Fall of the Flag

Dahan

Rear Admiral
Fall of the Flag

By Dahan and Plywood Fiend

Prologue


November 2nd 2668, On the bridge of the TCS Concordia, during the Battle of Earth.

“Admiral, the Lexington reports that they have taken another torpedo hit. Their reactor is destabilising.”
Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn shook his head numbly as what he had known in his heart would happen, happened. Lexington was little more then some free target practice for the Kilrathi, underpowered and with only half its fighter compliment, its death was all but assured, and now there was one less ship between the Kilrathi and Earth.
He shook himself from the thought and forced himself to focus.
“Lieutenant Thurman, order the Lexington’s remaining fighters to pull back and cover us.”
“What? Sir there are still people alive on…”
“The Lexington is lost Lieutenant. The Concordia isn’t. Now pull those fighters back!”
“Yes sir.” Thurman spat in reply.
With no fighters to cover them, any life pods the Lexington would be able to launch would be incinerated by the Kilrathi. He could feel a part of him die when he gave the order.
“Shit! Admiral Tolwyn sir, we’ve got incoming! Looks like the Cats are done with the Lexington, they’re heading our way. I read at least fifteen Grikath sir, and a lot of Jalkehi.”
“Order our fighters to get in their way.” Tolwyn snapped in instant response, “Don’t let those Grikath get a torpedo lock.”
“Yes sir.”
Gunshots from Rapiers and Ferrets were lashing at the Kilrathi fighters that were charging towards the Concordia and her escorts. They were focusing on the bombers, but they couldn’t hope to stop them all. There were too many and they were too well hidden beneath the protective shield of the Jalkehi, who also found easy targets in the ferrets and rapiers trying to defend their carrier.
Admiral Tolwyn watched the display terminal in front of him as blue and red dots symbolising friendly and hostile fighters blinked out in groups of twos and threes.
“Order the Roger Young and the Gauntlet forward and have them provide cover fire for the fighters. We can’t afford to let one Kilrathi bombers get through.”
“Admiral,” Lieutenant commander Lance McCabe’s voice was an unpleasant sounding mesh of panic and despair, “I’m picking up a second wave of Grikath heading our way. Looks like there’s another wave behind them, they’re all coming out of one of those Kilrathi dreadnoughts.”
“Status on the troopships?”
“It looks like the marines have breached two of the new dreadnoughts sir, and…”
“Very well. Order all remaining cruisers forward, have them provide cover fire from all incoming bombers.”
There was a moment’s pause before McCabe acknowledged this order. Those cruisers would make easy prey if Kilrathi bombers decided to turn their torpedoes on them. But if this battle was to be won, sacrifices had to be made.
Tolwyn’s orders had already lead to the sacrifice of over 20 million people in Sirius. Now there were God only knows how many people who had died following his orders. And he knew, he knew that he had done what he had to do, to save Earth, and the rest of humanity. But it still made him sick to the stomach to think about it.
So he pushed the thought as far back as it seemed willing to go.
“Admiral, six Grikath have broken through the fighter engagement.”
“Order the forward turrets to fire as soon as the bombers are in range. Order the Gauntlet and the Ebbson to do the same.”
“Aye sir.”
Two Rapiers that had pulled back to intercept the bombers destroyed a single bomber that had broken off from its wing to attack the TCS Roger Young. Flak fire from the Ebbson destroyed a second bomber. The remaining four continued to advance on the Concordia.
“Admiral,” McCabe shouted, “We have four incoming torpedoes.”
“Hard to port! Order all turrets and any fighters in range to shoot them down.”
“Aye sir.”
As the ship slowly swung around in an attempt to delay the torpedo impact by a handful of seconds; turret crews worked frantically to try and destroy the incoming warheads, but they were not designed to destroy such small targets.
Only one of the incoming torpedoes was destroyed, the remaining three closed on the Concordia and detonated across her vulnerable flank.


Two days later, at Trojan 4 construction facility

He didn’t know how long he’d been standing there; the thought of doing pretty much anything else filled him with a weariness that he hadn’t felt since the death of his wife.
Concordia lay before him, mauled and helpless in the clutches of the dry-dock. The three torpedoes had, through some miracle or another, avoided all critical systems, but they had ripped out huge chunks of the ship and caused internal explosions throughout the surrounding sections. Claiming the lives of fifty seven men and women.
That wasn’t the sum total of the Confederation’s losses, not nearly.
Tolwyn’s eyes clenched tightly and he tried, with virtually no success, not to think of the dead. There was nothing to do now but move forward.
“Attention.” Uttered the ship’s intercom in the same slow, deathlike voice he’d heard at least fifty times already, “There is an incoming message for Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn. The message has been marked urgent. Please report to the station’s communication office immediately.”
That was the fourth such urgent message that had come for him; or was it the fifth? He supposed he shouldn’t put them off any longer. But it was still hard to look away from the Concordia. But by the same token it was hard to look at her.
As he turned on his heel to leave the room, he heard the sudden hiss of a door opening behind him.
“So this is where you’re hiding is it?”
Tolwyn turned around and saw the face of Admiral Vance Richards who was trying very hard for lightness in his voice, and failing pitifully. General Taggert was with him, he looked ready to murder someone.
The two stepped up beside Tolwyn and cast a look out of the window at the battered Confederation class dreadnought before them. Richards muttered something under his breath, then turned back to Tolwyn.
“The cleanups all but done.” He said, “We’ll have this system cleansed of all the shit the Kilrathi dumped in it before the end of the day.”
“That was quick.” Tolwyn replied.
“Never put off till tomorrow. Besides which, all those fighters they left should be quite useful once we gut them and get the hulls melted down. I reckon there’s enough material there for at least a dozen Broadsword squadrons.”
“Speaking of which,” Taggart added, “I would ney put off listening to those messages the blasted intercom keeps telling us about Admiral.”
Somehow, Tolwyn managed a faint smile and nodded. Soon the three of them were walking towards the nearest lift. For a few moments, no one said anything. Then as the lift descended, Taggart broke the silence.
“Is it true what I’ve heard about the academy students Vance?”
“I’m afraid so,” Admiral Richards replied, then paused and pushed out a long breath, “The sad fact is James, we simply don’t have enough pilots left outside of the academy, so we’re going to have to pull out everyone we…”
Everyone we haven’t already thrown in the Cats way. Tolwyn finished for him silently.
“How the hell did we get into this state?” Taggart boomed, barely able to keep himself from punching the wall of the lift. “We were winning for God’s sake. And a blind weasel could see that this Kilrathi peace offering was horse shit.”
Silence was his answer. There seemed to be nothing to say. The Confederation had been duped and they had paid one hell of a price for it. And none of it would have happened if the government had been able to see past their idealistic daydream of peace, love and daffodils.
“I don’t think the Cats are going to be in any better shape then us.” Vance said finally, “Intelligence suggests that they threw practically every resource they had into that attack. And we got them as bad as…”
He cut himself off. In terms of ships he had a point. Only one of the titanic monstrosities the empire had built to end the war had survived, and that was by the thinnest of margins. And at least 40 other hostile capitol ships had been destroyed.
But you couldn’t say that ‘we’d got them as good as they got us’. Not with so many of Earth’s cities reduced to barren craters, not with colony worlds poisoned from orbit, their inhabitants doomed to die slow, horrible deaths from radiation poisoning.
The lift doors opened and the three stepped into the corridor, attracting the occasional stare from gloomy eyed officers as they passed.
“What’s the word with Kevin?” Vance eventually asked. Tolwyn felt a sudden and all too familiar stab of pain as he remembered seeing Kevin on the flight deck, barely alive. For a moment he could see himself back before Bainbridge as he told him in a husky voice that his wife and children were…
“He’ll be fine.” Tolwyn responded eventually in as calm a voice as he could manage. “He’ll be down for a while, but he’ll be fine.”
“Glad to hear it.” Richards replied.
“Aye.” Added Taggart, “We’ll need as many pilots like him as we can get at the front.”
A cold surge of panic gripped Tolwyn for a moment. Kevin he knew had been lucky throughout his career. Extremely lucky. First on the Tarawa on its run to Kilrah, and again just two days ago when the Confederation stood on the brink of destruction. How long would his luck hold. How long would it be before he received another notification that another Tolwyn had been lost to the Kilrathi?
He couldn’t go through that again.
Eventually the three reached the communication’s office where Admiral Tolwyn had been summoned.
“We’d better head off.” Admiral Richards said.
“Aye, see you later Geoff.”
Tolwyn nodded in reply and headed into the office.
“Please identify yourself and enter authentication code.” Asked the computer terminal in a polite voice before the Admiral could even sit down.
“Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn, 3, 4 alpha, 9, charlie, 7, 9.”
“Code accepted. Greetings Admiral. You have 23 unread messages, four of which are marked urgent.”
On the terminal lay the 23 messages in a long row. At the top of the list were four which were highlighted in orange.
The first four messages were pretty much what he’d expected. One was asking him to authorise mass production of a new generation of Confederation fighters. Tolwyn replied instantly to this and cursed himself for the time he’d wasted staring out into space. He couldn’t afford to ignore his duty, no matter how much to hell things had gone.
The second message concerned the surviving fleet carriers as well as the potential for Lexington to be salvaged. It also recommended the re-commissioning certain older capital ships like Ranger class light carriers. Had things gotten so bad that they had to cast their ancient warships, their antiques? Into the war?
The third was also about Lexington, it was a long winded explanation as to how the carrier could be made self sustainable and be used for more effective raids behind enemy lines then the current Wake Island light carriers which were typically used for the task. Tolwyn wasn’t sure if this was ‘urgent’ news, but he felt it didn’t much matter.
The final message concerned the remaining navy personnel, and as Taggart had mentioned, the cadets that they had been forced to pull from the academy to make up the numbers. He noticed that a lot of these kids were being stationed on ships away from the front lines. Ships that would probably, that is, ship that would hopefully never see combat. He noticed Concordia’s name in this list of ships assigned to rear echelon systems.
It wasn’t surprising really. Concordia had been mauled so badly that she would take months to heal. And the word was that the brass wasn’t even sure it was a wise move. The truth was, the Concordia was getting old, and the amount of battle damage that she’d taken over the years was beginning to take its toll. Maybe it was time for her to be put out to pasture.
A thought came to Tolwyn, a thought that not so long ago, not before this war had lost all degree of sense, would have disgusted him.
Once she’d had a cursory patch up job, Concordia was being assigned to Vespus, a system though of some importance to the Confederation, wasn’t likely to make too tempting a target for the Kilrathi.
It also seemed like the perfect place to send Kevin after he was deemed fit to fly. At least, Tolywn told himself, not really believing the words he was telling himself, until he was one hundred percent again.
 

wolfboy

Captain
"and to the strains of dixie the students of the academy marched to war"

other than a couple of spelling errors from taggart, which getting a proper brogue to come across in writing is difficult at best, good opening
 

Dahan

Rear Admiral
Chapter One – Fall of the Flag
By Dahan and Plywood Fiend


Confed Shuttle 482
En route to TCS Concordia
Enigma System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
2669, April, 0915 hours


It was the way he remember it when he first visited his uncle when he was commanding the Concordia. Kevin looked out the side view port of the shuttle and looked at the huge behemoth of a warship.
“Just the way it was” whispered Kevin, taking a deep sign and closing his eyes for a brief moment Kevin collected his thoughts as he trying to recall his last moments while defending his home world.
He can remember flying the Rapier G fighter, swarming through debris, Confed and Kilrathi fighters flying past, missiles flying left right and centre. He can remember listening to the rapid chatter over the comm. link between pilots and ships. He remembers escorting a flight of broadsword bombers against one of huge Hari carriers that attacked Earth. He remembers his fighter being hit and forced to eject only to have his escape pod to be caught in the shockwave of one of the Kilrathi carriers exploding.
He was recalling other images during the conflict when he was woken by a voice over the shuttle’s internal PA system. “All passengers we are making our final approach to the TCS Concordia. Please standby as we are making our final preparations and landing” Kevin sat up from his chair and giving himself a stretch. Looking over, he saw several other pilots, some old, some new adjusting to their seats while they wait for the shuttle to land. ‘I wonder how many of them were at Earth’ he thought, ‘so many lives lost, so many sacrifices. Will we win this war?’

* * *​

Getting off the shuttle and onto the flight deck, Kevin took a look around. On the outside the Concordia looked like new, bristling with all the weapons and fighters it could muster, but inside the flagship there was chaos. Deck crews moving large machinery, flight crews pulling in fighters prepping them for flight, others repairing fighters or performing regular maintenance on them. Somehow the flight deck had a certain old look or feel, as if the ship has past its prime. Because of the false armistice, Confed were tricked and their fleet carrier and main capital ships were put off line rendering them almost defenceless against the surprise Kilrathi attack. The Concordia was one of few ships that were not decommissioned during the armistice and many people within the military believe that it was lucky that the Concordia was not put into dock. If it wasn’t for her being present during the defence of Earth, no one would believe that they would live to see the next day.

Kevin looked around the flight deck until he saw the rest of the passengers from the shuttle were heading towards two people on the far end of the flight deck. Kevin followed the group from behind and looked around the once proud ship he once visited. Looking around, he noticed some new and old fighters being prepared. He noticed some of the Sabre heavy fighters and the Rapiers medium range fighters were still around was proud to see some of those fighters survived during the battle. He saw a couple of new fighters on the flight deck, he could not recall their names but he remembers reading the Internal Military Bulletin that Confed were pushing out new fighters to replace the old fighters they kept for the last 10-15 years.


