Front Lines

Dahan

Rear Admiral
Impressive.....most impressive
Keep it up!
I am almost jealous and almost embarress of posting my fan fic now
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
Thanks again to everyone who's read thus far and to all who ave commented. I appreciate it.

Chapter 4: Shoot the messenger

Scar’s perspective


With the sole exception of the Sorthak, I find that there is nothing worse to be fighting in an Arrow then a Vaktoth. The pesky rear turret is always standing between you and successful hits on the aft shield, and if you’re really unlucky they might just come to a complete stop as your chasing them, and if you don’t crash into their rears, ( collision which they are more likely to survive), you’ll fly gracefully passed them and into their gun sights.

Having said this, we weren’t doing too badly. Each of us were focusing on a single enemy fighter, as our targets closed in for attack runs on the two thunderbolts, we swooped in and unleashed a stream of gunfire into their rear shields, occasionally accompanied by a missile. The Vaktoths were thus forced to abandon their runs and pull away before anything nasty happened to their hulls.

Unfortunately their damn rear turrets kept us from staying on their tails for too long, we too had to pull away to a suitable distance for another attack run. This gave their shields time to recharge, but we were slowly wearing them down, they wouldn’t be able to endure for ever.

Of course we wouldn’t be able to endure for that many seconds if on of them got a decent shot at us.

As if in answer to my thought, my rear shields started vanishing rapidly under the weight of Kilrathi gunfire, almost instinctively, I pulled to the left, abandoning my target for now so that I could evade the bastard behind me.

My com screen suddenly sprung to life, on it I saw the helmeted face of a Kilrathi pilot, presumably the one that had been shooting at me. He was uttering a series of strange sounds which my brain required several seconds to register as laughter.
“Pitiful creature, the pilot said afterwards, “My Lord’s concubine would be more of a challenge then you.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so I didn’t. Taunts were Fool’s area of expertise, not mine. He was the undisputed master of the witty insult, at least onboard the Hermes.

One eye on the radar told me that the Vaktoth, as well as an arrow that was shooting at him, was still behind me. It was then that inspiration set in.

I brought my ship to a dead stop and offered a very short prayer to whoever was listening that the Cat was close enough to my ship to make this work. I didn’t have time to do the maths for myself.

I breathed a silent sigh of relief as I saw the massive fighter fly overhead. Blue and white light flickered around the ship, laser and ion cannon impacts on its rear shields, I released a volley of my own and watched with one eye as the image in my target information display lost its rear shields.

The fighter’s rear turret fire became sporadic as the onboard computer, or gunner; I’m not sure which, tried to distribute fire between me and the second arrow.

I parted with two heat seeker missiles; that should be enough.

I swerved to the right before any more Kilrathi noticed me and searched for another target whilst at the same time tracking my missiles on the radar. Soon the two yellow dots vanished from the screen and I was rewarded with the sound of,
“This cannot be, this Utak has…” The pilot’s words were drowned out by a pained snarl.
“Damn kill stealer.” Said a human, the second arrow’s pilot with half hearted irritation.
“Sorry.” I replied.

I pulled my ship upwards and soon found myself flying at full speed towards the nose of a second Vaktoth.
“Fool.” The Kilrathi pilot said matter-of-factly before opening fire. I didn’t have enough time to pull away.

My forward shields disappeared in an instant. In the next instant my tactical display exploded, showering my leg with superheated shrapnel.

With one hand I brushed the shards away onto the floor before they could burn holes into my flight suit and flesh. With the other hand I swerved to the right.
“I need help here.” Shouted a terrified looking pilot, I didn’t know her.
“On it.” I said instantly, despite the fact that my crispy ship was going to be the least helpful. Too late to take it back now. “Everyone else focus on your targets.”
“Aye sir.”
“Got it sir.”

I turned to face the ship that had uttered the distress call, and found it being fired upon by a Vaktoth that appeared to have no pursuers. I hit my afterburners and shot forward towards the two fighters.
“Lieutenant,” I shouted over the crackling of sparks from my former right VDU, “Head towards me, I’ll cover you.”
“Yes sir.” Her voice was a bizarre mixture of fear and gratitude that someone had heard her message.

The arrow began to fly towards me. I switched my attention back towards the Vaktoth, readied two Image recognition missiles and awaited the conventional ‘ding’ telling me I had a lock.

The arrow swerved suddenly upwards. Behind it I saw a faint object, something jettisoned, a decoy.

Oh Shit.

Even with decoys, missiles are difficult to evade at the best of times. By the looks of the pilot’s fighter, she wouldn’t survive the hit.

The ding sounded, I hit the fire button and the two missiles shot out towards their target.
“Damn it, the decoys aren’t working!” She was virtually screaming now. Distantly I thought that she must b a kid not long out of the academy. “Its closing!”
“Eject!” I shouted instantly over the com, already doubting that it would amount to anything, as often as not ejected pilots were caught in the explosion of their own ships, a missile increased the probability of an untimely death somewhat.

