Chapter XII - Solo


Unknown Enemy
Ahem. As always, I still have my doubts about the chapter - mostly because I finished it fifteen minutes ago, and only checked it once
. But if I wait 'till tomorrow, I'm sure I'll find a thousand things to correct, so I decided to post now.
Hope you like, because there really ain't much left now.


XII. Solo.
The corridor was rather dim. Not at all like the reddish corridors of the Krak’ni’hra, but nonetheless, it was familiar… somehow. Too familiar. As he propelled himself towards the other end of the tunnel, Weaver felt that these walls were perhaps older than him. So, the ship – if that’s really what it was – must have been truly ancient. He approached the door slowly, sticking his hands out so as not to smash headlong into it in this gravity-less environment.
Finally, he came to a halt, and looked about the room again. Yes, there was something about this place. Idly, he scratched his left shoulder, noticing that the shoulder tag was missing. He didn’t remember losing it, though. Maybe back then, when Paladin pulled him out of the airlock tunnel? Whatever. It was just a shoulder tag, anyway. He could easily get it replaced when he and Javelin returned to the carrier, after the patrol.
Terry put his hand on the door handle. It was cold – a deathly, freezing sort of cold. He frowned, feeling strange, jagged holes beneath his fingers. Pulling his hand away, he saw that there were three such holes along the top of the handle, and one on the bottom.
That definitely looked familiar, but how? He didn’t even know where he was. Perhaps I can find the answer, he thought as he turned the handle. It turned slowly – almost grudgingly – but fairly smoothly.
At last, the doorway stood open, beckoning him into another corridor. This one was more brightly lit, and even a tad warmer. But there was a strange smell in the air. Not that strange smell that sets in when the air doesn’t circulate – no, this was more… sinister? There was something putrid about it. But still familiar.
Gathering up his courage, he pulled himself through the door, and into the next corridor. And stopped. There, several metres ahead of him, floated a man. That the man was dead, Weaver had no doubts – for the corpse was thin and dry, almost desiccated. Yet this unknown corpse was as familiar as the rest of this strange place. There was something about the old, faded clothes, and about the coarse black hair, which was the only part of the unfortunate man’s head that Weaver could see. He gulped, and approached slowly, floating towards the body.
As he moved closer, it became obvious that the clothes, though ancient and faded, had once been a uniform – Confed blue, much as the one Terry was wearing. One of the shoulder tags was still in place – he had been a Lieutenant.
Finally, he dared put his arm on the man’s shoulder. It felt so dry, so thin… so brittle. Weaver could almost feel the fabric of the uniform dissipating into a powder beneath his fingers. He shuddered. Wishing to let go of this… this thing… as soon as he could, he gave the shoulder a small shove, to turn the corpse face upwards.
Gently, the body turned, and memory came flooding back to Lawrence. Indeed, he had seen this face before… but where? Even though the face was as desiccated as the rest of the body, the angular chin-line reminded him of a person. As did the jet-black hair, short yet coarse. He smiled. That hair had always managed to get out of its place, no matter how much he had combed it. But who was ‘he’? I can remember, Weaver told himself. I can, I must!
Almost as if his hand had a life of its own, he reached out against his will, putting his fingers on the man’s closed eyes. Gently – lest the delicate flesh break away – he pushed the eyelids up, exposing the eyes themselves.
He gasped. The eyes… they weren’t what he expected to find on a corpse as old as this one. They were clear, a metallic shade of blue upon white. There was nothing ancient or dead about them – they were youthful, full of life.
And then he remembered. He had indeed seen this man before.
In the mirror.
I’m dead.
I’m dead?
But… I live.
Yet, there was no doubt about it. This was Weaver, Lieutenant Terrence Edward Lawrence. Though a strange, desiccated, dead thing, he couldn’t doubt what it was.
But if I’m dead, he wondered, how did I die?
You starved, came the answer from deep inside, completely unbidden.
But I’m alive! And I’m not even hungry!
Aren’t you?
Suddenly, Weaver felt an uncontrollable spasm of pure, painful hunger swirl through his body. And his lips felt as dry as paper. Then, he thought, it really is me.
Beep – came a tiny noise, out of nowhere.
Beep – again. Terry frowned, wondering where this odd sound was coming from. Certainly, there were no computers nearby. But the tiny beeps were surely less important than this.
For what did I die, anyway? For what did I join the Confederation? Why did I put up with traitors like Javelin, like Browning? Was it worth it, dying for the likes of them?
“Ek’rah skabak erg Nak’tara.” Said a familiar voice from the doorway.
Weaver whirled – to see Hharak. The Kilrathi looked as he always had, with his tawny fur smoothed back, and his green eyes glittering deep in the furry face.