Kevin reached to the end of the flight deck to meet with the two officers who were waiting for him. He noticed one of the officers was an older looking man with a touch of grey along the side of his hair and was wearing a Colonel insignia. The officer next to him, a young woman was wearing the naval ensign of a Lieutenant. Dropping his duffel bag next to him and saluted to the Colonel, “Captain Kevin Tolwyn reporting for duty sir”
“Welcome aboard Captain” replied the officer returning the salute, “I’m Colonel Forrester, your wing commander”
“My wing commander sir?” Kevin wasn’t expecting him but Blair
“You were expecting Colonel Blair Captain?”
“Yes sir I was expecting to meet him here”
“That is understandable” said Forrester, “unfortunately Colonel Blair was injured during our defence on Earth and is grounded for medical treatment”
“Any idea when he will come back to duty sir?” asked Kevin
“I do not know Captain” said Forrester, “but now it is not the time. The Concordia is making speed towards to assist with a Confed destroyer requesting assistance against Kilrathi raiders. Lieutenant McBride will show you to your quarters. Stow your gear, familiarise yourself onboard and head to the flight wing’s briefing room by 0600”
“Yes Sir”


Enigma System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
TCS Concordia
Flight Wing Recreation Room


He was extremely tired after (two months) three weeks since arriving on the Concordia. The flight wing has been pulling double time, patrolling around Confed control systems, assisting with other Confed capital ships against Kilrathi raiders and various other flight assignments.

Kevin sat over the bar looking over his drink when he heard the main doors to the rec room slide open. Turning around he saw one of the pilots from his squadron, Lieutenant Jeffery ‘Animal’ Dale. Dale looked just as tired as he was. Noticing Kevin by the bar, Jeffery walked over towards Kevin and pulled up a stool. “Hell of a week don’t you think?” said Jeffery as he accepted a drink from the bartender, taking a big swig from his drink and wiping his mouth with his sleeve, “I don’t think I had to do some many assignment within such a short time since I was on the Lady Lex”
“You were on the Lexington?” asked Kevin
“Sure thing” smiled Jeffery, “Lady Lex was my first posting after graduating. I was hoping I could get a posting on the Verdun”
“Why was that?” Jeffery slightly blushed at the question and Kevin smiled and vaguely had an idea what the answer was
“Well I had a certain friend, who was in Navy. She was communications officer onboard. I met her back in Houston on my final year. She was at the Academy the year before me and she return during my final year giving a talk on being a first year officer graduate on a fleet carrier and sharing some of her experiences with us”
“What happen?” Jeffery’s face changed from a smile to a subtle sad look
“The Verdun was one of the ships that were not taken offline during the defence of Earth. I remember hearing the Kilrathi had deploy that hidden fleet of theirs and I recall talking to her on the comm. channel she was already on board when the fighting started. I never knew or what happen to her next”
“Did Command find any survivors?”
“They are still counting up the total loss still” replied Jeffery, “after four months they still have not calculated the loss of personnel and ships during that engagement”
“I’m sure that she made it out somehow” said Kevin, “besides she probably had plans for you when you catch up again” Jeffery smiled and perked up at the thought of seeing his female friend.
“Enough of me talking. What about you Kevin?” asked Jeffery, “why is someone like you not at the front lines like your uncle? A man of your abilities and credentials would be more suited at the main fights than back here patrolling friendlier grounds”
“Beats me” replied Kevin, “I just take any assignments they give me”
“When I heard that you were being assigned to our squadron. I thought for a moment that you would be taking over the squadron” Kevin laughed at the comment almost spilling over his drink, “Now what would make you think like that?”
“Come on Kevin. You the nephew of one of the greatest Admirals in Confed and not to mention that he is the saviour of Earth. You’re a Tolwyn and every Tolwyn has a natural ability to do great things”
“Yeah great things. I don’t know if I have done any great things”
“The Defence of Earth was not a great thing?”
“That was my uncle’s doing, not mine” countered Kevin, “I just flew a Rapier escorting the broadies to their targets. Unfortunately I had to eject when my fighter was hit pretty bad”
“Yeah I can imagine” nodded Jeffery, “still you were there part of a large group of people who risked their lives defending our home world. I was here in bloody Enigma doing a milk run when I only found out when I landed at the Naval Base. Boy talking about missing out the action” Kevin laughed at Jeffery who was being a bit mellow and upset of being left out of what could be on the biggest military battles in Confed history, “Don’t worry Jeff, I am sure there will be a glorious battle for you one day”
For the rest of the evening Kevin and Jeffery talk about their previous assignments, family, friends, loved ones and future ambitions, unaware that it was getting later. At the end, both were drinking coffees and talking about their current assignment onboard the Concordia.
“Man have we been talking that long?” said Jeffery as he looked at the time display by the bar counter and looking at his watch to check if it was the right time.
“Oh yeah it is” said Kevin as he tried to hide his yawn, “it is getting late and we got flight duty again tomorrow”
“Forrester is sure working us til we drop” said Jeffery as he got up and put away his chair
“I don’t blame the Colonel” replied Kevin, “given that we lost many carriers and other capital ships, we are pulling every available ship and people we can muster to hold the lines”
“Well somebody’s got to do the dirty” smiled Jeffery as he picked up his jacket, “well I see you in the morning Kevin goodnight”
“Good night Jeff, thanks for the chat”
“Anytime”

* * *​

The Following Day
TCS Concordia
Flight Wing Briefing Room
Enigma System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector


“Now I come to Mission Flight Zeta” continued Colonel Forrester as he activated the wall map for the next mission assignment “Lonewolf, you and Animal are to fly a standard four point patrol on the far side of this asteroid field and monitor of any Kilrathi raiders”
“What’s our order if we see any cats sir?” asked Jeffery
“Should I need to answer Lieutenant?” replied Forrester, “shoot them first then ask question later”

Twenty minutes later...
TCS Concordia
Flight Deck


“Guess I’m working with you today mate?” smiled Jeffery as adjust his flight suit and grabbing his helmet off the bench nearby
“Yeah and finish last night discussion hey?” replied Kevin, “just keep your eye on the mission specs would you?”
“Hey of course I will, just remember to keep up with me ok Kev?”
“Yeah right mate” smiled Kevin as they both head into opposite directions where their Rapier fighters were being readied.


Zeta Flight
Enigma System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
On approach to Nav Point 2


“There’s the asteroid field” said Kevin as he checked his sensor readings, “damn that is one huge field. Now I understand why he said the Tiger’s Claw and the Concordia had a hell of a problem getting to that Kilrathi base”
“Say what Zeta Lead” said Jeffery on the comm. channel, “what about the asteroid field?”
“Oh, nothing I‘ll tell you when we get back, it was. Hang on I’m picking up something” Kevin checked his sensors and thought he saw a faint red blip. It was there for a moment then it was gone. Was he picking up a faint signal or something he thought. Kevin boosted the power to his fighter’s sensors range to get a more accurate reading.
“You getting something?” asked Jeffery
“I don’t know” replied Kevin as he looked at his sensors display very carefully. He knew that he saw something but was not sure if he was dreaming. “Nah it was nothing I think. Come on lets get moving. Hitting autopilot for final run to nav 2”
“Copy that, hitting autopilot”

* * *​

In the asteroid field deep away from the Kevin’s sensor range, three Kilrathi stealth fighters were observing the two Confederation medium fighters veering away from their location and sped off to a different direction.
In one of the fighters, the Kilrathi flight leader sent a transmission back to his command carrier informing him of the sighting of Confed fighters present in the Enigma Sector.
The flight leader received orders to follow under strict orders and observe their movements and not to engage them until they know their full intentions.

* * *​

Zeta Flight
Enigma System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
At Nav Point 3


“I swear there is something following us” growled Kevin as he ran a quick ship diagnostics on his ship’s sensor “I know that the sensors are working just fine. I tell you that there is something out there”
“Well I ain’t picking up anything on my scope Lead” replied Jeffery, “you sure that it ain’t rigged or something?”
“No and I am sure of it. Look we get the flight crew to run a full diagnostics on the rapiers when we get back”
“OK, but I still say you’re off your face”

* * *​

TCS Concordia
Flight Deck
Enigma System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector


“Talk to me gentlemen” asked Forrester, “anything to report?”
“Nothing to report sir” said Kevin, “but I think that my ships sensors are picking up some faint signal and I am not sure what it is. I thought it was faulty equipment but I ran a diagnostics during the flight and it ran out clean. I asked the flight crew to take a look at the systems”
“Yes Chief Teer, told me you wanted a full diagnostics. In the meantime we will look at their flight recorder data and see what we can come up with. In the meantime go and rest up. You guys got another patrol in 0400 hours, we going to clear a path for incoming supply transports that are en route to Enigma Base so in the meantime” Forrester was going to finish his statement when they heard the alert siren go off throughout the flight deck, “Red alert! All hands to battle stations, repeat all hands to battle stations. This is not a drill, this is not a drill”
“Well that will have to wait” said Forrester, “you two get up in the air. Take those Sabres over there” Forrester pointed to the two Sabre heavy fighters being pulled from their bays, “your Rapiers are out of commission for now. Get up in the air and lend the fighters some support”

* * *​

Sabre Lead

“Concordia, this is Sabre 211” said Kevin, “what do you guys have?”
On his comm. channel the ship communication officer face appeared on screen “Captain we are reading heavy fighters possibly Jalkehi class and a bomber wing possibly Grikath heading to our position, we are reading possibly one capital ship, possibly a carrier”
“Looks like they are bringing out some heavy stuff for us hey?” the image then changed from the comm. officer to Colonel Forrester on the comm. channel “Captain, Major Halliday is still in medical recovering from the virus. You’re acting squadron commander for now. Hold a defensive position around the Concordia until we have our fighters up”
“Yes Sir”
“Major Siwark is heading back with his flight group from his patrol and is aware of the situation and is heading back on full burners. He won’t get back for another twenty minutes. You have to hold them off. Captain’s Wright and Craven are getting Xenos and Hornet squadrons up shortly. All other squadrons are on either standby alert or returning from assignment. All flights have been notified”
“Copy that Concordia”
“Protect the Concordia at all cost Captain” said Forrester, “we don’t want any torpedos hitting us”
“Don’t worry Colonel you can count on us”

* * *​

“Damn they are hitting us pretty hard on us” said Jeffery as he swung his fighter around a destroyed Jalkehi wreck.
“Stay with me Animal” replied Kevin as they moved their fighters behind a flight of three Grikath bombers that attempting to torpedo run against the Concordia, “hit those bombers, Animal!”
“Copy that” both Kevin and Jeffery fired with guns at the Grikath catching them completely off guard. The Kilrathi bombers attempted to move away but were caught by a couple of heat seeker missiles that impacted on their ships hull. Two of the three Grikath were destroyed in the first volley while the third barely made it out alive from the barrage.
“Oh I am not letting you get away that easy” laughed Animal as he moved his fighter behind the remaining Grikath and fire another barrage of his guns at the fighter, “Say goodnight kitty!” Jeffery’s comment was met with a reply on his comm. channel with a static image of a Kilrathi pilot, “I shall be avenged human! Aargh!” Jeffery saw the Kilrathi fighter break apart as his guns tore through its shield and armour.
“Score one for the good guys!” said Jeffery as he swung his fighter around and looking for Kevin’s Sabre and forming up
“Well done Animal” said Kevin, “we got a few more fighters coming in”
“Right with you boss”
“Captain Tolwyn” a new face appeared on Kevin’s comm. channel, “this is Major Siwark. What’s your status?”
“We held off the first wave of Kilrathi fighters, so far we have seen Jalkehi and Grikath fighters attacking us. I think this is an attack to try to take out the Concordia”
“Agreed” replied Siwark, “we picked up a carrier on our way back. We think that is the command ship. Captain you are to hold position here with Xenos and Hornet Squadron, be ready for another wave. My squadrons is going to refuel and rearm and taking Gold Wing and hitting it behind they send more ships to us”
“Copy that Major. Good luck”

* * *​

“Hear they come” said Kevin as the next wave of Kilrathi fighters came within range, “OK folks pick your targets and clear those fighters and bomber before they reach the Concordia” Kevin receive a series of acknowledgments from fighter pilots that were defending the Concordia.
Kevin moved his thrusters forward to maximum as his fighter closer to the incoming Kilrathi fighters when he received a message from the Concordia “Sabre 211. We are reading a flight of Kilrathi fighters coming in from behind our position. We counting six possible fighters bearing in”
“Copy that Concordia. Stingray you and the remaining fighters defend the Concordia, I’m taking my flight and taking out those fighters behind us”
“Copy that”

* * *​

“Shit this is not good. Those fighters were drawing us away from the real threat. Concordia I read Gothri heavy fighters, repeat I read Gothri. Six Gothri heavy fighters”
“Copy that Sabre 211. Take those fighters out quickly before they get a missile lock on us”
“Copy that. OK boys lets take them out quickly and watch out for their rear turrets”

