Jaws of the Lion

Mjr. Whoopass

<FONT color=lightblue><B>I was going to say someth
Downing Quadrant
Hyperion System- Outer Orbit
Confederation Date 2667.190

The captain sensed this was the end of the line for his Destroyer, but he was determined to make it a glorious finish. The enemy Cruiser and its escorts were steamrolling through the picket line. Corvettes, frigates, and fighters were exploding everywhere. Inside, the crew was frantically working like a well programmed machine un-phased as their ship rocked with sporadic explosions and lasers which clattered shielding and armor like an unholy rain.

There were few if any friendly fighters left in the face of the overwhelming enemy. The Destroyer's gunners were firing at everything that moved, confident they weren’t hitting their own.

An officer frantically yelled towards the captain: “One more torpedo and we’ll break apart!!” In the twinkling of an eye, the captain instantly assessed the situation and instinctively came up with his plan of attack.

As the closest and most damaged of the 3 Destroyers left, he could’ve pulled back behind the line. This might increase his chance of survival with the military excuse of getting more shots in as the enemy began to focus on closer less damaged Destroyers. Then again, he might explode before making it back. Another option was to hold position, which brought maximum firepower to bear on the Cruiser. This offered no chance of survival, as his ship would probably explode within a minute.

None of these options were chosen as the captain reached his decision more by instinctive feeling than by thought or training. “Full speed ahead bearing on a collision course for the Cruiser! Increase power to forward shields! All weapons, concentrate on the cruiser! Launch everything you’ve got at her!!!” The captain roared.

“Even the flak cannons sir!?” an officer asked.

Irritated, the captain sharply responded; “There won’t be time for enemy bombers to lock! Throw everything you’ve got into weakening its shields before we ram!!”

The crew was ready to sacrifice themselves. They knew they wouldn’t survive the odds. They knew the enemy cruiser had to be slowed at all costs before reaching the main fleet and its priceless capital ship.

It didn’t take the enemy long to decipher his plan. Frigates and fighters alike frantically focused on the captain’s destroyer. He felt a sense of victory as the Cruiser flinched and changed course. “Hard to port! Don’t let that coward get away!!!” the captain screamed. His adrenaline began to overpower his mind to the point where he was seeing red. “Why aren’t more weapons firing!?” he asked incredulously.

“Fighters have destroyed most of our turrets sir!” the officer replied in an equally frantic tone.

The retching sound of enemy laser fire, which was mostly shields, was now completely against the hull. The sound of an unholy rain became a downpour from dozens of lasers. The ship began to visibly shake with each hit. The captain’s hope of taking the cruiser out in a glorious fireball was sunk as he realized it was escaping his grasp. He found himself leaning and tilting his chin up and to the left as if this could make the ship move that way.

Just then, the Destroyer clipped the stern of the Cruiser. The shieldless ship instantly bounced off the Cruiser’s shields in the trajectory of a wild twisting nightmare. Crewmen were thrown around like rag dolls as the twisting ship’s gravity flickered in and out. Only the dim glow of a few in tact machines lit the room and showed dark silhouettes of unbuckled crewmen smashing into walls and monitors as the ship twisted and spun. Shortly after this, a huge boom was heard followed instantly by a sound like Banshees and deep toned whales singing a chaotic, deafening, dissonant chord. Although some crewman survived the impact, none of their eardrums did.

Though barely conscious, the Captain knew from the sound of the impact and the feel of the ship that it broke apart after a hit from the Cruiser’s Anti-Matter Gun. Oddly enough, this calmed the Destroyer’s mad twisting down to a slow unending circular lurch. The Captain found it almost soothing as he clung to the arm of his chair to keep from flopping in his seat. The smell of burning, melting durasteel mixed with blood and fuel penetrated his nostrils.

The glow on the bridge was more flames than glowing monitors. Most silhouettes were crewmen unconsciously flopping around either in their seats or still bouncing slowly off the walls. He noticed a few crewmen survived and were preparing to evacuate. Some were managing to put out the flames, which robbed them of their limited oxygen. He realized how precious this was when he heard banging on the door, probably from another compartment devoid of the precious element. He could barely make out images of healthier crewmen preparing to leave the smoke filled room in their attempt to evacuate.

“It’s fitting and honorable for a Captain to go down with his ship,” he thought wincing with pain as he began to slip out of consciousness. He knew he didn’t have any other choice since he was in no condition to get up and make his way out. As he was fading out, he thought back on his life.

He came from an average family to become a pilot, then on to be a Destroyer Captain. He had wanted more glory. Would his family be proud of him, even if he’s just one of many Destroyer captains to die in a mission that no one will ever talk about?

A few seconds later, as he drifted out of consciousness, his questions became more relevant. Where will I go when I die? Is there just nothing? Will I be in Paradise with Sivar since I died as a warrior? Is the Terran God the true one? Is He completely different from each of these? If so, will I end up in Hell? “God, whoever you are, if you’re real, take care of me please!” This fear of heading to the unknown gave him a sudden short burst of energy. He felt shame when he realized he said this out loud. Though no one could still hear and it wouldn’t matter since he was dying, this sort of rational thought eluded him in the state he was in. Seconds later, his thoughts became less coherent as he drifted out.

There were many honorable warriors throughout the Kilrathi war, on both sides of the conflict. Each one has a unique story of how he or she started and how they became who they were. This is the story of Danh’Tu Nar Kulrag.