Almost before I finished giving the order, I noticed a blurred image, her ejection seat exiting through the open hatch. The screen then showed an empty cockpit. A few seconds later this cockpit was ripped apart by the enemy missile.

I had no idea whether the pilot made it or not, it didn’t matter either, she was no longer a priority, dead or alive, the Vaktoth was.

I cast another eye to my targeting display, only to be reminded by the sight of the sizzling mess that it had been reduced to that it would not be much help.

I found the target after a few more seconds, it seemed to be trying to manoeuvre itself behind me. That might have worked when I was focusing on the other confed pilot, but now I was focusing on him outmanoeuvring him wouldn’t be too difficult.

“We die for the Glory of Kilrah and the Emperor!”

That sudden statement was howled by numerous Kilrathi voices, a second later space was lit up in a blinding white light that was only partially drowned out by the protective visor. It took me a minute to realise that Salamander and Torrent had destroyed the enemy corvette.

I’d almost forgotten about it.

This was good news for two reasons, one, an enemy capital ship along with its bothersome flak turrets were gone, two, Salamander and Torrent could now help us with the Vaktoths.

Noticing that the enemy fighter as still trying to get behind me, (and wondering briefly what the ship’s pilot was playing at,) I killed my engines and started firing while standing still. Not a textbook procedure but I was quite a way from the main battle, and this guy wasn’t sending anything my way.

His shields must still have been recovering from the two missile hits, his dorsal shields went down quite quickly and I was able to tear some armour off of his right wing before he finally turned his ship to face me.

Not wanting to be on the receiving end of another gun salvo, I hit my afterburners and shot past the enemy ship. His rear turret kicked in and sent a few shots over my arrow before I was able to swing back around and return fire.

I accompanied the gunfire into his rear shields with a heat seeking missile. I had no idea how much damage I’d inflicted, or if I should have sent two missiles, but the way this pilot was flying told me that it didn’t much matter.
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
His ship was slow and sluggish, the only conclusion I could come to was that whoever I’d told to eject had been able to score a hit or two on his manoeuvring thrusters, either that or the pilot was truly incompetent. I doubted the latter option; the Empire wouldn’t shove him in a Vaktoth if he wasn’t fit to fly a Dralthi mk 1. And he did have one kill to his name at least.

The missile impacted and instantly his ship started spinning, a trail of fire emerged from the left wing before it broke away. I started firing again, it was hard to score any decent hits with the way his ship was twisting and flailing.

The fighter’s destruction finally came in the form of a streak of laser fire from yet another arrow.
“Now we’re even!” Chortled the pilot whose kill I had stolen earlier. Despite myself, I laughed over the com. Things seemed to be looking up for our side.

Looking at my radar, I noticed that there was in fact only one Kilrathi fighter left, the other one presumably having met its end whilst I was firing at the last one.

My rear view display showed a multitude of red and purple lights raining down on a Kilrathi fighter that appeared as a single rickety dot. As I was turning back around to assist, doubting all the while that I’d be able to score any hits before it exploded.

Not long after I hit my afterburners, I saw the face of this pilot appear on the com screen. His cockpit seemed to be collapsing in around him.
“Savour this insignificant victory apes,” he said defiantly, “When my brothers arrive then your scattered atoms shall decorate this system.”

He had about two seconds to force a laugh before his ship exploded.

A brief cheer went up from all of us. Even if his words proved to be accurate, a victory is a victory.
“Good work everyone,” Salamander said over the com, “Scar, I’m picking up a distress beacon from a terran ejection pod, you and I will watch over it until an SAR shuttle gets here. Everyone else, head home.”

After a round of ‘yes sirs’, the other ships sped off back towards the Hermes.

I moved the ship as close as I could to the ejection pod before my brain started screaming ‘stop you fool before you hit her!’ I wasn’t sure how much of the battle she’d seen from her spinning ejection pod, but I’ve found from largely unpleasant first hand experience of ejecting that the sight of a confederation fighter watching over your pod was a welcome sight to say the least.

“Did you get the kill shot?” I asked after I’d stopped.
“I don’t think so, Torrent launched her torpedo before me, and since you only need one.” He ended the sentence with what was probably a shrug, it was hard to see.
“How about you?” He asked after a moment’s silence, “How many did you get?”
“Just the one.”
“One’s enough.”
“Yep.”

Conversation was sparse due to the fact that there really wasn’t much to talk about. The battle wasn’t overly spectacular, no one was dead and you can only complain about the slow speed of ASR shuttles for so long. There wasn’t really much else to talk about.

It picked up somewhat on the way back to the carrier.
“Torrent mentioned something about getting a letter from Z’ratmak whilst we were getting suited up.” Salamander said conversationally.
“Oh yes? How is he?”
“Jubilant, apparently he’s still celebrating the taking of the Morpheus system.”
“Morpheus?” I said with a sliver of disappointment, “To the best of my knowledge that system is about as valuable as a plasma gun made out of breadcrumbs.”
“Great, crap all over the good news why don’t you?”
“Sorry, but you have to face the facts tovarish. Its not that great an accomplishment.”
“I know, I know, still its something. And knowing the Kilrathi they might just waste a few ships trying to get it back.”
“Maybe, then again thy may have learned their lesson after the Tarawa’s run on Kilrah.”
“Just for once I wish you’d look at a situation with a little less logic and a little more blind, mindless optimism, its good for morale.”

