Chapter X - Blaze of Glory


Unknown Enemy
Yeah, it took a while. So sue me
Anyway, here it is. It's the longest chapter so far (but that's not why it took so long). Re-reading it again, I'm not too happy with the battle - but hey, I've read it something like ten times over the last few weeks, so I've every right to be sick of it
. Hopefully, you'll like it more than I do... please?

At any rate, here it is, and about bloody time.


X. Blaze of Glory.
Second Fang Pete Browning looked up at the ceiling. That sound, that unmistakable whine… the jump drive was powering down.
Pete got up, stalking around the room in his irritation. He had heard – and felt – the Kilrathi assault, but nothing else. For a moment he wavered between relief that he was still alive, and the anger that Paladin was too. And Weaver… he rubbed his nose, wincing as he touched the swollen area. Well… one day I’ll pay him back – that is, unless the Kilrathi do first. Or Javelin, for that matter.
He grinned. No matter what Weaver did, he would die. Either the Kilrathi will get him, or Javelin will. Indeed, Fredrik “Javelin” Karlson would never give up his revenge on the man that had ruined his career.
“Dammit!” Browning smashed his fist against the door, ignoring the pang of pain. To have been captured, just like that! And all because of a stupid engine malfunction. Then again, he thought, I’m lucky to be alive. Jones had been planning to kill us – but I got to him in time. His gun sure was useful against the others though…
Suddenly, the thin window in the door opened, and someone slipped a tray of food in. “If all goes well, this ought to be your last meal on board the Krak’ni’hra, traitor.” A cold voice belonging to Captain Burkheimer announced.
“When are you gonna tend my nose?” Browning demanded.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Burkheimer replied. “I’d love to ‘tend’ your nose… but the Colonel says we’re not allowed to hurt prisoners.” With a clang, the window closed.
* * *
Colonel Taggart took another nervous glance at the radar. Nothing. Things were quiet… too quiet. They had been going through Epsilon for almost two hours now; in another hour, the Krak’ni’hra would sweep about the gas giant. And the only sign of the enemy had been a small patrol of fighters, appearing at the very edge of the corvette’s sensors half an hour ago. Paladin hadn’t been worried – there was no way a fighter could possibly detect them at such a distance.
He looked around the bridge, which was unusually empty. He’d sent Talon off to get some sleep after they jumped, and Hharak had just gone off to eat something. James was alone – the only sound in the room was the quiet humming of the machinery.
Finally, Paladin got up and walked over to the huge window. Far in the distance, he could already see the planet; Epsilon Prima 7, it was called. Nobody had ever taken any real interest in it, so it never received a more proper name.
He frowned. The slingshot course was much safer than the straight route would have been. But there was one significant risk – if anybody was hiding behind the planet, the Krak’ni’hra wouldn’t detect them until the last possible moment. Perhaps I had better send Weaver and Rhe’dhi back out there, Paladin wondered. Only… if they go now, then they might not be ready on the final run towards the jump point – when we would almost certainly run into Kilrathi patrols. But on the other hand, if they don’t go right now and there are Kilrathi hidden behind the planet, then we will hardly need to worry about the final run, James mused.
The door opened. It was Weaver – Paladin could see his reflection in the window.
“Ye should be sleeping.” He told the young pilot. Indeed, Lawrence did not look all too good. Under normal circumstances, twenty-odd hours awake would be nothing, and six hours of sleep more than sufficient to get back to normal – or close to it. But having to constantly fight, fly, and repair a spacecraft in between the first two… those are not normal circumstances. One needs more than a few hours to recover from that.
Weaver raised his hands with a tired-looking grin. “It’s not that bad. See?” He nodded towards his hands, which were visibly shaking. “Actually, I can’t sleep.” Lawrence continued with a grimace. “I’m not tired enough to drop off right away, and the thought of all those Kilrathi fighters out there is keeping me awake.” He sighed. That wasn’t all that was keeping him awake. “I’ll be all right… those energy pills are good enough, as long as I take one at the right time. The only reason they didn’t work back then was because the Kilrathi gave us no warning. So the pills only kicked in about the time that you and Rhe’dhi smashed that last Gothri.”
“Yes, I can see how that would be a problem.” Paladin said with a slight smile. “But I don’t think the Kilrathi feel the urge to wait for an invitation.”
Weaver waved his hand, as if brushing off that argument. “You said it yourself. As long as we’re in open space, we’ll have enough time to get ready for them… especially since fighters have much shorter radar range than us.”
James raised an eyebrow. “Fighters are only half the problem. If a cruiser happens to be around… it in turn has a longer radar range than us. By the time we’d detect it, its bomber wing would be heading here at full speed.”
“I thought that this,” Lawrence indicated the Krak’ni’hra with his hands. “That this was supposed to help – so they’d think we’re friendly.”
“Was supposed to… but it won’t any more. Those Gothri will have undoubtedly sent a message to their carrier about the Kamekh with Confed fighters. By now, I imagine that half the sector is on the lookout for a rogue Kamekh. Besides, without communication codes and a proper identification code… until they got a visual id on us, we could have simply pretended to be heavily damaged, that our comm system was out. But now, there’s no way that we can pretend to be a Kilrathi vessel. They’ll want to gun down any corvette that doesn’t immediately respond to their codes.”
“Ah well. Maybe we’ll get lucky and just slip past unseen?”
“If the Concordia is in Morpheus, than you can count on it.” Colonel Taggart smiled grimly. “The Kilrathi would definitely think twice about approaching the jump point when the Concordia’s air group is waiting on the other side.”
“That does sound promising.” Terry replied. The prospect that there could be Confed forces beyond the next jump point was cheering, to say the least.
“It does, doesn’t it?” Paladin became serious again. “The trouble is, we don’t know if they’re there for sure. They were supposed to go through Morpheus all right, but for all we know… they could have been sent off to Gateway instead. And that happens to be in the exact opposite direction.”
Weaver sighed. “And if we encounter a Kilrathi capital ship… then we don’t have the slightest chance, do we?”
“The Kamekh class was designed to go after capital ships. But of course, it’s supposed to have a lot more fighter support than we do. No, if we encounter a capital ship… let’s just hope we can outrun it.”
They stood in silence looking out the window, each deep in his own thoughts. Yet again, Lawrence started wondering if their present luck would hold. It will have to, he decided. I’ve still got many things to do in life… but as the Kilrathi said, ‘With my mane bowed, I lie down And offer up my life for honour.’ And if it came to that – if I had to die so the others could get through… would I do it? That’s enough, he told himself firmly. We’ll make it. And the only ones offering up their lives will be the Kilrathi that get in our way.
James’ thoughts were just as grim, but on a larger scale. They had embarked on this mission to find the remnants of the Sixth Fleet… but they didn’t. Which means that they’re all dead, he sadly concluded. Except for the ones that managed to get through to the Concordia while she was stationed in Canewdon. But how many had that been? Several fighters, two destroyers and a battered old carrier. The rest had gone down… somewhere out there. For a moment, he wondered if perhaps that wasn’t the case? But the way the Kilrathi were prowling through the sector… he shook his head. It didn’t matter any more. They had done all they could for the Sixth Fleet. If there were any Confed ships in the Deneb Sector, then they would just have to fend for themselves. And so would the Krak’ni’hra.
* * *
The door opened, and Hharak entered the bridge. For a moment, he stood by the entrance, looking at the huge planet that took up most of the window.
“Pretty incredible, aye?” James – still standing by the window – asked him.
Hharak nodded silently. “Ith iss… maghnifhissenth. Bhat therr might bhe Kilrathi ohn the otherr sidhe.”
“I know, lad, I know.” Paladin replied, though the Kilrathi probably wasn’t much younger than he was. “I don’t want to risk sending them out on patrol, but I’ve got both Lawrence and Rhe’dhi sitting in their fighters. If there’s any enemy presence, they’ll be ready. And if there isn’t,” he added with a laugh, “then they’ve got the best seats in the house. God, what a sight.”
Hharak walked up to the window, leaning against its clear surface. The planet was just breathtaking – the blues and dark purples, arranged in intricate patterns of spirals within spirals, and its edge shrouded in darkness. Behind the planet was the distant Tanhouser Nebula, giving the impression that Epsilon Prima 7 was embroiled in a green cloud.
“Aye. That it is.”
In silence, both Human and Kilrathi members of the Krak’ni’hra’s crew watched the huge planet gradually fade into darkness. For who knew when – or if – they might again enjoy such a sight? In silence, the Krak’ni’hra swept along the gas giant’s dark side – the side shielded from the sun’s rays by its own bulk. Slowly but surely, the vessel gained speed, the planet’s gravity pushing it into velocities that would normally be far beyond a Kamekh’s capability.
The last rays of the sun disappeared behind them, and the silence on the bridge – and inside the two fighters – became even more tense… if that was at all possible. James Taggart was convinced that he heard Hharak’s heart pounding beside him, louder than the dull hum and whine of the machinery. Or was it just an echo of his own heartbeat?
Outside the window, the black shadow of Epsilon 7 covered more than half of the sky. It’s as if we were skirting the edge of a black hole, James thought with wry amusement. Only… if we were this close to a black hole, we wouldna be skirting the edge of anything any more. Somehow, that thought made him rather nervous; he turned away from the planet, to gaze at the tiny specks of stars that seemed reluctant to lend even a single beam of their light to the Krak’ni’hra. Finally, Paladin decided to return to the console. The radar was as black as the vacuum outside. Of course, there could be stealth fighters out there… he firmly pushed such notions aside. Amazing, he thought. Just a few minutes ago, we were mesmerised by the beauty of that planet… and now, all I want is to get out of its blasted shadow.
None of them were ever really sure how much time they had spent there – in silence and in darkness, for the lights inside the ship only made the blackness outside seem even thicker. The Krak’ni’hra’s clocks indicated that the entire manoeuvre had only taken about fifteen minutes – but each minute, to them, had been an hour.
Then, at last, the first rays of sunrise came over the edge of the giant planet, and the feeling of dread again turned into wonder. For another few minutes, they were totally engrossed by the sheer beauty of Epsilon Prima appearing before them in this unique fashion. Finally, Paladin forced himself to turn away, and to look at the radar again.
