?"

Darien smiled as he shrugged, "I don't see why not, if you asked him."

He grinned, oblivious to the slow-moving vessel that rose up behind him, its pilot getting a good look at the vessel on the landing platform and making a quick dispatch to his boss several hundred light years away.

* * *

Elias, clean cut and feeling refreshed, was making his way through the station's commercial decks. It was a large mall of shops, cafés and bars that spread like multi-tiered city streets above him. You could buy anything in that market, from clothes through to food, right up to people.

He avoided the slave markets, preferring not to be reminded of a life that had almost been his fate. He'd stopped for a haircut like he needed, and was now picking up some of the bare essentials the Dragonfly lacked, things like coffee filters and cans of coffee. He had no idea how valuable coffee was until he had stayed on Irulia and he vowed to always keep a supply on the ship.

It was then that Elias spotted him, the tall sweaty looking man with too many tattoos and piercings, searching the crowd, no doubt looking for him. One of Jorten's men, the Haligonian Nexus was one of the last places Elias had expected to see one of Jorten's henchmen, but there was no doubt about who it was.

The man carried onwards talking into a remote comm. link, reporting in that he'd lost Elias.

"Fuck," the young man swore, glad that he had sorted out the cargo before deciding to visit the commercial district. He held tightly to his bags as he darted back through some of the side streets, heading back to the transit way that would whisk him back to the lower docking bays and his ship.

They needed to get the hell out of there, and quickly.

* * *

"What exactly do we do?" Kendrick asked sitting on the edge of the Dragonfly's rear console looking at his two companions. "If we try to run, that Raptor will be upon us before we even got clear of the station let alone powered up our jump drives."

"If we stay here Jorten's going to find us," Elias stated adamantly. "They know the ship, it's only a matter of bribing the right person at docking control and they'll know where we are."

Darien rubbed his tired eyes trying to think; they were trapped between the proverbial rock and the hard place. He knew coming to the Haligonian Nexus was risky, but they'd had no real choice in the matter. They had to get free of the Amsus, and there was only one way to do that.

"We need a new ship," Darien surmised, thinking it through.

"You're going to sell the ship?" Elias asked incredulously. Even Kendrick looked surprised.

Darien nodded, "We need to get through that nexus, and we're not going to be able to do that on the Dragonfly; if we sell her and book passage on a ship already going through, then when we get to a port on the other side we can buy another ship and get as far away from that Jump Nexus as we can."

"Sell the ship?" Elias repeated. He looked around him at the ship that he had all but built himself.

"You yourself said Jorten's men are here on this station looking for this ship," Darien replied.

"He has a point," Kendrick said folding his arms across his chest. "If I know my father, the second he realized who you were he would have reported this ship to the local Amsus governor-they have to have a description of her by now."

"Well, we have an advantage there," Darien said. "As far as Haligonian control is concerned we are the Orion trader Trinity; we should sell the ship quickly, book passage and get the hell out here as quickly as we can."

"But..." Elias protested weakly, knowing full well Darien was right.

"Look; anyway we can take those Maser cannons and the fighter?" Kendrick asked looking over at Darien.

"If we crate them and ship them with us I don't see why not," Darien admitted. "Anyone willing to ship us no questions asked would probably be able to carry some bulk freight as well."

"I have to dismantle the damn cannons again?" Elias complained loudly.

"How long?" Darien asked him.

"I can dismantle it no problem, a few hours. It's the installation that's the bitch." Elias grumbled as he went to his tool locker and began to pull out the tools he would need, "You guys had better start packing."

Darien smiled tightly at the upset engineer, and as Kendrick vanished down the rear ramp to make arrangements for his fighter, Darien paused. He reached out and touched Elias's shoulder in the same manner the young engineer always did to him to make him feel better.

"I'm sorry," he said sincerely.

Elias blinked back the lump in his throat and smiled at Darien sadly, "I know you are. I just need... some time, that's all..."

Darien nodded, turning and walking down the ramp; he needed to figure out how to get the three of them plus their cargo off of the station and through the jump gate.

* * *

Lauren opened the door to her hotel room and gave him a look that said she had been expecting him. She stepped back to let him in and turned to follow him through the suite to the small living room.

"We need your help," Darien said sitting down uncomfortably; he felt like he was imposing on her again and he didn't like it.

"To get through the jump gate," she replied, sitting across from him and continuing to brush her blonde hair. She'd changed into something more comfortable and looked like she was settling in for the evening, "I wondered how long it would take you to realize you can't run the Amsus blockade."

"It's a bit more complicated than that," Darien continued. "There's a couple of... unsavoury people after me..."

"So I noticed," she replied with a chuckle. "You're apparently a member of the Fifth Column Terrorists according to the news, they just upped your threat level as well."