I laughed at that and after a moment, so did he.

After a few hours we arrived at the Hermes, a transport ship was docked with it, probably the one Razor had been sent to escort back. I could imagine the relief filled sigh from Salamander at this confirmation of her safety. Well, not really confirmation but it was close enough, probably.

“Need clearance TCS Hermes,” Salamander said after a moment.
“Congratulations guys,” Replied a happy looking Jake Coben on both our com screens, “one corvette reduced to dust and zero friendly fatalities. You have clearance.”

Five Minutes Later

“Excuse me Captain.”

I looked behind me and saw a young looking female with inadvisably long hair for a pilot. If she could have fit all of it inside her helmet I’d be very surprised. Judging by the voice, and the fact she was speaking to me, this was the pilot that I’d told to eject earlier.
“Yes lieutenant?”
“I just wanted to say thank you sir. For giving the order, if you hadn’t then I might have…”

She cut herself off, already feeling somewhat awkward because for the words by the looks of things.
“You’re welcome lieutenant…?”
“2nd lieutenant Elizabeth ‘Skull’ Black sir. I’m on loan from the in-system base.”
“I see. Has colonel Trent given you a hard time about ejecting?”
“Not really,” she replied with something that is best described as a cross between a smile and a glare, “He said that given the circumstances it was the right thing to do, and that he’d rather have a live pilot minus the fighter then a dead pilot minus the fighter. He also told me to make sure I bring my ship home in the future.”
“That’s fine if you can do it,” I said, the paternal oracle of wisdom in me coming to the surface, “But if your ships falling to dust around you then you don’t want to hang around too long. We need ships but ewe need people to fly them even more.”

She nodded and presumably searched her brain for some sort of suitable response. When none came to mind she simply said,
“Thanks again sir.” With that we salute and she walked away.

For the rest of the day I got to enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with saving a life. This was and would probably be the only time in my career that this actually happened so I made sure to make the most of it.

To be continued
 

Kilrah

Spaceman
Again, great work. I especially like the way you describe the dogfights, can even imagine those ships trying to fire and evade each other.

I know this isn’t the right thread, but also good work with the WC3 Themed Music Video.
 

BrynS

Mr Kat says...
Another excellent installment, Plywood Fiend!

I would echo everything that Kilrah said above. Regarding your WC3 music video, did you use Windows Movie Maker? If you want to keep the aspect ratio of the final encode as close to the original WC3 video files (320x160 -- 2:1) as possible, go to Tools, then Options and select the Advanced tab, then select 16:9 instead of 4:3

If you had the time and inclination, I'm sure you could write a great Wing Commander novel!

Cheers,


BrynS
 

Khavik

Spaceman
FanFic de Plywood

Bra-VO. (Picture a French noble just prior to Le Revolution.)

Some awesome work. Critical note: I found it hard remember you were changing viewpoints, but once I got the hang of it, it was good shtuf. Excellent work, and pray, continue -- when you feel like it. I wouldn't want you to burn out. I want your fiction over the /long/ term. (evil grin) If you post once a week, then that's fine by me, so long as you keep posting, ad infinitum.
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
Thanks once again to all readers and commenters, thanks as well to everyone who downloaded the music video. I’m currently trying to download TomGains’ one but with the dial up modem that I have it’ll probably take me the better part of a week.

Next week when I go back to the broadband wielding college I’ll be submitting another, higher quality version of the video, along with a strange and silly musical tribute to Prince Thrakhath.

Anyway, onwards to the story.

Chapter 5: Damned

Salamander’s perspective


“We are here today to pay our final respects to those ho gave their lives to ensure the survival of the ships and crews of the Hermes carrier group. Without the sacrifices of these brave men and women, it is likely that we would all have died in the Chang Cu system. Their courage and dedication has ensured that the rest of us survive to fight for the Confederation until its inevitable triumph over the Kilrathi…”

If this had been anything other then a funeral then Trent probably would have received a series of contemptuous glares from the rest of us at the delusional words you normally heard from Confederation spokespeople who fed the news networks the exaggerated tales of ‘major victories’ and ‘minor setbacks’.

This was a funeral however, with the sight of the coffin, (just the one for twenty five deceased, (or worse) pilots), resting peacefully on the flight deck, the rest of us were at our most venerable. We needed to hear re-assuring words, even if they were bullshit. That coffin seemed to be laughing at us, at whatever hope we had given ourselves of living through the war and returning to our homes. I could almost imagine a ghostly arm extending from it, a soul of a fallen pilot calling us over, inviting us to follow them into death.

Colonel Trent then went on to read from a list of the twenty five deceased pilots, I stopped listening after the first three. None of my friends were in that thing and truth be told I doubt I would have listened even if they had been. Each name belonged to a pilot, just like any of us, but more importantly, to a man or woman who had been dead from the minute they walked into a recruiting office.