“Radar’s clear, lads. Get back inside.” He announced, even as one of the computers produced a loud chime – thus announcing that the slingshot was complete. With a velocity that no capital ship had ever been capable of, the Krak’ni’hra inexorably flew on, towards the jump point.
Sitting inside the Ferret, Lieutenant T E Lawrence wasn’t altogether sure how to take Paladin’s announcement. Should I be happy, he wondered, that I don’t need to risk my life again just yet? Or should I be disappointed? With the momentum of the corvette as extra thrust, his fighter could easily reach eight hundred klicks per second – twice that, with afterburners.
“Well… the way things have been going, maybe it’s better that I don’t have to fight the Kilrathi right now.” He finally decided as he climbed up, out of the cockpit.
* * *
Weaver rotated onto his other side, for the one hundred and seventeenth time – he’d been counting, in hope that the sheer monotony of the numbers would finally put him to sleep.
But it was no use; not when they were all waiting for the Kilrathi to show up. Personally, Lawrence was absolutely convinced that they would encounter the enemy again at some point. It had been too easy so far – since they passed the planet, only one more Kilrathi patrol had showed up on their radar. And the patrol wing changed its course a long time before they could have detected the Kamekh.
He looked at the time display in the corner of the room. An estimated three hours and forty minutes to the jump point.
“Dammit, where are they?” He finally said, getting up from the bunk.
From the other side of the room, Rhe’dhi chuckled softly. “Dho yho rhellhy whanth to hhav to fhighth themh aghainh?”
Weaver smiled ruefully. “Of course not… but it’s like… I know we’ll have to fight them – so I guess I just want to get it out of the way, so I can finally relax.”
Rhe’dhi nodded. “I alss’ho wholdh prreferr to dheahl with themh nhow.”
Suddenly, a most disturbing thought occurred to Terry. “What if they figured out what we’re planning, and are already waiting at the jump point? We might end up going all this way just to find a bunch of carriers ready to kill us…”
“I hhoph the Khonkhordia iss ihn Mhorpheuss. Thenh the Kilrathi khannot risskh whaithing ath the jhamp point.” Rhe’dhi replied with a sigh.
“I hope you’re right. It would be a shame to go all this way just to die on the verge of safety.”
Weaver was just about to lie back down when the wall-speaker emitted a loud beep, followed by Captain Burkheimer’s voice. “Lawrence, Rhe’dhi? Get to the bridge, now! You need to see this!”
The Kilrathi was instantly on his feet, and running towards the door. “I fheer h’our whish hhas khom trrue.” He said.
“How obliging of them.” Weaver muttered to himself, following Rhe’dhi out into the corridor.
* * *
The door opened, and two pilots entered the bridge. Paladin, Talon and Hharak barely even looked at them, each preoccupied with his own console. “What’s going on, sir?” Lawrence asked the moment he was in the room.
“We seem to have a bit of a problem.” Colonel Taggart said, pointing at the radar screen in front of him. Captain Burkheimer laughed at the understatement, but his laugh seemed rather forced.
Quickly, Weaver and Rhe’dhi walked up to Paladin’s console, and looked over his shoulder.
“Shit!” Weaver exclaimed. The radar showed a cluster of Kilrathi capital ships ahead of them. At the centre of the cluster was a single blip in the four hundred metre category; it was surrounded by eight smaller points – a hundred metres each, perhaps. “Are they coming after us?”
“Not yet, at any rate. They’re simply moving across our path – most likely, they’re heading for Epsilon’s fourth planet, which lies that-a way.” He pointed with his hand in the direction that seemed to match the Kilrathi ships’ course. “So, it’s – probably – just a coincidence. But according to the computer, we’re going to pass within ten thousand klicks of them, if they continue at this rate.”
“Wonderful.” Weaver replied dejectedly. And they had been doing so well… he sat down heavily in a chair next to James. A quick glance at Rhe’dhi told him that the Kilrathi also didn’t see much hope. “So, what are we going to do?”
Paladin looked over at him, a tense smile on his face. “They’re in our way, and right now, we have nowhere to run. So we’re going right through them.”
Lawrence stared at him, horror and disbelief in his eyes. God damn it, he thought. The poor man has snapped. But at least we’ll go down fighting…
* * *
“Ok. So maybe it’s not as insane as I thought it might be.” Weaver admitted. “That is, if you’re sure about those ships, sir.” He looked over at Hharak.
“I h’am, yhangh one.” Hharak replied. “Ith iss ssertahn. They arr jhasst a lharghe khargho khonvoy, whith a Ralatha desstroyerr as esskhort.”
“Don’t worry, laddie.” Paladin grinned at the young pilot. “I’m not into suicide runs. Now, that destroyer has no room to manoeuvre between the freighters. So, if we charge right in – which is exactly what we’re doing right now,” he pointed at the radar screen, on which the Kilrathi convoy was quickly getting closer. “We have a chance of knocking the Ralatha out of the fight with our torpedoes, before it can bring either of its anti-matter guns to bear on us. It’ll be close,” indeed, the enemy ships were already altering course, trying to give the destroyer enough room to manoeuvre. “But we have no other choice, you know. We absolutely must punch through the convoy before the Kilrathi can call in reinforcements.”
Weaver nodded. “I know, Colonel.”
“It will be your job,” James continued, looking at Lawrence and Rhe’dhi, “to take care of the fighters. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to help you this time, because the Krak’ni’hra will need all three of us on the bridge when we attack.”
“What sort of fighter escort might they have?” Weaver asked.
“Hharak?” Paladin turned towards the Kilrathi officer, who was – as always – standing at the helm.
“Whell…” Hharak replied, trying hard to make his words more understandable. “It iss hhard to ssay. A Ralatha khan in theerri kharry thwenthy-fhorr fighters – bhat thiss nhumm’brr iss ahlmosst nevherr rreeched – therr iss nhath enough spaess ohn-borrdh to hholdh spaerr parrtss fhorr thath mhany. Ith iss a dhessighn flhaw. Sso, norrmhallhy a Ralatha whillh kharry thwelve fighters; ussually, they arr Sartha orr Drakhri. Ohf thoss, ath leesth fhor whold be fhlyingh as a forrward patrrol. Ihf therr iss a kharrier ihn the syssthem, then they kholdh be ghiven ahddishionhal esskhorrts… bhat they whill mhost likhely assuhm thath the Ralatha iss ehnogh.”
“So, we’re likely to find eight fighters, and another four might show up later on?” Weaver asked.
The Kilrathi nodded.
“Colonel… that’s suicide! Even if all three of us were out there, it would be bad… but two against eight? Or rather, two against twelve.”
“Lad, if you take too much damage, you can come back and take the Scimitar instead.” Paladin told him. “Other than that… what can I say? We’ll be fighting for our lives here.” He smiled grimly. “Look at it this way. It’s not you that those fighters will be going after – it’s us. You must keep them away from the Krak’ni’hra while we’re making the torpedo run on the Ralatha. Hopefully, the rest of them will back off once we punch through to the other side – they can’t go after us when they have the rest of the convoy to guard.” He frowned. “Rhe’dhi, your Broadsword is armed with torpedoes. You can’t do much against the Ralatha – but you can against the freighters.”
“Yho whanth mhe to drrahw ohff the fhighthers?” Rhe’dhi asked, immediately understanding James’ plan.
Paladin sighed. “I wish I didn’t have to ask that of you, but… yes.”
Rhe’dhi grinned, showing off his fangs. “Iht shall bhe dhonh.”
“Sir?” Talon threw in. “Eighty thousand klicks to the convoy… and the Ralatha has just started launching fighters.”
Colonel Taggart nodded, and turned to face the two pilots. “You two had better get to your fighters now. Good luck out there… I’m afraid you’ll need a lot of it.”
Weaver saluted him. “Good luck to you too, Colonel.” With that, he left the room.
Rhe’dhi grinned at James. “Dho nhath whorri. Whe shall gheth throgh. I khan fheelh ith. Ghoodh lhack, Jim.” And he turned to follow Lawrence towards their fighters.
* * *
Finally, the corvette let go of his fighter, and the Ferret charged forward on full afterburners. For a brief moment, Weaver revelled in the incredible speeds that his ship attained so quickly. Of course, having the Krak’ni’hra’s three hundred kps of momentum certainly helped. Looking behind him, Lawrence saw that Rhe’dhi’s Broadsword wasn’t far behind. Now, that must be an interesting feeling, he thought. The Broadsword was flying at almost twice its normal velocity. What did it feel like to sit in the huge bomber, forging ahead at six hundred klicks?
Of course, we’ll lose the extra speed once we start manoeuvring, Weaver realised. A pity… but we’ll have other things to worry about by then. He looked towards the Kilrathi convoy, but the Ralatha was no more than a reddish-brown spot on the very edge of his vision. We’ll be there soon enough, though.
Time seemed to slow down to a trickle as the ships great and small irrevocably got closer. On the radar, he could already see the Kilrathi fighters flying on intercept towards them. But to the human eye, only the capital ships were visible.
“Forty thousand.” Captain Burkheimer quietly announced several seconds later. Weaver grimaced. For him, there was only twenty thousand klicks left. Not wanting to get any further ahead, he shut off the afterburners. As he did so, the acceleration absorbers kicked in, and the Ferret slowed down to its usual five hundred klicks.
“Looks like there are indeed eight of them, Krak’ni’hra.” Lawrence announced, when the fighters got close enough to appear as separate blips on the radar. “They’re just coming into visual now…” he stared intensely at the fighters, trying to make out the details. But from this distance, Weaver ruefully decided, all Kilrathi fighters look about the same. Well, a few more seconds. He turned his attention to the destroyer and its entourage of freighters, all plainly visible now. The Ralatha class destroyer most certainly was an imposing sight. A strange design, consisting of two main sections linked together by a thick, pipe-like structure. The rear section was surrounded by five engines that seemed to have been added almost as an afterthought. But put together, the ship most definitely did not look like something to be ignored as an afterthought. If anything, the structure gave the Ralatha an almost insect-like look; beautiful in a peculiar way – but mostly just deadly. Like some sort of insect queen, the ship sailed along majestically, ringed by the Dorkathi class freighters, each a quarter of the destroyer’s size.
He took another glance at the fighters, which were now just fifteen thousand klicks away from him; already, his targeting had identified them. “All right, I’ve got visual, and the targeting system confirms – they’re Drakhri medium fighters.” Weaver grinned. The Drakhri certainly wasn’t a ship to be ignored – but it wasn’t anywhere near as tough as the Gothri fighters had been. Only… eight of them?
A quick look behind him told Lawrence that Rhe’dhi had already altered his course, heading for the freighter that was closing the convoy. This way, Weaver realised, he’ll wind up behind the Kilrathi vessels, and be able to strike at their most vulnerable parts – the engines.
“Thirty-five thousand.” Talon stated.