The beeping became unbearably loud now. Terry swore, looking around the corridor for that annoying computer… when suddenly, the corridor faded from sight. Everything faded, into an oppressive blackness, punctured only by a few pale white points.
He looked about, and he immediately remembered where he was – the Scimitar. The familiar reddish cockpit, with its battered frames, the ancient windows, covered with a thousand thin scratches. And beyond them, the thin long muzzles of the mass drivers. Though his body was stiff from lying in that uncomfortable position, this aged cockpit still felt comfortable, when compared to that strange nightmare.
Yes, that’s all it was. A nightmare. Hharak is dead, and I’m alive. It was just a nightmare.
But I heard him speak, he wondered. What was it he said? Ek’rah skabak erg Nak’tara. And where have I heard that before?
He suddenly remembered – it had been in the heat of battle. Hharak uttered those words in the turret, but his comms were on, so Weaver and Rhe’dhi had heard them too. Back then, he didn’t even notice them, really. He’d thought it was just another Kilrathi insult, and certainly not to be bothered with at that time. But now, now he couldn’t help wondering what those words meant. Nak’tara was Earth – Rhe’dhi had told him so. But the rest of the sentence? No matter, I suppose. None of it matters, unless Paladin comes back in time.
His reverie was interrupted by another one of those spurts of beeps, this time even louder, and even more urgent. It must be the Scim’s computer, he realised. So that was what had awoken him – thank God for that. He looked to the computer screen.
Power warning… insufficient energy to maintain current functions longer than two hours.
He grimaced. So, the ship’s power plant was finally running dry, eh? Well, the Colonel had promised to come back as soon as he could, but I need to stay alive at least a while longer… how long have I been sleeping, anyway? He turned to the nav map clock.
Five hours. He was actually quite surprised that the Kilrathi hadn’t found him yet – but he wasn’t about to complain. It all seemed so unreal to him. Here he was, alone. Waiting. Paladin had gone, and if it had been anybody else, Weaver wouldn’t have even listened to the promise. But somehow, he felt… no, he knew… that Colonel Taggart would come back.
“Isn’t this what we had actually been here for?” He said to himself – mostly just to hear a voice in this lonely place. “Coming back for the Sixth Fleet?”
But the Sixth Fleet was… well, a fleet. And he was but one person. Who would risk any resources at all to save a lone pilot? Yet… Paladin would. Weaver believed that. He had to believe. Colonel Taggart would fulfil his promise.
Another volley of beeps from the computer disrupted his thoughts, reminding him of the problem at hand. With a sigh, he shut down all the systems except for life support, radar, comms, and of course the engines – they probably wouldn’t start up again, so it was better to leave them on. He looked at the new estimate for the power plant – eight hours. Surely, eight hours would have to be enough? How long could it take for Paladin to come back? Well, it didn’t matter, he decided. There’s no way that I can keep this thing going longer than that. Afterwards, his suit would keep him alive for a few more hours, but the ship would no longer function.
It must be enough time. It simply must.
He took a quick drink from the water tank – for the thirst and hunger of his nightmare were quite real – and returned to his previous sleeping position, with feet on the console.
Terry stirred briefly, clasping his hands together behind his head, like a pillow. Much better. He yawned again, and slept.
* * *
“Javelin!” He yelled frantically. How could he leave him like this? Weaver watched as the Ferret disappeared into the asteroids. This scene… it felt as though it had happened a thousand times. But it couldn’t have. Life only happens once, and it doesn’t repeat itself.
Weaver turned back towards the approaching Dralthi. They were swiftly – yet smoothly – moving forward, their engines on full blast. It wouldn’t be long until they were in gun range, and then pure hell would start. All alone, in his failing Scimitar – what chance could he have?
That’s not right, Lawrence thought. It can’t be a Scimitar.
Weaver didn’t seem to notice. Or maybe he had, but simply didn’t understand? What could possibly be wrong here? This was reality. Solid, unchangeable reality.
The two Dralthi were almost upon him now. Any second, they would shatter his ship with their laser fire. They would kill him… or perhaps liberate him? It would be such a relief to be free from this hunger, Weaver thought, as he struggled with another violent stab of pain in his abdomen. And his lips were so dry… so dry.
He closed his eyes, begging for the Dralthi to be swift, and accurate. He couldn’t defend himself, and he couldn’t eject. A quick death was the best he could ask for, now that he knew Paladin wasn’t coming.
But… Paladin said he’d come. Why wouldn’t he come? He will come!
No he won’t.
Yes, he will!
His ship shuddered under the impact of Kilrathi lasers.
“Wait!” He yelled to them. “It’s not fair! You must wait!”
Suddenly, he felt another impact – a collision. The Kilrathi was ramming him! He looked up, through the front window, where the Dralthi was touching his ship, the two shields crackling wildly as they tried to repel each other. The Scimitar’s alarms were blaring into his ears, announcing the loss of one system after another.
