Tooth and Claw: Chapter Four- - Into the Fray...


Okay, so it didn't take as long as I thought it would have, but that's a good thing
. It's six A.M. here, I've been working on this chapter since Saturday Night Live, over seven hours ago! Surprisingly, however, I'm not that sleepy.

Anyway, I think this newest chapter is cool--there's a lot of action here.

So, read on, reply kindly, and enjoy...

Orion City
Orion System, Outlands
1621 hours (CST)

His heels clicking softly against the black marble floor of the Orion
Tower, Caliban Thereaux ascended the steps into his master’s sanction. The
broad shouldered, raven haired former private in Giovanni Valentino’s Marine
platoon had been meditating on the Tower’s rooftop, taking in the awesome
view, when he had been summoned by Valentino. He wondered what was
going on, that Valentino would interrupt Caliban in a moment as important as
He slowed as he entered, taking in the splendor of Valentino’s chambers.
It never ceased to amaze him. Black marble columns lined the massive chamber,
traced with gold, and Caliban was always fearful that he would soil the rich
ebony carpets adorning the floor with his boots. And yet it always seemed to be
spotless, and he wondered how Giovanni could keep it such a sterile
environment. Certainly pales in comparison to my modest cell, he thought with
a slight frown. But, after all, Valentino was the leader of the Orion Consortium,
the most substantial power in the Outlands.
Valentino, as usual, was before his massive observation window, hands
clasped at the small of his back. What goes through that man’s mind? Caliban
had to wonder. How could all of this come from the mind of one man? Thereaux
started forward, but stopped short when a sudden movement from the
periphery of his vision caught his attention. He turned his head, his braid
whipping about, to see Tobias Hart, huddled behind a large column, looking
menacing in the shadows. Although he would never admit it, the 278 year old
Navigator scared him. His mind powers were awesome, to be sure, but he
wondered what it would be like if Hart turned those powers on man as a
weapon. The thought made Caliban shudder.
Nodding tersely to Hart, Caliban stepped up behind Valentino, coughing
slightly to get his leader’s attention. “ Ah, Caliban, hello,” Valentino greeted
cheerfully. “ Beautiful day, is it not?” Caliban looked past the tall man to the
gray, midday sky of Orion. It wasn’t what a beautiful day had been back home,
but compared to the usual never-ending rainstorms of Orion, today was
“ Very,” he replied. “ You wanted to see me, sir?”
Valentino placed his hands behind his back and paced. “ Yes. I did. I just
recieved word from Hans von Metz. The Armada has begun assembling near the
Hadrian Quasar. He is expecting the Leviathan soon.”
Caliban nodded in understanding. The Consortium’s Chief of Navy, the
twisted former Gunnery Sergeant Hans von Metz, had been assigned by
Valentino personally to oversee the invasion armada that would jump into Earth
space and slaughter the Confederation. Normally, the travel through the
Outlands and Kilrathi Space into Confed territory took four long months, but
with the powers of Tobias Hart, Giovanni hoped to cut that time to a mere four
days. But Caliban was skeptical. How could one man open up the heavens to
transport dozens of warships to the other side of the galaxy in that short amount
of time?
“ I suppose you will be going with the Leviathan, sir?” he queried,
although he already knew the answer.
“ Of course, I have to see that everything goes according to plan,”
Valentino responded. “ While I’m gone, Orion City is yours. I trust that you will
keep it under control and prevent McLeod and his damnable High Council from
taking control.” Caliban saw the hint of a smile on his master’s face as he
mentioned the wiry former Staff Sergeant Ian McLeod, now Chairman of the
Consortium High Council. McLeod had always been power hungry, and there
had been a running joke that if Valentino should stray too far from Orion City,
Ian would end up taking total control. “ I’ll be shipping out soon with Mr. Hart.
I want you to keep me appraised of our dear Baron’s endeavors in Aeolus. I
want that Confederation vessel demolished! We’ve come too far now to put up
with any interference.”
“ Yes, Lord Valentino. They will be a ripe offering to Nike.”
A shrill, maniacal cackle erupted from Valentino’s lips, echoing
throughout the chamber. “ And so soon shall our dear friends the Kilrathi. One
simple parlor trick and they’re bowing at my feet like I am their god! Such
simple creatures, I’m almost reluctant to kill them.”
Then don’t, Caliban thought, but immediately regretted it. Vagargk had
been useful once, when he had had Tobias Hart in his possession, but now that
the Navigator leader was in the Consortium’s hands, any dealings with the
Kilrathi were extraneous. But Lord Valentino, Caliban reminded himself,
couldn’t spare ships to dispatch the Enterprise, and so the Kilrathi were needed.
Still, to kill them after they had accomplished the deed was unsavory to Caliban.
“ Is that all then, sir?”
“ For the moment. Remember: In a matter of days, the Terran
Confederation will be cinders beneath our boots! I apologize for interrupting
you, return now to your meditations, young one. ” Caliban flinched. He hated
being called young one. He was only two years younger than Valentino! Stop it,
Roger! he thought, slipping back into the name he had once used long ago.
Valentino is wise and just.
Offering a salute, one that he would have given back during the Kilrathi
War, Caliban turned around and headed back down the stairs into the corridor.
What is wrong with me? he wondered, stopping to lean against the wall. This
part of the Tower was so empty, so quiet; Perfect for thinking. Why do I keep
thinking these things that I have been thinking lately? First, several traitors
within the Consortium’s ranks had tried to convert him to their causes. And
there had always been arguments with Valentino, disagreements on the way the
Consortium was ran.
And then again... Caliban found himself praying less and less to Nike and
Jupiter. Were they really up there? he was forced to wonder. Do they really
smile down upon us, do they really assist in our grim cause? Each and everyday,
it seemed less and less likely that Giovanni Valentino was a great man.
“ Do you really believe the horseshit that maniac crams down your
throat?” Tobias Hart asked, and Caliban nearly jumped out of his skin at the
abruptness of it.
Scowling, Thereaux snapped, “ How long have you been standing there,
The small man, cleaned up and dressed in the stiff black uniform of an
Orion naval officer, stepped forward. “ Long enough to see in your eyes what
your soul has been telling you.”
“ You’ve been reading my mind, Hart?”
Crossing his arms across his chest, Hart grinned. “ I’m a telekinetic, not a
telepath. I could damn well throw you across this hall with a wiggle of my
pinkie finger, but your mind’s a blank slate to me.”
“ And yet you know what I’m feeling?”
“ I’ve been around for damn near three-hundred years, Mr. Thereaux,”
Hart responded. “ I’ve dealt with a lot of people. I can see you don’t belong
here-- in the Consortium. And you know that as well as I do.”
Caliban turned away, folding his muscular arms across his chest. If Hart
could read his eyes, he didn’t want the man to see them now. “ I have to obey
my master, Mr. Hart,” he stated bluntly. “ He is wise. He is just.”
“ Bullshit!”
“ The audacity!” Caliban snapped back, whirling around to face Tobias.
“ You have no right, little man!”
But Hart shook his head. “ I’m abducted, and sent to this hell in an effort
to destroy the world I grew up on? Damn you, I have every right! Valentino is a
madman, and no matter what you may say, I can see it in your eyes that you
believe that to be true as well. That man’s reign of terror in the Outlands must
stop now, before it spreads like a plague!”
“ I have to fight... for Nike.”
“ She doesn’t exist! You know that! Stop this game, Caliban! Help me
now! Help me defeat that madman! Help me restore order to the Outlands!”
Caliban shuddered at the passion in Hart’s voice. How would I feel, he
wondered, if I were forced to help destroy my homeworld... And then it hit him.
That was exactly what he was doing. Earth was his home, not Orion. He had
been away from civilization for so long, that everything he once was was but a
dim memory. What have I become? he asked himself, tracing the scars lining his
He looked over at Tobias Hart. With a sigh, he whispered. “ Remember
what you see in these eyes, Mr. Hart. Always remember.” And with that, he
wrapped his cloak around his shoulders and disappeared into the shadows.