Nine thousand, Weaver added in his mind – it was about to start. Remember, he told himself. All you have to do is keep them busy until the Krak’ni’hra fires off its torpedoes. And at their present speed, it will only be a couple of minutes. “Engaging!” He spoke tersely into the comm system; a moment later, the Kilrathi fighters were sending streams of lasers in his direction. Streams… Weaver grinned nervously. More like rivers. For the briefest moment, he kicked into afterburners again, and then turned his ship sideways. His ship – still carried by its momentum towards the Ralatha – slid past the wing of Drakhris. As he did so, Weaver held down the trigger, unleashing an extended volley from his own guns. The blast of mass driver bullets scored several hits against the Drakhris’ shields, but did not penetrate them. The Kilrathi broke formation now, scattering like a flock of birds at the sound of the hunter’s gun.
“Thirty thousand.” Jeffrey said. Lawrence could hear the excitement building up in the officer’s voice. Of course, it’s not every day that one faces a destroyer. Or eight bloody Drakhri, he thought as he rolled sideways to avoid another laser blast. This is going to be a long day, Weaver realised, rapidly looking back and forth between the Kilrathi ships. He performed another frantic set of rolls and shakes, trying to keep all the fighters at bay. When surrounded by eight hungry lions, which one do you shoot first? And more importantly, how do you make sure the others don’t kill you while you’re shooting? He winced as a laser slashed across his fighter’s shields.
Suddenly, five of the Kilrathi broke away from him, charging back towards their convoy.
“I hhav tarrgheth lhokh.” Rhe’dhi announced quietly, almost in the same instant.
“So that’s what got their attention?” Weaver half-asked, half-stated. The freighter must have broadcast a call for help to the fighters. Terry turned his Ferret to follow the retreating ships. “There’s five of them coming after you, Rhe’dhi. I’ll see if I can knock one or two off along the way!”
“Ssthay whith the otherr three!” The Kilrathi told him. “The Krak’ni’hra khomss firssth!”
Lawrence changed his course back. Rhe’dhi was right. But he was also in severe danger. Normally, a Broadsword bomber could probably hold its own against such numbers – but Rhe’dhi didn’t have anyone manning his ship’s rear and side turrets. As such, the unwieldy bomber was almost defenceless against five fighters. I must hurry up over here so I can go help him, Weaver decided as he slid into position on a Drakhri’s tail and started blasting away at his shields. The insistent barrage from the other two Kilrathi fighters forced him to veer away soon after – but not before the Ferret’s guns had penetrated the shields, leaving deep gashes in the enemy fighter’s rear armour.
Weaver grinned to himself. Maybe it was because everything depended on this, but for the first time in more than thirty-six hours, he actually felt awake. I’m gonna have to be, he thought.
Suddenly, the alarms went off as a stream of lasers pierced the Ferret’s rear shields. “Shit!” Terry exclaimed, pulling another hard turn to shake the Kilrathi off his tail. The manoeuvre was successful, and for a brief moment Weaver continued moving away from the Drakhris on full afterburners. “Damn, that was close!” As he turned back towards the three fighters – which were inexorably moving in on the Krak’ni’hra – he wondered how much easier things would be if he had eyes in the back of his head.
“Fhirr’hingh thorrphedoe!” Rhe’dhi said quietly.
Moments later, Weaver caught a bright flash in the corner of his eye. He quickly turned his head – and saw the Broadsword veering away from the stricken transport right in front of it. For a brief second, the Dorkathi sailed on, as if the torpedo had merely damaged its engines. And then it exploded into a huge fireball, flinging debris in all directions. Terry watched with a fearful fascination as one of the Kilrathi fighters was caught up in the ensuing shockwave, and flung forcefully against the destroyer’s flank. A moment later, the Drakhri was a mangled, broken wreck. And the huge Ralatha didn’t bear even a scratch.
* * *
“Dammit!” Talon exclaimed.
“What is it, lad?” James demanded, somewhat nervously, watching the last of the explosion – Rhe’dhi’s handiwork – wither away. They were only twenty-five thousand klicks away from the convoy; the weapons system was already working to acquire a torpedo lock on the Ralatha.
“It’s no use, sir!” Jeffrey told him with some exasperation. “The freighters have moved enough to give the destroyer room to manoeuvre, but not enough for us to gain a proper target lock. The way things are going, our torpedoes will strike those two freighters instead… he’s using them as shields!”
“Will we have time to fire a second volley before the Ralatha finishes turning?” Paladin asked tensely.
Captain Burkheimer stared at the screen, and then at the battle unfolding beyond the front window. “It’ll be way too close for comfort, sir…” he said, ploughing through his hair with one hand. “We should be able to, but we’ll have to fire the second series without proper lock… otherwise, that thing,” he pointed out the window, at the huge capital ship. “Will have us for lunch.”
James Taggart frowned, nervously scratching his beard. Without target lock, most of the torpedoes would miss at this range. While the Ralatha would probably go down after taking two or three hits, the Kamekh only had four torpedo tubes. If three out of four missed… certainly, there would be no time for a third volley. “What if we don’t fire at all?” He suddenly asked. “Can we use the freighters to shield us from his guns?”
Talon shook his head. “There’s just enough of a gap between them for his shots to get through, but not enough for our torpedoes.”
“Then we’ll have to risk it!” The Colonel decided. “Fire the first series the moment you’ve got lock, and the second… as soon as the freighters are gone. And let’s pray that enough find their target.”
“Yes sir!” Talon replied fervently.
From the helm, Hharak watched the two of them with a smile. It was a brave decision, and his opinion of the two humans rose another notch – for if they continued on this course, and the Ralatha fired even a single shot from its anti-matter cannon… the blast would burn right through the Krak’ni’hra’s bridge.
* * *
“How are you doing, Rhe’dhi?” Weaver asked as he performed another loop to shake the Kilrathi off. With some alarm, he noted there was a slight creak as the Ferret went through the tight manoeuvre. The ship had taken a blast in its flank a few seconds earlier; though he couldn’t see it, Terry suspected that there was a crack somewhere on the right side. Still, it would take a lot more than that for the Ferret to break up. At least it had better, he told himself with a tight grin.
“I lhivh…” his wingmate replied tersely. Though he had no time too look in that direction, Weaver knew that the Kilrathi was still desperately shaking and rolling to avoid the fire from the three Drakhri – one had just fallen to his guns. “S’hee?” Rhe’dhi added, transmitting his ship’s status diagram to the Ferret.
“Damn!” Lawrence exclaimed, as he glanced down at the image on his screen. The once-powerful Broadsword was quickly being reduced to scrap metal. Already, two of its turrets have been blown off – the Kilrathi obviously didn’t notice that there was nobody manning them anyway.
Just then, the alarms went off again, and Weaver pulled another tight turn to avoid a deadly stream of lasers. If I could only get missile lock on one of them, Weaver thought wishfully. He’d damaged two of his assailants about as much as they have damaged him, but neither side seemed capable of finishing the other off.
“Firing torpedoes!” Talon suddenly announced. “Steer clear of them, Weaver!”
“What? Oh, shit!” Terry exclaimed as he looked towards the Krak’ni’hra. They had been fighting halfway between the corvette and the convoy – right in the path of the torpedoes. He switched on the burners, only barely moving out of the way of an incoming torpedo. In the brief moment of reprieve as his three opponents also dodged the torpedoes, he looked in the direction of the Kilrathi capital ships. The torpedoes seemed to be going straight for their target – except that the freighters were in their way. But I guess Colonel Taggart knows what he’s doing, Weaver decided. And I’ve got my own troubles…
Still running on afterburners, he turned and slid past one of the Kilrathi fighters, deftly slipping onto his tail.
“Come on…” he said, as his heat-seeker struggled to get a lock on the fighter. The whole process took perhaps a second – but in a battle like this, a second was the difference between life and death.
The Drakhri tried to shake him off, but the Ferret was faster and more manoeuvrable. Just a moment more… all of a sudden, Weaver heard the alarms go off as his rear shield indicators slid down to zero – one of the other enemy fighters was on his tail. He turned back to the fighter in front… almost got a lock… Terry gritted his teeth as he felt another blast of lasers biting deep into the Ferret’s rear armour. Lock! In a well-practiced movement, he fired the missile and rolled away to the side, punching into afterburners to charge past the Kilrathi ship.
“Yes!” He exclaimed, seeing the Drakhri’s engines explode as the missile struck square in the rear of the ship. It only took the briefest instant for the Kilrathi fighter to disperse into the vacuum of space.
Then, another flash caught Weaver’s eyes. “Holy…” he whispered, as he saw the Krak’ni’hra’s torpedoes smash against the freighters. Under the barrage, the two Dorkathi class vessels started disintegrating. It was a slow process – at least it would be, until the fires got to the engines and power plants. And then, Weaver realised, the second volley would dispatch the Ralatha.
It was then that he realised that the two Kilrathi fighters that had been attacking him were no longer near him.
“Weaver!” Talon yelled. “Quick!”
“Oh, dammit!” He exclaimed. The two Drakhri had obviously decided to destroy the source of their convoy’s grief – the Kamekh. Even now, they were charging towards the Krak’ni’hra.
Lawrence turned to follow, and punched the afterburners. As they raced on towards the corvette the gap between the three fighters was slowly reduced. He armed his other heat-seeker. There would be no time to get target lock – but the way the two fighters before him were going, they’d have no time to manoeuvre.
“Utak! Tuka!” He yelled into his comms. But the two fighters took no notice.
Racing past the Krak’ni’hra’s bridge, he finally managed to reduce the gap between him and the nearer Drakhri to just a few hundred metres. He pushed the missile trigger; the heat-seeker rapidly forged ahead and struck the Kilrathi ship right in the centre. He pulled up to avoid the debris – one less fighter to deal with. Now, just one more…
As the two of them came racing past the Krak’ni’hra’s engines, several things happened at once. Far behind them, the two stricken freighters at last exploded, for a moment as bright as stars. The Drakhri whirled around, heading right for the corvette’s engines. Weaver fired off series after series from his mass drivers, but the Kilrathi pilot simply switched on the afterburners – seemingly oblivious to the bullets that were tearing his ship apart.
“No!” Lieutenant T E Lawrence exclaimed, even as the Drakhri reached its destination. Right before the collision, Weaver thought he saw the engines of the Kilrathi’s four missiles power up. The next instant, all that he could do was to violently yank the controls to the side, struggling to avoid the ensuing blast…
* * *
“Wait for it…” Paladin said, watching the last of the exploding freighters dissipate. “Fire!”
Suddenly – and before Talon could hit the right key – the Krak’ni’hra shook violently, and whirled to the side.
“Oh… dammit.” Talon whispered. In the front window, they saw their four torpedoes racing ahead – into empty space.
