Tooth and Claw- - Chapter Nine: The Final Battle...


Well, here it is, the final chapter in my story. Expect an epilogue either tomorrow or Saturday, and then I'll be posting the story in its entirety, complete with edits, on a webpage I shall be putting up this weekend.

Oh, I would have put links to all of the other chapters, but some of the posts have vanished, and I don't have the URL adresses. Oh, well.

Also, expect the prologue to my next story by next week. This next tale I shall write is far more improved than T&C, and far more believeable.

Anyway, enjoy...

CIC & Chart Room, TCS Enterprise
Caesar System, Outlands
1515 hours (CST)

“ So,” Baine Hawk said, “ tell me again about that invasion fleet?”
Kali nar Kiranka, seated at the small table in the Enterprise’s CIC across
from the Captain, sighed. What did this Terran want from her? she wondered.
She had already told him everything she had known from her time working
with Giovanni Valentino, and yet he still kept grilling her incessantly!
Attempting to keep her volatile temper in check, Kali hissed, “ Ahs I have tohld
yhou beforre, Keptin, Vhalentino’s invazhen fleett ihs one-hundred and twenty
shipss strohng, hheaded by the dreahdnought Leviathan.”
“ What about this ‘Leviathan?’” Baine pressed and Kali groaned
She said, “ It ihs approximately one-hundred meterss lohng, Keptin, ahnd
boastss fifty flak and thirty-five antimatter gunss. Sshe carries five whings of
Ex-caliburss. Ahre yhou happee?”
Hawk exchanged bemused glances with Rollins, Stingray, and Redfang,
who all stood off to one side of the small chamber. “ Yes,” he sighed. “ For now.
Nevertheless, this poses a serious threat to Earth and the Confederation. If
Tobias Hart can ‘tear’ open the fabric of space through his TK abilities, then the
fleet will surprise Terra and she’ll be overwhelmed before she even knows what
is going on.” Baine lowered his eyes for a moment before looking up at Kali.
“ You know where this fleet is positioned?”
Kali growled low in her throat. “ I ahm nhot entirely sure, Keptin, bhut
fromm data obtained by mhy brotherr Vagargk I have concluded that the
Leviathan and herr sihster ships are positioned somewhere near the Hadrian
System, which contains the nearest spatial anomahly.”
“ Why a spatial anomaly?” Rollins asked.
“ Again I ahm nhot entirely sure, Kho-mand-err,” Kali replied with a
grim expression. “ Bhut it seems to highten a telekinetic’s abilities. Dho nhot ask
me how or why!” Baine realized that he shouldn’t.

Stingray sighed, crossing his arms across his chest. When he spoke, he
spoke to Captain Hawk. “ Sir,” he began, “ we have to stop this.”
“ But how?” Rollins exploded. “ I mean, we’re in a damn shitty state right
now, Colonel! Our escorts are history, and the Skarr’var’Rhis is sure as hell not
ready to take on an... an armada!”
Hawk’s young X.O. did have a point, he realized. “ Colonel Wright, you
are correct in that we cannot allow this horrendous plot to go on like this, but...
two ships shot to hell? That we cannot undertake. We need help.”
Redfang seemed to brighten suddenly, and the big Kilrathi stepped forth.
“ Captain Hawk, I still have allies here in the Outlands!” Baine’s eyebrows lifted
suddenly. “ Yes, Brevak nar Ki’ra, my cousin, employs a sizable fleet in the
Quar’kek System. And then there are the Navigators which I was incarcerated
with... they have ships in this sector!”
“ That’s it, sir!” Radio yelped, snapping his fingers in conclusion. “ We
can do this!”
Hawk cut through the sudden ebullience like a machete. “ Now wait a
minute, Commander Rollins,” he boomed, “ the Enterprise and the
Skarr’var’Rhis will be surely destroyed if we even attempt to go into that fray,
you’ve said so yourself! From Kali’s own admittance, the invasion fleet will be
making the jump in less than a day. There is no time to make repairs and even
get to the... what was it, the Hadrian System?” Kali nodded. “ And for that
matter, we do not even know where exactly the Hadrian System is!”
“ I shall try to bhring it up on yhour starcharts,” Kali offered. “ Although
I do believe the Caesar System is rather far from Hadrian.” Damn, Baine
thought. Matters were getting more and more convoluted by the second, it
Colonel Wright seemed to draw back in on himself, as if lost in deep
thought. Silence reigned over the CIC. Suddenly, after what seemed like a
dreadful eternity, Stingray spoke again. “ Captain Hawk,” he began, “ the
“ What?”
“ Just that, sir, the Navigators! Our two ships are in extremely bad
condition and standard repairs would take up far too much time for us to
successfully preempt the invasion, even if we draw allies from Brevak and the
Navigators. But... the Navigators are telekinetics, right?” Baine nodded at the
rhetorical question. “ Well, I say it’s about time we used them.”
Kali looked puzzled. “ Yhou ahre sayin, Ker-nel, that we should use the
Navigators to our advantage?” That was what Vagargk and been planning to do
with Tobias Hart until he had come into contact with Giovanni Valentino and
the Orion Consortium.
Stingray pounded a fist into his palm. “ That is exactly it! And once the
Enterprise and the Skarr’var’Rhis are repaired to full, we can use the Navigators’
abilities again: To leap the cosmos into the Hadrian System!”
“ Wouldn’t we need some sort of spatial anomaly... like a quasar?” asked
But Wright shook his head. “ No, Commander, because the Orions are
traversing the entire Outlands into Sol Sector, while we’ll be leaping within the
Outlands!” he said with a small grin. “ We won’t need a spatial anomaly for the
Navigators to get us and our allies to Hadrian.”
“ Well, good,” Hawk said with genuine relief. It seemed that all of this
confusion was finally coming together into something which the Enterprise’s
captain could make sense of. He turned toward Srakkah nar Ki’ra. “ How soon
could you contact Brevak and get his ships to our position?”
The big alien shrugged. “ Four to five hours perhaps. The Quar’kek
System is not too far away. However, I still do not know if Brevak will assist us
in these endeavors.”
“ Captain, I’ll talk to Barry Parker and see what he can do to contact the
other Navigators in the Outlands,” Rollins offered, and Hawk nodded his
“ Well,” he said. “ It looks like we have a chance in this, after all! Kali, you
are free to return to the Skarr’var’Rhis. We will begin the repairs as soon as Mr.
Parker is ready to do so. And, once we have the aid of Brevak and the
Navigators, we attack.”
Kali nodded. “ Vhery whell, Keptin Hawk.”
“ Okay. Well, let’s hope that we can end this soon. I think we’re all tired
of this strife. It’s about time we take the fight to the Orion Consortium.”

Orion City, Orion
Orion System, Outlands
0023 hours (CST)