Each name that I didn’t block out felt like a swift kick in the gut from a horse.

This war had swallowed up countless lives and spit them out like pips. How many men and women from all over the confederation had been ripped away from the ordinary, peaceful lives that they deserved and placed onboard a warship, to feel nothing but fear, loss, pain and a fiery end?

Distantly, I thought back to the recruitment adverts when I was younger, it wasn’t that long ago that I had joined up, so why did it feel like a past life? I still remembered the slogans, ‘Fight for your home world’, ‘Become a hero on your homeland’, ‘Join the Navy and see the universe.’ Its interesting that they never mention anything about getting your atoms scattered all over the universe. I wondered if the recruitment adverts of today, for a war that spanned whole generations, were any different.

I doubted it.

I’d joined up simply because I felt that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t. I still feel that way, but the times in which I would happily trade my soul, fingers and eyes to return to Earth for good were becoming ever more frequent. When I graduated from the academy, roughly halfway through the Vega campaign, the war could have gone pretty much either way, and for a time it went our way. Vega fell into confederation hands, shortly after the Sivar dreadnought went up in smoke, the mess we made of the Sivar-eshrad ceremony on Firekka, so many victories, due largely to one Colonel Christopher Blair, and that wasn’t the sum total of his triumphs.

In some ways it seemed ludicrous. So many confederation victories were the result of this one man who sometimes it seemed that he was the only one keeping us in this war whilst the rest of us cheered on from the sidelines.

With the seemingly hopeless odds this guy overcame time and time again, it was something of a surprise that Confed didn’t just put him in a fighter, send him to Kilrah and let him smash up the place.

If I sound jealous, I am.

Last I heard he was stationed on some escort carrier or another that was older then the antique muskets in the Natural history museum in London. Why they’d shoved him there I do not know. God knows we could use a pilot like him there.

Anyway, after my mind’s wanderings, my attention switched back to the funeral when I noticed the coffin’s engine power up. The small box, containing nothing but 25 sets of pilot’s wings, small personal effects or photographs. (We couldn’t cram 25 sets of uniforms in that thing, and we didn’t have time for 25 different funerals),

slowly came to life and gently hovered out into space.

The coffin now seemed to radiate a peace that I had only ever felt from once watching the smiling face of a sleeping pilot, no doubt dreaming about home and happy times before the horrors of war became facts of life for them. Part of me wanted to lap onto that coffin and cling to it as it journeyed into the endless void. Fortunately good sense prevailed over this temptation however.

Next came the honour guard’s twenty one gun salute. I flinched as I heard the ear piercing noise of the guns, a lot of us did. Those that didn’t were probably too stunned with grief and despair to even notice the gunfire.

When it stopped, we all saluted. I tried to feel the respect and admiration that I had neglected to feel for the deceased or missing in action during the rest of the funeral.

Emotions of all forms get twisted and wrecked during war, more often then not they were weakened, like they were sedated. Other times they come at you with an intensity typically reserved for Heaven and Hell.

I felt the standard sadness, irrational guilt and fear that I normally felt at funerals of pilots that I’d been flying with, but behind it all was something that almost felt like resignation. The best way I can describe it is that I didn’t care as much as I probably should have, because part of me knew that I wouldn’t have to live with it much longer.

I could only hope that this was me being delusional.

“Dismissed.” Trent said after a moment of silence.

The vast number of assembled pilots all moved off to the exit at once, thereby causing large crowds to form as we all waited for the exit to be free of pilots. A lot of those pilots were doubtlessly heading for the rec-room, deciding to either drown their sorrow or fear in alcohol, or just ingest as much as they could before the Kilrathi arrived and we were all forced to remain sober.

As soon as fate provided me with an opportunity to leave the flight deck, I headed towards my cabin. If you can it that, I think the toilet cubicle in the average shuttle is bigger then my living space.

Those who attained the rank of major or above on fleet carriers, or maybe just onboard the Hermes, I wasn’t too familiar with Confed’s policy on accommodations. Anyway, majors or above were blessed with their own walled living space, somewhere where the snores of pesky lieutenants wouldn’t bother you, and you could rediscover what privacy felt like.

Unfortunately, there was virtually no difference between these things and the brig. Featureless and utterly dismal. They were the fleet carrier equivalent of waking up to find the sky outside grey and dreary. Decorations were forbidden; ‘Safety hazards’ apparently.

For a long while I sat on my bunk and let whatever thoughts wanted to appear do so. I couldn’t dredge up the will power to fight off any unpleasant thoughts, and I couldn’t sleep, traces of adrenaline still coursed through my veins from the earlier battle, and with all the chaotic thoughts appearing and disappearing within my head, sleep seemed about as likely as, well, I’ll think of a suitable example later.

After a few more minutes of my quasi-meditation, I stood up and decided to spend some time in the gym. I hadn’t been there in too long a time and it was a time tested necessity for pilots.
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
Distantly, I wondered if a gym was included in Kilrathi carriers, it made sense, sort of. They had to exercise to keep fit presumably, same as us. If they…
“Red alert, all pilots up, we are being attacked! This is not a drill! I repeat, all pilots up, this is not a drill, we are under attack!”