“What the hell happened?” Colonel Taggart – first to recover from the shock – spoke into the comm system.
“The son of a… he went kamikaze!” Weaver finally answered, his voice shaking. “God damn… he blew half of the engines off!”
“Sir?” Captain Burkheimer turned to face Paladin, frantically pointing at the status screen before him. “Sir… the Ralatha just fired its forward cannon!”
Only a moment later, the crew of the Krak’ni’hra was flung to the floor as the ship trembled under the force of another explosion.
* * *
“Krak’ni’hra? Paladin!” Weaver yelled into the mike, slowly cruising past the stricken vessel. “Damn…” he said, staring with dismay at what remained of the corvette’s flank – most of the armour plating had been burnt away, the wings and engines torn right off. In several places, he could actually see inside the ship.
“Colonel Taggart? Captain Burkheimer?” He added; the Ferret was gliding past the bridge windows, but he couldn’t make out any details through the darkness behind the window. Still, he told himself, at least the windows are there. That’s a good sign…
At last, he saw a flicker of light inside the Kamekh. “Krak’ni’hra?” He asked again. “Do you copy?”
“Yeah…” Talon said in a pain-filled voice. The visual display was mostly static. “Yeah, we’re still here – barely. Took quite a hit there…”
“Lads, the Krak’ni’hra ain’t going anywhere now. We’ve lost all power – we’re only holding up on emergency back-ups!” Paladin threw in. “We’re going to have to abandon ship. Rhe’dhi, how fast can you get back here?”
Rhe’dhi! Ashamed of himself, Lawrence suddenly realised that he had forgotten all about his wingmate. Then again, who could blame him in this chaos? He looked in the direction of the convoy. The heavy Broadsword was already heading back to the corvette, followed by the last two Drakhri – and the vast bulk of the Kilrathi destroyer, pulling away from the rest of the convoy.
“I whillh bhe therr ihn a minhuthe andh a hhalfh! Bhat… the Ralatha iss hhedhingh thiss whay!”
“If they fire another shot…” Weaver added with dismay. What could possibly stop the capital ship from finishing this once and for all?
“They won’t.” Paladin said firmly – more firmly, perhaps, than he felt. “Had they wanted to, we’d be dead already. No, they want to take us alive. They’re probably planning to reel our ship in on the Ralatha’s tractor beams. Rhe’dhi, dock with us as soon as you can! Weaver, do you think you can take out those two Drakhri?”
Lieutenant Lawrence looked at his ship’s damage report. He was surprised to see how much things have gotten worse. I guess I got caught in the shockwave after all, he realised. “I could try, sir… no. The Ferret will break up on the first tight manoeuvre.” As he looked at the Krak’ni’hra, the solution dawned on him. “Paladin, I’m docking right now! The Scimitar looks like it’s still undamaged.”
“You do that, laddie! But hurry!” Colonel Taggart replied, inwardly sighing with relief. The Mandarin freighter might have been the source of their troubles, but it also seemed to be providing their salvation, over and over again. “Rhe’dhi, try to fend them off until Weaver gets there!”
Terry steered his battered ship towards the hatch, at almost full speed. Finally, he cut the engines, praying that the docking system still worked. Much to his relief, the magnetic grapples came down on top of his cabin almost instantly.
Waiting only long enough for the link-up to finish, he opened the hatch above and climbed up the rungs towards the other hatch. The button didn’t work, but the emergency handle did, and finally the hatch opened. Immediately, a hand pulled him up into the Krak’ni’hra. Before he could say anything, Paladin was already shoving him towards the other hatch.
“Good luck, lad!” The old officer told him. Before he dropped into the tunnel, Weaver noted that there were several bloody gashes on the man’s face – a testament to the force that had disabled their vessel.
Several moments later, he saw the Scimitar’s hatch seal right above him, as he settled into the old fighter. He spent another second or two trying to locate the right switches, and then finally powered the ship up. The grapples let go, and he charged out from underneath the stricken corvette.
“Damn, this is a slug!” He exclaimed as he turned in the direction of the Broadsword; the Scimitar was nowhere near as responsive as the Ferret had been.
“Better a healthy Slug then a dead Ferret.” Talon told him. Which, Weaver supposed, was true enough.
He kicked into afterburners, and raced on to where the three fighters were engaged in an uneven fight.
“Ghoodh to ssee yho, Weaver!” Rhe’dhi told him as he closed the gap. It was only now that he saw how badly damaged the Broadsword was – fighting alone against the Drakhri had taken its toll, to be sure.
Finally, the Scimitar entered gun range. Lawrence opened up with his guns, scoring several hits on one of the Drakhri before the surprised Kilrathi could whirl about to face the new opponent.
“Rhe’dhi, I’ll keep them busy now. You get moving!” Terry said into the comm system as he neatly flew in-between the two Drakhri and his wingmate.
“I whillh!” Rhe’dhi replied, and turned back towards the Krak’ni’hra again.
The two Kilrathi turned to face him; moments later, Weaver saw the first flak shells exploding around him – the Ralatha was getting closer. He looked at the huge vessel – the queen insect coming to help her soldiers… and to devour her enemies.
* * *
“Looks like the end is near.” Pete Browning said quietly. The room was pitch black, and the hum of the air filters had ceased. Idly, he wondered what it was that hit the ship. Was it a torpedo? Or maybe a capital ship? He smiled at that thought. If it was a capital ship… it had been several minutes now since he felt the impact of the explosion – and quite an impact it had been, he recalled. But that means that the Kilrathi ship must be moving in to board them.
He grinned, but then his grin faded. Some of the Kilrathi commanders liked being able to see the whites of their enemy’s eyes, so to speak, before taking the final shot. I’m not safe yet, he realised. But if I die, at least Taggart dies with me…
Suddenly, the door opened. In the dim red lighting of the corridor – the emergency lights – he saw Burkheimer, holding a gun in his hand.
“Personally, I’d rather leave you to die, but the Colonel thinks the Kilrathi will capture the ship.” He said with a nasty grin. “Since we wouldn’t want you to… suffer… at the hands of the Kilrathi – you’re coming with us.” He gestured extravagantly towards the corridor.
With a sigh, Pete Browning got up from his bunk. So close, and yet so far.
* * *
“That’s the last one!” Weaver exclaimed, as he charged through the cloud of debris. He’d been lucky; the first Drakhri collapsed under a flak shell – a flak shell meant for me, Terry reminded himself. The second Drakhri had held up longer, but then Lawrence got a shot into its engines, and the ship was shaken apart as its power plant exploded.
Veering to avoid another flak shell, Weaver flew back towards the Krak’ni’hra on burners. The Broadsword had already docked, even as the vast bulk of the Ralatha closed in on the corvette.
“Laddie, I want you to dock with us right now!” Paladin told him, already sitting aboard Rhe’dhi’s ship. “We’ll be leaving the Scimitar and the Ferret behind.”
“Sir? If I’m aboard the Broadsword… it would be way too difficult to fight off even two or three Kilrathi fighters in the bomber, now. Even with the additional crew for the turrets. I mean… well, that thing’s only got one turret left.”
“Yes, but that’s a risk we have ta take, lad. If you fly the Scimitar, you might not be able to jump out – and that’s a risk I can’t ask ye to take.”
“The Scimitar’s got a jump drive.” Weaver told him as he flew past the Broadsword.
“Yes… but it’s on top of the roof, Weaver!” Paladin replied with exasperation. “If they lower your shields for even an instant – all it will take to disable it is one shot.”
“Colonel, the Broadsword’s jump drive may be better protected,” Weaver said, “but it’s of no use to us if the whole ship is destroyed.” He paused, as the realisation of what he was doing struck him. Nah… he told himself as firmly as he could manage. I’m not planning on getting hit, so I don’t need to worry about sacrificing anything; my life least of all. “Sir, I’m staying on the Scimitar. We both know that it’s the right decision.”
On his screen, Terry saw James nod slowly, a thoughtful expression on his face. “You’re right, lad. You’re right. And I guess if you lose the jump drive, you can always eject at the jump point. The Broadsword also has a tractor beam, y’know.”
Weaver sighed with relief. “Thank God.” He said. “For a moment, I thought I might be risking my life.” Suddenly, he burst out laughing at the absurdity of his words. When hadn’t he been risking his life?
At the same moment, he saw the Ralatha’s tractor beam sweep across the intervening space, and ‘latch on’ to the Krak’ni’hra. Inexorably, the corvette started moving towards the destroyer. As it did so, the Broadsword finally pulled out of dock, charging away from the Krak’ni’hra at full speed.
“So… which way’s the jump point?” Lawrence asked as the two fighters fled beyond the range of the Ralatha’s flak – not that the destroyer seemed to notice that its real quarry was escaping.
“Nhath yheth.” Rhe’dhi replied firmly, back in his usual position as the Broadsword’s pilot. To Weaver’s surprise, the bomber cut off its engines, turning around to face the Kilrathi destroyer – and the Krak’ni’hra.
“Rhe’dhi? What are you doing?”
“Whatch.” The Kilrathi replied.
They waited for almost a minute, as the corvette was drawn closer and closer towards its captor. And suddenly, the Broadsword dove towards the Kamekh, running at full power into a hailstorm of flak.
“Rhe’dhi?” Weaver asked again, nervously. “You don’t have a chance against that destroyer!”
“Nhath the Ralatha…” the Kilrathi replied. And then – just as the Kilrathi capital ship got within perhaps two kilometres of the corvette, Weaver saw a small spark fly off from the Broadsword. As the Broadsword pulled away, shaken by flak explosions all around, the spark – a torpedo – struck the Kamekh’s engines.
The Krak’ni’hra couldn’t take this final blow. Within just seconds, the once-proud vessel exploded into a billion fragments.
“Oh… my God.” Was all that Lawrence could say, as he watched what had once been their ship disintegrate – and in the process, unleash a violent thunderstorm upon the Ralatha. The vile insect that had tried to devour their vessel now choked on its meal. The main shockwave of the explosion crashed upon the destroyer, snapping off three of the ship’s engines as though they were twigs. For a moment, Terry watched on, with hope that the rest of the vessel would blow up; but not even this force had been sufficient to destroy their assailant. Still, he asked himself, how fast could that thing go on just two engines? It certainly won’t bother us any further.
The comm screen lit up, and he was surprised to see that there were tears running down Rhe’dhi’s furry cheeks. “Ith iss dhon. Whe mhay gho.” The Kilrathi told him quietly. Behind him, Weaver could see the half-sorrowful, half-jubilant expressions on Paladin’s and Talon’s faces, and the sullen look on Browning – who seemed to have some trouble bearing the weight of Hharak’s huge paw – claws extended – on his shoulder.
So, Lawrence mused, this is it. The last leg of our retreat. With the Krak’ni’hra destroyed, all other options were gone too. The Ralatha was too crippled to be a threat, but the four ships that had supposedly flown ahead of the convoy were still unaccounted for. None had any doubt that the enemy patrol was already speeding in their direction. We must run, Weaver thought, and never look back.