Panting hard, Chris Edison scrambled down into the ditch as a mortar
shell rained flaming shrapnel down upon the ground around him. The ditch,
formerly a broad avenue, was strewn with rubble and grim, battle hardened
soldiers. There was also a fair scattering of dead bodies, as well, but Chris chose
to simply ignore them. Too bad his nose could not do the same. As before, but
even worse now, the smell of death hung in the air over them like an impalpable
wraith. Chris shivered
As he hunkered low against a pile of debris, Chris took that small
moment of reprieve to wonder why the hell he had even bothered? He was hot,
he was sweaty, his combat fatigues were covered in mud and blood, and a
vicious gash was marring his cheek. He was, quite frankly, feeling like crap.
And had they taken the Orion Tower yet? No! Sure, Janice and the Navigators
had used their TK powers to fling the barrier in the plaza straight at the enemy,
clearing them a path, and had worked small wonders throughout the battle, but
things were looking grim for Caliban Thereaux’s cause. Nearly all of the
Navigators were dead, caught unaware when they had been channeling their
powers. And now Chris and his comrades were stuck here, mere blocks from the
Orion Tower and the invasion armada would jump in seven hours.
Earlier, before they had left the protection of the plaza, Chris had stolen a
comm unit and had contacted Captain Hawk and the Enterprise. He had calmly
explained his actions and had outlined the series of events that had happened on
Orion. Hawk had been upset over Chris’s actions at first, but had eventually
come to accept them. The Captain had also reported that they had allied
themselves with the crew of the Skarr’var’Rhis, had gathered other help, and
were heading toward the Hadrian System to take on Valentino and the
Leviathan. Chris did not know if they could succeed in that endeavor, but he
hoped like hell that they could.
Also, in a generous action, Captain Hawk had ordered Lieutenant Colonel
Stone and his Marines to Orion to assist Caliban. Their assistance was extremely
appreciated and the Confed grunts had more than proved themselves after
arriving here two hours ago. Even as Chris thought about that, Stone slid down
into the ditch next to him, sans helmet and covered in grime. Ric Huygens and
Virgil Gavia were with him, he noticed.
“ What’s up, Colonel?” Chris weakly asked.
Stone let out a cough. “ Not so good, Lieutenant Edison,” he responded.
“ My troops were trapped near a block of buildings by a squad of Orions. They
didn’t make it. My men are getting slaughtered like cattle, kid. We need to get to
that Tower and end this!”
Chris nodded. “ Yeah, but how are we going to do that?” Grant’s reply
was drowned out by the explosion of a mortar shell nearby, but Chris figured
that whatever he said was not too favorable of Caliban Thereaux.
Limping considerably and clamping a hand over her bloodied arm, Janice
Carmichael dragged herself over to the four men and with a spasm running
through her, she coughed up blood. It appeared even telekinetics were not
immune to the hell that was war. “ Damn, they’re all dead...” she gasped, in
shock. “ All of them... dead...”
“ Who?’ Chris ventured, although he knew what the answer was.
“ I’m the only one left,” Janice replied. “ The Navigators... they’re all
dead. All of them except me...” Chris saw the utterly lost expression swimming
behind her dark eyes. Good friends, perhaps people that had been with her for
almost three-hundred years, had just been killed and it seemed as if Janice could
not take it. She was prepared to die now. That scared Chris. He had come to
respect Janice Carmichael, and he did not want her to die.
Chris, cradling his almost depleted carbine, rested his head against a slab
of stone and shifted his gaze upward. Beyond a row of smashed buildings
loomed the Orion Tower. Tiny pinpricks of light danced around it-- Excaliburs
launching missiles at the structure. He wondered if Carrie was up there, and
what she was going through. Hell, if they didn’t find a way into that tower soon,
Chris was prepared to launch himself into the enemy lines, gun blazing.
Anything for Carrie. She was his best friend, after all, and perhaps more
importantly his wingman. Because together they fought, united by a bond: A
bond of courage, a bond of daring, a bond of friendship. He was nothing
without his wingman, without Carrie...
Weakly, he raised a comm device to his mouth. “ Caliban,” he said.
“ Caliban Thereaux. Where are you? Your presence is requested at Camp 17!”
Fifteen minutes later, Caliban scrambled down into the ditch, looking equally
haggard. He did not speak a word, but merely locked gazes with the young
Confed lieutenant. “ Sir, if we don’t take that Tower in the next three hours at
least, we’ll have to surrender, and I don’t think we’ll like what they’ll do to us if
we do that.”
“ Agreed,” Caliban replied. “ But how? I know that question has been
asked countless times, but it is one which must be addressed if we are to be
victorious. How....?”
Stifling another cough, Stone leaned forward to be heard over the din.
“ Mr. Thereaux, does Orion have some sort of--”he paused to spit out a mouthful
of blood-- “ sewer system.”
Caliban shrugged. “ Well, of course, Colonel. What are you suggesting...
Oh, no!” he snapped, suddenly coming to the realization of what Stone was
saying. “ I can’t ask that of my men.”
“ Then we die,” the leatherneck responded bluntly.
Chris shifted his gaze from Stone to Caliban as if he was at a tennis match.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the rebellion’s leader came to a
decision. “ We can send a squad of about thirty, but that’s it, at a time. The
tunnels under the streets are narrow, and some of us will undoubtedly get sick,
me included. But I suppose we’ll have to stick it out if we are to win.”
“ Will we be able to get into the Tower through the sewers without
detection?” Janice queried.
Caliban nodded. “ Yes, to the Orions tromping through human--” he
spared a glance at the Gray One, who was silently seated ten meters away,
“ -- and alien excrement is an aversion that they will not touch. They cannot even
think of such a filthy action. We will be safe.”
Chris looked back up at the Tower as Janice, Caliban, and Stone began to
outline their plan. I’m almost there, Carrie, he silently assured himself, I’m
almost there.

TCS Enterprise
Muk’bah System (Controlled by Brevak nar Ki’ra), Outlands
0425 hours (CST)

Captain Baine Hawk sat rigidly in his command seat, staring straight
ahead at the speckled slate of stars before him. To think that one could tear open
that slate, creating an immense tunnel across the cosmos, rendered Hawk
speechless. And yet that was what they were planning on doing in less than ten
minutes. Their newfound allies, Redfang’s cousin Brevak’s forces and a sizable
Navigator fleet, were arrayed around the Enterprise and the Skarr’var’Rhis,
newly repaired through the telekinetic abilities of Barry Parker and the
Hawk had been dumbfounded when the team of twenty-seven
Navigators had been escorted down to the flight deck, when they had closed
their eyes and had seemingly lost touch with reality, and when the Enterprise
and Kali nar Kiranka’s Skarr’var’Rhis had been pieced back together seemingly,
deck plate by deck plate. In a matter of moments, it had all been over and Baine
had found himself standing in a ship that looked like it had just sailed out from
dry dock. And Kali’s Hagaka, too... Well, just looking at the once-dilapidated
carrier you could tell an extreme change had occurred. The ship’s deck plates
gleamed as if they had been touched by Midas, and she now operated with six
working flight decks, complete with the appropriate fighters. Hawk was now
convinced that they could take on the Leviathan and Valentino’s invasion fleet.
But they had to act fast. The fleet would jump in less than four hours.
The Navigators had about fifty or so vessels, all about the size of and
carrying the same amount of weaponry as a destroyer. Brevak’s fleet was merely
fourteen corvettes and one Snakeir strong, but to Hawk that did not matter. Any
help that they could get was good enough for them.
His thoughts suddenly shifted to young Lieutenant Edison. Mere hours
ago, when they had been en route to the Muk’bah System, Commander Rollins
had rushed into his cabin, yelling that they had recieved a communiqué from
Chris Edison on Orion. “ Orion?” Baine had barked.
“ Uh-uh, sir! And there’s some strange shit happening down there,
Captain!” Barring the youthful outburst, Baine had flipped on his monitor and to
his surprise had found Chris’s face there, bruised and covered in grime.
Not waiting for his Captain to acknowledge him, Chris had snapped,
“ Captain Hawk, look, I apologize for just leaving the ship like that, but...
Caliban Thereaux, Valentino’s second-in-command, is leading a revolt against
the Consortium!”
Hawk had nodded at this. “ Yes, I know, we’ve found the message.”
Which was true. The search of Janice Carmichael’s cabin had uncovered the
recording, but Hawk had not known what to make of it at that time. Now he
knew. “ Why didn’t Thereaux want my help? I would have been glad to have
given it to him.”
“ Yes, I know. Look, sir, he does not know I’m sending this message. As
much as he wants to, Caliban just cannot trust the Enterprise.” Chris had sighed,
throwing his hands up into the air in exasperation. It was then that Baine had
seen the destruction reigning over Orion City. The battle had been fierce, that
much was certain. “ But he can trust the Enterprise, can he not?” Hawk had
nodded at this. “ Then I’m asking you, sir-- no, begging you-- to assist us in our
endeavors. Because if we cannot seize the Orion Tower, then the armada will
jump into Sol and catch Earth unaware.”
“ We know of this plan,” Hawk had responded. “ We’ve allied ourselves
with Kali nar Kiranka, the new Khantahr of the Skarr’var’Rhis, and have built up
a sizable fleet thanks to our Navigator friends. We’re en route to the Hadrian
System now to preempt this attack. So I am sorry, but we cannot divert from our
present course now.” Chris’s world had seemed to crumble down around him
then. There was something else there, but Baine had not bothered to ask
Lieutenant Edison. “ But, I tell you what, I shall send Colonel Stone’s Marines to
assist. This will convince Caliban that we are now friends.”
Chris had smiled then. “ Thank you, sir, this means a lot.” And that had
been that. Hawk had sent out Grant and his men to the coordinates supplied by
Edison and he had not heard from them sense. But he was sure they were just
fine, and coming out victorious in their battle.
“ Captain, sir, Barry Parker,” a yeoman announced, snapping Baine from
his reverie. Turning in his command chair, the C.O. of the Enterprise saw the
big, blonde Navigator, who was of the powerful first generation, approach him,
trailed by ten other telekinetics.
“ Ah, Mr. Parker,” the Captain greeted. “ I trust that you and your
comrades are ready?”
Barry’s gaze shifted toward the stars beyond the bridge’s viewport.
Slowly, but surely, the man nodded. “ Of, course, sir. What other choice do we
have?” Good point, Hawk mused. Parker turned around to face his fellows.
“ All right, men, this is it. Captain Hawk, I ask that everyone is secured for this
jump. It will definitely not be like any you’ve experienced before.”
“ Of course, Mr. Parker.” He tapped a few commands into the keypad on
the arm of his command chair. A bridge monitor lit up with four different faces:
Brevak, who was commanding the Snakeir, Redfang, who would be serving as
skipper of a corvette, Ving Xavier, the Navigator in charge of that fleet, and Kali
nar Kiranka. “ Captains,” he said, “ we are ready for the jump. I ask that you
power down your engines and secure anything that is not bolted down to the
deck. That is all.” He killed the link. “ Mr. Parker, you may proceed.”
All was silent on the bridge as the Navigators buckled themselves into
eleven vacant seats. Now was the time, Hawk realized, and his stomach was
chock-full of butterflies. He exhcnaged sidelong glances with Rollins and
Stingray. The Wing Commander had wanted to be in his cockpit for the jump, so
he could lead the wing into action as soon as the fleet had arrived in the Hadrian
System, but Baine had requested his presence on the bridge. “ Here goes
nothing,” Colonel Wright mouthed and Hawk silently nodded in agreement.
Baine felt a definite shudder run through the Enterprise as Barry closed
his eyes, reaching out a hand. At first, nothing seemed to happen, but after a few
moments, the stars before them seemed to writhe, shifting in on themselves like
the tide. Tiny flashes of light began to dance before Hawk’s eyes and he felt as if
he were falling down a long tunnel. His surroundings seemed to dissolve like
ink in a rainstorm. He suddenly felt nauseous... And then, suddenly, there was a
brilliant flash of light which reminded Baine of supernova holovids he had seen.
The Enterprise seemed to be flung around, like a ragdoll in a hurricane. Sparks
flew from nearby consoles and Hawk’s vision shifted both on and off. He tried
to speak, but no words would come forth.
But then... calmness. It was as if Hawk had been flung from a violent
squall into a pond. He slowly opened his eyes. The starfield beyond the
viewport, he noticed, was different. Had they done it? Had they reached the
Hadrian System successfully? “ Mr. Parker?” he asked, cutting through the
silence which had enveloped the bridge.
“ We’ve done it, sir,” the Navigator offered. “ Ladies and gentlemen,
welcome to the Hadrian System.” The bridge erupted into cheers as everything
they had fought for in the Outlands was finally coalescing into this one moment
in time. But Baine Hawk did not cheer. There was still a battle to be won.