"I'm not a terrorist," Darien replied defensively. "I'm a cop and I was framed."

"Yeah, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Its an old story." She crossed her legs and sat back in her armchair, "So, Captain Taine, how can I help you?"

Darien looked at her squarely, "I need to book passage through the jump gate for my crew, myself and some cargo, no questions asked."

"And you want to go on an Orion ship?" she asked carefully, thinking it over. She looked up into his brown eyes and shrugged, "Ok Captain, it's time for total truth here..." She got up and crossed to a side door, knocking on it and inviting Nazzien and Shale to join them.

Nazzien rolled his eyes recognizing Darien, and Shale just beamed. The two Orion crewmembers sat down as well and looked expectantly over at Lauren.

"He needs our help," Lauren said simply. "I said he had to tell us the truth first."

"Good," Nazzien said darkly, his ivory-white eyes boring holes into the Terran. "'Bout time, too."

Shale lifted a huge paw and set it down on the smaller Orion's shoulder, his way of telling his companion to calm down. He focused his yellow eyes on Darien and nodded for him to start.

Darien nodded to the Taïrian, looking over at Lauren he shrugged, "I was framed for killing an Amsus Inquisitor back on Earth..."

"Oh, they're always framed..." Nazzien threw up his hands, Shale kept his paw on the Orion's shoulder holding him firmly in place so he could hear the rest of Darien's explanation.

"It was another Inquisitor, I was a Detective Inspector in Ter-Sec..."

Lauren's eyebrows shot up, "Ter-Sec... that explains the PKD and you stupidly running through a crippled ship to save people." She looked over at Nazzien, "You know, risking their lives to save people." There was an edge of iron to her reminder.

"All right, Detective," Nazzien emphasized the word, "you want to explain the fact that the Amsus have branded you a part of the Resistance, and the fact you're running around in old Imperial uniforms with Imperial fighters?"

Darien explained his story again, watching their reactions, noting Shale's nodding, and Lauren's soft smile. Nazzien was the only one who seemed sceptical, but even he relaxed after awhile, looking petulant.

"I need your help... we need your help." Darien pressed.

"Darien, it means Possessed of Good," Shale spoke, surprising everyone in the room. "We should help him." His voice was grave and quiet, typical of his race, and he chose his words with deliberate caution.

Lauren nodded, "Seems Shale's quite taken with you, he didn't speak in front of me till about a year after we met." She looked at Nazzien, "What do you think?"

Nazzien shrugged, "Who am I to argue with the 'possessor of good', I just want it noted I still think this is a bad idea even though I am helping."

"So noted," Lauren agreed, turning back to Darien. "There's an Orion trade liner, the Protania, coming through the station tomorrow, it's bound for the Apilon Commonwealth. We're signing onto her as crew members." She looked at Darien meaningfully, "We'll get you aboard no questions asked; I know her captain well, he's a good man and won't ask questions." She got up and began to jot notes down on a piece of paper, handing it to him, "That's the manifest codes so you can load your cargo. Do what you need to do and meet us at Pier Twelve ten tomorrow... don't be late," she warned.

"Thank you," Darien insisted.

"Don't thank me," Lauren said with a smile. "Just doing my part to help a resistance leader."

"But I'm not..." he realized at that point that none of them believed that he wasn't. And he just gave up with a shrug, heading back to the Dragonfly.

* * *

Darien shook hands with the starship dealer, who at first had been sceptical of the Dragonfly, especially how she appeared. It had taken Elias walking through her, pointing out the modifications he had made to her sensor package and her engines to convince the dealer he was getting a good deal.

The tall alien licked his lips and put his thumbprint to the deal, transferring the agreed-upon sum, generous in Darien's opinion, but then the alien didn't need to know that. Their cargo had been transferred to be loaded upon the Protania when she arrived and their personal affects had been bagged, ready to take with them. The two men stood looking at the ship that had carried them so far away from Earth and served them loyally. It was almost like losing a member of their crew.

Elias was still upset; he kept glaring up at the Amsus Raptor in undiluted hate, his fists balled. And Darien felt the need to put an arm around his companion's shoulders; it seemed like the right thing to do, something to show he shared in the young man's pain.

Elias blew out a sigh and pressed against Darien, resting his head on Darien's shoulder. "It's not fair," he murmured.

"Come on," Darien said, picking up their bags and nodding to the hatch, "we have to go before we're spotted."

"Yeah," Elias said, looking at the ship one last time and moving to follow his friend.

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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I am like Elias and will dearly miss Dragonfly.  Damien may not be a rebel leader, but I think the Orion crew is helping him because they think he is a rebel.  That and he did save their lives.  

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Elias and Sarien are starting to bond and care for one another. I'm glad. Losing the ship is sad, but it was always a means to an end. 

Their saving Lauren and Co has been their saving grace. 

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