* * *​

“Watch it Animal you got one on your tail!” said Kevin as he saw a Gothri swung in behind Jeffery’s Sabre as he is trying to take aim at the lead Gothri fighter heading towards the Concordia.
“Can’t shake `im!” replied Jeffery, “I need to take out that bomber before it gets a torpedo lock!” Kevin hit his afterburners trying to reach to Jeffery’s position
“Animal, get your fighter out of there! You are being targeted!”
“Can’t do Captain” said Jeffery, “that bomber has to go first” the Gothri behind Jeffery started firing his main guns hitting on Jeffery’s Sabre’s shields, the first few shots were met with a hazy blue glow of the Sabre’s shields, follow by chunks of hull armour flying everywhere.
“Damn Animal you’re getting hit, pull out!”
“Fuck, my guns are out, can’t shoot. Launchers jammed and I can’t shoot jack. I can’t even throw a bloody rock out the window”
Switching to his last Image-Rec missile, Kevin targeted the attacking Gothri fighter. Banking his fighter left and right trying to keep up with the Kilrathi fighter and avoiding the turret fire, Kevin finally got his missile lock, pressing down on the missile trigger, Kevin watched as the missile shot out from underneath his fighter and streamed across the heavy fighter. The Kilrathi must have not noticed the missile lock warning in his cockpit as Kevin watched the missile tore through the shields and detonated on the ships hull, causing fighter to explode.
“Animal are you alright!?” Kevin veered his fighter from the explosion, avoiding the debris that flew everyone, checking his sensors he tried to look for his wingman position
“No I’m pretty banged up, ain’t looking good” replied Jeffery, “ship systems are failing all over”
“Head back to the Concordia, you are in no condition to go on”
“But the Gothri!?”
“I got him” replied Kevin as he formed on Jeffery’s wing, locking onto the Gothri fighter he press his gun trigger and firing a volley of his fully charge guns into the rear of Kilrathi fighter destroying the rear shields followed by a dumb fire missile fired into the main fuselage of the Gothri.
“Thanks I owe you one I think I will” Jeffery was about to say something when the rear turret of the dying Gothri fired upon his fighter hitting his shields and striking through his front armour. The turret fire broke through the front armour of Jeffery’s Sabre tearing through the cockpit.
“Jeffery! No!” screamed Kevin as he saw his wingman and friend got torn apart from the Gothri’s rear turret. Kevin turned back to the heavily damage Gothri fighter and pressed down the gun trigger, “Fucking bastard!” Kevin squeezed the trigger tighter hoping that the harder he pressed the quicker he could fire his guns. The Gothri, completely forgotten about Kevin tried to move away but was too slow as Kevin’s Sabre moved in closer with guns still shooting, tear away the fighter’s armour. Small chunks of the armour could be seen flying off the hull til finally the Kilrathi fighter exploded, “Damn you Kilrathi bastards! Damn you all to hell!” checking his sensors he saw the rest of his wing were able to eliminate the remaining Gothri. Of the four Sabres that flew with him to take on the Gothri, one ejected; two were severely damage from the fight; one had minor damages and one was lost.
“Concordia this is Sabre Lead. Gothri fighters neutralised. Request SAR team to pick up an escape pod”
“Copy that Sabre Lead” replied the communications officer, “what’s your status?”
“One ejection, all other Sabres received various level of damage”
“Copy that Sabre Lead, anything else?” Kevin took a deep breathe thinking of how he was tell his CO that they lost another pilot, “Concordia, inform Colonel Forrester that we lost Lieutenant Dale in the line of duty. He was killed under enemy fire”
“Will do Sabre” replied the communication officer, Kevin could see the slight facial expression change on his video monitor. He could see the communication officer was not happy to hear another Confed pilot had been killed, “The Kilrathi fighters have been repelled and Major Siwark has reported the carrier they spotted earlier has been destroyed. Your flight is clear to return back to the Concordia”
“Copy that Concordia, Sabre Lead out”

* * *​
 

Dahan

Rear Admiral
Chapter Two – Fall of the Flag
By Dahan and Plywood Fiend


Enigma System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
TCS Concordia
Flight Deck


This was the most hated duty for any commander. Forrester stood behind the podium facing towards the rows of pilots and ship crew all standing at attention. Between him and the row of personnel were five coffins. Three of them were empty and the other two coffins had a pilot each in them. Both of the pilots ejected during the conflict and their injuries were too great to recover. The only thing the medical team could do was giving them shots of morphine to ease the pain.
Looking at his data pad, Forrester looking at the names of the deceased, “We are gathered here today to bid farewell to some of the Confederation’s finest pilots. These pilots were dedicated people who served the Confederation with dignity, courage and honour. Their deaths are the Confederation’s loss. Our friends are not the only Confederation pilots who died in the line of duty. Death is a fear each of us must face everyday aboard ship. But we cannot forget why we are here and what we are fighting for. Many pilots have given their lives for our cause and we will continue the fight in their memory” Forrester pressed a button on his control pad and the five coffins slowly rose up from their position, “Captain Claire ‘Misty’ Chennells, Lieutenant Phillipa ‘Roses’ Kotz, Lieutenant David ‘Ninja’ Montgomery, Lieutenant Peter ‘Goth’ Phillips and Lieutenant Jeffery ‘Animal’ Dale, we will continue to fight in their memories” Forrester took a step back and allowed the ship’s chaplain to finish with the funeral ceremony.

Kevin looked among as the chaplain continues on with remaining part of the funeral. Too many pilots have been lost already. Many lives were lost at the Battle of Earth, when humanity was held by the throat by the Kilrathi and by a mere pure chance of luck they survived of what could have been Armageddon and hell on Earth. Kevin looked on as he saw the five coffins were lead by 10 marines with two marines per coffin they escort them out of the flight deck towards the force field which protects them from the vacuum of space. One by one the marines pushed the coffins out into the blackness of space. As the marines were pushing the coffins out. Five other marines who were standing at attention behind Colonel Forrester were carrying rifles with the ship’s Master of Arms at the lead, “Company attention!” everyone stood at attention as the five marines raised their rifles and took aim towards up the roof of the flight deck, “Company about face!” as one everyone in one the flight deck pivoted as one and face towards where the coffins were being pushed out, “Company salute!” at once the company the men and women onboard the Confederation Flagship saluted to their departed brethren while the five marines fired off a salute.
As Kevin stood at attention with one hand up in salute. A small tear begin to fall down from one of his eyes.

* * *​

Enigma System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
TCS Concordia
Flight Wing Recreation Room


Kevin sat alone at a table by the viewport staring down at two empty glasses as if he was waiting for someone to pour a drink into both of them. He was hardly aware of his surroundings, the other pilots and crewman who talked and laughed and carried on with their lives.
No one in the rec-room took notice of the lonely figure who sat in the corner. To them it was another pilot or crewman who lost a friend or maybe a loved one in the war and to them life goes on and everyone knew the truth that in war, lives are lost no matter how much they want it to happen.

A shadow fell across Kevin’s table and he saw Captain Dirk ‘Stingray’ Wright with a bottle, “Looks like you could use something to alleviate that frown of yours” Kevin grabbed the bottle and poured a shot into both glasses and drank both of them, wincing at little of taking in two drinks in rapid succession while Stingray looked on. Kevin refilled his glasses again only to be stopped by Stingray who softly held his arm. “Slow down fella. Save some for the rest of us” Kevin looked at him and pulled his arm away from Stingray and filled the glasses. Kevin took one of the glasses and was about to drink it when he stopped and looked at it as if he found something interesting in the glass, “You lost someone to this war haven’t you Stingray?” asked Kevin without turning to face the older pilot
“Yeah I have” replied Stingray, “I know what it’s like to lose someone in this war. If it is a family member, friend or even someone special, it tears us to bits. So Kevin do you want some company or is that bottle enough for the both of you?”
“Both?” Kevin shifted his attention to Stingray at the question he asked
“Well you got two glasses” said Stingray “so I am guessing that you might be expecting company”
“No I’m not expecting company” said Kevin as he drank the drink in his hand and picked up the second glass and drank it down fast, “I suppose having some company is good. So what can I do to help?”
“Do you want to talk?”
“Yeah sure why not. Talking is good” Kevin sat up and pushed away from the table facing towards the other pilot, “what do you want to talk about”
“Well for starters you got to slow down with the drinking there Kevin. I don’t think hiding in refuge with a bottle of alcohol will not help solve your problems” said Stingray as he took the bottle away and putting on another table nearby, “Don’t hide from people, don’t ignore them either especially if they are trying to help you”
“I knew that when I signed on with Confed I knew the risks involved and I knew what might happen if I fought against the Kilrathi. I had nightmares about it. Now everywhere I go, everywhere I am assigned to, I see people who I get to know all just die and disappear. It really gets to me whether or not we will win this war. Why do I bother flying anymore more people are lost in this war and there is no end to this” Stingray looked on at the younger Tolwyn before replying, “Come out with me Kevin” Stingray stood up and tried to help Kevin who was already struggling. Stingray was surprised that Kevin had already had a few drinks already before he came to his table.
“Where are we going?”
“Oh somewhere where we can vent our anger and frustration”


Enigma System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
Ten Minutes later
TCS Concordia
Gymnasium


“What are we doing?” said Kevin as he looked at the boxing gloves he was wearing, Stingray led Kevin a large punching bag which was hanging in the middle of the gym, “Alright Kevin I want to let loose and punch that bag to kingdom come”
“What?”
“Yeah just punch it, get it out of your chest”
“What are you trying to prove here I don’t need any punching bag”
“Trust me will you”
Kevin sighed and walked up to the punching bag, falling into a fighting stance, Kevin punched at the bag once, then twice, then three times, then followed by a series of punches that led to more and more punches. As Stingray watched on he noticed that Kevin was punching harder and punching faster. He also noticed that Kevin’s face was scrunched up in an angry yet almost crying look. Kevin continued to punch harder at the bag, grunting each time he made contact. Finally he punched at the bag one more time and sagged down to his knees, his arms sagged to the floor and head hanging down. Stingray could hear a soft sobbing from the young Tolwyn. Grabbing a towel nearby one of the racks he walked over to Kevin and passed to him which Kevin took with one of his gloved hands
“Kevin sometimes you have to let go your feelings and move on” Stingray sat across from Kevin as he watched him wiped the sweat and tears from his face, “we will lose something or someone. But you have to remember. Dale is gone, you’re still here. You are still a good pilot. Take a shower, get something to eat, get some rest. Move on”
“You telling I should forget about Animal?” asked Kevin
“No I did not saying anything about forgetting Animal” said Stingray, “I said move on with your life, but remember that what you do is not for yourself but for all those people who died defending our worlds. Never forget that and remember that you always do your best no matter what”


Three weeks later
Tesla System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
Observation Deck


A week after the funeral, the Concordia jumped to the Tesla system after receiving reports of increase Kilrathi activity. Kevin was back to his usual self, but somewhere in the back of his mind, he was still thinking about the loss of Animal and wonder what he should do to make things easier. Since talking to Stingray, Kevin felt a little more at eased and spent some time talking to him learning about the people onboard the Confederation Flagship. Captain Wright, Stingray as known by others was a guy everyone loved to be around. He was funny and sometimes blunt. But what stood out about Stingray was that he was totally honest and would admit to anything if he was at all responsible. It was his honest personality which Kevin like and got to know him better.
Unfortunately not everything was all peaches and cream. His flight assignments in the Tesla system were beginning to feel repetitive and boring. It seem every mission is the same thing, patrol this sector eliminate Kilrathi presence, escort transport and so forth. Everything was becoming a routine back on the Concordia and nothing big was happening since the Kilrathi attempted to take the Kilrathi.

Kevin was looking out the viewport watching a flight of Rapier returning from patrol. He was watching the view he heard the doors to the room open and turn to see a couple walking in hand in hand. When they saw Kevin sitting by the view they quickly let go fearing that he might report of them fraternising.
“Don’t worry about me folks I am not going to tell” smiled Kevin as he walked over to the small bar and poured himself a drink. Of all the carriers and capital ship he has been aboard, the Concordia had an observation deck with a self serve bar with no alcohol. Must be a standing from the Admiral he thought.
“You’re Admiral’s Tolwyn son aren’t you?” said someone behind him, Kevin turned around to see to the young man who walked in with his female friend, “No I am his nephew” said Kevin
“I told you so” said the woman who accompanied the young man, “Admiral Tolwyn had no children he is a Navy man”
“Actually my uncle did married and have children” corrected Kevin, “I have met his wife and his sons”
“What were they like?” asked the young man, “are they nice?”
“I don’t remember much about them” replied Kevin, “I only met them once or twice when I was young. His wife and children were killed in a Kilrathi raid”
“Damn I did not know that” said the young man, the women cover her mouth surprised, “Oh dear the Admiral must be suffering after all those years”
“He is alright” said Kevin, “he knew the risks involved. Although I wonder if he actually recovered from the loss of his family. He never spoke about it with me or anyone else”
“Do you have any siblings Captain?” asked the woman
“No I am an only child” replied Kevin, “my father was in the Navy but was killed in the line of duty in the Trimble System”
“That is in the Vega Sector right?” asked the young man, Kevin nodded
“Yeah, he was the commander of a light carrier when they got hit a Kilrathi strike force. They had to abandon the ship when they got hit. It was pretty bad but he remained onboard. I think it something to do with the Captain going down with the ship”
“Hang on” said the young man, “I think I heard about this. I thought your dad was killed in a training exercise. I remember hearing that the fleet in Vega were doing mock fleet trials?”
“Yes that what was in the official report” said Kevin, “but I knew somehow that it was not true and I was able to find out that the Kilrathi spotted the fleet in the Trimble system and decided to strike them when they had the opportunity. Confed didn’t expect the Kilrathi to attack, the fleet was forced to retreat and regroup first because their weapons were taken offline and or taken down to minimal strength. Once they regroup they were able to chase the Kilrathi forces but they suffered serious damage. Including the carrier my father commanded, my father and a few of the bridge crew were killed when one of the Kilrathi were able to launch a torpedo at the carrier hitting the bridge”
“My god” replied the young woman, “how awful, what about your mum? Is she in the forces?”
“No she is a Professor in Intergalactic Politics. She is back at England at the family estates. I send her messages every so often letting her know that I am well”
“She must be going crazy knowing that you are out here fighting the Kilrathi” said the woman “I would not know how I would deal with it if I had kids fighting in this war. Do you visit her?”
“When I’m near Earth I tried to get over to England and visit her. Sometimes she gets teary eye when I come visit her”
“Oh dear she is such a mother” said the woman, “sorry if we took much of your time Captain. It just I was sure about who you are”
“Don’t be silly Amanda” said the young man, “How could you not recognise a Tolwyn. The man is part of a legendary family. His family have served the Confederation for hundreds of years”
“I don’t know if it would be hundreds of years” corrected Kevin, “I know that my family have served the military for a long time”
“Yeah but Captain, it is in your blood to do great things. Look at Admiral Tolwyn and the things he done. If he could do good things, then I am sure you could do just as well as he would?”

* * *​

Kevin thought about the conversation with the young couple whom he met at the observation deck. Just as well as he would, was what the young man said, How could he do as well? He was not like his uncle, Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn, a man who has given his life and service to the Confederation more times over than any man known in history with the exception of other famous Admirals through history, Nelson, Hornblower, Nimitz, Hood, Banbridge and Turner. All were famous for their deeds, but none came close to the things which his uncle did.
How do they expect him, a mere fighter pilot to do so much when they are losing the war and are losing so many fighters and pilots. Kevin finished his drink and headed out of the observation room and headed to his quarters thinking about the conversation he had earlier.