Bridge, OCS Leviathan
Hadrian Quasar (Hadrian System), Outlands
0432 hours (CST)

Stifling a curse, Orion Marshall Hans von Metz clomped down the vacant
corridors of the Leviathan. What now? he wondered. Ever since the Master
Valentino had left the dreadnought to deal with the situation currently
developing on Orion, things had been far more hectic. Two ships had been
forced to abort when their reactors had broken down, and more than one of the
vessels were reporting several different malfunctions in their navigational
systems. Just more and yet more difficulties to deal with for this proposed
invasion of the Sol System and subsequently the Terran Confederation.
He raked his metallic nails through his snowy mane of hair. Serving in
the Orion Consortium offered him far more leeway than serving in the
Confederation Marine Corps. Hans had never liked to keep his hair cropped
short and now he was allowed the luxury to grow it out as long as he pleased.
Just another reason why Valentino and the Consortium is far superior to the
Terran Confederation, von Metz thought with a wide grin.
The door to the bridge opened up and Hans ducked low to gain entrance.
A lieutenant was waiting there for him, concern plastered across his pale face.
“ What is it?” the Marshall asked in a low voice. He noticed in his peripheral
vision Tobias Hart sitting off in the corner, and suppressed a shudder. Those
damned telekinetics had always given him the creeps.
“ Marshall, lord, we are detecting several ships on the outskirts of
Hadrian,” the lieutenant reported with wide eyes.
“ What?” von Metz demanded, stomping a metallic foot. “ How is this
possible? I thought we had sealed the jump point off, for Jove’s sake!”
The lieutenant began to stutter until he finally spat out what it was that he
was trying to say. “ We had, but, sir, these vessels did not appear in this system
via the jump point!” Hans’s white eyebrows shot up at this. “ No, sir, they just...
just, well, appeared!”
His face drooping, von Metz whirled toward the vast viewport and saw,
off in the distance, several twinkling lights. Damn, he thought as he came to the
conclusion. “ It is the Enterprise! They have the Navigators that were freed from
our base in Caesar! They must have found some allies here in the Outlands.”
“ Of course, sir,” the lieutenant responded, his voice shaking. “ Shall we
launch our fighters?”
Marshall von Metz whirled on the lieutenant like a rabid dog. “ Are you
kidding?” he demanded.

Orion City, Orion
Orion System, Outlands
0435 hours (CST)