“Hhumanh!” The strange voice repeated, with an impatient note to it.
“What? What do you want?” Weaver demanded, looking around wildly.
And suddenly, the lasers were silent. The second Dralthi, which had been behind him, was gone. The alarms had stopped… save one. The radar was still beeping.
Weaver shook his head, disoriented. It was a dream – another one. But it was getting harder and harder to tell what was dream, and what was reality.
It’s because I’ve been out here for so long, Terry thought as he took a sip of water from the tank. There wasn’t much left now, according to the readout.
Startled, Weaver turned back to the front window. And froze.
“I must still be sleeping.” He said to himself.
In front of the window – so close that he could see the face of its pilot – was a Drakhri. The Kilrathi was just sitting there, calmly observing his Human prey.
Weaver pinched himself, hoping that the Kilrathi ship would disappear. But it didn’t. There was no doubt about it, he concluded. There was a Kilrathi warrior before him.
He switched on the visual relay, and a feline face appeared on his screen.
“Yes?” Terry asked. He was somewhat confused that the Kilrathi wasn’t shooting but talking, and he didn’t really know what to say. He was also busy berating himself for sleeping through the alarms that must have been ringing from the moment the Drakhri appeared on the radar.
“Yhhy nhathh sslheephh?”
Weaver grimaced, trying to comprehend the Kilrathi’s convoluted speech. “No.” He finally said. “No, I am awake now.”
The Kilrathi opened his jaws in a slight grin – as if relieved. “Fhihth nhawh!”
Fhihth… fight? Yes, he supposed he would have to. But… he was simply too tired. If this Kilrathi had found him, then there were others on the way. Fight… Weaver just didn’t see the point anymore. He stole a quick glance at the clock – three and a half more hours had passed. Colonel Taggart surely must have found another Confed vessel by now? But how long would it be before he came back?
Still, I’d promised to wait, Terry thought with a grim smile. So I can’t die… if that makes any sense.
“Why haven’t you killed me while I was asleep?” He asked the Kilrathi.
He could see the feline’s brows contract in a frown as the alien struggled to understand the Human’s strange words. After all, most Kilrathi knew nothing beyond the most basic English terminology – if that. During the thirty years of war, both races had accumulated vast stores of knowledge of each other – but most still failed to comprehend their foe’s language. Terry certainly had not known a word of Kilrathi before the Krak’ni’hra. Lawrence prayed that this feline warrior was an exception to the rule.
“Thehrr iss nho hhon’rr… khahnath.” The Kilrathi replied firmly.
“So… you woke me up so I could fight you?”
Another long pause while the Kilrathi was digesting the question.
“Yhess.” He finally answered.
Weaver looked at the Kilrathi pilot with amazement – and new-found respect. He had met many a Human that wouldn’t have given a moment’s thought to striking down a sleeping Kilrathi. And yet, his enemy was above such treachery. In a peculiar way, Terry now felt that he owed the alien this duel, even if it would cost him his life. But… even if he won, the duel would mean death, for the ship’s power plant would inevitably use up the last of its energy during combat.
Lawrence turned his speculative gaze out the window. Once Colonel Taggart arrived – if he arrived – Weaver would be free to use up this last bit of energy.
“I cannot fight you yet.” He finally said. “I promised a friend that I would wait for him here. And if I fight you, I won’t have enough energy in my ship to keep waiting.”
The Kilrathi pilot stirred as Terry spoke, and was now looking directly at the Human, a strange expression on his face. For a moment, Weaver thought that he would attack, angered by the refusal. He waited tensely, staring right back at the alien, one hand poised over the thrust controls and the other over the power system.
Finally, the Kilrathi relented his gaze, his face changing to reflect irritation.
“Bhath… Ih prromhiss Khantar Kharr’ikh Ih khillh Hhumanhss fhrohm Kamekh… yho mhasth fhighth! Ohrr Ih whill khillh yho – whith nho hhon’rr.”
“My friend will not take long. And once he’s here, you can have your duel.” Weaver said in his most persuasive tone.
The Drakhri pilot sighed. “Vherr whellh. Bhath khnowh – Kharr’ikh iss khomhingh. Ihf hhe khomss bhef’hor Hhumanh dhoss, Ih shallh sthrikh!”
“Deal.” Terry agreed. “We’ll fight when either ship arrives. I will fight then.”
He turned to the stars, amazed at what he had just done. This wasn’t natural. He and his enemy should have turned their guns upon each other the moment they met. But they didn’t. Why? Was it really because Weaver wouldn’t fight? It couldn’t be – he had heard so many times of Kilrathi attacking unarmed civilian ships. So why spare him? Surely, it couldn’t be because of Paladin? What would be the point of waiting, unless… Lawrence snorted, only slightly amused. The Kilrathi was probably willing to wait because it meant more foes to fight. Well, either that or this one happened to be much more honourable than all those other Kilrathi warriors.