And, that's all for today. Tune in next week... or next month... for the next chapter of... well... I haven't actually come up with the book title
Oh, and be sure to post comments before you leave the thread.
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Just to let you know I have indeed grabbed the chapter and started reading it. Of course I left the nitpicks on one of the uni systems so I won't get it done tonight. Expect it sometime tommorrow.
'Bout time. I'll read it in a bit.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>It's the longest chapter so far (but that's not why it took so long).<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
That's no excuse.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Re-reading it again, I'm not too happy with the battle - but hey, I've read it something like ten times over the last few weeks, so I've every right to be sick of it.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Aye, that you do. I know the feeling.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Hopefully, you'll like it more than I do... please?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
It was good - there's no need to beg.

Well here goes...

<LI>&gt;that unmistakable whine… the jump drive was powering down.&lt; - Maybe a dash would be better than an elipsis.
<LI>&gt;that is, unless the Kilrathi do first.&lt; - Perhaps expand "do first" to something like "get to them first" or "beat him to it."
<LI>&gt;Karlson would never give up his revenge on the man that had ruined his career.&lt; - That "give up his revenge on the man" feels awkward. Maybe "would not rest till he had his vengance on the man?"
<LI>&gt;ignoring the pang of pain.&lt; - Pangs like that are hard to ignore, since pang = pain.
<LI>&gt;“When are you gonna tend my nose?”&lt; + &gt;“I’d love to ‘tend’ your nose…&lt; - I could've sword it's tend to.
<LI>* * *
<LI>&gt;They had been going through Epsilon for almost two hours now;&lt; - I'm sure you can thing of a more exciting word for going.
<LI>&gt;And the only sign of the enemy had been a small patrol of fighters, appearing at the very edge of the corvette’s sensors half an hour ago.&lt; - Hmm. A lot to say in one sentence. Perhaps a short pause is in order before "half an hour."
<LI>&gt;He’d sent Talon off to get some sleep after they jumped, and Hharak had just gone off to eat something.&lt; - I'd lose the second off.
<LI>&gt;James was alone – the only sound in the room was the quiet humming of the machinery.&lt; - I'd lose the last the as well.
<LI>&gt;Nobody had ever taken any real interest in it, so it never received a more proper name.&lt; - Gas giants are hardly habitable beasts.
<LI>&gt;Only… if they go now, then they might not be ready on the final run towards the jump point&lt; - Uh, you mean ready as in awake?
<LI>&gt;Paladin could see his reflection in the window.&lt; - Nice.
<LI>&gt;Indeed, Lawrence did not look all too good.&lt; - Not all too well.
<LI>&gt;Under normal circumstances, twenty-odd hours awake would be nothing, and six hours of sleep more than sufficient to get back to normal – or close to it.&lt; - Something tells me you were up twenty-odd hours when you wrote that.