Holding his breath, 2nd Lieutenant Christopher Edison dropped into the
opening, splashing feet first into the dark sludge beyond. He thought he was
going to get sick! “ Son of a bitch,” he whispered, reaching up to grab his carbine
from Colonel Stone. “ Son of a goddamned bitch.” More splashes behind him.
They were leading a squad of approximately thirty troops into the Orion Tower.
The objective: Storm the command center and take control of the Tower. Only
then would this battle be over. But, as Chris trudged through the narrow tunnels
winding underneath the city, he began to think that it was not worth it.
After three hours of fighting their way through pockets of enemy troops,
Caliban had led them to the nearest entrance into Orion City’s sewer system. As
Thereaux had torn off the manhole cover, Chris had been bombarded with a
thick black cloud of flies and a smell worse than anything his nose had ever
experienced before. Who knew that after training at the Terran Confederation
Space Force Academy, he’d be trudging through the sewers of an enemy city
light-years from Hilthros? Shit, he thought.
Dark figures began to push past him down the tunnel, slamming into
Chris and almost causing him to lose his footing. Thank God he didn’t.
Nevertheless, he continued down behind them, being careful of what he stepped
on. There was some stuff alive in that muck, and he didn’t want to know what
the hell it was.
“ Damn,” a voice snapped behind him, and he realized it was Janice. She
stepped up to him and let out a breath. “ Never thought we’d be trudging
through this stinking shit and piss, kid. If I had known this is what we’d be
doing I’d have told Caliban to go to hell. But, no, I just had to get my revenge.”
Her voice was heavy with sarcasm.
“ Just try not to think about it, Janice,” he replied, but knew that was one
thing that even he could not do. “ We only have six kilometers to go before-- Oh,
God, what the hell was that?”
Janice looked over at him. “ What?” she demanded.
“ Uh, nothing,” he said, looking rather green. “ My, uh, imagination,
that’s all.” He chuckled, but there was no humor in it. Six kilometers, he assured
himself, just six more kilometers to go.
An hour and a half later, the stone walls of the sewer splashed in white
light from Colonel Stone’s flare, an explosion erupted. Chris ducked back,
bringing his hand up to ward off the onslaught of stone chips which rained
down around him. “ What was that?” he roared, even as laser carbines began to
flash in the dimness.
“ Mines,” Stone hissed. “ Now don’t just stand there, kid! Shoot!”
“ Oh, yeah,” he lamely replied, bringing his carbine to bear. He squeezed
back on the trigger, blindly shooting into the darkness. He heard a grunt and a
splash and figured he had gotten one. Over these last few hours of fighting, he
had become a pretty damn good shot. If only Cadet Piedmont could see me now,
he mused with a tight grin. Janice by his side, he sprayed laser rounds into the
enemy line, which hunkered in the darkness over the barrier of rubble. More
Orions fell and, to Chris’s horror, he saw some of his own men falling silently
into the muck. He had seen more than enough of his fair share of death during
this war.
After more horrendous moments of fighting, Caliban lifted his rifle and
pointed forward. “ We’re clear, men! Let’s move at the double time, they know
what we’re up to now!”
Chris followed the men in front of him at the run, holding his carbine up
high over his head. On more than one occasion, he actually slipped, losing his
footing. If Janice had not been there to catch him, he would have been covered
head to toe in... Chris didn’t want to think about it. But after thirty more minutes
of racing through the dark sludge, the tunnel came to an end, blocked off by a
metal grating where the muck spilled out through narrow slits. What now? Chris
Caliban Thereaux, Stone holding his flare above him, checked a computer
slate and with a grin proclaimed, “ Well, boyos, here we are,” and he pointed
upward with his gun, “ the Orion Tower.” The troops let out a cheer and Chris
heard his own voice rise in crescendo with the rest of his comrades. He had
come this far, after all, and now could finally rescue Carrie. Thereaux handed his
rifle off to a platoon sergeant and reached up, his fingers finding small grooves
in the brick. “ Now it’s around here somewhere,” Chris heard him remark. He
watched the older man with a nervous gaze. Could they get through here, or
were they stuck? “ There!” Caliban shouted, pushing upward. A sizable chunk
of the brick came off and Thereaux tossed it to the nauseating stream below
them. “ Let’s go!”
The men clambered up into the Tower, Chris and Janice last of all. When
he cleared the tunnel, he found that he and the troopers were in an empty
maintenance room, complete with ratty broom and smoldering furnace.
Amongst all of the great splendor of Orion, it seemed sort of out of place, but he
shrugged the thought aside. They were finally in the Tower.
Caliban was barking orders to a group of soldiers when Chris approached
him. “ Excuse me, sir?” the young pilot ventured.
Valentino’s former second-in-command ignored him at first, but then
gazed down at Chris with an annoyed expression on his face. I suppose I’ve
been nothing but a nuisance so far, Edison thought dejectedly. But now it’s time
that I proved myself once and for all. “ Yes, Lieutenant?” Caliban asked calmly.
“ Well, now that we’re finally in the Orion Tower, I was wondering--”
“ Yes, your wingman,” Caliban interrupted and Chris’s eyebrows rose. “ I
did not forget about her, Christopher.”
“ Well, then you know that I must rescue her.”
A slight chuckle escaped Thereaux’s pale lips. “ By yourself? Good luck.”
Chris sighed. “ No, not by myself, sir!” he spat, a tad annoyed. “ Look,
I’ve risked everything to come all this way, and I’ve helped you this entire time,
and now it’s time, I think, for you to help me.”
“ What?”
“ Don’t play dumb with me, sir! You know where Carrie is, don’t you?”
“ What if I do?”
Chris, his anger flaring, gathered the front of Caliban’s shirt and slammed
him into the wall. Gun barrels shifted his way, but Thereaux waved them off.
His blue gaze burning into the big man, Chris hissed, “ God damn you to hell if
you are so nonchalant about this, sir. You once served in the Confederation. You
know that at times the bonds of comrades-in-arms can run deeper than those of
your own family at times. Well, it’s more so with Carrie and me. If I don’t save
her, then... then I’ll have no reason to continue living.” It was then that he let go
of Caliban’s shirt, backing away.
“ Valentino’s sanctum,” he simply stated.
“ What?”
Caliban smoothed his shirt front and began to pace. “ That is where Titus
will be holding her. It is the highest point in this Tower.”
“ Take me there!” he demanded, feeling a sudden surge of power.
“ It is not as easy as all that, Lieutenant Edison,” Caliban responded
grimly. “ There will be countless troops to get past before we can even get
through this level, to say nothing of what we will have to face to get to
Valentino’s sanctum!”
But Chris adamantly shook his head. “ I don’t care, sir. I’ll do what it
takes. I’ll fight tooth and claw to get Carrie back. Anything to get her back.”
“ Colonel Stone?” Grant stepped forth. “ You will lead the raid on the
command center. I trust you shall do well.” The Marine saluted, although there
was no need to so. “ Chris, I hope you know what you are doing.”
A smile spreading across his blackened face, Christopher Edison nodded.
“ For all of our sakes,” he responded, “ I hope so too.”

Hellcat 300
Hadrian System, Outlands
0512 hours (CST)

“ Stay in formation! Stay in formation!”
“ I’ve picked one up. I can’t shake him!”
“ Pinscher Five, Fox One!”
Colonel Dirk “Stingray” Wright took it all in with a sense of pride. Most
of the pilots on the Enterprise had arrived as worthless plebes, barely able to
keep their breakfasts in their bellies when they got behind that stick, but now
they were soldiers. He had made them that way, he realized, their training was
now complete. He just hoped that these new officers lasted long enough to see
another fight. This one was already looking hectic...
Almost as soon as the Enterprise and her newfound allies had arrived in
the Hadrian System, the Leviathan had launched five full wings of Excalibur
fighters. The Enterprise’s wing was swiftly being depleted, but Kali’s Dralthis
and Vaktoths were holding up pretty well. Brevak’s obsolete Jalthis were down
to three heavy fighters, and, unfortunately, the Navigators had no fighters. Even
as he thought of it, though, Xavier’s flagship opened with a flak salvo which
reduced an Excalibur to shrapnel. The Navigators’ gunners more than made up
for their lack of fighter craft.
Looking ahead, Stingray saw the target. The Leviathan, although not the
largest ship he had ever seen in his career in the Space Force, was monstrous, but
he could tell the vessel had just been pieced together from various other ships.
But it sure did look like it could lay waste to Earth if it wanted to. He wondered
if the Enterprise’s and the Skarr’var’Rhis’s fighters could take out that behemoth,
but left that thought for later. Right now they had to get through the Leviathan’s
fighter screen or they would never even have a chance to lock onto the ship!
Wright turned into a corkscrew roll as an Excalibur uncloaked above him,
opening fire. His rear shields flashed momentarily before Stingray straightened,
coming up on the enemy fighter’s tail. He centered the heavy fighter in his
crosshairs and pulled the trigger. Combined ion and tachyon fire raked across
the Excalibur, eating through the shields and then the armor. The Orion
attempted to evade, but the Wing Commander did not give him the chance. He
got tone and released an ImRec, pulling up as the Excalibur exploded into
thousands of smoldering fragments. “ So much for a fearsome enemy,” he
remarked with a wry grin.

Hellcat 305
Hadrian System, Outlands
0624 hours (CST)

Howling in triumph, Ju’rak “Khan” nar Sutaghi gunned through the
enemy fighter and initiated a victory roll as it detonated. Ju’rak was filled with
the warrior’s zeal. After so many defensive missions for the Confederation, he
was finally back on the offense! He knew that the exchange program he had
been talked into would eventually have to pay off.
The bulk of Redfang nar Ki’ra’s corvette, the Kar’ska’Liss, loomed off of
Ju’rak’s T-Bolt’s port side, its golden deck plates marred with vicious black
marks. Torpedo barrages from the Leviathan’s support ships were certainly
taking its toll on the Enterprise’s little flotilla. Brevak’s forces were sadly
depleted and even his Snakeir carrier would not see much more of the fight. The
Skarr’var’Rhis, however, was looking perhaps the worst. Several Orion pilots
had performed tagugar-- honorable suicide -- by plowing their Excaliburs into
the Hakaga, weakening it considerably. They were now down to operating with
only two flight decks again. This battle was certainly taking its toll.
An explosion blossomed off to starboard and, with a roar, Ju’rak craned
his neck to see his wingman’s T-Bolt go down. Damn, he thought. That was
Major Rigsby. The Landreich exchange officer had been a great squadron
commander. And, now... Before he could even think of what “now” was, a new
blip appeared upon his radar scope: A torpedo. It was coming right at the
Kar’ska’Liss! “ Lieutenant Carver,” he said, “ cover me. I’m engaging!” As
Dana’s T-Bolt slid up to his side, Khan dropped his targeting reticule over the
warhead, watching with a stern eye the distance between it and Srakkah’s
corvette. He gunned his afterburners, killed them mere klicks from the ship
killer torpedo, and pressed down on the triggers. Meson fire raked outwards,
cutting into the torpedo and detonating it. He pulled his heavy fighter out of the
way as the charred remains of the warhead went flying by.
“ Captain!” Dana gasped. “ The Veks’rag! Look!”
Khan turned to see what his young wingmate was talking about. Then he
saw it. One of the corvettes near Redfang was going up, explosions running
down it, and Ju’rak heard the comm officer on that ship gasp, “ Ek’rah Skabak
erg Thrak’kilrah maks Rag’nith!” just before it vanished in a blinding
conflagration. So shocked was he by this sudden turn of events, Ju’rak nar
Sutaghi did not notice the Excalibur heading on a collision course with the
bridge of the Skarr’var’Rhis.