They sat in silence for a while, each studying the opponent - and his ship – intensely. This was the first time Weaver really had the opportunity to examine an enemy fighter at such a small distance, and he had no doubts that this Kilrathi warrior had never seen a Terran fighter up close either.
“Bhath… dhoss nhath p’hainh yho tho whaith whith h’enh’mhy hheer?” The Kilrathi finally asked.
The Lieutenant frowned. Rhe’dhi’s English wasn’t good by Terran standards – but compared to this enemy pilot, it was superb. Still, what was to be expected? Terry was thankful that the Kilrathi spoke any English at all.
Oh… he thought as he finally understood. Now that’s a loaded question. ‘Does not pain you to wait with enemy here?’
He was about to reply that he didn’t mind at all, when he suddenly realised that that was probably the worst answer he could give. He grinned to himself – well, they had a deal…
“It does not pain me, for I know that I will not wait long.” He told the Kilrathi. “It will, however, pain me to kill such a noble foe.”
The Drakhri’s pilot looked at him through narrowed, flashing eyes. Then he laughed. “Whelh ssedh, Hhumanh. Yho alhsso nhobhl. Whenh yho dhedh, Ih whilh hhangh yhorr hhed ah’mongssth mhy grrethesst trrofhiess!”
Weaver blanched a bit at the reply, but wisely suppressed his reaction. He had read that it was customary amongst the Kilrathi to proudly display the remains of their greatest enemies. He didn’t feel particularly honoured, though.
I wonder if the Kilrathi from K’arakh continue that custom, he thought. That would put more than a bit of strain on their relations with the Confederation… but custom is custom, after all.
With a final shrug, he turned back to his examination of the Drakhri. Up close, it seemed even stranger than from afar. Perhaps the most curious part of it was the missile rack – it had been positioned above and slightly behind the pilot’s cabin, whereas most ships had it underneath. However, it was the paintjob that really fascinated Terry. The wings bore large, blood-red markings – one being the crest of the Kilrathi Empire, and the other presumably the insignia of the pilot’s own clan. The edges of the wings were also painted with that same crimson red. He shuddered. The red paint gave him the impression that the flat wings were sharp enough to cut with.
Weaver stifled a yawn. Damn it, I need sleep, he thought. It seemed like every time he fell asleep, the same old nightmares came back to haunt him. Not that it mattered now, since he wasn’t about to even doze off for a second – not with the Kilrathi here. He probably wouldn’t kill me, Terry mused, but it just isn’t right. You don’t sleep when there’s an enemy within ten metres of you.
He took another glance at the time display. But only a few minutes had passed. Lawrence sighed. It was going to be a long, long wait. Or at least, it would seem like it. He turned his gaze to the outside, to the stars. But they were the same as they had been when Paladin was jumping – ever unchanging, aloof. Looking at them, he only felt more alone than ever.
He yawned, and closed his eyes – just for a second…
* * *
He knew he should be looking where he’s heading, but he couldn’t help himself. The green eyes, their pupils narrowed to mere black slits were almost hypnotic. They were just so… so… deep. Weaver was convinced that if he could look inside one of them, he’d discover a vast, bottomless pit.
But it wasn’t just the eyes. There was something about the whole face. The brilliantly white fangs, the dark brown – almost black – fur and the long, white-streaked mane that surrounded the face – it was all so amazing. The eyes themselves were surrounded by darkness, sitting as they were in the shadow of the jutting brow-line. Then there were the thin, wire-like whiskers. He had always found those rather amusing in Rhe’dhi’s face. Here too, they served somewhat to soften the image – but not enough. There was nothing that could soften that fierce glare of the emerald-green eyes, or the way the light glistened on the fangs.
What an amazing creature, Lawrence thought. If only it wasn’t out to kill me…
“Hhumanh!” A rasping voice suddenly wrenched Terry back to reality.
He blinked, looking about the cabin, and at the Drakhri that still hovered before him. And at the time – he had slept for almost four hours.
“Dammit.” He muttered. “You’re an idiot.” Sleeping, when an enemy was so close. Still, he was still alive. The Kilrathi had kept his word. “Yeah?” He asked, this time loud enough for the Drakhri pilot to hear him.
“Hha’ka iss hheer.” The enemy warrior told him. “Ih khannath ss’hee h’onh rrad’rr yheth, bhath theyh ssendh khomm mhessagh tho mhe.”
“Hha’ka?” Terry asked, confused.
“Hha’ka iss Ralatha yho dham’hadghedh. Mhy bhaess.”
Well, Lawrence thought, that explained everything. When the three Drakhri had attacked, he had wondered – briefly, before the fight got his undivided attention – if they had indeed been the Ralatha’s forward scouts; and if so, why were there three?
“How was it that you didn’t come with the other three Drakhri?” He asked. Nothing else mattered now, since the chances of Paladin getting there in time were far too low to count. So, he thought with a grimace, I might as well find out what happened.