Hellcat 315
Aeolus System, Outlands
1624 hours (CST)

“Break formation and engage the enemy!” Rigsby roared.
Chris took control of his fighter, jamming the stick sharply to starboard as
the wave of Dralthi IVs screamed towards the Flight Wing and the Enterprise.
Particle and neutron fire lit up the blackness of space, assaulting Chris’s eyes
with a hellish light show of reds and greens. The bat-winged Cat fighters were
ominous looking, and Chris immediately thought back to the simulators. He had
fought the Dralthis during those Academy recreations. They were fifteen metric
tonnes, thirty-one meters long, with a maximum velocity of four-hundred-thirty
KPS. The stats were damn close to Chris’s own Hellcat, the only comfort he had
was his extra one-hundred centimeters of shielding.
But why Kilrathi? That was the question nagging him in the back of his
mind. The Enterprise and her escorts were here to fight the Orion Consortium,
but suddenly the Kilrathi had dropped right into the equation. What did the
Cats have to do with it all? Maybe it was a big trick, he thought, Orions piloting
Kilrathi fighters, just to throw the Enterprise off track.
With a sigh and a deep breath to expel the queasiness, Chris tuned into
the wide-band radio frequency:
“ Give me a damage report...”
“...come they never clean these seats!?”
“ Pinscher Nine, Fox Two!”
“ They may not be aiming at me, but they’re hitting me!”
Chris took it all in with a sense of dread. The furball was on. Explosions
ignited in the distance. Had they been Confed or Kilrathi? He couldn’t make
them out. Suddenly, slicing through his reverie like a machete, his target lock
alarm screamed. Damn, I should have been paying better attention! he thought
frantically. This is the big show, not a game anymore!
He saw the Dralthi IV looming over him, all brass-colored metal and
sharp angles. It was ugly to be sure, but also trying to get him in his sights! Chris
pulled to left and right sharply, his stomach falling to his feet. But the lock still
held firm on him! “ Damn!” He saw the ImRec arching away from the Dralthi,
and launched a deluge of decoys, pulling the stick into his gut at the same time.
He screeched in joy as the enemy missile detonated against the chaff. That was
close. He had to pay better attention.
Pulling sharply between an Enterprise Arrow and a Dralthi, Chris
pointed the nose of his fighter downwards, aiming it straight at the Kilrathi who
had launched the missile at him. He brushed his thumb over the gun trigger,
splattering the bogey’s dorsal shields, which lit up with a brilliant blue glow.
The Dralthi swerved to port, attempting to get away, but Chris kicked in the
afterburners--which were more powerful than the Kilrathi’s-- to catch up. The
tables turned, Wizard called up one of his six ImRecs. He waited, watching his
HUD, before the targeting brackets surrounded the Kilrathi medium fighter.
“ You pathetic descendent of monkeys!” his foe spat, but Chris just
laughed. The missile homed in on the Dralthi, moving at 2000 KPS, until it
slammed into the Cat’s starboard flank. A hunk of durasteel erupted from the
damaged fighter, but unfortunately the Kilrathi still lived. “ You are worth less
than the dung on Rikar 3!”
Same to you, buddy, Chris thought viciously, pouring on the neutron fire
into the Dralthi’s damaged side. The alien pilot lost control, his armor eaten
clean through, and dipped to starboard to explode against his wingman, who let
out a tortured howl as his fighter was torn apart. Somehow, against the Kilrathi,
Chris was not as sickened by the action of killing. That, however, made him a
little worried. After all, he had even befriended a Kilrathi!
“ Worthy of a kil,” Ju’rak remarked, the Captain’s face appearing upon
the VDU. He grinned at the irony of the comment. Chris tapped his head in a
salute, and punched the afterburners, locking onto a nearby Dralthi and opening
up with his neutron cannons...