Bridge, KIS (former) Skarr’var’Rhis
Hadrian System, Outlands
0631 hours (CST)

“ We must depart, my Khantahr!” roared Warg, clutching Kali by the arm
and dragging her toward the escape pod.
Kali nar Kiranka shook off her second-in-command’s grasp. “ No!” she
howled, her voice barely audible over the roar of explosions erupting
throughout the Skarr’var’Rhis. “ I must go down with my ship!”
“ That is ridiculous, Kali,” he said and Kali detected genuine concern in
the grizzled old kil’s words. “ Besides, you are not captain.” A wicked smile
spread across his face. “ Vagargk was captain.”
Kali looked over at Warg, his face illuminated by the flames dancing
about on the carrier’s bridge. The attacks had hit them so suddenly, Kali had
barely registered them before she had given the order to abandon ship. This
battle had been far more deadly than she had feared. Sharg and Na’Grok were
no longer alive; Their Vaktoths had been some of the first fighters to go down
once the Leviathan had launched her Excaliburs. Many of the heavy Orion
fighters had performed tagugar, plowing right into Kali’s ship. And, she
supposed, that was why she was in this position right now. I should have been
more careful, she realized, but that thought was short lived.
“ Let’s go,” she said, nodding toward the escape pod’s hatch. But
suddenly there was a deafening boom above her and Warg yelled something,
but his voice was not clear. She yelled his name, there was no response. And she
soon found out the answer of why. Warg was dead, crushed under a slab of
flaming metal that had caved in on the bridge. “ May Sivar look after you in the
afterlife,” she whispered, dodging into the escape pod. She braced herself as the
tiny module was blasted out into space. Kali did not want to look at what would
become of the Skarr’var’Rhis, but for some reason she did.
The supercarrier was a flaming wreck, battered and broken into
something that was hardly recognizable. Dozens of fighters and escape pods
danced around the Hakaga mere moments before her reactor went up. With a
sound like Tr’thrak, the former KIS Skarr’var’Rhis exploded. Kali’s pod was
caught in the shockwave of her ship’s demise, flung mercilessly across the stars.
Her head hit the pod’s bulkhead. Something wet splashed into her eyes. As a
great shadow enveloped Kali nar Kiranka’s escape pod, all that she registered
was blackness.

Bridge, TCS Enterprise
Hadrian System, Outlands
0532 hours (CST)

Captain Baine Hawk watched in horror as Kali nar Kiranka’s
Skarr’var’Rhis was destroyed. If an end like that could fall upon that mighty
ship, then what could happen to a ship as bantam as the Enterprise? Hawk
shuddered at the thought.
His little flotilla was suffering horrendous losses. The Skarr’var’Rhis was
no more, as was Ving Xavier’s destroyer, and Brevak’s Snakeir-class carrier was
a smoldering ruin. The fleet was down to ten ships and half the number of
fighters they had started out with. So many good pilots dead: Falcon, DieHard,
Ruby Gomez... This was madness.
“ Commander Rollins,” Baine said, his throat sore from yelling out orders,
“ signal our remaining ships! We’re moving forward to engage the Leviathan.
We must end this now. Or else none of us will make it back alive.”

Orion Tower, Orion
Orion System, Outlands
0649 hours (CST)

The grenade erupted with a flash and the heavy double-door flew off of
its hinges, careening into the chamber beyond. Grunting with effort, Lieutenant
Colonel Grant Stone of the Terran Confederation Marine Corps rushed into the
smoke clogging the command center of the Orion Tower, spraying the room
with laser rounds. “ Come on, you sons of bitches!” he yelled, urging his men
ahead of him. The twenty-six soldiers behind him rushed forward, adding their
gunfire to Stone’s.
Orion noncoms, seated at various consoles around the vast room, reached
for the sidearms at the approach of the raiders, but they were not given time to
open fire. The were cut down in a matter of seconds. “ Colonel Felger!” Stone
barked. The Orion stepped forth, offering a salute. “ We’ve done it. There’s just
one more step left. Override the command codes and get us in control.”
Lance smiled. “ No problemo, Lieutenant Colonel Stone.” He began to
peck at a nearby console.
“ Well, well,” Rig Huygens said. “ It’s about time coming all the way out
here paid off. Just wish old Virgil was here to enjoy this victory with us.” Grant
frowned. Captain Gavia had gone down even before they had gotten into the
sewer. Virgil had been a good man.
Grant was about to speak, but Lance Felger let out a startled squeal.
“ Colonel Stone!” he gasped and the Marine rushed to his side. “ I, uh, I don’t
know how to say this, but... Well, I’ve just accidentally set off the self-destruct
system. This tower’s gonna blow in fifteen minutes, sir!”
Stone sighed. “ Great, this day’s just getting better and better.”

Orion Tower, Orion
Orion System, Outlands
0651 hours (CST)