“Enghinh trrabh’l.” The Kilrathi replied in a slightly irritated tone. Clearly, it had rankled him to be thus delayed, while his wingmates were already engaged in combat.
“I wish to give my friend a few more minutes.” Weaver informed his enemy. Well, he had promised to wait, so the least he could do was to give the Colonel as much time as possible. “We should start the fight when the Ralatha – or my friend – comes within ten thousand metres.”
The Kilrathi snarled with exasperation. “Vherr whellh. Thenh thossandh. Bhath nho mhorr dhelhayss, orr Ih sstrrikh!”
“No more delays.” Terry agreed. Indeed, further delays would have been completely pointless. He sighed, wondering if Paladin had broken his promise, or if he simply couldn’t get there fast enough. But, he thought, I guess I’ll never know.
He looked out the window, at the Drakhri that he would soon have to face in combat. All of a sudden, he felt fear.
Fear – an odd feeling. Usually, a combat pilot has no time for fear. Trained to respond instantaneously, to respond with instinct rather than thought, Weaver had hardly ever noticed the existence of this strange emotion. To be certain, he had felt it several times during this voyage – when surrounded by Sartha, and then holding the Drakhri off so Rhe’dhi could get away… when the Krak’ni’hra was hit. But it had never been like this – he never gave himself time to even notice his fear, tightly controlling it with his instincts. Channelling it into action.
And now, here he was, waiting. There was nothing he could think about to take his attention off the upcoming fight. Besides, it wasn’t just the fight. He knew all too well, that even if he won, the Ralatha wouldn’t take even as much as five seconds to destroy him. That… that was just unavoidable.
A beep alerted him to the appearance of the Kilrathi capital ship on the radar. But it would take it another four minutes to get within ten thousand, at this speed. He smiled, somewhat bitterly. At least that much they had achieved – the Ralatha was crippled. Maybe, if Colonel Taggart really was coming, he’d at least catch the Ralatha before it managed to leave?
The agonising moment became a minute, and then two, as Weaver continued to gaze outside – at the stars – with the last of his hope fading. In a matter of minutes, his life would be over, the atoms of his ship scattered across half the system. And there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Lieutenant Lawrence sighed again. Well, maybe he could get away from the Ralatha… somehow… but it didn’t matter one bit. The ship’s power plant wouldn’t last more than a few minutes under the strain that combat would place upon it. There wasn’t really any point of even thinking about it. He couldn’t help himself, though. The more unavoidable death seemed, the more frantically he searched for a way to avoid it.
He snorted. And to think that he had told Rhe’dhi that he could easily accept death when it came. “‘With my mane bowed, I lie down And offer up my life for honour.’” He said to himself.
“Yho khnowh h’arr khreedh?” The Kilrathi asked, surprised.
“Uh, yes. I do.” Weaver replied. “I have had a lot of time lately, to study your species.”
“Ith iss ghoodh tho khnowh yhorr fhoe.” The Drakhri pilot replied, in a rather philosophical tone.
“Tell me, do you really feel no fear?” Lawrence suddenly asked. “Ah… I do not wish to insult you – I am merely curious.” He quickly added.
“Fheerh…” the alien said quietly. “‘Mhy hhearth dhoss nhath khnowh fheer,’ ssayhs h’arr khreedh. Bhath ith iss nhath rhellhy whath ith ssayhs. Ith… ith mheens, whe mhasth lhernh tho khonthrroll fheer. Indheedh, hhe who trrullhy khnowss nho fheer – iss alrre’dhi dhedh. Ih fheel fheer… bhath Ih dhefeeth ith!”
Weaver smiled. He wasn’t altogether used to accepting advice from an enemy, but this was good advice. The Kilrathi were an amazingly complex species… just as Humans were. He understood then, what he had done wrong. He had always considered them – Humans and Kilrathi – to be simple. He had thought, that no matter whether they were good or bad, it would be easy to understand their motives. But it simply wasn’t so. One could study Humans or the Kilrathi for a lifetime, and still have much to learn.
Study the Kilrathi for a lifetime, he thought. What an interesting idea. But his lifetime was about to be cut short. He glanced at the radar. No more than a minute until it starts. Well, he concluded, it’s time to face my fears. One by one, he powered up the ship’s systems, so he would be ready when the time came.
He turned to look out towards the jump point, as his shield generator was warming up. Terry sighed – there was nothing there. No way to cheat death now.
And suddenly, a flash of blue light, of almost blinding intensity, belched forth from where there had only been darkness. His heart became filled with hope. Though it blinded him for a few moments, he didn’t dare look away, or even close his eyes, lest it turned out to be a mirage – a dream.
But as the light slowly faded, obscured by the vast object that was now between him and the jump point, he knew that it was real.
Finally, his sight returned, and he let out a loud whoop. No more than four thousand metres from him, was a ship of the Terran Confederation. It was a destroyer – and the battered Ralatha stood no chance.