Two days later
Tesla System, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
TCS Concordia
Flight Wing Recreation Room


“You can’t be serious Kevin” said Stingray, “you can’t just resign your commission let alone quit. After what has been happening over in the last year”
“I don’t care and I have thought about it” said Kevin, “every day people look up at me. Why!? Because I am a good pilot, is it because I have accumulated a higher numbers of kitties scratched or is it because I am a Tolwyn!?”
“I don’t think they care if you are a Tolwyn, Kevin” said Stingray
“Bullshit!” snapped Kevin, “they are all tiptoeing around me and they know. They know that if something happens to the Admiral’s nephew, they would get more than a hiding from their superiors. God knows what fate could be worse then facing Admiral Tolwyn and trying to explain to him to what happening to his favourite nephew”
“Does that really matter to you being a Tolwyn and you hating people moving around you?”
“I don’t think it matters anyway. This war is dragging on for too long and I have seen too much battles. Too much lives lost and the lost of my friend was the last draw” said Kevin, “at the end of the month. I’m handing in my papers and taking the next shuttle out back to Earth, England” Stingray looked at the young Tolwyn and ponder at the comment which Kevin made, “Kevin I have known you when you first arrived on the Concordia as a freshly minted Lieutenant, God only knows why your uncle allowed you to come and visited him or vice versa I don’t know. But from all the things that has come and gone I have to say that your actions makes you nothing more than a coward” Kevin glared angrily at the veteran pilot
“How dare you say that!”
“No I don’t!” said Stingray, “A year or so ago, I once called Colonel Blair a traitor and a coward”
“You what!” Kevin was caught by surprise by the sudden revelation. Stingray merely nodded, “Many people called Blair the Coward of K’Tithrak Mang, Traitor of the Tiger’s Claw, Bane of the Confederation amongst other things. Everyone called him many things including me” Stingray shook his head in disappointment, “I was hot headed and followed suit to what everyone said about Blair. What I should have done was to listen to what he had to say, his side of the story, but I didn’t. Sometime ago I was accused of murder of a crewman on board the Concordia and no believed me that I was innocent and no one believed my story. But Blair believed me. He knew I was innocent even when at that time I do not like him at all”
“When did you know that he was innocent?”
“About him and the Tiger’s Claw? I don’t know when I knew, but I do know that after when he rescued me one time when I ejected at Novaya Kiev I somehow knew that Blair was a good man and would do nothing to betray the Confederation. There was even at one time I flew with Hobbes, I quickly made a harsh judgement of him, because I never gave him the chance to prove himself or let him to have a chance to say something. I think I have a habit of judging people too quickly?”
“Hobbes who is he?’
“Hobbes. Well you might know him better as Colonel Ralgha nar Hhallas, he is a Kilrathi pilot who flew with us on the Concordia”
“The Kilrathi defector 15 years ago?” Stingray nodded, “What I am trying to say is that don’t make a decision too quickly until you have seen both sides of the situation. Whether you stop flying for the Confederation or not, or how would everyone feel if you did not do your patriotic duty. It is a question of are you sure you making the right decision” Kevin looked at him for a brief moment and turned away wondering what to say, “I don’t know how I feel from all of this” replied Kevin as he turn to look at him, “I have seen enough and I don’t think that I want to fly any more”
“I hope that you are making the right decision Kevin” said Stingray as he finished his drink, “I hope that decision is the right one for you. Because I hate to be the one to pick up the pieces if you are wrong”

Another two days later
Tesla, Isaac Quadrant, Enigma Sector
TCS Concordia
Wing Commanders Office


Forrester was reading the data pad entry which Kevin provided regarding his pilot status while the young flight Captain stood in front of the Colonel’s desk at attention awaiting for his response.

“I am sorry Captain but I cannot accept your resignation. Given the circumstances this is not the time or place for it” said Colonel Forrester
“Then that leaves with no choice then sir” said Kevin, “Colonel, as from this point I am stepping down from my duties as fighter pilot on board the Concordia, I request that you put me on the flight roster as inactive”
“You can’t be serious Kevin”
“Yes sir I am. If don’t put me on as inactive then I will not fly any mission assignment you assign me to. Either way I am not flying”
“You are close to being insubordinate Captain” said Forrester, “you treading on dangerous grounds here. What would your uncle say? He would”
“Screw my uncle!” snapped Kevin, “I do not care any more what people think of him and of me. I have had it with people expecting this, expecting that of me! As from this point onwards I am not flying. Period!” Kevin about face and left the Wing Commander’s office with the Colonel’s jaw dropped in surprise
“That little prick” whispered Forrester as he looked back at the data pad which contains Kevin’s resignation. At the end of reading Kevin’s resignation two small boxes appeared. One box had the word accept whereas the other had decline in the box.
“Too much to risk for Kevin” said Forrester to himself as he pressed the decline button. The datapad flash and the small viewscreen changed from Kevin’s resignation to a message stating that Captain Kevin Tolwyn’s request for resignation has been declined.
“Maybe another time” he whispered
 

Dahan

Rear Admiral
Chapter 3

Two days later…
Vespus Station Command Deck
Vespus system, Grills Quadrant, Enigma Sector.


“Transponder signal confirmed, Convoy V-Alpha 19 you are cleared to proceed to docking ports 1 and 2. Welcome to Vespus station.”
Commander Mikhail Darrow listened to the businesslike chatter of the numerous com officers and tried to figure out if they were really as calm as they sounded.
The fleet had been gone two days now, according to the communication they’d received, the Kilrathi would be moving into the Ghorah Khar in little over ten hours. Admiral Martinez had departed onboard the Bradshaw to help defend the system. If all went well, the Kats would be hopelessly outnumbered when they jumped in.
If all went well.
After all this time it still felt strange, the hasty fleet preparations, the tense rush to the system, all to defend a bunch of Kilrathi. If it was up to him they would have left them all to burn. A traitorous Kilrathi was just as much a waste of skin as any other kind.
Besides, he didn’t trust that communication which they’d just so happened to stumble upon. The whole thing seemed a bit too convenient. But the decision was the Admirals, not his, and the Admiral thought that the transmission was genuine, so as a result, there was nothing but one antiquated light carrier, a destroyer and a frigate left to protect Vespus.
Darrow pushed himself out of his chair for what must have been the twentieth time now. Part of him wished that he had gone with the rest of the fleet to Ghorah Khar, even if it was to defend Kilrathi, at least he’d be doing something instead of sitting on his arse waiting for news of the battle.
“Lieutenant Green, when is the Concordia due back?” He asked, simply for something to say.
“Another four hours sir.”
“Right.”
That was another thing that felt strange. The Concordia was the flagship of the Confederation fleet, but it was tasked with endless patrols of the backwaters. Hardly a fitting task for such a ship.
Then again, with the pounding she’d taken at the battle of Earth, there wasn’t a hell of a lot left for her to do. She wouldn’t last two weeks on the front lines.
You wouldn’t think it to look at her though. From outside, the Concordia still looked as impressive, (and as deadly), as she ever had. In the end, Darrow guessed that it was better for a ship to live long enough to be put out to Pasteur then to meet its end at the hands of a Kilrathi torpedo.
“Convoy V-Beta 4, you are cleared to disembark. Have a safe journey.”
“Acknowledged Vespus.”
Darrow checked his watch and bit back a groan as he realised that his shift lasted for a further two hours. He wasn’t sure if…
“Commander, a jump hole is opening on the far side of the system. Looks like the one to Cardell.”
Cardell? That was supposedly a Kilrathi system, but it had been pretty much empty for years. It was virtually worthless.
“Is anything scheduled?”
“No sir.”
Darrow didn’t like what he was hearing. Try as he might he couldn’t imagine why Confederate ships would enter the system from Cardell, and in the end he could come up with only one conclusion. They wouldn’t, and that meant…
“Red alert. All hands to battle stations. Launch all fighters and order the Griffin to scramble hers as well.” He paused, he didn’t even know if these were Kilrathi coming through the jump hole, but he didn’t want to wait to find out. If these were Kats, he wanted to find out. “Green, what are we looking at?”
“Unsure sir. I can’t tell.”
“Well find out!”
“Yes sir.”
A low pitched whine suddenly sounded throughout the command deck, accompanied by a dark red light, distantly, Darrow wondered if this was the first time the station had ever gone to red alert.
“Kilrathi signatures confirmed sir. Looks like two of their new heavy destroyers.” Green paused for a moment, then continued, “I’m also reading two enemy corvettes and. Oh shit, I’m reading one of their new fleet carriers sir.”
Dammit. They’d punch through the Griffin and her escorts. She was a Ranger class carrier for God’s sake. She predated the fucking war.
“Order the Chicago and the Simmons forward. Have them provide as much cover fire as they can for the fighters. We have to keep them at bay for as long as possible.”
“Aye sir.”
Neither of those ships would survive. Darrow felt the sickening realisation that he had just send over four hundred men and women to their deaths wash through him for a few moments before forcing himself to focus.
“Send a general distress call to any friendly ships in the area, get as many ships as you can here as soon as humanly possible.”
“Understood.” Green punched a few buttons on her consol then donned her headset.
“This is Vespus station calling any Confederation vessels. We are under attack by a Kilrathi carrier group and require immediate assistance. I repeat, we are under attack by a Kilrathi carrier group and require assistance.”
Darrow turned his attention to the tactical display which showed now showed a collection of pointed red dots descending upon the pitiful collection of blue ones which represented Vespus station. He had been right. The Kats had set them up, but he had expected them to ambush the fleet at Ghorah Khar, not come here.
The closest re-enforcements were four hours away. That was how long they had to hold out.

An hour later
TCS Concordia, Gunnery Control Room Delta,
Heaven’s Gate system, Enigma Quadrant


There was something strangely comforting about the stars, staring at them made it easy to forget about everything else around you. You could stare at them for as long as you wanted without having to bare the burdens of thought.
It had been a week now since Forrester had declined his resignation request. If nothing else he’d at least agreed to temporarily take him off the flight roster while he supposedly got his shit together. Everyone kept expecting him to break out of his self imposed state of depression and return to his duties with a smile.
But he couldn’t do it. Not anymore.
When he’d first joined the navy, he like everyone else had thought that scores of terrified Kilrathi would flee at the sight of him. Unlike everyone else however, he’d entered the academy as the nephew of Confed’s most decorated Admiral and for a time had basked in the reflected admiration for his uncle.
The combination of family influence and above average flying abilities had the secondary effect of making him the most pompous prick to ever sit in the cockpit of a fighter. At least at first. His first taste of real war under the command of Colonel Bonderevsky had done a lot to smash the arrogant child out of him and mould him into a halfway respectable pilot.
He’d tried to leave it all behind, all the pomposity, all the admiration and expectations that people forced upon him because of who his uncle was. Wherever he went he was forever finding idiots who expected him to be larger then life.
The battle of Earth had been one hell of an eye opener. He’d seen how the inept morons running the Confederation had opened the gates for the Kilrathi to waltz in and lay waste to the planet, and that’s exactly what they did.
He’d watched from the cockpit of his Rapier as the tiny pinpricks of light exploded across Earth’s surface, taking with the Miami, Paris, Boston, dozens of cities, all reduced to rubble.
Kevin had never even considered that the Kilrathi would break through to Earth; he’d always assumed that no matter how long it took, humanity would ultimately prevail because, well, they were the side he belonged to. He didn’t mean that final victory would have anything to do with him; he’d just always assumed that they’d win, because they deserved to.
He’d let go of that daydream at Earth, so many people had died and they’d barely been able to push the Kilrathi away. Now the Kats had regrouped and were coming back to finish what they started, and Confed could barely keep them at bay.
And what did the people around him do? They lounged about on this floating wreck, got drunk, joked about how they had life easy patrolling the backwaters, even after that last attack which had sent Jeffrey to the grave. They still looked at him like they’d just seen a celebrity.
Jeffrey’s death had been the final straw. After watching his Sabre explode, he could barely bring himself to look at a fighter. He was sick to death of fighting and watching everyone around him die, but he was more sick of the way people looked at him, as if they expected him to carry the torch or lead them all to a glorious victory. Granted not everyone looked at him that way, and in truth a lot of people were looking at him as if he was a selfish git who couldn’t handle the hard truth of war. But they were still looking at him. Why the hell did they have to do that?

TCS Concordia, Command deck,
Heaven’s Gate system, Enigma Quadrant.


“I repeat, we are under attack by a Kilrathi carrier group and require immediate assistance.”
Admiral Cloureau stared at the woman on the screen and cursed under his breath.
“Helm, bring engines to full power, I want to be in Vespus as soon as humanly possible.”
The Helmsman turned around and stared at the Admiral as if he’d just asked him to put a cactus down his trousers.
“What the fuck are you playing at Lieutenant?”
“Sir, you know what the station’s technicians told us. If we push the engines too hard we could fly the ship apart. This old bucket can’t…”
“This old bucket may be the only thing that can save Vespus station. I ordered you to bring the engines to full power. Now fucking well do it!”
“Yes sir.” The lieutenant squeaked.
There was an audible groan as the ship came to full acceleration. Cloureau knew that there was a strong possibility that the Concordia could be destroyed in this rush to Vespus by its own reactor. But he didn’t have a choice. There were thousands of people on Vespus station who might just be saved if he could get the Concordia there in time. There were far less people onboard Concordia and, harsh though it was, she did not matter as much as the station.
“Colonel Forrester.”
“Sir.” Forrester replied, stepping up beside the Admiral.
“Prepare your fighters for a magnum launch. Scramble every last man. I want your ships in the air two seconds after we reach Vespus. Understood?”
“Understood sir.” He lifted his hand to his forehead in a salute. The Admiral returned the salute, and then Forrester moved to the communication’s station.
“Lieutenant Venner, patch me through to the rest of the fleet.”
“Aye sir.” Venner replied before hitting a number of buttons on her console.
“All pilots, this is Colonel Forrester, report to the briefing room immediately. I repeat, all pilots report to the briefing room immediately.”