<LI>&gt;those are not normal circumstances.&lt; - Um. I think it's were and not are in this case.
<LI>&gt;The prospect that there could be Confed forces beyond the next jump point was cheering, to say the least.&lt; - Cheering? Sounds like the prospect was cheering - as in making noise.
<LI>* * *
<LI>&gt;The planet was just breathtaking – the blues and dark purples,&lt; - Blues and purples? Just what's that atmosphere made of?
<LI>&gt;For who knew when – or if – they might again enjoy such a sight?&lt; - The end is nigh!

<LI>&gt;the side shielded from the sun’s rays by its own bulk.&lt; - The planet's bulk?
<LI>&gt;It’s as if we were skirting the edge of a black hole, James thought with wry amusement.&lt; - Heh heh. I just love it when people think they can see a black hole.
<LI>&gt;the tiny specks of stars that seemed reluctant to lend even a single beam of their light&lt; - Nice and poetic.
<LI>&gt;None of them were ever really sure&lt; - I'd lose the ever.
<LI>&gt;but each minute, to them, had been an hour.&lt; - Alright, who wound the clocks back? Own up!

<LI>&gt;Then, at last, the first rays&lt; - At last the first? Yick.
<LI>&gt;Epsilon Prima appearing before them in this unique fashion.&lt; - I could mention a law of physics that would spoil the view...but I won't. But I will complain about "unique fashion" - it's totally unlike you.
<LI>&gt;one of the computers produced a loud chime&lt; - Hmm. Produced. Sounds like it should produce toast.
<LI>&gt;thus announcing that the slingshot was complete.&lt; - Fire when ready!

<LI>&gt;With a velocity that no capital ship had ever been capable of,&lt; - Another odd one. Most if not all ships are capable of a slingshot manoeuvre.
<LI>&gt;his fighter could easily reach eight hundred klicks per second – twice that, with afterburners.&lt; - Hmm. Looks like that physics lesson may be unavoidable after all.
<LI>&gt;I don’t have to fight the Kilrathi right now.&lt; - What? You mean all at once?

<LI>* * *
<LI>&gt;Weaver rotated onto his other side,&lt; - Heh. Rotated. I believe the word is rolled.
<LI>&gt;they would encounter the enemy again at some point.&lt; - One does in life, but it's more likely that they would encounter them soon.
<LI>&gt;die on the verge of safety.&lt; - Nice.
<LI>&gt;So we’re going right through them.&lt; - Hmm. Interesting. I guess it makes sense since slowing down wouldn't help as they've noticed them on radar.
<LI>* * * - Why break up the story flow here?
<LI>&gt;the Kilrathi convoy was quickly getting closer.&lt; - Hmm. Seems like the convoy is the one heading for them.
<LI>&gt;Dho nhath whorri. Whe shall gheth throgh. I khan fheelh ith.&lt; - The wrhitheerr whood nhat khill uhs off so eahsylee.