KIS (former) Skarr’var’Rhis
Aeolus System, Outlands
1631 hours (CST)

Pacing the bridge like a caged animal, Baron Vagargk nar Kiranka
watched the reports from the CIC scroll across his screens. The forty red
triangles representing his Dralthis plunged into the Confederation lines. He
winced as he saw four of his Dralthis wink out on the display in the first minutes
of the furball. Damn! The confees were good; The only consolation Vagargk had
was the fact that they were pretty much evenly matched. Just hold together, he
silently prayed.
Try as he might to keep his attention riveted upon the assault against the
Enterprise, Vagargk’s thoughts seemed to meander to the dilemma he was
currently facing. The TCS Enterprise and her two escorts, the Churchill and the
Tripoli, were ripe for attack, and running away from a fight was a slight against
Sivar in Vagargk’s eyes. He had to fight; For glory and honor! And yet there was
still the Consortium. The sooner he’d destroy the Terran carrier, the sooner that
bastard Valentino would have him under his boot. I just cannot run away from a
fight! I will not become a damn pacifist, like Srakkah nar Ki’ra! Yes, the situation
was final: The Skarr’var’Rhis would fight. Vagargk would deal with the Orion
Consortium when the time came.
The bridge doors parted softly and Kali, flanked by Griska, her personal
bodyguard, entered. “ You learn nothing, brother,” she whispered, lowering her
voice so the bridge crew would not hear.
Not bothering to face his sister, Vagargk snapped, “ You are not in the
position to teach me a damn thing! Would you dare dishonor Sivar by running
from a fight?”
“ You’d rather pursue this petty battle, than escape the guns of the
Consortium?” Kali chuckled coldly. “ You are mad. Blinded by blood. Did
rushing headlong into battle always fare well for the Empire, back when she was
at its finest? No. Where was Sivar for those poor bastards slaughtered at the
Battle of Terra?”
“ You speak heresy!”
“ I speak the truth. You are daft if you think all Sivar cares about is
bloodshed and war. Redclaw knew this. Perhaps you should learn something
from him.”
Vagargk’s claws lashed out, catching Kali across her face. She stumbled,
collapsing into the bridge railing. The Baron stood over her, fuming, his paw
wrapped around the hilt of his dagger. Kali chuckled, blood running into her
golden eyes. “ Treacherous bitch! I should kill you!” he snapped.
Griska, always the silent one, stepped forward, reaching for his own
blade. Not one to particularly enjoy a blood duel between two kils of the same
clan, Kali waved her bodyguard off. Coming to her feet, she faced Vagargk. “ If
you want to commit suicide, that is fine by me. Just don’t expect me to fall onto
my sword as well, dear brother. Put away your dagger. There will be no blood
shed on this bridge.”
“ I tire of this argument, Kali,” he admitted, tucking his knife back into
his tunic. “ It is like this: The Enterprise will come after us sooner or later.
Eliminating it now will only be useful to us. The Consortium is a problem, it is
true, but I have it taken care of.”
Kali grinned nastily. “ Do you? I’ve yet to see your prowess against the
Orions. I seem to recall a certain brother of mine groveling at the feet of the
Consortium’s leader upon a simple molecular disintegration. Sivar knows you
offered enough of them at Prince Thrakhath’s court.”
Grinding his fangs together and leaning towards his sister, Vagargk
growled, “ I have it taken care of.”
“ I’m sure you do. Griska?” The burly golden-furred kil fell into step
alongside Kali and the two exited from the Skarr’var’Rhis’s large bridge.
Vagargk scowled darkly at his sister’s retreating form. “ Warg, I want you
to keep an eye on her. I don’t trust her.” The supercarrier’s chief of security
nodded gruffly, placing a hand on the butt of his pistol and silently following
Kali and Griska out. Warg was a good spy, part of the Drakhai during the War.
If anyone could preempt an act of dissension, it was Warg nar Hhalles.
“ Kalrahr, we are receiving a communication from Flight Leader
Na’Grok,” Communications Officer Yaruk announced. Vagargk motioned for
him to patch the pilot through.
Brilliant flashes of neutron fire lit up the heavens behind Na’Grok’s
Vaktoth heavy fighter, and Vagargk could detect the sheer concentration the
young kil was exerting just from the knitting of his brow. “ My Kalrahr,”
Na’Grok wheezed, pulling sharply to starboard as a Terran fighter opened fire
in the background, “ these Terrans are formidable. I fear my Dralthis will be
“ Ready to fold so soon, Na’Grok?” Vagargk asked calmly, but silently
fuming over it all. Even as the words escaped Na’Grok’s lips, the Baron saw ten
more Dralthis disappear from his screens. Damn it all, they were losing! How
could that be possible with Sivar on those Dralthis’ side?
Na’Grok shook his head, even as neutron fire splashed against his rear
shields. “ Never!” he roared. “ But I just believe we should be cautious. We are
short on fighters.”
“ Reinforcements, then?”
“ Kalrahr?”
Vagargk whirled to his pilot officer, 2nd Fang Taku, who gripped his
controls with two synthetic arms, the results of a long ago feud. “ Pilot Officer,
move us to the Enterprise’s position, full thrust!” The Baron grinned maniacally
at Na’Grok. “ ‘Reinforcements’.”
“ Going in for the kill?” Na’Grok queried with the hint of a grin. “ But
what of the Consortium? The sooner we finish this, the sooner they’ll be gunning
for us.”
Vagargk snorted in derision. “ To hell with the Consortium! Na’Grok,
dispatch a wing of your fighters to eliminate the Consortium frigates at the edge
of this system!”
Eyes widening, Na’Grok replied incredulously, “ I am low on fighters,
but it shall be done, Kalrahr. Still, if we shall not fight for that Terran, Valentino,
then whom shall we fight for?”
“ For Sivar!!” Vagargk roared, his voice so loud that the nearest crewman
visibly flinched. “ I want that carrier demolished! It shall be a glorious sacrifice
to Sivar, as well as a prime example to the rest of Srakkah nar Ki’ra’s pacifists
here in the Outlands.”
“ But Mistress Kali...” Na’Grok whispered, his voice shaking as he said it.
“ Kali shall be no concern of yours, nor mine. She will be dealt with, just
as any who does not bow at my feet shall be dealt with.” Vagargk smiled, claws
extended, and he stepped closer to the screen, his face filling the VDU in
Na’Grok’s Vaktoth. “ First the Enterprise... and then the galaxy!”