Chris Edison’s heart was pounding like thunder as he raced down the
corridor to Giovanni Valentino’s sanctum. Caliban Thereaux and Janice
Carmichael were by his side, guns at the ready. This was it. Chris had been so
close for so long and now he was finally here, mere meters from the heavy black
doors which contained Carrie Dunham.
They stopped at those doors, Caliban leaning toward a small panel. “ Do
you still have access?” Chris inquired. After leading this little insurrection
against Valentino and the Orion Consortium, Thereaux was not sure if his
clearance codes would still be valid. For their sakes Chris hoped that they were.
“ Sir?” he pressed.
“ Hold on.” Caliban stood hunched over the panel for a good thirty
seconds before he stood back with a satisfied expression on his face.
“ I’ve got it!” he cheered, bringing his rifle up to his shoulder. “ Get ready, we
don’t know what’s behind this door.”
Chris swallowed away the lump that had suddenly found itself in his
throat. He was more than just a little bit nervous. Calm down, Chris, he told
himself. You are doing this for Carrie, you have to be calm. Even as he thought
this, the doors slid open with a low groan and the trio entered. Giovanni
Valentino’s sanctum was a mess, Wizard realized. Shattered marble and glass
littered the floor and through the smashed window on the far end of the
chamber Chris could see the city burning for kilometers. The rain had stopped
hours ago and the blaze had spread through Orion like wildfire. And in the
center of the sanctum was a small stone slate, occupied by a single form: Carrie
“ Carrie!” he cried, racing toward her. But Janice’s voice calling his name
made him stop short. He brought up his carbine, looking around for trouble. In a
bare instant he found it. A shrunken old man, his white hair hanging to his
waist, shot forth, brandishing a pistol. He was chanting in what Chris guessed
was something like ancient Latin. His blue eyes wide, Lieutenant Edison saw
Lucius Titus’s finger begin to squeeze back on the pistol’s trigger ever so slowly.
Thinking fast, he opened fire with his carbine. Titus slumped to the ground,
dead, with barely a shout of pain.
Caliban and Janice right behind him, Chris leapt over the High Priest’s
body and approached Carrie. She wore no clothes and her body was bruised and
battered mercilessly. Chris felt tears sting his eyes while looking at his friend
like that. “ Oh, God,” he heard himself whisper. “ What have they done to you,
Her eyes fluttered momentarily and wearily opened. They were red
rimmed. “ Chris?” she asked, her voice a ragged whisper. He held her hand in
his and nodded. “ You’ve come to... rescue... me?” Chris nodded again, but
Carrie spoke no more.
“ Come on, let’s get her out of here,” Caliban said, removing his cloak and
wrapping it around Carrie’s slim shoulders. Chris helped her stand upright.
“ Are you well enough to shoot?” Carrie weakly nodded and accepted the pistol
he handed to her. “ Now we must leave this place, although I am sure Colonel
Stone has seized the command center by now.”
Creating a barrier around Carrie, the soldiers began to crawl back toward
the door. They were almost there when a shrill cackling rent the air like a knife.
Chris froze, a deep chill running through his bones. “ Not so fast,” a smooth
voice announced. Slowly, Wizard turned around. He recognized who stood
behind him now. The dark man from his nightmare. Giovanni Valentino. The
Consortium’s mad leader studied him for the briefest of moments before turning
his attention on Caliban Thereaux. “ So, how’s the treason business, Caliban?”
“ Let us go, Giovanni,” Thereaux responded, stepping to the front of the
small group. Chris felt a little wary; Valentino held a carbine right at the big
man’s chest, while Caliban’s rifle was slung across his shoulder. “ You’ve lost.”
Valentino chuckled. “ You would think so, wouldn’t you? But even now
the Leviathan and my invasion fleet is preparing to jump into the Sol System and
slaughter the Terran Confederation! The wrath I shall rain down upon Earth will
be far more vicious than anything the Kilrathi ever threw at what they call
Nak’tara.” He shifted his gaze to Chris, who stood defiantly next to Caliban.
“ Your Enterprise shall fail, young one. You shall fail.”
Chris shivered. That was what Valentino had said in his nightmare. “ The
Confederation will never fall, Valentino. They’ll crush you!” he shot back,
tightening his grip on his carbine. He was prepared to shoot Valentino here and
now if he had to.
But the Consortium’s leader shifted his aim to Chris’s chest. “ I, my young
friend, beg to differ.” And he pulled the trigger. Chris closed his eyes tight,
waiting for the killing blow from Valentino’s carbine, but it never came. The
searing pain and the subsequent blackness did not envelop him as he had
thought it would. He slowly opened his eyes to find Caliban Thereaux, a bloody
hole torn into his chest, lying unconscious on the deck below him.
“ Noooo!!!” he howled even as the back wall exploded in a geyser of
marble bricks and steel. Janice acted quickly, toppling the slate Carrie had been
laying on over and using it as a barrier. She began to spray the squad of Orion
troopers which had blasted their way into Valentino’s chambers with rifle
rounds. Chris was surprised to see several drop, but he did not know how long
Janice could keep the bandits at bay.
Nevertheless, Chris took this moment of confusion and caught Valentino
off guard, flinging his carbine to the floor and slamming his shoulder into the
former Marine. Giovanni’s own carbine flew from his grasp. The two men fell to
the floor, Chris reaching a hand up and slamming it into his opponent’s jaw. A
blinding pain exploded in his arm but he was glad to see blood spray from
Valentino’s nose. But that joy was short lived. With a howl of anger, Valentino
slammed out an open palm, catching Wizard on the jaw. The young pilot flew
“ You should not have interfered, young one,” he taunted, scrambling up
from the floor and walking briskly to where Chris was sprawled out across the
marble. He dimly noticed Janice putting up one hell of a fight a few meters
away. “ Now it is on your head.” Chris saw Valentino’s boot lift above him, but
he didn’t let it come down to smash his face. He caught the foot, twisting it and
slamming his foe into the ground. As Valentino went down, Edison lashed out
with a foot, kicking him across the face. Blood splattered and the Consortium’s
leader spat out broken teeth.
Giovanni Valentino rose, his black uniform covered in blood-- his own
and Chris’s-- and madness swam behind his eyes. Chris began to back up, taking
the fighting stance he had learned in basic training. He was prepared to fight
now. Valentino approached, lashing out with a sharp punch, but Chris easily
blocked it. He found his arms getting tired as he impeded blow after blow, but
eventually he found an opening and caught Valentino in the gut with a swift jab.
His foe doubled over, gagging, and Chris sent him sprawling with a well-placed
All of a sudden, as Chris stepped forth to deliver another blow, a
tremendous explosion rocked the Orion Tower. Flames rose like hellish
streamers as the port half of the massive structure collapsed to the ground. Steel
girders snapped and groaned as Chris felt himself falling. He let out a startled
scream and desperately reached out a hand, grabbing the jagged remnants of the
marble floor above him. Below him, hundreds of stories down, was ground
level. If he fell now, he would surely die.
Spitting blood, Valentino laughed maniacally, looking down at Wizard
with an evil glare. Chris, for the first time in his life, felt genuine hate for a living
being. He did not even hate that Kilrathi that had killed his father. After all, that
Salthi pilot had just been doing his duty. But not Valentino... With a grin, the
madman said, “ My young fool, you have failed. And you shall now die.”

Bridge, OCS Leviathan
Hadrian System, Outlands
0702 hours (CST)

Tobias Hart, former leader of the Navigators, sat rigidly in his seat as the
dreadnought once again rocked from a missile salvo. The Enterprise and her
support ships, down to merely three vessels now, had just recently broken
through the Leviathan’s fighter screen and was now attacking the invasion
fleet’s flagship herself. The Longbows and T-Bolts had done minimal damage, to
say the least, only causing minor damage to the Leviathan’s tough shell. The
Confederation’s endeavors were all for naught, Tobias realized. Sadly, they were
going to fail.
Or were they? Tobias suddenly realized that he could now change the fate
of the galaxy. He had, he was convinced, been sent out to the Terminus Nebula
almost three-hundred years ago and given these fantastic powers for a purpose.
Tobias Hart had a purpose. If he could not serve that purpose now, then he had
wasted his life.
Hans von Metz, the twisted Space Marshall of the Orion Consortium fleet,
clomped toward him, his pale face twisted in anger. “ Navigator!” he screeched.
“ It is time!”
“ For what, sir?” Hart asked in his best display of innocence.
But von Metz was not buying it. “ Make the jump! Make the jump to the
Sol System now! We will destroy the Terran Confederation before the hour is
“ As you wish, my lord,” Tobias replied, concealing the smile he knew
was threatening to come to the surface. He slowly closed his eyes, reaching a
hand forward. He began to channel his powers, reaching into the back of his
mind and willing things to happen. When Hans von Metz had begun to feel
confident, Tobias’s eyelids flashed open and he snapped out a hand. von Metz
suddenly lost control, stumbling around on his stilted legs like a puppet. He
began to scream as his hideous metallic nails sliced into a nearby computer
console. Bolts of deadly electricity raced up and down the Marshall’s body and
Tobias saw in an instant the man burst into flames.
The bridge crew glared at him with wide eyes, but he did not give them
much time to register what had just happened in front of them. He quickly used
his mind to seal the doors and scooped up von Metz’s fallen pistol, gunning
down the crew members around him. When he was convinced that he was alone
in the Leviathan’s command room, Hart lunged toward a nearby comm panel.
“ Captain of the Enterprise,” he snapped into the pick-up. “ This is Tobias
Hart on the OCS Leviathan! Move your ships away from the dreadnought
immediately! Look, I don’t have time to explain. Just do it!”
On the bridge of the TCS Enterprise, Captain Baine Hawk received Tobias
Hart’s message and gave the order. The Francis-Marion class assault escort
carrier gathered its fighters and its remaining support ships, including Srakkah
nar Ki’ra’s Kar’ska’Liss, and moved out to safety. Tobias Hart on the
dreadnought, meanwhile, gripped the console in front of him and closed his
eyes tight.
He had a purpose to serve and he’d be damned if he could not serve it.

The Leviathan exploded. Dozens of small blasts erupted all along the
massive dreadnought, shaking it apart. In an instant, after a brilliant
conflagration, the explosion blossomed, consuming the frigate nearest the
Leviathan. That vessel went up, as well, and that explosion enveloped the vessel
nearest it. Soon, this chain reaction had consumed the entire Consortium
invasion armada and all that remained was a cloud of smoldering metal.