<LI>* * *
<LI>&gt;three hundred kps of momentum&lt; - I will say nothing...nothing at all.

<LI>&gt;What did it feel like to sit in the huge bomber, forging ahead at six hundred klicks?&lt; - Edit WC1 and find out.

<LI>&gt;But from this distance, Weaver ruefully decided, all Kilrathi fighters look about the same.&lt; - An inadequacy of human sight. Cat eyes on the other hand...
<LI>&gt;almost as an afterthought.&lt; + &gt;something to be ignored as an afterthought.&lt; - I'd skip the second "as an afterthought" since it spoils the sentence anyway.
<LI>&gt;scattering like a flock of birds at the sound of the hunter’s gun.&lt; - Nice, though I'd suggest a hunter's gun.
<LI>&gt;watched with a fearful fascination&lt; - Perhaps find a synonym for "fearful."
<LI>* * *
<LI>* * * - Whaddya know. No nitpicks.
<LI>* * * - And again.
<LI>* * *
<LI>&gt;“Better a healthy Slug then a dead Ferret.”&lt; -
<LI>&gt;an uneven fight.&lt; - Hmm. Perhaps unfair would be better.
<LI>* * *
<LI>* * *
<LI>&gt;Suddenly, he burst out laughing at the absurdity of his words.&lt; - Heh. And I was just about to point that out.
<LI>&gt;its real quarry was escaping.&lt; - Quarry? Game or prey would've been better. When I think of quarry, I think rocks and excavation.
<LI>&gt;there were tears running down Rhe’dhi’s furry cheeks.&lt; - And you said the dancing was odd.

Hmm. Is it just me or are ye nearing the end of book one lad? Anyways. The beginning seemed very shaky, but they usually are. Once you got the ball rolling though you had me glued o the screen. A very good balance of tension there. Not too boring. Not too much over the top. Nice and plausable, just the way I like 'em. Go easy on the elipsis though.
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Still fixated on that sleep thing, eh?
Just joking. Better than a lot of the other chapters, I'd say.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Oh, come now Dralthi5, you can write more than that
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>That's no excuse.
No, it isn't, is it?

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>It was good - there's no need to beg.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Oh. All right then

1. Hmm. Why not?
2. "Beat me to it" it is.
3. Uh... isn't that what everybody always say? You might be right about changing it, but I don't think I want to use the "would not rest" phrase unless there's no other choice.
4. Actually, no. At least not exactly. But if you really want, I can change it to "stab".
5. It is
7. Hey, it's difficult to keep coming up with these synonyms
. How about "flying"? I haven't used that one in a while, but it just doesn't seep appropriate for a capship. Or how about "moving"? That's more appropriate, but no more exciting
8. A comma? Why not?
9. Aw, all right.
10. Hmm... a point.
11. Nay, that they aren't. Though sometimes, their gaseous resources can be useful.
12. No, I mean their fighters might not be prepped. It takes at least a few minutes to refuel a fighter, and those few minutes could be crucial. Then there's also the possibility of them actually encountering someone that wouldn't have even noticed them, since fighters have a much shorter radar range than capships.
13. Aye
. It happened in WC3 cutscenes sometimes.
14. Hmm... ok.
15. Twenty-odd hours?
Nah, I only do that when necessary. Eighteen is more like it. 'Twas major assignment time.

16. Oh, yes. I see your point.
17. But grammatically correct
. I'm sure we're all aware of the fact that prospects generally don't make noise.
Or can you come up with a better word?
19. I don't know. I just felt like having blues and purples in the atmosphere
. It would be a nice, smooth sort of combination, though I daresay blues and whites could be a nicer contrast. But I finally decided to go with the purples, for no particular reason.

21. Yes, the planet's bulk. What's wrong with a bulky planet?

22. Col. Taggart doesn't have to be scientifically correct
. Come to think of it, why not? Wouldn't you see a black space?
23. Yes, it took me a while to figure it out
24. Ok.

26. How did that slip past me? Finally it is.
27. Oh? What's the physics law this time? As for the "unique fashion", it must have been really late when I came up with that. But the truth is, I've tried and tried, and I just can't come up with anything better
. There's something odd about that paragraph... something's alive in there...
28. It's not that bad. It seems right, anyway.
30. Yes, but what I meant is that no ship had been capable of reaching such speeds unaided (which, Earthworm undoubtedly would say isn't true, but I don't like the whole hydrogen scoops concept - having lots of tiny ducts would be real bad for those armour plates). So, what changes dost thou suggest?
31. Ok, what is it this time?

32. There's no better way
34. Eek. It's another one of those things. I'll change it right away.
35. How about... "encounter the enemy again – and soon."
37. Quite.
38. Haven't you noticed that a part of the conversation is missing?
It just "felt" right to do it that way. Dunno why.
39. Hmm... yes... but at the same time, it sounds kinda correct.
I'm not sure if I would bet my life on that
42. I know, I know. Would velocity be better?
43. WC2, actually
44. Well, the felines have rather fine eyes, after all.
45. Yes, indeed.
46. Roger that.
47. Hmm... but I haven't used fearful yet...
53. Ok.
56. Well, sometimes one doesn't think while talking
57. Prey it is, though quarry was almost as good
58. What, can't a Kilrathi get emotional?
They can be very attached to their ships, you know.

Hmm, glued to the screen, eh? That's a good thing
. Yes, we're getting to the end of book one. Three chapters and an epilogue, at the most. Possibly just two chapters and an epilogue. We'll see.
At any rate, I finally got to do a capship battle
. That's a neat thing, though I'd hate to have too many of them.
Elipsis... it's always something, isn't it?
First the hyphens, then the semi-colons, and now the elipsis.
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1. Because there are enough elipsis out there.

3. Yes, but I was actually more concerned about using revenge instead of vengance. Maybe "would not resign his vengance?"
4. Nah, just leave it be then.
7. Traversing, passing, progressing, pressing on, proceeding, hurtling. Need more?
8. Aye, a comma would do nicely.
11. *nod*
12. You made that radar range thing clear more than once.

15. I meant the sentence was somewhat unwieldy.
17. I sure can.
More than one even: comforting and encouraging.
21. Well I imagine planets as much larger than just bulky.
22. You can't see a black hole because they absorb everything including light. You see them up on radar.
26. Without then I hope?
27. From that distance, the sun would merely be a pinpoint brighter than the rest. As for the thing that's alive, I'd probably just change fashion to manner or even way.
28. *shrug*
30. "A velocity no capital ship was meant to attain?"
31. Oh it's just that whole warped WC physics thing. If you're afterburners are designed to accelerate you to some max velocity, there is no way they can accelerate you past that velocity.

35. Much better.
38. Yes, but a sentence or two could've easily glued the two together. You do seem to be using a lot of * * *'s.
39. Kinda, but it's them aproaching the convoy.
40. I'd bet theirs though.

42. Naw, leave momentum cause it sounds better - even if it isn't measured in units of speed.
43. Oh yeah. My mistake.
47. But like "pang of pain," "fearful fascination" just sound like they ought to be avoided.
53. Hmm. Of course if you change to unfair, then it probably should be battle and not fight.
56. Sometimes?

58. I guess some could. I just didn't figure Rhe'dhi was such a softie.

Well being glued to the screen in not all good.

Epilogue? Why not just a closing chapter?
Yes. When it comes to punctuation - behave.
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Quarto:
Oh, come now Dralthi5, you can write more than that

No, I, uh, can't. Please don't make me.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Dralthi5: Aww, come on. Just a few more comments? How'd you like the capship battle?

1. I was agreeing, actually
3. "Vengeance" it is then, but the rest of the sentence stays as it was.
7. Yes
. Nah, kidding. "Hurtling" is a nice one.
12. I know
. Actually, I'm amazed that nobody else ever mentioned it.
15. Yes, but even unwieldy sentences have their place. It serves its purpose.
17. Ah, but you forget. Weaver's Bri'ish. Cheers
21. Of course, but bulk seems like a nice word to describe something big. Actually, there's no limit on the size of bulk.
22. That's something that will take me a while to absorb. I mean, if you "see" darkness - or rather, notice the absence of light - wouldn't you... ah, forget it.
Black holes suck.