Bridge, TCS Enterprise
Aeolus System, Outlands
1652 hours (CST)

Captain Hawk, strapped into his command chair as Kilrathi fire splashed
against the forward shields, scowled. Right now, a cigar would be mighty nice.
Or, hell, even some chewing tobacco. Anything but this tension he was faced
with now.
What the hell did the Kilrathi want with them? How did they fit into this
puzzle here in the Outlands? There were too many questions for Hawk to sort
out, and right now was not the appropriate time to do it! Whatever the reasons
behind the attack had been, Hawk knew one thing: They wanted to destroy his
ship, and he could not allow that to happen.
Whirling to his Flight Control Officer, Baine snapped, “ I want more of a
forward defense, dammit! Have Spyder and DangerLover get the hell over here
and keep those bastards away from the bridge! If we go, this whole ship goes
with it.” With an inward
grin that he would not dare show before his bridge crew, Hawk thought back to
a tale he had heard from Blair, the Wing Commander back on the old Victory.
Blair had served on the Tarawa during that escort carrier’s end run to Kilrah
eight years back, and had told Hawk of the time when the Cats had taken the
bridge out, and Captain Bondarevsky had taken control from the Flight Control
“ What a fight, eh, Captain?” Rollins quipped from the Auxiliary
Command Console. “ Reminds me of Ariel.”
“ How’s that?”
Radio shrugged, adjusting his glasses. “ Well, the Vic got swamped by
kitties, cap ship came in--”
“ What did you say?” Baine gasped, turning to face the redheaded
Lieutenant Commander.
Laughing, Rollins jabbed a finger at the radar display. “ Kilrathi carrier
incoming, Captain,” he said, a smile on his face. Ah, the impetuousness of youth,
he thought glumly. When you could take it relatively easy and rely on the C.O.
for the big decisions. Yeah, wait until you find yourself in command, Radio.
Would Hawks’ young Executive Officer be prepared?
“ Tactical! Talk to me!” Hawk roared.
Jim Burrows, the grizzled CPO at the tactical station, pressed his headset
into his ear and peered at his plotboard. “ Confirmed, Captain,” Burrows
announced. “ Kilrathi carrier... of the Hakaga-class?”
“ Son of a bitch! Vagargk! I had heard that bastard had slunk off into
these parts some years ago with the Skarr’var’Rhis, but it hadn’t dawned on me
much that we’d cross paths,” Baine hissed.
Rollins shrugged. “ Ya think he’s somehow involved with Valentino and
the Orion Consortium?”
A grim smile upon his beefy face, Captain Hawk nodded. “ Count on it,
Commander. Count on it.”

Hellcat 315
Aeolus System, Outlands
1658 hours (CST)