* * *

It took Kevin’s brain a few moments to comprehend what he’d just heard over the intercom.
Distantly, some part of him felt a twinge of concern, but it was soon drowned out by whatever it was that had taken a hold of him following Jeffrey’s death.
Who knows, maybe this ship will be taken out and take me with it. That’ll end my problems if nothing else.
For what must have been an hour, Kevin simply stood there and stared at the passing star field, looking up only occasionally when he heard the creaking of the hull.
“What the hell are you playing at?”
The voice startled Kevin from his trance; he looked around and found Stingray, dressed in a flight suit with a helmet in his hands, staring at him with obvious anger in his eyes.
Stingray had tried his best to be supportive. But nothing he’d said or tried had been able to break his friend from the self imposed pit of self loathing and self destructiveness. Now, with Vespus station under attack and everyone’s life on the line. He’d given up trying the soft touch.
“Hello Dirk.” Tolwyn said feebly, trying to force normalcy into his voice and failing miserably.
“Don’t you know what’s happening?”
“No.”
“Vespus station is under attack. All pilots, even self pitying half dead malcontents have been ordered to prepare for a magnum launch.”
“Right.”
“Can’t you pull your head out of your arse for two seconds Kevin? There are thousands of lives at stake on that station. We need every good pilot we can get out there. Especially you.”
“Me?” Kevin’s fists clenched tightly on the rail he was leaning on and he turned his head to face Stingray, “Listen Dirk. I’ve had it with this war. Selfish or not, self pitying malcontent or not, I don’t care and you know why? Because pretty soon I’m going to be dead, and I won’t have to put up with this shit any more.”
There was a moment’s silence in which Stingray just stared at his friend in disbelief. How could anyone, let alone him be that callous.
“You’re right.” He said at last, “Let me tell you something Lone Wolf,” He spat the last two words out like they were orange pips, “You’re not going to have to worry about anything for long, because if the Kilrathi don’t kill you. I will.”
“No you won’t.” Kevin replied with a faint, hint of something that might have been a grin.
Stingray sighed, Kevin had seen through his bluff and he was out of ideas. There was nothing for it but to get ready and hope for the best.
“What happened to you man?” He asked as he made his way out of the room.

Two hours later

The groaning had become more frequent. The intercom had called for fire control teams to proceed to all of the engine rooms, as had medical teams. The ship was blowing up in everyone’s faces, but still it held its course and speed.
Part of Kevin was, and had been for a while now, screaming at him to get out of the gunnery control room and get to a fighter, to, as Stingray had said, pull his head out of his arse.
The door behind him opened with a hiss and Kevin’s eyes clenched tightly shut.
“I don’t have a lot of time left Captain so I’ll be frank. The Concordia will be jumping to Vespus in less then an hour. Personally I think you’re in no fit state to fly, but I want you out there anyway. At least pretend you’re a pilot.”
Kevin turned to face the Wing Commander standing behind him. He wanted to tell him where to shove it, but the words wouldn’t come. The shame had at last caught up with him.
“Look Kevin,” Forrester said, taking a step closer. “I know how you feel.”
“How could you sir?”
“I lost my entire fucking family!” Forrester virtually shouted the words at Kevin who was startled by his commander’s sudden anger.
“You?”
“They were at Miami when the Kilrathi hit Earth last year. My parents, my wife, my son, two daughters, brother, everyone. They all stayed on Earth because it was supposed to be safe.”
“I’m sorry sir.” The words sounded stupid in Kevin’s ears. When he first met Forrester, he would never have guessed that the man had lost so much as a goldfish to the Kilrathi, he just didn’t have the same raw anger that he’d seen in so many other pilots.
“I don’t want your condolences. Fact of the matter is that for a long time, I wasted away, just like you’re doing. I thought about ending it all because, well, it was the only thing that I thought would make the pain go away for good. And do you know why I didn’t? Why I’m still here?”
Kevin shook his head.
“Because, and I admit this with no shame whatsoever, I want revenge. I want to tear every last one of those furry bastards apart with my own bare hands. But you know what else I realised one day. There are more people in the world then my lost loved ones. I swore an oath to the Confederation to defend the innocent, and no matter how much it hurts, that’s what I’m going to do. And that’s what I want you to do.”
Kevin stared at Forrester for a long time. The thoughts abruptly came back to him, seeing Jeffrey’s Sabre explode, seeing Earth get pounded by Kilrathi warheads, serving on Tarawa and watching the people around him die left right and centre, and the reason why he’d done it.
Oh shit.
Because if he didn’t, innocent people were going to die.
Shit.
How many people would die now if he didn’t get out there and do his part. Like Stingray said, they needed everyone, and he couldn’t in good conscience ignore his duty to those he’d sworn to protect.
Oh shit. How could I have been so stupid?
Kevin looked into the angry eyes of his Wing Commander and the shame hastily receded.
“What do you need me to do sir?”
“You’ll fly one of the new Hellcat mediums.” Forrester said, his expression unchanged, “Your job, assuming we make it to Vespus, will be to provide cover for the bomber wings.”
“I understand.”
“Good. Now get suited up and get to your fighter Captain.”
The two turned towards the door and made their way out of the gunnery room.

Hellcat 101

It felt good to be back in a cockpit. Very good. Despite the nervous anticipation that came with a battle being only a matter of minutes away.
Forrester and Stingray were right. He had a duty. Whatever shit fate threw in his path, it was his job to do whatever he could to keep the Confederation standing, and to keep its citizens safe.
Add to that, he wanted a shot at the Kilrathi, he wanted to make them pay for their cowardly attack on Earth, the shameless massacre of civilians. He promised himself that he’d kill one for each of Forrester’s family, and then one for each city they’d destroyed.
“Well, well. Looks like you decided to pull your weight after all.”
Kevin turned to face the helmeted head on his com screen. The word ‘Stingray’ was written over the visor.
“Dirk,” he cut himself off, the shame, back for another pass chocking his voice, “Dirk, I’m sorry for...”
Stingray raised a hand,
“Forget it. You’re here now. Let’s kick those furry bastards back to Kilrah.”
“Right behind you.”
“Attention all hands, prepare for transition to normal space.”
Here we go.
 

Dahan

Rear Admiral
Chapter 4

Dralthi Lead,
Deathstroke’s Pride Squadron
Vespus system, Enigma Sector Grills quadrant
TCS Concordia ETA: 1 hour


The terrans were throwing everything they had in the way of the Kilrathi in an attempt to stave off their destruction for a few more moments. But it was not nearly enough. They were woefully outnumbered and if that was not enough, their ships were outclassed by the new generation of Kilrathi vessels that were advancing towards them.
Easy prey Dhakhath thought as he spared another approving glance at the cockpit of his new fighter, Just like all the others.
There were six and a quarter eights of terran fighters, mostly Rapiers, Sabres and Ferrets. There were almost twice as many Kilrathi fighters. The terrans would be swept aside with ease.
“Hunt leader to all fighters, engage at will. Deliver an utak’s death to these vermin.”
Pleased snarls were his response.
Dhakhath slammed a gloved fist onto the acceleration lever and his ship’s afterburners came to life with a noise that almost echoed his own snarl of anticipation. His wingmen fell a few kilometres behind him. So much the better, the first kill of this battle would be his.
He found his first target in the form of an Epee. A truly worthless craft if ever there was one. Of course he would expect nothing less from the apes. The ship was one of three which was advancing on him. No doubt the fools thought they could defeat him with superior numbers.
The ‘lock’ alarm sounded. This was to be expected. Dhakhath didn’t like the idea of missiles. It seemed too distant from the hunt, too easy. It was certainly no substitute from slaying an enemy at close range with cannons in much the same way that cannons were no substitute for a warrior’s claws. He had only used them twice before. Only twice in countless battles.
A decoy and a well timed climb dealt with the missile. Dhakhath then swung around and descended upon the three terran craft from above, the two flanking Epees turned away, but he was only interested in the wing leader.
The Confederation fighter turned about and fired twice in his direction. The shots were rushed and both missed. Dhakhath grinned, this creature was no warrior. He was frightened prey lashing feebly at the hunter.
The Epee passed Dhakhath’s ship. He swung around once more and found the fighter retreating into the distance. He hit his afterburners and followed the terran whilst quickly acquired the target in his sights.
His first shots ripped away the weak shields of the enemy fighter. His next ones tore at the engines.
The ape ejected, and Dhakhath’s mouth twisted into a familiar bloodthirsty stare. It was just like it had been with the others. Only a handful of terrans who had ever engaged him had had the courage to die with their ship as a true warrior should. The rest were like this one, shamed prey who clung to their miserable lives with whatever tricks their cowardice provided them with.
Now he was nothing more then target practice for a warrior of Kilrathi.
One shot, and then all that was left of the ape was vapour and a change in number on the Flavjath’s killboard.

Ferret 103
Eye of Odin squadron
TCS Griffin, Enigma system, Grills quadrant


“Firing missile!”
The heat seeker shot out into the distance. 2nd Lieutenant Rebecca Juvonen offered another silent prayer to the God of Confederate missiles as her eyes tracked the progress of her target on the radar. This ship was listed simply as ‘unknown’, but from what she’d seen of it, Rebecca was all but certain she that she was dealing with a light fighter. It was an evil looking thing, and almost certainly stronger then her own ship.
This fact however did not save the Kilrathi fighter when the heat seeker reached its tailpipe. The explosion tore the fighter in two and scattered what little remained of the pilot across the system.
“See,” Came the almost steady voice of her wing leader over the com, “piece of ca-“
The voice fizzled out and to her right, Juvonen saw a ball of fire which four seconds ago had been her wing leader’s ferret, vanish behind her craft.
“Pitiful creatures,” Shouted a jubilant Kilrathi face over the com, “You are nothing before us.”
This did nothing to help the ever rising tide of panic that was sweeping through Juvonen. She wasn’t cut out for this, she was a militia pilot for Christ’s sake. She’d been dumped on Vespus after she’d been conscripted when the war started up again.
The chime of the missile lock light brought Juvonen back to the battle at hand, and the missile from the Darket which had taken out her wing leader only moments before took her out of it a second later.

Vespus Station Command Deck
Vespus system, Grills Quadrant, Enigma Sector.


They were dropping like flies.
Commander Darrow kept one eye glued to the map screen which was showing Confederate fighters blinking out of existence as more and more Kilrathi fighters plunged out of the carrier.
The pilots were doing their best, he knew that, but they were outnumbered, outclassed and for the most part they were rookies. Low scoring academy graduates, militia and corporate conscripts, all manner of men and women who had never fought the Kilrathi before.
The Griffin was in bad shape. No shortage of red dots on the map screen were converged around her. What fighters she had providing close air support were either dead or not far from it.
As if in answer to his thoughts, the next thing he heard was the voice of the Griffin’s com officer.
“Mayday, mayday, this is the TCS Griffin, we have taken critical damage and are evac-“. And then the Confederation had one less carrier.
A low snarl passed through the command deck of Vespus. Darrow could relate. Everyone felt pretty much helpless, not far away there were men and women fighting and dying to keep them safe, and all they could do now was sit back and watch.
“Order the remaining capitol ships to pull back to our position.” Darrow shouted, the frustration evident in his voice, “we’ll make our st-“
“Commander,” Lieutenant Green was virtually shrieking, “A wing of four unidentified fighters is coming straight at us. I think they’re bombers sir.”
“Shit. Have all defence turrets stand by to destroy incoming torpedoes. Get some fighters in their way.”
“Yes sir.”
“Commander!” Bellowed Lieutenant Michael Karyo, his voice sounded conflicted, as if he was unsure whether he was relieved or terrified. “Something’s coming through the Heaven’s Gate jump point!”

Paktahn Lead
Blood Fire Squadron


As bombing runs went, this one was dissatisfying in that is was too easy. There were too few terran ships to contend with and their target’s weapons could not even reach them before they launched their torpedoes. Where was the glory in such an effortless kill?
Perhaps seeing the target’s burning shell would be more satisfying.
With a low chime signifying the acquisition of a torpedo lock, Third fang Kulron nar Caxki placed his hand over the firing control andsignalled to the rest of his wing.
“All fighters, fire at will, deliver to –“ A short burst of static followed by the voice of Dhakhath Deathstroke interrupted Kulron’s orders.
“Attention all bombers, this is flight leader Dhakhath nar Caxki. The Flavjath has detected the approach of the ape carrier Concordia. The starbase cannot escape us. Focus your fire on the Concordia until it is destroyed. Then return to the base for the final kill.”
The Concordia? Now that would make a glorious kill.

Hellcat 101
Vespus system, Grills Quadrant, Enigma Sector.