26. Aw, all right.

27. Really? And what distance might that be?
I know that as a gas giant it must have formed far away from the sun, but it might have an extremely erratic flight path
. For all we know, it's closer to the sun at this time than Earth is
. But anyway, I've changed fashion to manner, and it seems to have died at last
30. Has a ring to it
. Except that I'll add an "ever" before "meant", and you can't stop me
. Actually, I'll make it "no capital ship had ever been meant to attain". Is that acceptable, sire?
31. Well, if we assume that the afterburners merely impart a certain amount of force on the ship, then we could assume that this force could be used to accelerate more than normal. It would work much the same way wind can make a plane go faster than normal... it can, right?

38. In this chapter, there is indeed quite a few - they're my favourite way of moving to a different scene. And here, they were a great way of pausing, actually. I kinda liked the effect they gave. You know, the "dramatic pause"
39. All right, point taken. How'd you like this? "he pointed at the radar screen, which indicated that they were rapidly – inevitably – approaching the Kilrathi convoy."
Would "getting closer to" be better than "approaching"?
42. Thank you
43. 'S ok. I forgive you
47. Hmm... they might at that, because alliteration can be somewhat disruptive... somehow... sometimes. Well, I do kinda like "fearful fascination" but if I figure out a better word for "fearful", I'll let you know.
53. Hmm... yes, I see your point... again.

58. Well, it was a very good Kamekh
. Besides, the Kilrathi really do get emotional about their ships... because I said so
. It fits in with their character, you know.

Well, epilogues are generally shorter than a proper chapter. It's the same in this case. See, I know exactly what will go into the last part of the story, and I know it's not enough for a proper chapter. So, it'll be an epilogue.

[This message has been edited by Quarto (edited May 27, 2000).]
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I like your story, and the fight wasn't bad at all. Your descriptions of the sunrise and all was cool too.

Sorry I didn't reply to your last chapeters, but I kinda stopped looking at this zone.
Oh, that was scary. We had a visitation from one of those weird errors again... I couldn't see Cricket's post, and I wasn't allowed to reply... but editing my own post seems to have fixed it. Go figure.

No, hang on. Scratch that - in the reply window, I still don't see Cricket's post. I can only hope it will appear once I click on "submit reply"...

Cricket: Thanks
. I didn't post for a while, so you didn't miss much of my story. But of course, if you feel like going back and reading the other chapters, be my guest
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1. So was I.

3. *shrug*
7. *bow*
12. Cause nobody else bothers to nitpick...or read the stories. *sulk*
15. So does death, but you don't see me jumping off a cliff.
17. Cheers sounds more Austraa'in.
21. Well I just got the impression that bulk was too small for a planed. Maybe its vast bulk, or mass.
22. Aye, and how.

27. Flight path? You mean an irregular orbit? How...well, irregular.

30. Hey you were the one stuck - I just make the suggestions remember?
31. Like I said, there are holes in WC physics bigger than swiss cheese.

38. Yeah well it really breaks the flow of a chapter and makes for some very short sections. Ever notice how i try to keep each section continuous?
39. Whatever. "Getting closer" is better for the original whereas "approach" is better for the new version.
42. No long as your artistic license hasn't expired.

43. Forgiven not forgotten.

47. It's okay once in a while - I just try avoid it out of principle.
53. Well one of us has to pay attention.

58. Crying just doesn't seem to fit...though it most certainly should.
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Not bad, not bad at all. Actually it's one of the better chapters IMO.
I too liked the sunset thing and the fear that something might be behind the planet.

Few things though. Why exactly is the destroyer placed inside the transport formation? The cats ain't stupid, it would most likelly be covering the flank, with the fighters up front.

And how fast was the Khranikhra going? I doubt that it was the fastest speed achieved by a capship.
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Earthworm: Why, thank you
. Glad you liked it.

The destroyer was sitting inside the formation for several reasons. Firstly, this way it wouldn't get plastered in a surprise attack. As far as the Kilrathi are concerned, it is better to lose one or two supply ships than it is to lose the destroyer and all the supply ships.
And the second reason was that the Khantar commanding the destroyer was a tuka.

There indeed were fighters - four of them - spread out in a wide fan formation before the convoy. In fact, one of these fighters had even appeared briefly on the Krak'ni'hra's radar, as mentioned... somewhere. At this time, these fighters are speeding back towards their stricken destroyer...

The Krak'ni'hra was going at approximately 300 kps, as I mention... somewhere... in the chapter. I'm sure that later on, there would have been capship designs that could go faster - but not in WC2 time.
And please don't mention hydrogen scoops?
I'm trying to ignore them, since they only make WC physics more confusing.

12. Well, sometimes, someone will appear.
15. Everything in its time
. And this happened to be the time for this phrase.
17. Perhaps, but where d'ye think the Au-strains come from? 'Sides, you must've met Ted Phythian?
21. Hmm, vast balk... yes, me likes.
27. Yes, orbit
30. I know
38. Well, normally I also don't like short sections. But this time, they happened to be right.
39. Right. Then I'll stick with "approach".
58. Well, perhaps by the end of the trilogy, you'll wonder whyever it didn't feel right. At least I hope so
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Quarto:
And the second reason was that the Khantar commanding the destroyer was a tuka.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>The Krak'ni'hra was going at approximately 300 kps, as I mention... somewhere... in the chapter. I'm sure that later on, there would have been capship designs that could go faster - but not in WC2 time.
And please don't mention hydrogen scoops?
I'm trying to ignore them, since they only make WC physics more confusing.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>I'm afraid I'll have to mention them.
300 kps definetly isn't the fastest a capship has ever traveled. The Tarawa can go up to 10,000+ with scoops closed.
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See? Now, that's exactly why I don't want you to mention the scoops
. They make things way too complicated... not to mention that they wouldn't work anyway.
Well, that's not quite right. They would work, but they would hardly create enough friction. Also, they're just not a good idea - what's the point of armour if you're gonna have billions of holes in it?

At any rate, all the games ignore them, and I intend to do the same
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Quarto:
They make things way too complicated... <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>No they don't, at least if you know a lot about them.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>what's the point of armour if you're gonna have billions of holes in it?
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>At any rate, all the games ignore them, and I intend to do the same
.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>The games ignore a lot of things, doesn't mean that we should.
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Well, in case you don't understand the concept of hydrogen scoops, their job is to scoop the hydrogen into the fuel tanks. Since there would have to be billions of these so-called scoops to get any amount of hydrogen (and they probably still wouldn't generate enough friction to slow the ship down that much), that means having billions of little holes in your armour, so that you can have ducts leading into the fuel tanks. That doesn't sound like a good idea to me

Oh, and note the way yer WC1 ship blueprints haven't got even a single hydrogen scoop on them. They don't even have icecream scoops

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>The games ignore a lot of things, doesn't mean that we should.
&lt;Chants&gt; The Games are always right...
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Quarto:
Well, in case you don't understand the concept of hydrogen scoops, their job is to scoop the hydrogen into the fuel tanks. Since there would have to be billions of these so-called scoops to get any amount of hydrogen (and they probably still wouldn't generate enough friction to slow the ship down that much), that means having billions of little holes in your armour, so that you can have ducts leading into the fuel tanks. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>Uh, that's not how the scoops in WC work.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Oh, and note the way yer WC1 ship blueprints haven't got even a single hydrogen scoop on them. They don't even have icecream scoops
.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>And why should they?
I doubt they show every little thing a fighter carries.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>&lt;Chants&gt; The Games are always right...
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>That's BS Quarto. Complete and total BS.
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Pray tell, then, how do the scoops work?

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>And why should they? I doubt they show every little thing a fighter carries.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Yes, actually they do. Now, it would seem to me that these supposed scoops would be important enough to appear on the diagram. But they didn't. So, I'm free to ignore them as I please

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>That's BS Quarto. Complete and total BS.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
That depends entirely on your definition of BS.
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