“ No, Bugs Bunny screws your mother!” Chris retorted with a laugh,
slamming the stick to port to line up his targeting reticule with the Vaktoth
heavy. It was the leader, he was convinced of it. The markings on the beast were
testament to that assumption. Going after the wing commander was suicidal for
a rookie pilot, but for some reason Chris felt compelled to engage the leader!
After being out here, stuck in a massive furball, explosions going up all around
him, for damn near an hour, Chris finally felt relatively comfortable in his
position as a fighter pilot. The queasiness had subsided, surprisingly, and Chris
finally felt that he could fly with confidence. To hell with Cadet Piedmont, and
all of the other jerks at the Academy.
Chris, splattering the Vaktoth with his neutron guns, studied the ungainly
ship, which was perhaps uglier than the Dralthi! Two large gun blisters
sandwiching the narrow cockpit, expansive forward-sweeping wings, and the
nefarious-looking fins on the belly and spine of the Cat fighter. Even as Chris
attempted to get a target lock with one of his two remaining ImRecs, his forward
shields, already slightly weakened, were threatened by the Vaktoth’s rear meson
gun. Damn, the Vaktoth sure was a powerful beast. Slightly slower, sure, but six
guns, four missile hardpoints with two Javelins to each, and not to mention its
shield far more thicker than his own Hellcat’s.
“ The Confed apes dare to attack?” the Flight Leader growled in Kilrathi,
the taunt translated into English by the Hellcat’s computer. Na’Grok barrel
rolled his fighter to starboard, catching Chris on the nose with his meson gun.
The Terran pilot pursued, shearing through the Vaktoth’s dorsal shields with his
guns and severing the portside fin.
Na’Grok lifted up on one wing and dove to port, simultaneously pulling
back on the throttle. Chris, who had never seen this rudimentary trick in the
Academy simulators, swore, watching as the Vaktoth fell onto his tail and
opened up with his plasma and tachyon guns. Blue flashes erupted behind Chris
and he watched with dread as a warning erupted on his HUD. What the hell
was he thinking taking on this guy?
Chris gunned the afterburners, trying to evade Na’Grok. Even as he tried
to pull to starboard to escape the Vaktoth, he heard the dreaded lock warning
sounding in his helmet. Shit! Dropping chaff, Chris dived even as the explosion
from the heat-seeker detonated above him. The shockwave spread outwards,
catching his Hellcat’s tail and sending him into a tumble. Gaining control, Chris
performed an Immelman, linking his neutron guns up with his ion guns and
opening fire. The Vaktoth flew straight at him, taking the brunt of the attack on
the nose, and Chris didn’t think the guy would alter his course before they
slammed into each other.
Chris’s Hellcat rocked with a salvo from Na’Grok’s plasma guns, and
with a muffled curse, he threw his medium fighter hard to port, even as the
enemy Vaktoth flew past the space he had occupied only a split second
beforehand. As Chris dodged to his left, his drives were exposed and his foe
took the advantage to launch a Javelin. “ Christ!” Chris howled, even as the
missile tore through his shields and shot into his armor. As he tried to gain
control of his wildly careening fighter, Na’Grok dove down on him, ripping into
his armor with plasma guns. Damage alerts sprang up across the board.
“ Any last requests, Terran scum?” Na’Grok spat, even as he called up
another missile.
Chris lowered his head. “ Damn.”

Vaktoth 205
Aeolus System, Outlands
1704 hours (CST)

Sharg nar Caxki swore quietly under his breath. What the hell am I doing
now? he was forced to wonder as the Orion frigate swelled within his canopy.
He and his Slaughter Wing were needed back at the battle. Na’Grok could not
handle it all on his own. Even now the Skarr’var’Rhis’s fighter squadron was
suffering heavy losses against the Terran forces. And yet Sharg’s twin brother
had ordered him away from the primary engagement to eliminate the pair of
frigates at the edge of the Aeolus System. But why? Sharg was convinced that
Baron Vagargk had been working for the Terran Valentino. When Sharg had
attempted to question Na’Grok, his brother had not been candid, offering a
skeptical comment that Vagargk was out for blood. No doubt “ for the glory of
Sivar,” Sharg thought with an inward chuckle.
As the triple-A fire spat out from the first frigate, Sharg heard the
reassuring tone of a target lock as it settled over the Orion ship’s engines on his
HUD. The white-bluish cone filled his vision, and Sharg flipped back the cover
on his missile trigger with a claw. “ Slaughter Wing!” he snapped. “ Prepare to
fire!” Even as he gave the order, he heard Qazar nar Sihkag of Tiger Wing give a
similar command as his Paktahns prepared to launch on the second frigate.
“ Vraxar!” Sharg howled as his wingman took the brunt of the flak and
tore apart in a blinding conflagration. Fregnar had been such a young kil... and
now he was dead. But there was no time to mourn, for it was now time to do this
thing. “ Slaughter Wing! Launch missiles NOW!” Vurka and Pokraw let loose
with a deluge of three missiles each, all homing in on a single point-- the
frigate’s engines. Sharg added his warheads to the fray, watching as the Javelins
rocketed towards the Orion ship at 2500 klicks per second. To starboard, Tiger
Wing launched as well and the Vaktoths and Paktahns pulled up as their
missiles and torpedoes hit home.
“ Traitors! Pluto will banish you to Tartarus for this injustice!” the
frigate’s comm officer roared, even as the bridge broke up around him. Sharg
did a flyby of the ship as a shudder ran through it, the armor plating shearing
off in a blinding flash of light. Explosions ran through the frigate, tearing it apart
bit by bit until all that remained was a blackened husk. With some satisfaction,
Sharg saw the second ship in a similar state. “ Mission accomplished.”
Suddenly, even as he howled in triumph, Qazar’s Paktahn was hit. Sharg
watched with wide eyes as the commander of Tiger Wing was torn apart, his
lifeless corpse slamming up against his wingman’s cockpit. His gunner, Egurk,
floated alongside him. “ Damn! Eight Orion Excaliburs!” Sharg announced as the
heavy Terran fighters uncloaked and dove down at them, guns blazing. “ They
must have hidden behind the frigates! Slaughter and Tiger Wings: Engage those
Sharg gripped the stick, turning his fighter to face the oncoming wing.