Orion Tower, Orion
Orion System, Outlands
0703 hours (CST)

Christopher Edison hung hundreds of feet above the surface of Orion, his
hands slipping as they gripped the marble over him. The gunfight had ceased,
but he did not know where Janice Carmichael was. Perhaps she was dead.
Nevertheless, Giovanni Valentino stood above him, taunting him. Chris
wondered why the man did not just stomp on his knuckles and end this. Why let
him live like this?
“ You have failed.” That was what Chris kept hearing repeated over and
over again by the madman above him, as if Valentino were a robot and those
three words were programmed into him. But Valentino was not an automaton.
He was evil. Pure evil. “ You have failed.”
Chris remembered the nightmare that he had had. Valentino laughing as
his friends were killed before him. A firm resolve suddenly came over Wizard. If
he did not fight back now, then that horrid dream would become a grim reality.
“ I,” he began, his voice rising with each word, “ will... not... fail!!!” With an
impulsive boost of raw power, Chris Edison reached out a hand, grabbing
Valentino’s boot tightly and yanking with all of his might. The Consortium’s
leader let out a startled cry and fell over the side, but wrapped his arms firmly
around Chris’s waist as he did so. Shit, Chris thought, I wasn’t expecting this.
“ You think you’re so clever, young fool,” Valentino whispered into
Chris’s ear. “ You think you’re so smart. But you are still a failure. You are still
Edison grunted with effort as he attempted to pull himself free from
Valentino’s grasp and back onto the floor above him, but he was unable to do
pull himself up due to the extra one-hundred-and-eighty pounds wrapped
around him. He felt his fingers slipping even more and his left hand slipped
completely off of the marble! He let out a strangled scream. Valentino let out a
laugh. Chris’s right hand began to slip. Hang on, dad, he thought, I’ll be with
you soon.
“ Chris!” Strong hands grabbed on to him, attempting to pull him to
safety. He looked up with wide eyes. It was Carrie! Janice and Caliban, looking
rather pale, were with her, all of them trying to pry off Valentino from around
Wizard’s waist. But the madman’s grip was vice-like. “ Hang on, Chris,” Carrie
urged. “ Just hang on.”
“ Oh, I intend to!” Chris gasped back. “ Just don’t let go.”
Giovanni Valentino began to slip. He tried to pull himself back up,
grabbing onto Chris’s shoulders to haul himself to the floor above. Wizard felt
himself being bogged down under the man’s weight. It seemed as if Valentino
was getting out of this one and Chris, unfortunately, was not. But as Valentino
placed a foot on Chris’s shoulder, he faced the business end of Caliban
Thereaux’s plasma pistol.
“ Giovanni,” Thereaux said weakly. “ You should have joined me.” And
he pulled the trigger. The left half of Valentino’s face was blown off in a geyser
of blood and, howling in torment, the madman lost his grip on Chris. Wizard
saw the horrified expression in his remaining eye as he flew past him. It was
only then that Giovanni Valentino knew that he had lost. His black-clad body
tumbled end over end down into the chasm, his scream echoing throughout the
Orion Tower.
Chris sighed as Carrie and Janice lifted him up onto the floor. He
collapsed in their grasps. It was over. It was finally over.
“ Warning! Warning! This structure will be destroyed in forty-five
seconds.” Chris froze at that voice: A computerized self-destruct warning. The
Orion Tower was going to blow!
“ Shit,” he swore, meekly hauling himself up. “ We have to get out of
here.” But he knew that even as he said those words that it was hopeless. There
was no way that they could get out of the tower in forty-five goddamn seconds!
He sighed again, but this time in defeat. At least he had lived to see Carrie again
and to see Valentino die. “ Here I come, dad,” he whispered. “ Here I come.”
Suddenly, the vast window on the far side of the chamber was wreathed
in shadow. Chris gazed at it curiously as the countdown to destruction
continued. Thirty seconds to go. But what was this? A ship! The vessel hovered
mere centimeters from the window and the ramp was lowered. It looked like the
Lucky Star, but he could not have been sure. A man stood on that ramp, covered
in blood and grime. He was unfamiliar to Chris, but he wore a distinctive black
patch over one eye. When he spoke, it was in a thick Scottish brogue. “ Lads, get
your arses out of here. This place’s thermium power reactor is going to blow!”
Chris rose to his knees. “ Huh...?” he said in his dizzied state.
Carrie and Janice, dragging the now unconscious Caliban behind her,
stood up. “ Come on. We have to get out of here quick!” Nike roared, grabbing
Chris by the shoulders and pushing him forward. His legs felt like wet noodles,
but nevertheless he stumbled forward and collapsed into the ship’s hold. He did
not notice the rest of his comrades doing the same, but he was sure that they
had. Their Cyclopean hero rushed into the cockpit. Grant Stone was seated at the
helm. “ Punch it!” he snapped and Stone threw the afterburners to full. Chris
dropped into a seat next to the Marine colonel.
The countdown ended. The Orion Tower detonated, thousands of
fireballs rising heavenward as the thermium reactor blew. Chunks of flaming
debris pelted the Lucky Star’s rear shields and Chris felt the little freighter
thrown violently to starboard. “ Hang on!” Grant snapped, pushing the stick
forward and guiding the Tarsus toward a wide stretch of land below. Wizard
recognized it as the plaza where he had first met Caliban Thereaux. The landing
was a rough one. They bounded across the shattered marble, bounced once,
twice, then finally stopped as they smashed against a nearby building. But at
least they had stopped, Chris thought with relief.
He let out a sigh, looking up to see the shattered ruins of the Orion Tower
in the distance. But it was almost as if he could still hear Giovanni Valentino’s
final, blood-curdling scream.

Orion City, Orion
Orion System, Outlands
0816 hours (CST)

2nd Lieutenant Christopher “Wizard” Edison was at peace. The Orion
Consortium’s reign of terror had ended once and for all. He had heard the news
from the Hadrian System. Tobias Hart had sacrificed himself to save the galaxy
from Valentino. Janice had been crushed by her leader’s loss, that was to be
expected, but Chris admired the man for his courage. He did not know if he
would have been able to do something like that. But that did not matter. It was
over. Chris could finally rest.
He let the Orion doctor finish patching him up and turned toward the cot
next to his. Caliban Thereaux was pale, wheezing softly into an oxygen mask.
His shirt had been cut off by the surgeons and Chris saw the damage that been
done to him by Valentino’s laser carbine. It did not look as if the man, a man
who had led the rebellion that had ended this madness, would survive the hour.
That saddened Chris. He had come to respect Caliban.
“ Sir,” he said softly and Caliban’s eyes slowly opened. “ We did it.”
Thereaux weakly nodded. “ I, um, I just wanted to thank you, sir, for helping me
save Carrie. She means the world to me, she’s like a sister, but closer.” Chris
sighed, reaching up to wipe away the tears that he felt flooding into his eyes.
“ If you hadn’t decided to help me, though... you wouldn’t be in this position
right now. I’m sorry.”
Caliban jabbed a shaking finger at him. “ You have... nothing to be... sorry
about, young one.” His voice was weak, hardly recognizable from the deep
voice that Chris had become used to. “ The bond... of friendship... runs deeper
than... anything. Don’t... you... forget it, Christopher.” Chris openly let the tears
run down his cheeks and Thereaux leaned back, coughing a little. “ Never...”
And then he was still. The doctor which had been working on Chris came over,
dropping a blanket over Caliban’s head.
Chris slowly backed away from the body of his friend. “ Never,” he
agreed, offering a salute to his fallen comrade. “ Never.” He moved through the
ad hoc infirmary which had sprang up shortly after the destruction of the Orion
Tower. Dozens of soldiers, bloodied and broken, sprawled out on cots, and
Chris reached out a hand to each and everyone of them. But there was one
patient in particular he was looking for.
“ Carrie,” he greeted, kneeling down by his best friend’s cot. She looked
up at him with dim brown eyes. Carrie was tired, weak, but she would live.
Thank God, Chris thought, taking her hand in his. “ How are you?”
She smiled weakly. “ Well,” she whispered. “ I’ve certainly been better.”
Chris laughed along with her. It was good to laugh. “ Oh, Chris, why did you
risk everything to come and rescue me?”
“ Because you are worth it,” he responded as if the answer should have
been obvious to her. “ Without you I am nothing, Carrie. You are my best friend
and, perhaps more importantly, my wingman. We are united by a bond. A bond
of courage. A bond of daring...”
Carrie reached up a hand to caress Chris’s cheek. “ A bond of...
Chris smiled and was about to speak again when a nurse came forward.
“ She needs to rest now, Lieutenant. You can speak with her later.”
With a nod, Chris walked away, clearing the infirmary and clambering
atop a pile of marble. So much had changed in this past week, he realized. Seven
days ago he had been a stinking, worthless plebe, but no longer. He was a
Confederation officer, a pilot. No longer would be deterred by the words of
others. He was his own man now. Absently, his hand drifted down to the locket
he wore around his neck. And it’s all thanks to you dad, he thought.
“ Atten-SHUN!” Lieutenant Colonel Stone barked. Chris craned his neck
to see a Confederation shuttle landing in the plaza. The ramp lowered and
Captain Hawk and Commander Rollins stepped down. Somewhere a bosun
whistle sounded. The Captain approached him, he realized, and he slid down
from his perch and offered a salute.
Hawk returned it. There was an odd moment of silence then until Baine
lowered his hand. Unsure at first, Chris shook the proffered appendage. “ Damn
good, son,” Baine remarked. “ Damn good. You should be proud.”
“ Thank you, sir. But I played a small part in this. Caliban Thereaux
should be honored, Captain,” Chris said. “ He should be remembered as a hero.”
Hawk nodded. “ I’m sure he will be.” After a moment, the captain of the
Enterprise reached into a pocket and pulled out a cigar. “ Here,” he said,
offering it to Chris. “ My last one. I have no need for it anymore.”
“ And I do, sir?”
Hawk let out a boisterous laugh and Rollins smiled as well. “ Just enjoy it,
Lieutenant Edison. Just don’t develop a habit of it.”
“ No, sir.” Suddenly, something beyond Baine Hawk caught Chris’s
attention. “ Excuse me, sir,” he said, offering a salute. He dodged past a squad of
soldiers exchanging war stories (they would certainly have a lot of those now!),
coming to a stop near the shuttle. Janice Carmichael was clambering up the
ship’s ramp, battered and lugging a duffel over her shoulder. “ Janice,” Chris
greeted, looking up at her.
Janice nodded brusquely. “ Christopher,” she replied.
“ You were planning on leaving without telling me goodbye.” He said it
more as a statement than a question.
“ I didn’t want to make a scene.”
“ Well, we still don’t have to,” he replied with a wry grin. “ I consider
you a friend, you know. We’ve, uh, been through a lot here.”
Janice again nodded. “ That we’ve been, kid. That we’ve been.”
“ So, what are you going to do?” he queried. “ Are you going to return to
Earth with us?”
But the Navigator slowly shook her head. “ No, I can’t, Lieutenant
Edison. I don’t belong there. I’d probably be more alien than the Kilrathi. The,
uh, Navigators and I will return to the Titus System and start a new colony. That
was what Tobias would have wanted.” She paused, seeming to struggle to get
her next words out. “ I’ll miss you, Christopher.”
“ The feeling’s mutual, Janice.” He reached up and shook her hand.
“ Take care of yourself.” Carmichael smiled and vanished into the shuttle. The
ramp closed. “ Good bye, Janice Carmichael.” In an instant, the ship fired
thrusters and disappeared into the clouds.
He turned away, crossing his arms over his chest. He wondered if he’d
ever see Janice again, although he knew that it was doubtful. But he would
remember her. As Caliban had told him just before he had passed away, he
would not forget the bond of friendship. His eyes suddenly fell upon a small
figure in the distance: The being known as the Gray One. To Chris’s surprise, he
saw a strange little smile appear upon the creature’s bluish face. He could not
blame him. His race had just been liberated, after all.
It was only then that 2nd Lieutenant Christopher Edison realized that for
the first time in a long time, the sun was shining over Orion City.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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I don't know what to say.