Disbelief, for the briefest of moments all I could do was stand perfectly still and feel nothing but disbelief. How the hell could the…

And then it was gone.

With virtually no conscious thought, I ran to the lift.

TWO MINUTES LATER

I was still pulling on my flight suit when I sprinted onto the flight deck. The deafening whine of a pilot afterburning out of the flight deck caught my attention for two seconds, and then I started scanning the deck for an available fighter.

There were dozens of pilots, all trying to keep out of the way of launching pilots and at the same time trying to get to a fighter. It was very easy for a magnum launch to degenerate into chaos, especially with as large a fighter compliment as we had. You had to keep a cool head or else you may find yourself being run down by a moving fighter, or caught in the fiery leavings of a thruster. The last thing anyone needed was to sweep away human remains at a time like this.

On of the service elevator brought a thunderbolt to the deck. A quick glance told me that I was clear for a run across the deck and without a second thought I charged at the fighter.

The ladder was already in place when I arrived, the crewman holding it in place gave me a comradely pat on the back as I hurriedly ascended into the cockpit.

Getting the fighter out of the lift and onto the runway seemed to take forever. The missile hit that the Hermes took didn’t help matters either.

The deck, and my fighter shuddered. It wasn’t a heavy shuddering though, this was different, lighter. A dumbfire maybe.

When my ship was finally lined up with the runway, I punched my afterburners and shot out into space.

It didn’t take me too long to notice the streams of gunfire and the numerous red dots on my radar. Then I noticed three of them vanish. Strakha.

That was surprising, even with cloaking technology, these ships were a poor choice for a strike mission involving a fleet carrier. Their armour was too weak to stand up to the flak.

I started looking for the bombers, in and amongst the disturbingly large collection of red dots had to lurk a few torpedo bombers.

I must have flicked through all the contacts three times over before I realised that there weren’t any.

My surprise turned into astonishment. This was suicide. Were the Strakha planning to ram the Hermes? Had they outfitted the bombers with cloaks?

I didn’t have time for speculation, I’d wasted too much of it already.

I found targets in the form of three Strakha that were flying towards the Archangel, one of our cruiser escorts.

I afterburned into firing range and shot off a heat seeker at the one on the left. Without waiting to see the result I fired at the one in the centre.

It didn’t take too many hits before the fighter exploded. The pilot didn’t even attempt to evade my fire. I doubt he’d even seen me sneaking up behind him.

I turned my attention to the pilot who’d just received a heat seeker up his tail pipe. Only to be greeted by the sight of a small cloud of debris and an ejector seat. That’s what I liked about Strakha, they made for easy kill scores thanks largely to their all round flimsiness.

The third Strakha had cloaked, I didn’t try and find him, I just afterburned towards another cluster of potential targets.

As I swooped in on another flight of Strakha, I noticed them fire their entire compliment of missiles simultaneously at one of the four Sheffield class destroyers in our battle group. Then they scattered.

As I turned to intercept the closest fighter, the face of Jake Coben suddenly appeared on my com screen.
“Attention all ships,” she sounded nervous, “Those fighters are all pounding our ships with dumbfires. If enough of them get through things are going to get pretty messy here. Keep them off of us!”

Suddenly it all made sense. This was presumably another kamikaze squadron, sent in to do as much damage to us as possible. If they pounded us with enough dumbfires then we may find ourselves with a fair few ships powered down for repairs by the time the Kilrathi’s main fleet arrived in system.

I fired at the Strakha I’d been trying to get in my sights. It was a rushed shot and the first few volleys missed. The pilot started to cloak as the gunfire impacted on his shields.

Before long he was invisible.

I fired off a few token shots in areas that he might be, although probably wasn’t, lurking. I wasn’t all too surprised when I saw the first few volleys vanish off into the distance.

I was surprised when I saw the final volley impact on the cloaked fighter and blast his wing clean off.

My com screen came alive once more with the screaming face of a Kilrathi who was trying to fight threw the pain of being devoured by the fire and vacuum now residing in his cockpit to utter a few harsh words at me. In the end he failed and the screen went dead.

I didn’t need to search for long to find a new target, these buggers were everywhere. How many ships had the Kilrathi sent on this suicide run?

A few hits on my rear shields brought me out of my musings and back into the battle. My rear turret sprung to life and unleashed a few shots at the bothersome Strakha behind me.

I was surprised that I hadn’t been before this. Then Coben’s words replayed in my head and I suddenly I remembered that it was the capital ships they were after, not us.

“This is the Boston,” screamed a jittery looking com officer on my screen, “We’re taking hits here guys, a lot of hits, help us out!”

As the com screen went dead, I searched suddenly for the Boston on screen, when I finally found it I found that several Strakha were already bearing down on the destroyer. I afterburned towards it, along with several other pilots.

The number of blue dots on my radar was now starting to match the number of red dots; if we could get enough fighters in the air then this would not last long.