“Let’s fight!” He yelled to the Kilrathi, and the two vessels blasted off on afterburners. At long last, it had begun.
* * *
“Jump complete, all systems go. I’m detecting two fighters out there – one Terran, one Kilrathi. They’re engaged in combat. And… Sir, radar’s picking up a Ralatha class destroyer!” The Radar Officer yelled, albeit quite needlessly – for the ship was plainly visible through the bridge windows anyway.
“Very well, Mr. Bairns.” Captain Rolphe, commander of the TCS Lancelot replied, perfectly composed. Not that he didn’t have his doubts – going up against another destroyer was always risky business – but the long years of experience had taught him that if the commander was calm, the feeling somehow helped the crew get over their nerves. “Mr. O’Rourke, have your people ready the anti-matter guns.”
“Aye, sir.” The Chief Weapons Officer replied.
“Mr. Yan, set course straight for the Ralatha. Full speed.” As he looked at his Helmsman, he briefly lost his composure. No matter what, he just couldn’t get used to that… that thing, that stood near the main window, right besides the Helmsman. Why Colonel Taggart allowed the animal to come along was beyond him altogether. He shuddered delicately, and turned back to the task ahead. “Communications,” he continued, as he couldn’t recall the name of the newest addition to the Lancelot’s crew. “Order Battle Stations throughout the ship.”
“Yes, sir.” She replied, slightly nervously.
The young lady is a bit unusual, he thought. She seems to be almost scared of me. Of course, most commanders sounded Battle Stations first, and then gave out the individual orders. He preferred to do it the other way, as it ensured that his people immediately knew what to do. Otherwise, Battle Stations had a tendency to turn into chaos. If his style somehow disturbed her… she could always be transferred. A Navy Captain of great experience and standing, Rolphe didn’t allow any dissent within the crew. His people had to be the very best.
He turned to the Ralatha now, lightly tapping on one of the many medals that decorated his uniform. Perhaps there would be another one soon. Rolphe smiled, but his smile quickly faded when he saw Colonel Taggart approaching. He had no respect for a man who trusted the Kilrathi.
“What is it, Colonel?” Rolphe replied, making sure that his tone carried all the contempt he felt for him.
“Och, stow it.” The Colonel told him, irritated. “Comms, open a channel to the Scimitar.” He finished, not even looking at the bristling Captain. Outside the vast window, they could all see the Scimitar and the Drakhri, locked together in a deadly dance. The two ships being almost equal when it came to manoeuvrability, neither could manage to get an advantage for longer than a few seconds. But time after time, the Drakhri’s lasers withered the Scim’s shields just a bit more, ever closer to penetrating the armour. Weaver must be in a sorry state indeed, James thought, to allow the Kilrathi to sustain such an assault without fighting back.
“Scimitar pilot, do you copy?” The Comms Officer said.
Silence, then static.
“I copy, Gilgamesh.” A tired voice finally replied, and Weaver’s face finally appeared on the screen. “What is it?” He asked, without a tinge of formality to his voice.
“Weaver? It’s me, lad.” James said quickly into the mike. “Steer your ship closer, and then burn away or do a kickstop, so we have a clear shot at that Drakhri!”
“You just take care of the Hha’ka – the destroyer,” came Terry’s answer. Paladin frowned in surprise. “Don’t – I repeat, don’t – fire a single shot from the flak guns. It’s a matter of… honour. I will not move to give you a clear shot. Weaver out.”
They all heard the distinct click as the connection was terminated on Lawrence’s end, and the screen went blank.
Paladin clenched his fists in frustration. Still, he reminded himself, the boy had always taken care of himself before – surely, he’d manage this time as well?
“Carry on, Captain. And make sure that those flak guns stay silent, as the Lieutenant requested… I’m sure he has his reasons! Besides, they could hit him.” He finished quickly, seeing that Rolphe was about to protest. Then he turned to gaze at the duel.
“You can do it, lad.” He whispered.
* * *
Goddamn, but this thing is a piece of junk, Weaver thought, pushing the flight stick as far to the side as he possibly could. The ship responded, but not anywhere near as well as his Ferret did.
He pushed the Scim into another barrel roll, hoping to thus avoid the incoming stream of laser fire. The manoeuvre wasn’t enough though, and he gritted his teeth as the shield alarms resumed their whine. There wasn’t much left in the way of shields now. Soon, the Kilrathi’s guns would punch through them, and shatter his armour.
“You can do it,” he told himself. “You can still win – you must win. It’s just a matter of time…”
Terry grimaced. It wasn’t a matter of time – because there was no time. Under its current strain, the power plant wouldn’t last more than one or two minutes.
He performed a tight loop, watching as the Kilrathi zoomed ahead, not being able to react in time. Once again on the Drakhri’s tail, Lawrence returned fire. Volley after volley sped forth from his mass drivers, wreaking havoc in the Kilrathi’s rear shields. But he was doing more damage to himself – he could almost feel the last vestiges of power being drained from the plant.