“Hellcats 101 to 130 you are cleared to launch.”
With a reflexive movement of his left arm, Kevin brought his ship to full acceleration and shot out of the Concordia’s flight deck. He couldn’t help but notice on his way out that the charge to Vespus had taken more of a toll on the Concordia then he realised. There were burn marks and debris all over the flight deck, half the ship had been reduced to emergency lighting. A ruptured power line running through D deck had resulted in a lengthy detour to the equipment room from Gunnery Control.
Kevin shuddered, remembering the shameful state he’d been in a little over an hour ago. He put the thought aside, there was no time for that now. A fighter was heading his way. It was one of the new generation of Dralthi. Behind it were two of the new Kilrathi light fighters.
“Lancer” He said to his wingman, “Break and attack, see if you can pick off one of the light fighters. I’ll take out the Dralthi and join you in a second.”
“Understood.” Came the response.
The enemy fighter was closing. Soon a green crosshair appeared in Lone Wolf’s cockpit and a stream of gunfire shot out in his direction from the Dralthi. Kevin sent his own ship into a roll, dancing around the line of enemy fire like a maypole. When he was within 3km he released an Imrec missile which through a stroke of luck struck the Dralthi directly in the cockpit. What was left of the enemy fighter drifted harmlessly towards the Concordia until it was taken out by a few gunshots from 2nd Lieutenant Ben Campbell.
Lancer seemed to be fairing quite well against her target. By the time Lone Wolf got to her she was already tearing into its rear armour. The second Darket was coming his way from directly in front of her. The Kilrathi was apparently weary of hitting his comrade since he hadn’t yet fired.
Kevin let loose a few shots, equally weary of hitting his own wingman. The Darket hastily climbed as the first shots impacted on its shields. Kevin continued to fire into its engines as he chased after it. The pilot’s evasive manoeuvres became more and more sluggish as more and more shots landed in its aft section and as the ship began to break up around him, the Kilrathi pilot ejected. Lancer’s own target went down soon afterwards.
The capitol ships were quite a way off. Three separate wings of Broadswords were already moving towards them, with more still launching. Others were still launching. There was no shortage of Kilrathi fighters already moving towards the bombers.
“Kevin, change of plans.” Forrester’s deadpan voice uttered over the com, “We’ve got bombers heading towards the Concordia. Take echo and delta wings and take them out.”
“Understood sir.”
Kevin hurriedly switched targets in his display until he came across the bombers Forrester was speaking of. By the looks of things there were two wings of ships heading straight for the Concordia. Each wing had five ships each.
“O.k. guys, you heard the man. Me, Lancer and Delta wing will engage the group closest to the Concordia. Echo wing has the second group. Don’t let any get a torpedo lock.”
With that, Kevin hit his ship’s afterburners and charged at full speed towards the lead bomber in the group. The battle was picking up now. Sabres, Arrows and Hellcats were tearing into Dralthis, Darkets and Vaktoths. (And vies-versa.) If nothing else they seemed to be attracting attention away from the base.
An Imrec missile deterred the lead Paktahn from his bombing run. The other ships continued on course unabated until they came under fire from Confederate defenders.
Kevin began to fire into the rear of his target, only to find his job hindered by the bomber’s rear turret. He could evade the shots easily enough with a few well timed strafes and rolls, but this meant that he had to get the target back in his sights. This took time, and time they did not have. They had to take down these bombers quickly.
Calling up another two Imrec missiles, Kevin waited until the bomber fired again with its rear turret, minimising the risk of having his missiles shot down by the enemy, and fired.
As the two missiles struck, the bomber went up in a momentary cloud of flames that soon parted, leaving only debris.
Kevin barely registered this kill. He called up a relatively undamaged bomber and gave chase. He was tempted to send another missile off, but felt he should try to conserve them. The Hellcat wasn’t generously supplied with missiles and there were still more then enough Kilrathi ships about to make life difficult. He’d need his missiles.
The Concordia was growing all the while in his view screen. It wouldn’t be long now before Kilrathi torpedoes started locking on.
“My ship’s done for. I’m ejecting.” Kevin wasn’t sure who the pilot was who’d said that, but he guessed they were from either delta or echo wing. And that they now had one less fighter standing between the already damaged Concordia and destruction.
“Why ape does your kind refuse to die as a warrior should with their ship?” Kevin turned to face the Kilrathi face on his com screen and was about to close the channel when the face spoke again.
“No matter, there is no escape when one battles me.”
Sickening realisation sunk in. Whoever had just announced their ejection had just been blasted to vapour by this Kilrathi. Disgust soon gave way to anger, at the same time it occurred to Kevin that they couldn’t afford to ignore any escorts that the bombers might pick up.
“Attention all ships,” he said over the com, “I’m peeling off to take some heat off our tails.”
It didn’t take him long to find the Kilrathi in question. Though the Kilrathi were far from being above taking pot shots at ejected pilots. Dhakhath Deathstroke was the only one that was famous for it.
The word Deathstroke hung above Kevin’s right VDU, his ships sensors had identified the markings on his fighter as belonging to this particular Kilrathi ace. It wasn’t a question of pride or a fancy addition to a record that had made Lone Wolf turn back, if Dhakhath was trailing his fighters then they wouldn’t last long. He had to die. Now.
It seemed that Dhakhath was coming his way. No doubt he’d intended to draw Kevin out of the pack. But this wasn’t going to be an easy kill for the furry bastard, one way or the other.
The first shots came at Kevin. He managed to roll around the first volleys in the same was as with the first Dralthi, but Dhakhath soon compensated and started landing hits on his forward shields.
Kevin strafed out of the firing line and unleashed a round of neutron and ion blasts in the direction of the enemy. The first few shots hit home, but Dhakhath soon turned and afterburned away.
Kevin gave chase and fired another missile, deciding that a Kilrathi ace warranted the use of one. A decoy and a swift descent dealt with the missile, and soon Kevin found the Dralthi accelerating back towards him. For a moment he thought that Dhakhath intended to ram him. He pulled to the left, feeling the impact of numerous gunshots in his ventral shields and armour as he did so. He was soon able to afterburn out of the way, but his shield system had taken damage as a result of this attack.
Another round of gunshots slammed into his rear shields, but not enough to cause any serious damage. The next thing Kevin saw was Dhakhath’s fighter passing overhead, displaying its vulnerable engines. He hovered in front of him for a few moments, making a few feeble shows of evasive action.
He couldn’t help but seethe, The Kat was toying with him. Giving him what looked like an opportunity to strike back, only to snatch it away as soon as the fireworks started.
Still, what could you do?
Kevin fired into his enemy’s rear shields, and continued to stay on his tail and land shots on him when he turned and afterburned upwards. Lone Wolf it seemed was a far better marksman then Dhakhath gave him credit for.
The shields on this Dralthi were markedly better then they were on the first one Kevin had ripped apart. It took almost ten seconds for them to fail completely. When they did, Dhakhath brought his ship to a complete stop.
His opponent had time for one pained gasp before pulling upwards hastily and accelerating away. He had seen this tactic before, but somehow he didn’t expect a Kilrathi ace to risk his life so recklessly. From what he’d heard they always seemed to carry a super-vamped ‘greater then thou’ mentality which dictated against such actions.
And that assumption had given the ace yet another clear shot at his engines.
“Impressive terran.” Dhakhath conceded in a hushed mumble, “You have earned something rare indeed.”
With that, Kevin’s lock light sprang to life. On his radar he saw two yellow dots coming his way. There was no way he could survive two missile hits. He wasn’t even sure about one, not with the damage his shields had taken.
He pulled up and released two decoys. The first one fooled one of the heat seeker missiles, the second one however did not fare as well and the missile continued to close. Kevin’s hasty and chaotic evasive manoeuvres only served to lessen the gap between himself and the missile.
A shadow passed over Kevin’s cockpit, making him duck instinctively. He looked up and saw that another Hellcat had passed him, coming to a dangerously close proximity in the process. The next thing he noticed was that his ‘lock’ alarm was no longer beeping. The missile was still in action though, Kevin could see it on the radar, it seemed to be tracking a blue dot.
Realisation sunk in again, that pilot had presented his own heat signature to the missile and got it to follow him instead. Kevin felt a momentary relief, but this died out when he realised his saviour had not managed to lose the missile.
“Listen up Kevin.” Forrester said over the com, his voice carrying a strange and incomprehensible tone, “My decoy launcher is trashed, I won’t…”
“Sir, eject!” Kevin found himself shouting as he discovered who this mystery pilot was, “Get out of there!”
“My ejection system’s gone. I can’t evade this thing. Listen to me Kevin, I want to die saving the life of a pilot under my command. Someone I can be proud of, not a self pitying corpse. Don’t let me-“
And with a short hiss of static, Colonel Nathan Forrester ceased to be.
 

Dahan

Rear Admiral
Chapter 5

Hellcat 101
Vespus system, Grills Quadrant, Enigma Sector.


With no air to feed it the fireball that had consumed Colonel Forrester and his fighter was gone in an instant. The charred debris soon became invisible next to the blackness of space. Soon there was nothing in Kevin’s viewscreen to suggest that Forrester had even existed, let alone sacrificed his life to save him.
For an instant it was too much. The typical exasperation which he typically felt in the face of the hero worship which everyone piled on him escalated to an angry loathing. Now people were throwing themselves in the way of missiles for him. To save him. The thought was almost enough to cause him to vomit in his flight helmet.
“Now this is new.” Uttered Dhakhath in genuine astonishment over the com. In Kevin’s current state of mind he could have finished him off with ease, but he seemed to be waiting for the terran to strike again before finishing him off. “An ape dying honourably in battle is rare enough, but such a sacrifice is unheard of. Unless of course it was just a freak accident.”
A snarl escaped Kevin’s mouth as the callous series of growls that masqueraded as a voice trundled out of the com system. The disgust he had felt promptly gave way to fury.
“It was an accident wasn’t it terran? Why would a cowardly beast from an unworthy species forsake their own life to save your worthless pelt?”
Kevin’s hand slammed into the flight stick and his fist closed around it. It felt good, Kevin thought distantly, to feel his finger on the trigger again. Dhakhath’s fighter was still sitting motionless, and less then 6 kilometres from his own Hellcat.
Before he’d even lined the target up in his sights Kevin fired. His mind was having a hard time focusing on such things as target alignment or evasive manoeuvres. All that mattered was making this furry bastard die.
The rushed gunfire made it clear to Dhakhath that his target was done sitting around. He brought his ship to maximum acceleration and began to veer to the left, closing the distance between himself and Kevin and at the same time keeping a distance between himself and the incoming gunfire.
Angry as Kevin was however, he was also a professional. After a few seconds the rage began to give way to a cold and almost distant focus. He strafed to the right to meet Dhakhath head on and at the same time let loose an Image recognition missile.
There was too little distance between the two ships to allow Dhakhath to evade the missile. It slammed into his front shields and reduced them to 35% efficiency. Kevin’s second wave of ion and neutron blasts weakened them further.
After a second or two of this, the Dralthi in Kevin’s viewscreen afterburned past his fighter. Kevin cursed, but was not truly surprised. Taking down a Kilrathi ace was not going to be easy. But easy or not. Deathstroke was going to die.
“I tire of you terran.” Deathstroke said, bringing his ship around for a run at Kevin’s fighter, “You have stood in my way long enough.”
“You’ve been breathing long enough.” Tolwyn replied, “You’re going to pay for what you’ve done you furry shit ball.”
“Fool! How can I pay a penance for my share in the honourable quest to annihilate your prey-like warriors and clear the way to your worlds which rightfully belong to us?”
Dhakhath opened fire on Kevin who pulling his craft in random directions in an attempt to avoid getting hit. There were some shots that got through, but not nearly enough to do any serious damage. He considered launching another missile, but the thought stuck in his throat. One was bad enough. No terran would force him to fall back on such an unworthy tactic twice.
His enemy’s face appeared once more on the com screen. At first he couldn’t identify the strange sound he was making, he thought that perhaps some of his ship’s equipment may have exploded in his vicinity and this was some strange terran hoot of pain. But there was just enough about the sound that was recognisable for Dhakhath to eventually recognise it as laughter. Once it died down though, the voice that he heard was anything but cheerful.
“Honour? You’re going to throw that word around you pathetic little utak? You’re only famous because you shoot down people who can’t shoot back. Even your own comrades don’t stoop that low.”
Yeah, tell that to the people of Paris, Miami, Hanover…
Kevin knew that no shortage of Kilrathi probably shot at Confederation ejection pods, or worse, but he was betting that this would anger Dhakhath, and that’s what he had to do.
The two fighters had drawn close together, Dhakhath was already moving to avoid a collision. Unlike a number of his kinsmen of lower classes, he saw no desire to sacrifice himself for the Empire. There was no need.
But it was hard to turn himself away this time. This terran was not like the others. He should have died by now. He should have been swept aside like the others and ended his sickening life as target practice.
It didn’t matter, he would prove himself once more, no matter how long it took. This terran was going to die. He would prove who among them was the true utak.
As the ships passed, Dhakhath began to bring his ship around, only to find Kevin’s cannons tearing into his shields all the while.
A sickening realisation set it that hit Dhakhath like a claw to the throat. He had become careless, he had allowed this terran to bait him, and in focusing on his thirst for silencing the terran, he had not paid enough attention to his actions.
He moved his paw to the afterburner controls, but part of him knew that it was too little, too late.
With one final missile through his target’s weakened shields, Kevin watched in triumph as Dhakhath Deathstroke paid the ultimate price for his war crimes.

Broadsword 401
Vespus system, Grills Quadrant, Enigma Sector.