I targeted a fighter that seemed to be making a missile run on the Boston, when the ping of missile lock confirmation sounded I set loose a second heat seeker.

Missiles are normally useless against Strakha, their cloaking devices wreak havoc with the targeting systems of missiles. You really had to be within very close range or be firing dumbfires at them.

In this case however it forced the Strakha to abandon his missile run, at least for now.

Two other fighters I noticed didn’t have this problem, each launched two missiles at the Boston.

It wasn’t long before I found myself within firing range, I let loose another volley, but I was too far out, the pilot could see the incoming shots and get out of the way.

As I prepared to accelerate my ship and get in closer, the Boston’s com officer appeared on my screen for a second time.
“Mayday! Mayday! This is the,” his voice was cut off by the sound of an explosion somewhere behind him, “We are abandoning the ship, keep them away from…”

His voice turned into a scream as a blinding white light filled the com screen, it was painful to look at. This light then disappeared from the screen and repapered to my left. For a moment the battle seemed to fade away, as we all, human and Kilrathi watched the TCS Boston explode.

I sat there for a few moments, dumbstruck. Part of me couldn’t believe what had happened. These were snub fighters, worse then Darkets, how could they have done this?!

No one could have gotten out that quickly. There would be no survivors.

After a few more seconds, a Kilrathi face appeared on my com screen.
“Soon whelps,” the voice was almost gentle, or at least as gentle as a Kilrathi voice could get, “You shall join your pitiful comrades in the void.”

Everything seemed to be inviting me to die today.

My mind returned to the battle that was beginning to heat up again.

I found a lone Strakha with what looked like a damaged fuselage and opened fire. I almost screamed as I did so, the outrage and hate finally beginning to punch through the shock.

The fighter died almost instantly, I looked for a second one but found that all the red dots seemed to be vanishing from my radar. As the last of them vanished, Jake Coben’s face returned to the view screen.
“They’re retreating.” He sounded as shocked as I felt, “All ships,” he paused and took in a deep breath, “All ships return to base, you’ve done all that you can.”

I fired a few more shots into space and watched as they hit absolutely nothing. After I finally managed to pry my finger off of the trigger I smashed my fists into my legs, simply because they were there and some part of my brain that remembered common sense told me that punching the control panels would probably do more harm then good.

It was a long while before I was able to calm down enough to fly back to the Hermes. And I think I was one of the first to get back onboard.

To be continued.

P.S. Cheers BrynS, i'll keep that in mind.
 

Kilrah

Spaceman
This was surely a pleasant surprise; I wasn’t expecting a new chapter so soon. :)
Oh, nice touch mentioning Colonel Christopher Blair.

Again, keep up the good work.
 

BrynS

Mr Kat says...
Another very competent addition!

Out of interest, have you already planned an outline for the entire story/fiction or are you just developing it as it comes, chapter by chapter?

Keep up the excellent writing!

Cheers,


BrynS
 

Marc

Commodore
I... I'm just,... it's like... I am addicted to these chapters man! very cool stuff!
I'm very patiently waiting for more, however long it takes, I'll wait-'cause it's worth it.

awsome stuff, truly fantastic.
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
Thanks again to all commenters, be advised that this chapter’s a bit more grisly then most.

For any interested, I submitted a new music video to the CIC yesterday, it’s the last one I’ll be doing. Unfortunately I forgot BrynS’ advice and the pictures are still stretched. I’ll sort that out later.

Chapter 6: Man Down

Fool’s perspective


The shot was excellent, or maybe just lucky.

One minute I’m running, sprinting towards my fighter, looking around me for the umpteenth time to make sure I wasn’t going to get run down by a passing Arrow or whatever, and find myself riding out into space as a smear on some guy’s wheel.

The ramp is pushed up to the waiting thunderbolt, tense looking crew members are shouting over the din and waving their arms impatiently, I can’t hear them but it doesn’t take a genius to guess that they’re telling me to move my ass.

And then they were gone.

Halfway across the deck, over the noise of elevators bringing new fighters to the deck and the engines of a Hellcat firing up, a deafening low pitched whooshing sound sliced through my eardrums. It lasted for a second maybe.

What came after was worse. In the time it took my brain to tell my hands to cover my ears after the first noise, the Thunderbolt exploded, sending fiery shrapnel in all directions.

The explosion engulfed one technician. What was left of him was more ash then human.

A flying piece of hull ripped another technician in two, blood exploded out of each exposed segment of the woman’s segmented body.

In the far corner of my eye, I noticed one of the other pilots, a man in his thirties maybe, he’d been heading for a longbow but changed his mind when the shit started flying. He covered his head and fell to the deck. That seemed like sense; I decided to follow suit; and then another piece of flying shrapnel tore my right arm clean off.

The pain was unlike anything I’d ever felt before, and I don’t think there’s a suitable comparison, except maybe that getting your guts ripped out by a mountain lion might hurt less.