Hellcat 315
Aeolus System, Outlands
1705 hours (CST)

Listing to port, Chris pit down on his lower lip as Na’Grok howled in
maniacal laughter. This was it, he was convinced, he was going to die, just like
his father. I guess this is where being impetuous and erratic gets you, he thought
dejectedly. And there was so much I wanted to do. Never did get to have sex...
Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a quartet of Thunderbolts descended out
of the sky, dropping Javelin heat-seekers onto the Vaktoth’s tail. It was Ju’rak
and Beta Wing! Na’Grok dropped chaff and pulled into evasive. Chris watched
as Machine’s and Ruby’s missiles detonated against the decoys, but the
heat-seekers fired by Khan and Dana hit home, slamming across Na’Grok’s
starboard flank. The Flight Leader went into a wild spin before he gained
control and disappeared into the fray, badly damaged.
“ God, thanks, guys!” he gasped. “ I thought that bastard had me for
Captain Ju’rak’s massive head appeared on Chris’s VDU, and it was
unusual to see a helmeted Cat in a cockpit who wasn’t trying to kill him.
Shaking his head, Khan said, “ I want you to be confident and to believe in
yourself, young one. Not kill yourself.”
“ Be careful, stud,” Dana said, her visage shifting itself onto his screen
and Chris felt his cheeks go red, thankful for the safety his helmet offered.
“ Wouldn’t want to lose you.”
Chris turned his fighter towards the T-Bolts of Beta Wing, carefully
watching his scopes and taking notice of the dwindling number of red blips.
Good God, they were winning! “ I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful next time.”
The conflagration erupted so suddenly that Chris had not the time to
register it fully. Machine Montoya, once riding alongside Khan relatively
unscathed, was reverted to a lifeless corpse among smoldering wreckage as the
missile cut through his heavy fighter. Khan let out a strangled cry, pulling his
ship to starboard to escape the blast.
“ What the hell? That was a capship missile!” Ruby gasped.
And then Chris saw it. It was the single most massive ship he had ever
seen in person. Twice the length of any Kilrathi carrier, the vessel he now laid
his eyes upon was surely awe inspiring. Even as he stared at it with his mouth
agape, Chris saw dozens of capship missiles lance outwards towards the
Enterprise’s fighters. Several explosions blossomed in the distance. However,
despite its size, the supercarrier was looking quite worn down. Wide, gaping
holes were torn into side armor, blackened support struts curling outwards like
gnarled fingers. Two of the six launch bays were absent, and a rough patch job
was visible on the ship’s starboard flank. She had gone through hell and back it
seemed, and now was gunning for the Enterprise.
“ The Skarr’var’Rhis...” whispered Ju’rak. “ Damn it all, that’s Vagargk!”
“ Who?” Chris asked.
“ A former noble in the Imperial court. After the war, he fled into the
Outlands with the Hakaga supercarrier Skarr’var’Rhis on some damned holy
war against Srakkha nar Ki’ra. Although I don’t know why he would attack the
Enterprise. Is he somehow working for the Consortium?”
Chris sighed. “ I’d bet everything on it, buddy. Hakaga? Those are the
ships that attacked Earth back in ‘68, right? After the false treaty? I was only
sixteen when I heard about it back home on Arcturus VI, but I remember how it
had scared the crap outta me. Damn impressive engineering skill. If it hadn’t
been for the Free Corps campaign and Colonel Taggart’s investigation in Hari
space, Earth would have been leveled by those beasts. Still, the Skarr’var’Rhis
looks like hell.”
“ Seven years of wear and tear out here in the Outlands, Lieutenant, can
take its toll,” Khan responded simply. “ You’d be surprised how much abuse a
ship like that takes. I’m surprised she’s still sailing at all, to be quite honest with
you--” Ju’rak stopped in mid-sentence, craning his head around to see tiny
pinpricks of light inch their way toward the bulk of the Skarr’var’Rhis. Many of
them opened fire, launching Dumbfires and ImRecs at the formidable vessel, but
the warheads simply detonated harmlessly against the shields. “ What the hell
are those imbeciles doing?” Khan snapped. “ The Hakaga can resist a Mark V
antimatter torpedo, for Sivar’s sake!”
Chris swore under his breath. Gandalf and HardCore were two of the
pilots going up against that Hakaga. The sons of bitches would be cut to ribbons!
“ Wizard to Nike, we gotta stop this. They’ll get slaughtered, ma’am!”
“ Stingray, order them to call off their goddamned attack!” Carrie
pleaded, pulling up on Chris’s wing. He noticed an ugly gash marring the side
of her Hellcat. It looked like none of them had gotten off without damage.
Chris’s gaze wandered over to the wreckage of Bill’s fighter and he shuddered.
“ This is the Wing Commander to all pilots: Pull back to the Enterprise.
I’m ordering retreat. Captain Hawk’s pulling the carrier back to the asteroid belt
as soon as we’re on board,” Colonel Wright snapped. “ Get your asses back to
that ship, you bastards. Move it!”
Reluctantly, the rogue pilots did indeed call off their suicidal attack,
swooping around to form back up as the Flight Wing made their way back to the
Enterprise, which suddenly launched a wave of torpedoes at the Skarr’var’Rhis.
The Kilrathi ship shuddered under the impact, but held firm. Chris also noticed
that the Cat fighters were pulling back to the safety of the Hakaga, the battle
damaged Vaktoth at the head of the formation. They had hurt the bastards here,
but was it enough to keep them back? Chris was forced to wonder.
“ Hey, Captain, you going to be okay?” he asked into the comm.
Ju’rak shook his head. “ I am not sure, young one. I have never lost a
wingmate before. Not in the Empire, nor in my service with the Confederation.
Why did I not detect the Skarr’var’Rhis on my scopes? I should have been
paying attention, dammit!” Softening his voice, the commander of Beta Flight
ruefully whispered, “ Lieutenant Montoya could still be alive right now if I had
paid attention to my duty.”
Chris sighed. It seemed Machine’s death was crushing Ju’rak. The Kilrathi
had suddenly experienced something devastating, something he had had no
past experience with beforehand. It was eating him up inside. But, Chris
wondered, would it end up destroying him?