No, he decided, pulling to the stick to the side before his enemy could get back on his tail by the means of another loop. I must wait for the right moment, and then… end it.
Terry spared a quick glance to the side, where the two destroyers were inevitably moving into fighting distance. He could almost feel the tension that must have completely pervaded the two capital ships. There were never any guarantees of victory in those sorts of battles.
He wasn’t certain what happened next – perhaps he looked at the capital ship a moment too long? All the alarms suddenly went off, his shields pierced by the Drakhri’s lasers. He changed course, but it was already too late, as the blast riddled his side armour with a thousand blackened scores.
“What is the matter with you?” He said to himself angrily. “Should be flying circles around him!”
But with this damned piece of junk… it’s easier said than done, he thought, looking to the side. The Drakhri was charging straight towards him, firing volley after volley into Weaver’s battered flank.
He rolled the Scim towards the Kilrathi, grinning with satisfaction as the enemy fighter zoomed past overhead.
Now! Weaver punched the afterburners, simultaneously turning his fighter back towards the Drakhri. The enemy pilot, caught by surprise, didn’t turn fast enough, and Lawrence found himself charging straight towards the Kilrathi’s engines.
And then, the great orange blip that was the Hha’ka, vanished from his radar. He resisted the urge to turn his head – to watch what must have been an incredible shockwave of energy tearing the Ralatha apart. This wasn’t the time to look. I must strike now – or never, he decided as he armed the Scim’s last heat-seeker.
Whether the Drakhri pilot had allowed himself to be distracted by the loss of his home base, Weaver would never know. Either way, by the time the enemy had realised his danger, it was too late for him.
Lock! Lawrence grimaced, snapping the cap off the missile trigger. This was one shot he didn’t want to take. Somehow, it felt wrong to kill this Kilrathi… but it had to be done. His thumb came down on the trigger.
The missile flew straight and true, smashing into the Drakhri’s engines. A vast explosion engulfed the enemy fighter.
Weaver cut the engines with a sigh as the explosion dissipated before him, showering the Scimitar with bits and pieces of debris. Why – just this once – couldn’t the missile have disabled the ship instead of destroying it?
“This is absurd.” He told himself. “He knew it was to the death. Even if he survived the missile, he’d never have surrendered.”
It’s amazing what a difference it makes, he thought. You talk to your enemy for a few minutes, and suddenly you wish you weren’t enemies. But it doesn’t matter any more. It’s finished. Now there was only one thing left to do – land.
“Gilgamesh?” He spoke into the comms, looking in the direction where the two destroyers were at last coming into gun range. “Do you copy?”
“This is the TCS Lancelot. We copy you loud and clear, Lieutenant Lawrence.” The destroyer’s comm officer announced.
“Lancelot, I’ve got less than a minute of life left in my power plant. I have to land, now.”
“Roger that, Lawrence. You’re cleared for Airlock Two. Prepare for automatic landing system uplink.”
Weaver flicked the switch that would activate the autopilot.
Nothing happened.
“Shit!” He exclaimed. “Lancelot, get an emergency team ready – my autopilot’s gone.”
“Uh…” The officer looked like she was going to panic.
Suddenly, her image disappeared, to be replaced by Paladin. “All right, laddie. I’ll guide ye in.”
Weaver sighed with relief. If Colonel Taggart was nervous, he wasn’t letting it show. He turned his ship towards the Lancelot, moving towards it at half-speed.
“Right, lad.” Paladin continued. “There are two airlocks on the Lancelot’s underside. Yours is the one on the left side, from your point of view. Do not – I repeat, do not – try to dock with the other one, because that’s where the emergency crew will be waiting.”
“Roger that, Colonel.” Lawrence replied, feeling increasingly confident now. Ahead of him, the destroyer was getting closer and closer now. Somehow, through pure luck perhaps, the two ships were aligned almost perfectly. All Weaver had to do was make minor course corrections, and rotate sideways at the last moment – just as the magnetic grapples come down.
Two thousand metres.
One thousand.
“Ye’d better slow down now, Weaver. You’re coming in just a bit too fast.”
“Copy that.” Weaver said as he decelerated. Almost there now…
He lowered the Scim’s nose slightly, neatly slipping in underneath the Lancelot. He could see the airlocks now. Both were already open, and there were several people waiting in one of them.
“Just keep it straight now, laddie. You’re doing great.”
Lawrence clenched his teeth anxiously. Fifty metres. Just a few more moments, he thought.
“Right, no…” Paladin started saying – and then the power plant finally died. All around him, the ship’s displays were blank.
“Shit!” He exclaimed.
The Scimitar slammed into the airlock, and the canopy came crashing down onto Weaver. Just before he lost awareness, he thought he saw the Lancelot’s crew emerging from the other airlock…