Cradling the superheated stump where my arm had once been, I fell to the floor and parted with a shameless high pitched whine. Bizarrely, I’d had frequent fantasies as a child about getting injured or killed in dramatic ways, I was something of an eccentric child, instead of fantasising about killing Kilrathi I fantasised about getting killed by them, being the pilot that acts as a decoy, allowing a transport full of civilians to escape through a jump hole or something to that effect.

More recently,( in my darker hours), I’d fantasised about being injured badly enough to get shipped home, still the childhood dreams of heroism crept into them and I was now helping to fend off a Kilrathi boarding party and getting shot in the process.

Two things had separated those dreams from reality. One, the pain had always been bearable, two, the resultant scream had always sounded manly and dignified, much like in your standard holo-movie.

I’m not sure how long I laid there. Looking back I doubt it was too long considering we were under attack. After what felt like an hour I felt hands tugging at my shoulders and legs, hoisting me into the air, (aggravating my wound as they did so).

The set me down onto a stretcher. Distantly, in some corner of my mind that wasn’t overcome by the torturous agony, I remembered that medical teams were always lurking near the flight deck, just in case of emergencies.

People were talking, shouting, I couldn’t hear them, the pain was demanding all the attention, and if it wasn’t then I expect I had a ringing in my ears that would be almost strong enough to shatter my skull.

After a few seconds dithering, during which time they injected me with something, I was hoisted into the air and was carried off with great speed towards the infirmary.

It wasn’t until wed been bouncing down the labyrinth of corridors leading to the infirmary that I felt the effects of the drug they’d given me take effect.

The pain in what was left of my upper arm started to numb, don’t get me wrong, it was still fucking painful, but at long last it had died down to levels that did not call for any high pitched wailing, (by this time my voice had become pretty much inaudible anyway.)

“Just relax kid, you’ll be fine.” the voice of one of the doctors, by the looks of things a forty year old, forty a day woman, broke through the haze that had engulfed my brain.

The doctor gave a tense looking half smile before returning her attention to steering or whatever she was doing.

With the pain continuing to die down, my stomach acid decided to make its presence felt. I felt bile rising in my throat, not a good thing if you’re lying on your back.

I uttered what I hoped was a suitably urgent grunt, (words were far beyond my reach now), and made a pitiful effort to role onto my undamaged side.
“Oh Shit!” Another voice shouted.
“Put him down!” This was the woman again, “Morgan, get him on his side, come on, move it!”

Another hand grasped my shoulder and forcibly flung me onto my left side. They started moving me again before I had time to throw up. I remember feeling a tinge of gratitude, I was bleeding to death after all, nice to know that they weren’t wasting time.

I hurled after only a few seconds, the vomit was red with the remains of the stew I’d consumed for dinner, and most of the foul smelling shit found itself clinging to my face. I didn’t have the strength to lead over the side of the stretcher, so I vomited onto the edge, forming a small puddle next to my head.

I had time for one more pained grunt as my arm chose to remind me that it was still missing, before I passed out.

That’s probably how it all happened anyway; I don’t remember most of it. For a lot of it I’ve had to go by what I was told and what makes the most sense.

FOURTY FIVE MINUTES LATER

I guess this would have been the time for a unusually vivid dream, as they patched my back up as best as they could I’d be thrust into the deepest manifestations of my subconscious to confront some inner demon maybe or maybe discover something deeply meaningful about myself.

Like I said though, this wasn’t one of my fantasies, this was really happening. Of course I don’t know what was happening at this time, I was still out cold. My body presumably was pumped full of stronger sedatives that would keep me sleeping peacefully until this time next year.

At this point I assume that they were growing me a new arm, or maybe attaching it. I’m not too clear on the science of limb regeneration, I don’t know whether they grow a new limb and fasted it onto you or whether they grow a new limb out of you like a plant, sprouting from the original flesh and growing into a new limb.

The whole thing’s kind of creepy.

The first thing they’d probably do is stop the bleeding, stabilise me and sterilise the wound to prevent gangrene. After that I imagine I was moved to some section of the infirmary of another, filled with highly sophisticated devices which scanned, poked and prodded me several times over before growing me a new limb that was custom built for my use.

Or maybe they just pulled a spare out of the fridge.


FIVE HOURS LATER

This next bit I remember more clearly.

I woke up with a warm, fuzzy and vacant feeling coursing through my veins that almost caused me to go back to sleep.
“He’s awake.” I heard Adish call out, my brain was sluggish and it took me a while to realise who it was that was speaking, or what had happened, or who I was for that matter. This was some good stuff in my system.

I heard footsteps on the infirmary’s deck plating and a few moments later I opened my eyelids, (which felt like bricks) enough to make out the faces of Adish, Torrent, and Razor. My vision was obscured slightly, but it looked like Razor was angry about something.
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
“How are you feeling?” Torrent asked me.

I grunted something noncommittal and soon found myself drifting off to sleep again.
“Hey!” Adish said, tapping me lightly on the side of the face, “Wake up kid, we’re talking to you.”

It seemed I didn’t have a say in the matter.

I let loose a heavy sigh and forced as much energy into my weary form as I could.