Bridge, KIS (former) Skarr’var’Rhis
Aeolus System, Outlands
1712 hours (CST)

Vagargk watched the retreat of the Terran carrier Enterprise with a great
sense of elation. He’d give them the luxury of withdrawal just this one, but
when the time came, they’d be sorry they ever set foot in the Outlands. Soon, he
thought, gripping the bridge railing and watching the Enterprise race for the
refuge of the asteroids. You can hide behind rocks all you like, Terran scum, but
you cannot hide from me for long.
“ Is it not glorious, sister?” he asked, his previous furor at Kali now gone.
He knew his sister would not think so, but to Vagargk the question seemed an
appropriate one to ask at a time like this.
Kali smiled, but there was no humor in it. “ I thought this was supposed
to be the killing blow, and yet you let them live.”
“ Now that we are free of the Consortium, I can afford to let them live...
for now. Soon, however, we shall crush the TCS Enterprise and her escorts, and
then move onto bigger targets.” He winked at her. “ If you know what I mean.”
“ You sicken me, Vagargk. You are an egotistical, bloodthirsty, religious
zealot,” she shot back. “ You will see your downfall one of these days... soon,
dear brother.”
Vagargk finally turned to face her, noticing that her hand rested on her
pistol. “ Is that a threat, Kali?”
“ Why, brother, you think so little of me,” she said, her voice dripping
with sarcasm. “ I would never dream of betraying you. After all, the Kilrathi
never betray. To do so would be a dishonor to Sivar and glorious red Kilrah!”
“ No need to mock me just because I have a pious outlook on things.”
Chuckling low in his throat, Vagargk reached below his command chair and
removed a red glazed bottle. He took a healthy swig of the Sukhar May’ya, then
held it out to Kali. She refused to drink it. Shrugging, Vagargk slumped into his
chair, upending the contents of the bottle into his mouth.
Uncouth sag’uk, she thought, whirling away from her brutish,
bloodthirsty brother and disappearing into the corridor beyond, Griska as
always on her heels. To think I came from the same litter as that bastard! Shared
lineage or not, I am no longer related to that brute. Silently fuming, she took the
lift down to the flight deck, deck crews bowing low at her approach, much to her
chagrin. She hated being treated like royalty, royal line or not. She rushed past
the groveling NCOs and stepped up to the two Vaktoths that were now landing.
Sharg and Na’Grok nar Caxki saluted her as they approached.
“ Good job out there, pilots,” she said, placing her hands upon her hips.
“ I’m sorry to say, however,” Sharg admitted with his head lowered,
“ that Tiger Wing did not make it back to the Skarr’var’Rhis. The Orion
Excaliburs quickly overtook Qazar’s Paktahns before my Vaktoths could
dispatch them properly. Again I apologize.” He kneeled before Kali, prostrating,
baring his throat to her.
“ Damn you, get up!” she hissed, hauling Sharg to his feet. “ There is
something I need to discuss with you two.”
Na’Grok, sporting a wicked looking bruise across his brow, gazed
curiously at her. “ Mistress Kali? Have we done something wrong?”
Offering a gentle smile which made her feel uncomfortable, Kali shook
her head. “ No, no, not at all, Na’Grok. In fact, your service has always been
superb. But,” and she looked around to make sure no one had their attention on
the three Kilrathi, “ we need to discuss our much revered Kalrahr. There is much
to discuss.”
Meanwhile, light years away, the Consortium invasion armada is being

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!

[This message has been edited by Dralthi5 (edited March 12, 2000).]
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Most impressive, though the way you skipped back and forth gets mighty annoying
. There seems to be an awful lot of scheming going on out there, and your characters are getting so complicated that I don't know which of the bad guys are bad guys any more.
Your Kilrathi are still being too human, btw.

I've got some other stuff to do, so I won't write any more right now...
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Here we go again...

<LI>&gt;The broad shouldered, raven haired former private in Giovanni Valentino’s Marine platoon had been meditating on the Tower’s rooftop, taking in the awesome view, when he had been summoned by Valentino.&lt; - Consider breaking into two or three sentences.
<LI>&gt;interrupt Caliban in a moment as important as meditation.&lt; - How about "in something as important?"
<LI>&gt;traced with gold, and Caliban was always fearful&lt; - I'd suggest starting a new sentence instead of the and?
<LI>&gt;he would soil the rich ebony carpets adorning the floor with his boots.&gt; - Sounds like it's his boots adorning the floor and not the carpets. And ebony, although a color, is also a wood.
<LI>&gt;seemed to be spotless, and he wondered&lt; - Another dangerous and.
<LI>&gt;Valentino was the leader of the Orion Consortium, the most substantial power in the Outlands.&lt; - Or so he thinks.

<LI>&gt;huddled behind a large column, looking menacing in the shadows.&lt; - Can someone huddling look menacing?
<LI>&gt;jump into Earth space and slaughter the Confederation.&lt; - Don't you think that's pushing it? Sol isn't the entirety of Confed.
<LI>&gt;How could one man open up the heavens&lt; - How poetic.