“I’m reading four bogeys heading our way from five o’ clock. Rhino, have your guys intercept them.”
“Will do major.”
The Kilrathi carrier was fully visible in the bomber’s view screen. Unfortunately so were numerous explosions and gun shots, suggesting that there was no shortage of enemy fighters that could still make life difficult.
Annoyingly, the shipments of replacement fighters that had been delivered to the Concordia didn’t include the new Longbows. Even if their top speed was 700kps, there was still something appealing about the idea of a bomber with afterburners. The bulky, oversized crate that he was flying now seemed to cry out ‘come get me’ to the Kilrathi.
The radar looked pretty clear, though that wasn’t saying much, dots on the radar could be anywhere from ten to ten thousand kilometres away. To get a clearer idea of what was and what wasn’t a threat, he’d need to cycle through the contacts on his tactical computer, and that would take time that he didn’t have now. He was seconds away from being in torpedo range and every second in this battle would count. If they took out the carrier then the Kilrathi would feel it on the battlefield, with their home base destroyed they’d be demoralised and might even decide to run back to whichever jump point they’d come from.
Or alternatively they may decide that all was lost and start ramming everything in sight. A lack of afterburners would probably be something to worry about if that started happening.
A face appeared on his com screen, the helmet bore the markings of Thor’s Hammer squadron, the Concordia’s two broadsword squadrons, they’d been sent to deal with the destroyer escorts.
“This is Captain Biggs, our fighter escort is history, we’ve got Kats coming in from all sides, we need assistance. Repeat, we need assistaaarrgh!” The transmission died with a static hiss.
“Rhino.” Stingray shouted, by this point Rhino was undoubtedly in the midst of combat and the com screen might be an easy thing for him not to notice. “Divert some of your wing to cover the broadswords from Thor’s Hammer, they’re getting torn to pieces.”
“Understood sir,” came the response, Captain Vincent ‘Rhino’ Cunningham’s eyes seemed to be alternating between the radar and the com screen, “We’ll be a bit shorthanded though, some of the Dralthi we’re tangling it with might make it to you.”
“Understood, we’ll keep an eye out.”
The Concordia fighters, coupled with the surviving ones from the base’s defence force should have easily outnumbered the enemy, but most of the Confederation fighters were busy trying to keep said carrier and base intact. They didn’t seem quite as interested in protecting their own big guns however, and most of their fighters were busy escorting their own bombers, whose lives were doubtlessly made more difficult by the arrival of the Concordia.
The pre-lock chime resounded throughout the Broadsword’s cockpit. Stingray double checked his weapons terminal and confirmed that he had two Lances ready to fly. If all went well then they’d soon be sending a total of ten torpedoes at that carrier. That was almost certainly overkill, but they had no shortage of the things and there was a lot that had to be done quickly.
As per usual however, things weren’t destined to be that simple. The Broadsword began to rock under a barrage of gunfire from a Dralthi that had managed to give Rhino’s Hellcats the slip.
“Shit!” Screamed Stingray’s rear turret gunner, “Shit! Shit!”
“Calm down!” He screamed at the terrified 2nd Lieutenant he’d apparently been given the added task of babysitting. “Focus on your job.”
As he said this, Stingray pulled back on the flight controls and turned rolled his ship to port, giving his attacker a somewhat target to hit, at the same time he began jerking his craft in various random directions in an attempt to evade his pursuer while at the same time maintain his torpedo lock.
“Oh fuck, we can’t eject, we’re…”
With a charged torpedo attached to its hull, the explosion from the destroyed Broadsword was amplified considerably. The resulting explosion shook a number of the Broadswords, including Stingray’s which had been positioned right next to it. His ship broke into a spin and it was only after four rotations that he managed to pull it back under his control.
“Damn it!” He shouted, then thinking better of ranting, he lined the carrier back up on the view screen and once again found himself waiting for the lock chime.
The lock chime was this time distorted by an indignant sounding static. Stingray checked the damage report and discovered that shield generator had shorted out, the malfunction was reparable but it looked like those repairs would take at least four minutes. That was more then enough time for a Kilrathi fighter to come along and finish him off.
Without waiting for an enemy to make his presence felt, Stingray again started taking the same kind of evasive manoeuvres as he had before, any enemy trying to shoot him down would hopefully find it that much harder.
“Torpedoes away!” Shouted one of his wingmen. Minx maybe.
The Dralthi that had pestered him before had not given up on its target. Two neutron blasts punctured one of the wings, the others all passed underneath the bomber as Stingray tilted it upwards.
One of his turret gunners, a woman known by most as Phoenix, started unloading neutron blasts of her own at the Dralthi that had been hounding them. Her shots were rushed and targeting was difficult with the pilot’s erratic evasive manoeuvres, nevertheless the Dralthi’s pilot found that drawing up a line of fire was now somewhat harder with gunshots heading his way.
The lock chime sounded at long last, almost at the same time however, the ‘incoming missile’ alarm began to sound throughout the bomber.
Stingray let loose a chaff pod, and then a second one. Neither of them seemed to deter the heat seeker that the Dralthi had fired at them.
“Everyone eject!” He shouted to his two co-pilots. Almost lunging forward, he slammed his fist down on the firing controls for the two torpedoes.
The ship shuddered as the warheads sped away. Stingray didn’t waste any time, with his shields down he knew that the missile would finish off the Broadsword.
As the ship heaved and began to break apart under the heat seeker’s impact, he reached forward and tugged on the ejection cord with all his strength. Less then two seconds before a secondary explosion consumed the bomber, Stingray’s ejection pod shot out into space. Relief at being alive as well as the typical blind panic that accompanies any ejection were his first reactions as they normally were. After he’d calmed down somewhat however, he realised two things, one was that he didn’t know if his gunners had gotten out safely, the other was that he was much closer to the carrier then he would have liked. Not close enough to be within tractor range or (hopefully) the explosion, but maybe close enough to get some grief from the shockwave. Maybe.

Hellcat 101
Vespus system, Grills Quadrant, Enigma Sector.


Kevin had used the last of his missiles to deter one of the Paktahn bombers from its run on the Concordia. A decoy had dealt with it effortlessly enough and the bomber had proceeded onwards undeterred.
The rear turret was making it hard to land any substantial hits on the enemy’s rear shields, and as tempting as it was to stand still for a few seconds and take one or two hits so that he could send a volley up the bomber’s tail pipe, he knew that there were enemy escorts about and that it wouldn’t be hard for one of them to take advantage of his moment of straight and steady flying. He needed to stay alive if only to take these bombers out.
He rolled his ship in an attempt to evade the mass driver turret on his target and at the same time keep his nose pointed towards it. This new tactic fared better then his previous ones and as his rear shields were on the verge of degrading, the Kilrathi pilot at last conceded defeat and began to peel off.
It wouldn’t be long before that pilot would be lining his ship up with the Concordia again. He had to take him out quickly.
Kevin continued his barrage even as the turret blasts began to slam into his front shields, fortunately the bomber in his sights broke apart with his forward shield only forty percent reduced.
All the Confederation’s fighters were in the air now, and the Kilrathi were beginning to feel that fact. Red dots were becoming progressively rarer, and it had been a while since he’d heard any trouble over the com from any of the ship’s bomber pilots.
As if in answer to his train of though, a blinding white flash illuminated the entire area. Initial fears as to whether the Concordia or Vespus station had been destroyed soon gave way to triumph as Kevin noticed in his rear view display that the Kilrathi carrier, the command hub of their raiding force, was now in two pieces.
A celebratory howl sounded from all assembled Confederation pilots. Things were certainly looking up now.

Paktahn Lead
Blood Fire Squadron


“No!”
Kulron nar Caxki slammed his fist aimlessly into his flight controls, accomplishing nothing except hurting it and jettisoning a decoy.
This was unacceptable, the terrans had swarmed their fighters, most of his wing was gone and now the Flavjath had been destroyed. How could this be? They’d caught the terrans completely off guard, they had chased after the offered bait like the stupid prey that they were, now the Concordia had appeared at what he now realized was the opportune time to catch him and his comrades off guard.
The apes may have the satisfaction of claiming the Flavjath, maybe they’d even manage to destroy the entire raiding force, but he would make sure that his people were delivered a greater prize. The Concordia would burn before the day was done.
“Forgive my failure master.” These were the last words that Kulron’s only remaining wingman parted with. It wouldn’t be long before the terrans turned on him. Thus far he and his gunner had been able to best this cumbersome Sabre pilot, but there were plenty of ape pilots in the area. He didn’t have long, and it was doubtful he’d have time for a torpedo lock.
Gunshots started to pound down on his shields as he pulled his ship around and once again lined up the ape carrier in his sights. It had been moving towards the base all this time, now it was a green and grey hulk in front of the orange and red planet. It looked like it had already taken some damage, though he was sure none of his fellow pilots had been able to strike at it.
Claxons began to sound, he had missiles incoming, the apes thought to deal with him quickly, they would doubtlessly claim him, but it would not avail them.
With one hasty check on his targeting crosshair, Kulron fired four torpedoes at the Concordia without waiting for them to acquire a lock. In the next instant, concentrated fire from four different Confederation fighters destroyed him, his gunner and his ship.

TCS Concordia, Command deck,
Heaven’s Gate system, Enigma Quadrant.


“All flak turrets, take those torpedoes out!”
That bomber’s pilot was either incredibly lucky or had godlike aim, he couldn’t have had more then two seconds to line up the Concordia in his sights. But that no longer mattered, what mattered was stopping those torpedoes.
Apart from shouting the glaringly obvious at the turret gunners however, Admiral Cloureau wasn’t sure how he could hope to accomplish this goal. The Concordia had taken a lot of damage in the mad rush to Vespus station, hull plating had virtually peeled off from all sides, the engine room had to be evacuated, the chief engineer had virtually begged him to come to a full stop when they arrived in system, but he had believed that they’d need to be close enough to the station to provide adequate flak turret support if need be. Now he wasn’t sure if that was even necessary anymore.
“Impact in twenty seconds.” Screamed the Lieutenant at the radar terminal.
“Com, instruct all fighters to bring those torpedoes down, tell them to fire straight in the path of the ship’s hull if that will help, make sure they bring those damn things down!”
“Aye sir.”
The com officer began repeating the Admiral’s orders to the fighters who even now were probably doing just that. He’d learned over the years however exactly how difficult it was to bring torpedoes down once they’d been launched. One maybe, two if they were lucky. But it would probably only take one to finish off the Concordia considering the state she was in.
Cloureau knew what was going to happen, and he knew what he had to do.
Running over to the com system built into his command chair, he opened a channel to the entire ship.
“Attention all hands, this is the Admiral. Abandon ship, I repeat, abandon ship.”
Bridge officers charged for the escape pods which were gathered around the rear section of the command deck, the Admiral stayed where he was. He continued to repeat his order until two of the four torpedoes that had been launched stuck the carrier’s starboard engine.

To be continued
 

Dahan

Rear Admiral
Epilogue

It was like he was walking through the hall of the dead as if the Grim Reaper was preparing him for his last journey. While limping down the aisle with a walking stick and a patch over his eye, he could see many of the injured personal being treated for all injuries of all sorts from minor burns to lost limbs.
He felt he was going to be sick but he kept his stomach contents down knowing that it was not the right time to let loose.
“This way Captain” said the nurse as he escorted Kevin passed the injured people to the end of the aisle to a single bed with blinds covering the bed preventing people to see who was inside and what injuries the person had suffered.
“He just had a dose of strong analgesia sir” said the nurse, “so he may not be with it”
“I understand” replied Kevin, “thank you. Will he make it?”
“We do not know” said the nurse, “he sustained severe radiation and blast burns, his face is seriously damaged from the loose shrapnel that penetrated his helmet. He is extremely lucky to survive in his escape pod. In normal cases, he would have died. Somehow he pulled through. Still we don’t know how much longer can he survive, we have done everything we can do”
“I understand” said Kevin as he entered to see his Dirk. He wasn’t sure how to react when he saw Dirk’s injuries. His face was half covered in bandages from the surgery, from the shrapnel bits that scattered across his face. His arms showed radiation burns as did his legs. He could see the flaky burnt skin on his legs, dry and crackle-like appearance, making him have the urge to get some tweezers and pull the dry skin off.
“Ello Kev” said Dirk as he saw Kevin walked inside, “come to see me eh?”
“You could say that” said the young Tolwyn as he pulled up a chair and set next to the pilot, “you looking pretty good there”
Dirk coughed and chuckled at the remarked, “you don’t look bad for yourself either kid”
“Dirk” started Kevin, “I just wanted to say”
“Don’t worry” interrupted Dirk, “we all had our moments, our hesitations in life You thought what you thought was right”
“I know I’m sorry” said Kevin, “I owe you one”
“I will hold you to that” said Dirk coughing, small spurts of blood could be seen spurted out his mouth
“Dirk!” Kevin jumped out of his chair and grabbed a small towel next to him
“I’m fine” said Dirk as he composed himself, “you are as bad as my mother”
“Well someone has to be” replied Kevin as he sat himself, wincing at the pain in his leg as he lowered himself down, “you sure sound pretty cheerful?”
“Well you don’t have to tell me the truth” said Dirk, “I ain’t feeling good and I know that I ain’t going to make it”
“That’s bull crap and you know it” said Kevin, “the medical team treated you and said you could pull through”
“Liar. Kevin I can read you like book” Dirk took a deep breathe before continuing, “you maybe a good pilot, but you are an absolutely shit when it comes to lying”
Kevin remained silent at the remark, not sure what to say, “Kevin don’t worry about me. I am fine”
“Look you are going to get better and we are getting you out of here and get back at those damn cats who took out the Concordia!”
“No” said Dirk as he moved his left hand over to touch Kevin, “you will have to do that without me”
“What are you on about?”
“Kev, I ain’t stupid and I was not born yesterday” said the veteran pilot, “just promise me, that you continue flying and do yourself proud. Do it not only for me but for everyone who was on that ship, but not just for the Concordia but for every pilot that has died protecting the Confederation. You owe me and to them”
“Why me?”
“Because we need good able people like you to help us. Your uncle is an example”
“Not my uncle again” moan Kevin as he slumped his shoulder
“Listen here you shit!” snapped Dirk as he left hand and grabbed on to Kevin’s closest hand pulled him, catching the young Tolwyn by surprise, “your uncle knew what he was doing and did his duty not for himself but for the people of the Conderation. He owes it to everyone, just like everyone else who died with the Concordia. They owe it to everyone to ensure they can live another day without the threat of the Kilrathi”
“I don’t know”
“Promise me Kevin!” said Dirk pulling Kevin closer, “Promise that you serve your duty and remember what Forrester told you”
“I promise”
“Good consider the favour repaid” smiled Dirk, “there is something I would like you to do for me”
“Yes?”
“In the draw there, there are two data-pads. One is a letter I got one of the medical staff to write for me. Make sure that you sent it to my family. The address and details to who to send are in there”
“Why can’t you send it yourself once you are discharged”
“Just do it OK Kev! The second pad is a novel which I asked a nurse to look up for me in the ships database”
“A novel? You joking?” asked Kevin
“No. It has been years since I read anything. I ask the nurse to find me a copy of The Lord of Rings”
“Man you are insane”
“Just do me a favour and read the story to me” Kevin looked at Dirk as if he was a little child not sure if he should give him a sweet
“Alright” said Kevin as he took out the datapad out of the draw with the Lord of the Rings novel, “Chapter One – A Long expected party” they both laughed as Kevin began to read the story to him, “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday….” what seem like a few minutes was a couple of hours as Kevin continued to read the through the first chapter, the second and finally the end of the first book.
“Man I have forgotten much about this book Dirk” said Kevin as put the data pad back in the drawer, “I actually enjoyed that read” Dirk did not replied, turn around and saw that Dirk was staring blankly at the ceiling above him, “Dirk?” Dirk didn’t reply again. Tears begin to swell up in Kevin’s eyes as he knew what happen. Move his uninjured hand over his closed Dirk’s eyes and softly held Dirk’s burnt hand.
“I promise Dirk” said Kevin as tears began to pour out, “I promise you that I will keep going” first a soft sniffling followed by a loud wail of crying as he collapsed over the body of his dead friend. Kevin could not remember what happen next as he barely remembered a pair of hands helping him out of his chair and escorted him back to his room where he was sedated to calm him down.


* * *​



The front of the ship could be seen jutting out of the waters. The dark green paint of the ships hull was beginning to fade away from the rust and gradual deterioration of the hull itself.

Two Hellcats flew across the planet surface. They were part of a task force under the command of General James Taggart. Paladin as he was known to others was responsible for locating the last known location or whereas of the TCS Concordia.
Paladin received a communication from Admiral Tolwyn of the fate of the Concordia after learning that the great ship was assisting in an operation in the Vespus System only to be destroyed by Kilrathi forces.
With the help of Captain Henderson of the TCS Ferris, Paladin was able to gain all available information on the last known location of the flagship.
The pride and glory of the Confederation Fleet, the Concordia was the ship that many young aspiring officer naval or space force would love to serve upon. Assignment upon the Concordia was the first sign of future prosperous assignments. Sometimes they were good assignment, sometimes they were bad. In either case no one really cared where they were assigned but being aboard the flagship was an honour many people would cherish.