I opened my eyes and blinked a few times to try and gain more clarity in my field of vision.
“Alright,” I mumbled, “Just tired.”
“I’m not surprised,” Razor responded, “They must have used half the ship’s sedative supply on you.”

A few grins answered this momentary use of humour.
“What did I?” I cut myself off and fought away a yawn, “What happened?”

They were silent for a few seconds before Razor answered me.
“A shit load of Strakha came through the jump point along with the corvettes. They were cloaked so we didn’t detect them until they were already here. They pounded our ships with dumbfire missiles.” She paused, taking in a heavy breath, “The Boston is gone.”

The shock and the sedatives delayed my reaction considerably, for almost a minute, I simply stared at Razor, repeating he words in my head over and over again until they sunk in.

In the space of your career, you read reports of Kilrathi atrocities that take the lives of thousands of our people, you fight ships that can make themselves invisible, you see your wingmen die and you force yourself to push it aside and get on with your job.

But sometimes you can’t.

It was too much, in what now felt like a very short space of time, I’d had an arm ripped off and I’d just been told that a bunch of Strakha took out one of our destroyers.
It was at times like this that reality came and whacked you over the head; We were losing. We were dying, and they weren’t.
But we’re not dead yet! I screamed to my pessimistic, (and hopefully not realistic thoughts), Confed’s been in this situation before remember, and we lived through it. We can still win this thing.

Amazingly, saying that to myself once again made me feel marginally better. Emphasis on ‘marginally’.
“Survivors?”
“A few life pods made it out,” Torrent replied, there was something unreadable in her voice and expression, “Less then ten percent of the crew made it.”
“Shit.”
“What about pilots?” I asked, “How many did we lose?”
“Just your arm,” Adish replied, “Remember, these are Strakha, even with ship killer configurations they’re still no match for our fighters.”

That wasn’t entirely true, but research showed that a competent and alert terran pilot had a reasonable high chance of success against a Strakha. When you’re tangling with five or ten of the buggers however things got a bit more difficult.

Still, this boasting was comforting.

There was another silence, this one longer. When the others showed no sign of ending it I tried to prop myself up on my elbows.

I was fairly surprised to find that I now had two elbows. I had gone to sleep with just the one and had not expected it to grow back in my sleep.

Looking at the new appendage, I noticed that there was a circular scar which outlined where my old flesh ended and my new flesh began. The arm was devoid of hair, and looked a lot more pale then the rest of me. Shortly before I was discharged, one of the doctors told me that the colouration would even out before too long, how that worked I’m not sure.

Moving the thing wasn’t easy, it felt especially sluggish and weak, and not just because of pain killers, again, shortly before discharge I found out that this should pass.

Anyway, where was I?

“Any idea how long I’m going to have to stay here?”
“They said overnight at least.” Torrent responded.

I nodded, pleased that I wouldn’t have to endure the burden of movement. In the current state I was in I’d probably fall over halfway to my bunk and spend the night sleeping on the deck plating.

“That reminds me,” Razor said, “Trent told us to tell you you’ve got the two days off, he says spend time in the simulator, hit the gym and basically break into your new arm.”
“Will do,” I replied, “For now though I think I really need to get some sleep.”
“I’m amazed you’ve stayed awake this long.” Adish said before vanishing from my line of vision.
“Alright, we’ll leave you to it.” Razor added, moving away towards the door.

Torrent gave me a comradely swat on my undamaged shoulder before exiting. I tried, with limited success, to move my new arm again. It felt too much like a doped up two ton weight and the best I could do was flex two out of four fingers.

Modern medicine is a mixed blessing. In times passed that injury might have gotten me shipped home and I could have spent my days safe in the knowledge that I’d done my duty and couldn’t do any more.

Nowadays all a severed arm earned me was two days off, then it was back in the firing line.

I guess it was better that way.

To be continued. Bit of a short one i know, but this it must be.
 

McGruff

Banned
Khavik said:
I found it hard remember you were changing viewpoints, but once I got the hang of it, it was good shtuf.

It would be interesting to read a chapter from the viewpoint of a rank and file Kilrathi pilot during the engagement.
 

Marc

Commodore
McGruff said:
It would be interesting to read a chapter from the viewpoint of a rank and file Kilrathi pilot during the engagement.

It's a descent suggestion. But for now Plywood Fiend's on a roll, a pretty damn interesting good roll. For my part, I'll just sit back and enjoy WHATEVER he/she(?) decides comes next.
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
Marc said:
It's a descent suggestion. But for now Plywood Fiend's on a roll, a pretty damn interesting good roll. For my part, I'll just sit back and enjoy WHATEVER he/she(?) decides comes next.


I'm a he.

I'll gladly consider all suggestions offered by readers, you may see some Kilrathi P.O.V later on but if i do decide to include some it probably won't take the form you expect.

I will say no more on this.

That reminds me, someone asked if i had the whole thing mapped out, the answer is yes, more or less, i ave a basic plot mapped out but for a lot of the chapter contents, such as Fool getting his arm ripped off, i'm just making it up as i go along.

Thanks to all commenters and readers.
 
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