<LI>&gt;keep it under control and prevent McLeod and his damnable High Council from taking control.&lt; - I'd suggest changing the second control to charge.
<LI>&gt;A shrill, maniacal cackle erupted from Valentino’s lips,&lt; - Funny, I took him for the quiet, scheming type of madman.
<LI>&gt;Stop it, Roger! he thought,&lt; - Quite the schizo aren't we?

<LI>&gt;the way the Consortium was ran.&lt; - Run not ran.
<LI>&gt;Were they really up there?&lt; - Oooh! Now we're seeing some existentialist philosophy.
<LI>&gt;Each and everyday,&lt; - I believe you mean every day.
<LI>&gt;I’m a telekinetic, not a telepath.&lt; - Heh. Telepathetic.

<LI>&gt;I could damn well throw you across this hall with a wiggle of my pinkie finger,&lt; - Caliban's ideal retort would be, "Then why allow yourself to be captured?"
<LI>&gt;“The audacity!” Caliban snapped&lt; - How quaint.
<LI>&gt;He had been away from civilization for so long,&lt; - Hmm. The Consoritum isn't civilized?
<LI>&gt;everything he once was was but a dim memory.&lt; - Comma between wases.
<LI>&gt;disappeared into the shadows.&lt; - How melodramatic.
<LI>&gt;The bat-winged Cat fighters&lt; - Heh. Consider changing Cat to Kilrathi.
<LI>&gt;extra one-hundred centimeters of shielding.&lt; - I see that problem is still with us.
<LI>&gt;“...come they never clean these seats!?” + “ They may not be aiming at me, but they’re hitting me!”&lt; - Um. Just who is flying these things!?
<LI>&gt;Damn, I should have been paying better attention!&lt; - Maybe not better, but more attention?
<LI>&gt;He had to pay better attention.&lt; - How about "He had better pay attention?"
<LI>&gt;the first minutes of the furball.&lt; - ACK! *cough* How about battle?
<LI>&gt;The confees were good;&lt; - Confeds perhaps?
<LI>&gt;would have him under his boot.&lt; - I think you're overusing that metaphor.
<LI>&gt;“ First the Enterprise... and then the galaxy!”&lt; - *yawn*
<LI>&gt;Jim Burrows,&lt; - Any relation to Grayson Burrows?
<LI>&gt;it hadn’t dawned on me much that we’d cross paths,&lt; - That's just unwieldy.
<LI>&gt;Bugs Bunny screws your mother!&lt; - I rearely swear, but WTF!?
<LI>&gt;stuck in a massive furball,&lt; - *choke*
<LI>&gt;Chris pit down on his lower lip&lt; - I believe you meant he bit his lip.
<LI>&gt;Never did get to have sex...&lt; - Well in that case, he can't die yet.

<LI>&gt;before he gained control&lt; - Regained.
<LI>&gt;Good God, they were winning! “ I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful next time.”&lt; - You'd think he'd be happy they were winning.
<LI>&gt;was reverted to a lifeless corpse&lt; - Revert means return, suggesting Montoya had been dead before. You're really into this corpse thing aren't you?
<LI>&gt;Chris’s gaze wandered over to the wreckage of Bill’s fighter&lt; - Bill Gates? Well, dreams are free.

<LI>&gt;just this one,&lt; - Once.
<LI>&gt;her voice dripping with sarcasm.&lt; - Somebody's gonna have to mop that up.


Though the story threads hold together fine, the flow of each seems to have suffered due to a few odd breaks in trains of thought.
It's good to see the characters be more aware of themselves and of their actions, but at times you throw in too many details that do not pertain directly to the storyline. eg. Giving names of the Vaktoth pilots that never make it back anyway.
I've said it once and I'll say it again - begin speech on a new line.
Right, on to the next part.
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Yes, again we go here...

4.) Yup, good point.


7.) He has that wierd look in his eyes...

8.) Meaning he would go out and smash the Confederation subsequent to crushing Earth, not as a result of it.

11.) Wait until later.

12.) Funny, but not exactly. Caliban ain't his real name, it be Roger. It should be a foreshadowing of what will happen with this character next.

16.) Cute.

17.) Good point, but I think our dear friend Hart was exaggerating a bit (my character's have minds of their own-- I don't direct this story, the story directs me).

19.) Once you find out who actually makes up the majority of the Consortium, you'll see the answer to that question.

22.) Yup.

23.) Not quite sure what you're referring to, but quite frankly I don't care.

24.) Some yahoo's flying the fighter with that first quote (it's from Prophecy, by the way-- Rogue, I think his name was) and Spyder is flying the other one (he said that in Prohecy, also).

27.) Ehhh... I prefer a furball.

28.) Ehhh... I prefer confees.

29.) Huh, boots. They can... effectively crush things.

30.) I don't think that's neccessary, sir.

31.) Sure, he is if you want him to be.

33.) Ha! Ha!
You haven't read End Run, I take it? According to that book, "Bugs Bunny screws your mother!" was one of the Kilrathi's favorite taunts, having heard of the "wabbit" from centuries old television signals sent out into space. Apparently, Hobbes was crushed after learning that humans exploded in laughter after hearing this.

35.) Of course.

39.) Dead body= corpse. There ya go.

42.) " Clean up in aisle seven!" " I've never even been in aisel seven!"

-I believe I do begin speech on a new line, but the way it comes out after I cut and paste it into my post from MS Works makes it seem as if I don't.

-Thanks for hacking up my story

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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