There. Comments? Personally, I thought the fight was more than a bit abrupt (though that's not necessarily bad), but it seemed to suit it, so... <shrug>.
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Yeesh, Quarto, I always find out you have a new chapter when I don't have the time to read it. But I'm getting ready to step out and pick up that book you wanted.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Okay. Again, I'd say pretty good, though, again, you went on with that sleep thing.

Gravity-less...? Is that a word? I always thought it was zero-gravity. Oh, well.

Hmmm... Don't know if I buy that whole Kilrathi-waking-up-Terran-pilot-to-ask-if they-can-fight-now thing. Seems to me that a Cat's honor doesn't extend to include Terrans, but, hey, it's your story.

Nice that you introduced a new character, what with Rolphe, but... is Paladin really in a position to order him around?

Yan... Can I say he's related to my Ryan Yan?

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

[This message has been edited by Dralthi5 (edited June 19, 2000).]
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Hmm, gravity-less might be wrong, actually
. Methinks I'll change it to zero-gravity, though that just doesn't sound too great.

It depends on the Kilrathi, actually. Many of them do indeed consider the Terrans to be mere animals, who can be hunted down as you like. But those that have served for a long time usually gain a lot of respect for their foes. Don't let Confed propaganda get to you
Besides, rememeber that many Kilrathi consider combat to be entertaining - so he would have preferred to wake up his opponent. Naturally, I'm not saying that he wouldn't have attacked at all if Weaver didn't wake up.

Technically, Captain Rolphe and Colonel Taggart are equals. But Paladin can actually order him around, because he's in command of the whole operation. Besides, Rolphe isn't as popular at Confed HQ as he likes to think

Hmm, I didn't even notice that I used the same name that you did
. That's what I get for bringing in auxillary characters. Yeah, you can say they're related, if you really want.
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Oh, that. No, 'offer up' is correct - that's the way Ralgha nar Hhallas translated the Kilrathi Creed of Service, anyway (see KSaga/WC3 manual). So, that's the way it is.

What do you mean by "hesitate more audibly"?
Sorry, I've yet to see/read Blade Runner
. They've got the film in my university library, but I just haven't gotten around to it. I really should though, because it must be a great film - based on Phillip K. Dick, has Harrison Ford in it, and music by Vangelis. Can't get much better than that
. Hmm, maybe this weekend...

He'll take plenty of time to think when he's back in a safe place. And he'll even prepare for a sequel
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Beautifully done, Quarto!
For a while I thought he would end up as Thrakath's special toy - (WC Armada)
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. Since you're new here, might I interest you in the earlier chapters of my story?
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Quarto said:
. Since you're new here, might I interest you in the earlier chapters of my story?

Yessss! Send it through my email. I'll open my profile just for that. Thanks!
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Nonono, zat is not vat I meant

They're all here already

Chapter I - An Unusual Collection
Chapter II - Enter the Kamekh
Chapter III - A Bond of Daring
Chapter IV - Junk
Chapter V - Catch of the Day
Chapter VI - Danger Zone
Chapter VII - Rescue
Chapter VIII - A Question of Honour
Chapter IX - A Scrambled Day
Chapter X - Blaze of Glory
Chapter XI - Things Fall Apart
Chapter XII - Solo (You are here)

Note that due to an unfortunate accident involving the Chat Zone and and a crashing hard drive, you will not be able to post anything in Chapter I or II. The HTML version of the threads still exists (or you wouldn't even see them), but the server seems to have... dispensed with... the cgi versions. So you can't post.
But the other threads ought to be ok, so just post your comments for I and II in III. Or you can even post all your comments here in XII.
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Quarto: Just copied the entire 10 chapters...
Looks like circa SO2 - Mandarins & Rebel Kitties. It'll take a while to digest, but I'll get back to you. Thanks again!
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Quarto said:
It's post-SO2. But only by a few hours.

Lawrence is not Blair, but he reminds of Lightspeed (from WC Academy). Does this end in XII-Solo, or will the Special Ops flourish further (not just Weaver's)?

Since I was more engrossed at visualizing the story, I did'nt bother looking at the details.

The one thing I liked in the WC2 series is the CINEMATIC REPLAY. You learn a lot of new flying techniques that way. Too bad, it was'nt carried on in subsequent releases.

Any chance I get, I'm up in the air... They're gonna have to pry my dead carcass off the cockpit (Maj. Todd Marshall)

[This message has been edited by JoeyRP (edited June 30, 2000).]
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I'm not altogether sure how he can remind you of Lightspeed (or was that Litespeed?), when Lightspeed only appeared in Academy (and Armada), and he was really just another AI.

This certainly doesn't end in XII. There is one more chapter left, and an epilogue. And afterwards, I am planning to write a sequel (two, actually), but that'll take some time, and I'm not about to reveal any details.
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Looks like you're specializing in cliffhangers...

Och, just don't overuse them.

Keep the ball rolling!

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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Last one. Promise
It wasn't really that I wanted another cliffhanger. It just seemed like a good way to end the chapter.

The next (last) chapter should be finished in a few days. But this time, I'm not going to post it until I have the epilogue finished - and then I'll poth both at once. The reason for this is that I don't think the epilogue will be particularly long, so I just want to get it all here at once.
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Quarto said:
Last one. Promise
It wasn't really that I wanted another cliffhanger. It just seemed like a good way to end the chapter.

The next (last) chapter should be finished in a few days. But this time, I'm not going to post it until I have the epilogue finished - and then I'll poth both at once. The reason for this is that I don't think the epilogue will be particularly long, so I just want to get it all here at once.

Guess I'll have to read at the Dralthi5's WCP spin-off again. I have yet to get my hands on that series - SO NO SPOILERS PLEASE!

Ahem, I'll cross the bridge when I get there.

when this is all over, I'll open up a cantina... a place for old fighter jocks like you and me

[This message has been edited by JoeyRP (edited July 03, 2000).]
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Hmm... I wasn't aware I had a Prophecy spin-off. How odd.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Dralthi5 said:
Hmm... I wasn't aware I had a Prophecy spin-off. How odd.

Dralthi5: My apologies. I'd like to backtrack to earlier chapters. Do you still have them? Thanks!
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