Skimming across the surface of the planet, the lead pilot was monitoring his sensor reading tracking an unknown signal from a distant location. In the distance he lead pilot could see a structure jutting out of the ground, as he flew closer he could see the bow of a ship showing above the ocean.
“Scout Leader to Highlander, I found something. Initiating scan” said the lead pilot
“Copy that Scout Leader” replied Taggart as his face showed on the comm channel, “how does it look?”
“I can’t say sir” said the pilot as he tried to avoid answering the question, “standby” the scan went for another minute allowing the ship sensors to gather as much data of the surrounding area.
“Scan completed. General Taggart, looks like we found the rest of the wreck could be the Concordia” said the flight leader
“Copy that Flight Lead” replied Taggart, “how does the ship look?” asking the question again
“Not to good sir. Looks like the ship took quite a beating. At least she took some cats with them”
“Aye that she did, send us all the telemetry, visual and all relevant data you collected back to the Highlander. We will send a team down there to make an assessment”
“Copy that. Sending all available data”

* * *​

TCS Highlander
In orbit around planet Vespus


Taggart stood behind the communication officer listening to the reports from the several survey teams that were on the planet. When he heard the report from a flight of Hellcats that found that they found a ship wreck, his heart skipped a beat. Was it the Concordia? How was she? Was the Concordia alright? He knew that it was a stupid question. Both he and Admiral Tolwyn knew the answer when he heard the Hellcat reported in.

“Copy that Flight Lead” said Taggart as he heard the pilot’s report, “how does the ship look?”
“Not to good sir. Looks like the ship took quite a beating. At least she took some cats with them”
“Aye that she did, send us all the telemetry, visual and all relevant data you collected back to the Highlander. We will send a team down there to make an assessment”
“Copy that. Sending all available data”

Paladin turned around to see the lonely individual sitting in the command chair. Normally he was clean shaven, his uniform clean and pressed and not a slightest of body odour could be smelt from him. But for the last three days Admiral Sir Geoffrey Tolwyn looked haggard, withdrawn and tired. When news reached both Taggart and Tolwyn about the possible lost of the Concordia, Command allowed both men to assemble a small group of ships (they could afford) in locating the once proud ship. Along with them, Taggart was about to convince Tolwyn that he bring along Colonel Blair along. Although they were some hostile animosities between the two men, they did share one thing in common which was serving onboard the Concordia and both men knew how important the ship was to them.

“Did they found her?” asked Tolwyn who still remain sitting in the command chair looking out at the stars in front of him. The man didn’t even flinch nor moved a muscle when he spoke, “I think I will go and have a look at her”
“Geoff you should go and get yourself clean up first” said Taggart, “Blair and I will go down to the surface. I’ll let Blair make the evaluation of the ship” Tolwyn turn to face the Scottish and about to say something but refrain of replying and nodded.
“I will be in my quarters. Communications, notify me immediately when Colonel Blair and General Taggart report in for the Concordia’s evaluation”
“Yes Admiral” Tolwyn stood up from his chair and heading towards the elevator. On most days, the Admiral would be walking upright, chest squared and head held up high. But today was one of those days where the Admiral showed signs that he too was also human. “Lieutenant, inform Colonel Blair to meet with General Taggart at the main shuttle bay in 20 minutes for departure”


* * *​

Tolwyn’s Quarters

He sat by the side oh his bed, looking over to his desk where three pictures in crystal frames were facing him. In one photo was a picture of himself with Kevin and his parents at Kevin’s graduation. The second was a photo on the flight deck on the TCS Concordia reading out the assign orders from Command that he was to assume command of the Concordia which led to ten of his most successful years in his career.
Ten years. Ten years had he commanded the Concordia. Ten years of commanding one of the best ships in the Confederation. 10 years on board the pride and joy of the Confederation, now it is passing memory. The last photo was a picture of his late wife and two sons, the picture was taken 6 months before they were killed on a planet when the Kilrathi raiding force struck the planet. News of their death has not sunk in yet and the pain still lingers in him, wondering how long it would take to subside. How could this happen. He thought sending his nephew away from the front lines would save the last of a great legacy. After a long discussion with his sister-in-law he promised himself that he would look after Kevin and ensure he lives a full life. But at the same Kevin needs the experience on the front line if he is ever to become an excellent commander. Kevin’s mother wanted him to rise through the ranks the clean and easy way. Knowing the right people and all. But Geoff knew that getting the rank and getting the recognition must also include doing the work and have gone through a baptism of fire.



Planet Vespus
Off the Mistral Coast
30 minutes later


They both stood there looking at the ship neither of them were sure what they were expecting when they arrived at the crash site.
Blair and Taggart stood in silence offering a quiet prayer as they watch on at the Concordia as they see minor explosions occurring.
“May they rest in peace” said Taggart as he shield his eyes from the wind and bright sunlight, “Peace” sighed Blair, “Have we known anything like that Paladin?”
“Not for a long time laddie”
“First the Tiger’s Claw now this”
“Enough!” snapped Taggart, “You are not to blame for either”
“Some would disagree” Blair pulled out a communicator from his side pocket and activated the communicator, “This is Colonel Christopher Blair report to Admiral Tolwyn. The wreck of TCS Concordia has been located on Vespus off the Mistral Coast. Evaluation” Blair looked at the ship for what seem an eternity before continuing, “Total loss” sighing Blair place his communicator under his coat and sagged his head in sorrow.
“You cannot live your life for only one man” said Paladin, Blair merely looked down at the ground, watching the wind picking up the small dirt drifting around his boots
“Any word from Angel?”
“None”
“Is that the official line?” Blair looked back at his friend sharply thinking that there was more to it than a simple comment. Paladin looked at Blair with sympathetic eyes and placed his hand on Blair’s shoulders, “I know how much she means to you laddie”
Blair looked back at the wreckage wondering what fate has fallen on his beloved, while Paladin looked on with a guilty conscience.

‘I’m sorry laddie’, thought Paladin, ‘now is not the time. After what we have gone through’




Confed Sector HQ
Torgo III, Torgo System, Deneb Quadrant, Epsilon Sector
Some time later……….


There were several others in the room waiting to see the Admiral. He arrived without making an appointment but he knew the staff, and was pretty sure the Admiral’s staff can slot him in. None of the officers payed any attention to him and they looked at him as if he was another officer trying to win favour of the Admiral’s good books, at first glance he looks like any other officer in the Space Officers Division. Just another fighter pilot to them, nothing more, nothing less.
On the inside he was torn and scarred for life for the events that happen in the last 6 months. Still sporting a wound patch over his left eye from the internal explosion from his cockpit, his wound still aches and is tempted to scratch it. But the medical team warn him that if he tried scratching it he might further aggravate the wound and might prevent him from seeing and may further prevent him of flying again.
He wanted to fly again and he wanted to do his duty again. No more will he hide.

He walked up to the front desk to see the Admiral’s aide was talking to someone on the headset while working on a console in front of her.
“Hello I like to see the Admiral please” he said
“I’m sorry but the Admiral’s schedule is pretty book up sir” said the aide without taking her gaze off the computer console
“I can wait at the end” he replied, “I have all day. Can you put me at the end please?”
“Very well sir” said the aide as she picked up a data pad next to her console and activated the Admiral’s current schedule, “Name please”
“Major Kevin Tolwyn” he hoped not to say his name out loud, but the aide looked up in shock unaware who was talking to her. Even the people in the waiting who were talking were silence by the pilots name
“Oh Major” said the aide, “I am sorry I did not know it was you. I can organise to let you see the Admiral now if you like?”
“No” replied Kevin, “there are other people waiting ahead of me. See to it that they see the Admiral first before me. I will wait until the Admiral is finished with them”
“Yes sir” said the aide, “terribly sorry for the inconvenience”

* * *​

He stood by watching the fighters swarm pass. Carriers leaving orbit and jumping to systems where Kilrathi forces are attacking other Confed controlled territories.
Kevin stood in front of the large view port looking outside and pondered at the last words of what Forrester and Dirk said.
Ever since joining with the military, he wondered what kind of life he could have. He wasn’t like his uncle. That part was certain. He has a certain life, a certain reputation to live up to. Lone Wolf that was his call sign and he choose that for a reason. He didn't want to live in the footsteps of his family’s reputation. He wanted to live his own life, to carve out his reputation. One day his name will be among the others but on his own merits, not based on his name but on his actions.
He promised himself, no more hiding, no more running. It is all for real now and this time he would stick by his duty. Forrester and Dirk change his views and now he will promise that what he does will make a difference no matter how small of a change it will take.
“Major, the Admiral will see you now” said the aide by the front desk. Kevin turned around and headed into the Admiral’s office.

* * *​

The Admiral was operating at a console, reading ship data regarding fleet movements around different sectors. He was continue to look over the information data when he heard footsteps coming in towards him and stopped.
“Major Kevin Tolwyn sir” said Kevin as he stopped by the Admiral’s desk
“Must you be so formal Kevin” said the Admiral
“I am on duty sir. Or off duty does it make a difference”
“Kevin, first and foremost I am your uncle” said Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn turning around to see his nephew for the first time in many months, “second I am your superior officer. But the first is considered more important than the other”
“Very well Uncle” said Kevin referring the older Tolwyn by his family relation “was there something you wanted to see me before I leave for my new assignment?”
“Well in a way yes Kevin” said Geoffrey as he walked over to his desk, “it is regarding your new assignment”
“Did you have anything to do with my promotion and new assignment?”
“In a manner of speaking no” replied the Admiral, “the promotion was of no influence but the assignment” Geoff pulled out a slim folder and passed it to his nephew, “is of my decision” Kevin took and opened the folder and read the contents.
“Staff position here on Torgo?”
“Yes Kevin but you will be assigned to my staff” replied Geoffrey, “I would like you to accept this assignment for the time being”
“But what if I refuse this assignment. I requested a flight assignment on the front line carriers”
“Yes I was informed of your request” said Geoff as he walked over to him, “but after the fight at Earth and the operation at Vespus. I think that you are not ready yet to go to the front lines just yet”
“Is this the uncle or the officer talking?” asked Kevin
“Both” replied Geoffrey, “I recently spoke to your mother”
“What!?”
“We both don’t want to risk losing you at such a young age. We both want the best for you. I want you to do your duty. I wanted you to go the lines and gain the experience like every other naval officer and pilot. But your mother insisted of doing this “easy and safe” way through the politicians” the older Tolwyn sat down in front of his desk and looked back at his nephew and his gazed across towards a framed photo of the last family gathering, “your mother was right Kevin. You are too valuable to lose and I don’t want to lose you as much I lost my wife and sons”
“You don’t have to worry about that” said Kevin, “I intend to see to the end of this war”
“Are you really?”
“Yes and that is both nephew and as an officer. Uncle when I was cleared by medical that I could go back to active duty, I requested for a flight assignment and a flight assignment is what I want. Nothing more, nothing less”
“But why Kevin?”
“I owe it to the people on the Concordia” said Kevin bringing up the past and memories of his uncle’s beloved ship, “they helped me and I owe it to them that my actions were not in vain”
“I see” said Geoffrey leaning back in his chair he clasps his hand together in front of him and his index fingers and thumbs still protruding. Geoffrey tapped his index fingers and pondered at Kevin’s request.
“Very well, I will grant you your flight assignment request on one condition”
“Be on your staff first?”
“Yes. Stay on my staff for while first. At least we can spend some time every once in a while when we are not on duty. We have some catching up to do” Kevin thought about it. It would be nice to stay around and catch up with his famous uncle, but then he wanted to go back into the action and get into the cockpit of the fighter and shoot down some Kilrathi. The war was still going on and he is still alive.
“Agreed” replied Kevin, “I will be on your staff for a period, as long I get to choose which flight assignment I request”
“Agreed” the older Tolwyn looked at his nephew, “it has been a long time has it Kevin?”
“What has?”
“Since Terra, I have not seen you for a while and it pains me to see you injured on the Concordia flight deck” Kevin raised his hand over his patched eye, reminiscing that last moments of the battle, “I owe your mother that much to keep you out of harms way. Do me a favour Kevin. Talk to her and spend as much you can with her when you have the chance”
“Why, I send her message and talk to her over the comm. network?”
“No” replied Geoff, “I mean in person. I never told you this or to anyone the family. But I regretted of not spending much time with my wife and sons”
“What do you mean, your Aunt Clara and the boys loved you”
“True, but I did not see them much each year. I probably see and or hear from them maybe once every three months and even then it is only briefly. The only thing I have ever regretted of doing other than accepting the posting of Concordia was not spending time with my family. Assignments come and go Kevin, so do friends and superior officers. But family can’t be replaced. Once they are gone, gone will they be. Remember that” Kevin thought for a moment and wonder what was his uncle trying to say. Somehow it made sense yet at the back of his mind, something was not right with what his uncle was saying, it seems that his uncle had something to prove, something to pay back all the things he regretted, all the things he missed.
“I will think about it uncle” said Kevin, “thank you”
“No thank you” said Geoff, “it is going to be one of few times I get to spend some time with you and get to say a few things before I forget”
“I am sure we will have plenty of things to say and do since I am going to be here for a time” Geoff smiled
“That is true. I will let my aide provide you all the details of your posting here on my staff. I will see you back in one month”
“One month? But I thought I can start my duties tomorrow or something” Geoff smirked at him in reply
“Not just yet” said Geoff, “there is one thing you should do first. There is shuttle prepped and ready for transit to Earth. I want you to take it and head back home first”
“Home?”
“See your mother first and take a break. I don’t think you had a break for almost two years. I have looked at your file. You have been on assignment after assignment with minor rest periods. Take the shuttle back and I will see you back in a month”
“But” Kevin tried to reply before he was stopped by his uncle
“One month Kevin” said Geoff, “please, don’t make me force this as an order”
“One month?” asked Kevin
“One month Kevin that’s all I ask” said Geoff, “then you can go and repay your debt to your friends”
* * *​
 
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