The ending was good, but overall, this chapter was only average. The first two or three sections... I could feel the suspense dribbling away. It's as if you had lost track of time all of a sudden. Too much happened too quickly. While I'm here...

*She said, “ It ihs approximately one-hundred meterss lohng, Keptin* - Major mistake there, since you definitely didn't mean 100 metres.

I could believe that the Kilrathi have a fleet... but there's no way I can believe the Navigators have one. Where did it come from, all of a sudden? Did the Navigators steal Confederate vessels? How else could they get military ships? And why didn't they use this fleet when their planet was under attack? And the repair of the two ships was also just a bit overwhelming.

*The big alien shrugged. “ Four to five hours perhaps. The Quar’kek
System is not too far away. However, I still do not know if Brevak will assist us
in these endeavors.”* - It's just too little time. Spaceships don't just take off - like any other ships, they have to be prepped first, resupplied, crewed, etc. Even if the Quar'kek system was right next door...

*Earlier, before they had left the protection of the plaza, Chris had stolen a
comm unit and had contacted Captain Hawk and the Enterprise.* - And the Orions didn't intercept the messages? Surely, the only comm unit Chris could get to would have used Orion codes...

...Anyway, there are several such fallacies. It's a pity, because things have been building up so nicely. There were some very nice bits in this chapter too; as such, I would suggest that you rewrite the bad parts at least a bit. Since this is the final chapter, it's worth the trouble, non?

BTW, I have found that the "lost" threads are actually still there, if you load them manually. And I suspect that if you were to post in a missing thread, then it would mysteriously reappear.

Damn good! And If you keep practicing, it'll get even better!

The WC Source Code Release Project needs you!

"This matter winds itself ever in new riddles.", Faramir - The Lord of The Rings

"...we follow the sun, we follow the sun, we follow the sun..."
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Ah, the great action-packed showdown! Really nice piece of work.

There is some heavy location switching going on. Usually that disturbs me when I'm reading a story. But in this one I actually enjoy it. Perhaps it's because the paragraphs are quite short so you don't forget the ending of the last one (my bad short term memory (exp?)

About that Janice Carmichael character: Well, at least in this chapter she makes up for some of the stuff she screwed up in the previous ones.

Oh, and I found a little spelling error:
...and he had not heard from them sense. - You mean since, right?

No one will hear your cry of death in the void of space
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Well, at least nobody else found it disappointing.
But I still think you could improve it...
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Well, glad you liked it, Nighthawk and klaus. Sorry you didn't, Quarto.

Yes, I obviously did not mean 100 meters, that would be way too short.

Also, look, two-hundred and whatever years is a long time. The Outlands have planets with materials for ship building as well. And you also have to understand that over the years, many generations of Navigators developed, moving outwards to planets far from the centeral colony of Titus. Ving Xavier, although he did indeed have contact with Carmichael and Hart, was not at Titus-- he had his own affairs to contend with. Bottom line, if a large group of people can't make a few military ships in a two-hundred year period of time, then there's something obviously wrong with them. As for the repair of the two ships... Well, I just wanted to show you that the Navigators did indeed have TK powers, and that they wouldn't just sit on the sidelines.

As for Brevak's fleet... Well, it's not like Brevak's little flotilla is up to prim military efficiency, I'm sure they had skeleton crews to begin with and didn't have a full complement of supplies. Brevak's vessels were rushed just a tad, which is why pretty much none of them survived the battle.

Who said the Orions didn't intercept the messages? Maybe they did, but all around them buildings are exploding, people are dying... A short message from a hand-held comm device wouldn't make them stop in the middle of a warzone and raise holy hell over it.

Well, I don't particularly think there are a whole lot of *bad* parts, or else I would have worked on them before I had posted the chapter. And how would I fix these parts you didn't care for? Have the Orions intercept Chris's message and kill him for treason? Have the Enterprise go in alone without repairs and get blasted to rubble as soon as she jumps into Hadrian?

I appreciate your criticism, Quarto, but I just don't agree with you on some of those points. Still, I'll go back in and see what I can do...

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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It takes some knowledge to build a military ship. The navigators didn't have this knowledge.
Anyway, it's a bit pointless to argue about this. To put it simply, until last chapter, the feeling was "Oh, no. They're all alone, and they're going to have to fight the Orion fleet... can they make it?"
But now all of a sudden, it was "<shrug> No problem. They'll smash them and live happily ever after."
So basically, you simply let all the tension fizzle out.
They started out with like sixty or so ships, Quarto, and ended up with four. Most of their fighters were destroyed. They didn't make a dent in the enemy fleet. No problem? Uh, big problem!

Why couldn't the Navigators have learned this knowledge? Again I must say that two-hundred and something years is a hell of a long time, and I never said their ships were of original human design. They could have learned to build their warships through the guidence of some aliens indigenous to the Outlands.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>They started out with like sixty or so ships, Quarto, and ended up with four. Most of their fighters were destroyed. They didn't make a dent in the enemy fleet. No problem? Uh, big problem!<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Yeah, but that happens later. Like I said, the story gets better towards the end - because the suspense starts building again. But it was real silly of you to just let the suspense go. Even having reinforcements appear out of nowhere totally unexpected would have been a better solution.
Well, the way I saw it was that you'd get the feeling that, hey, they could really do this, they're going to win. And then everything goes downhill from there, and you get this sense of dread again that they'll fail. And then again in the very end, something happens that fixes everything.

But, hey, you're entitled to your opinion. So let's just leave it at that.

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