(The story [set just before the false peace treaty-between WC's 2 and 3] is planned to continue earlier in the war.. perhaps WC1 or a little before. It would follow this Kilrathi warrior, his friends, and wingmen as he fights for the glory of the Empire. I would like it to stay coherent with the WC Universe. I plan to have more character development and have them speak more like Kilrathi, but I wanted to leave it ambiguous and a bit of a surprise that the character you were following was Kilrathi. We'll see if I'm inspired to continue it. I enjoyed reading The Lackey/Forstchen series and I've read some of Dahan's 2628- An Officer's Beginning and enjoyed it. This is the first piece of fanfic I've wrote and I'm new in the fanfic arena- for some reason I was inspired to write it tonight.)
 

Houkiboshi

Rear Admiral
Nice!... Really great; I like to see this side of the story:D

It's something you could feel... almost as if you were there... I'll be looking forward for more on this
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
Very nice, I had to wonder whether there'd be a surprise Kilrathi twist to the tale what with the concealing of such details as names, and the lack of objection to the collision course seemed a bit unlikely for human-types, but nevertheless it made for an interesting revelation when I finally found out for certain. Your description is especially good, the battle imagery that's conjured up is clear and plausible and finally you've got portrayed a very interesting central character. It's always nice to see Kilrathi presented with more depth then just 'You pathetic descendant of monkeys!'

In short, tis ace.
 

Mjr. Whoopass

<FONT color=lightblue><B>I was going to say someth
Wow, thanks guys, you're awesome for saying that, that makes me feel good! I guess I wanted to read about the Kilrathi side of things since we always see things from the Terran perspective. Since I didn't know of any stories like that, I thought I would write one. Thanks again for your positive feedback and for reading this, it will encourage and inspire me to write more about this Kilrathi's life, friendships, and military career. I will also try to read fanfics by other fans since it's fun, will give me ideas, and I think we should read each others to help encourage each other, share ideas, and spark life into this genre.

Also, that was very perceptive to pick up that it was probably a Kilrathi. I tried to keep things vague, but I knew hardcore Wingnuts could still pick up on it.
 

Houkiboshi

Rear Admiral
Don't worry, it looks REALLY GREAT... I'm really looking forward for more :D :D

Just out of curiosity, how far back in the characters life will you go?
 

Mjr. Whoopass

<FONT color=lightblue><B>I was going to say someth
I'm getting info from the General Wing Commander Chat forum to find out where a typical military career starts- so probably 4yrs. old. It was a surprise to me that they start that young, but apparently Kilrathi mature much faster than humans. As far as timeline, I may be starting a few years before Wing Commander 1.

It might be nice to see what the Kilrathi war most of us have experienced from the Terran side might have been like on the side of the Kilrathi. I just hope the general forums don't get tired of me asking questions. There may be a lot of them since I want to stay true to the generally accepted Wing Commander Universe.
 

Houkiboshi

Rear Admiral
I don't think anyone would complain about your questions, I think it's a good thing to try to make this as accurate as possible.

Keep up the good work! :)
 

Mjr. Whoopass

<FONT color=lightblue><B>I was going to say someth
Kilrathi hunts are spoken of throughout the Wing Commander Universe. They are mentioned from the very first game throughout even the novels. They are a rite of passage for a young Kil. The experience learned from these engagements influence how a Kilrathi wages war in space. Ever wonder what it might be like to follow Kilrathi on the hunt? I've tried to stay as true to Wing Commander Canon and Kilrathi psychology as possible to deliver as true a picture as possible.

(Our story continues after following that fierce skirmish on the Hyperion System battlefield of 2667)

This is the story of Danh’Tu nar Kulrag.

34 Years Earlier (Shortly before the Kilrathi War)…

Chapter 2: Hunt for the Nalga; Commencement of a Warrior

Kur’u Caxki Quadrant
Kulrag Sysem
Hunting Grounds - Planet Kulrag
Confederation Date 2533

“My favorite little cubs will finally be adults today,” said Hassa nar Kulrag. Her son Danh’Tu was filled with pride and anticipation for the glorious moment. It was his first time hunting a dangerous carnivorous animal, which most Kilrathi agree is a clear indicator of adulthood. His mother Hassa had been raising him in the typical Kilrathi fashion by teaching him to kill with his claws even before he could walk.

He and his friend wouldn’t be hunting the typical prey animals. Today they had the special and dangerous privilege of hunting a Nalga. This creature could potentially kill Danh’Tu and his companion, but the experience and the bragging rights are well worth the risk. A young Kilrathi who can hang a Nalga's teeth as a trophy around his neck is accorded a special respect.

“But auntie Hassa, those creatures have teeth several inches long! They are for seasoned hunters and we are but a few years old!” cried Vak.

“You are five years old Vak. Many Kilrathi warriors enter battle a year younger than you! Are you afraid too Danh’Tu?” Hassa asked.

“You have trained me well mother, and those of the Kulrag clan are superior to any other species. I will defeat this Nalga with my claws and my mind…” after a short pause Danh’Tu added “and with Vak nar Kulrag of course.” He added to give his second cousin a confidence boost.

Hassa gave a huge smile that showed her fangs “I know you will succeed my son. As for you Vak, you may back out of this to your shame. If you can muster the courage for this hunt, you must yield to Danh’Tu as your leader for the hunt, since you showed weakness.”

Vak felt embarrassment from his cowardice and convinced himself that he’d never again show weakness, even if it ended in death. He didn't, however, learn to keep his jowl shut. It wasn’t the first time his mouth got him into trouble and it wouldn’t be the last.

Hassa was secretly pleased of Vak’s fear. She was raising Vak even though he was not her cub. Her cousin had died from complications in giving birth to Vak and Vak’s father was an officer stationed on a Cruiser. She cared for Vak, but also saw the opportunity to train her real son Danh’Tu to be a leader. Like many Kilrathi women, she was a careful strategic plotter. She had been grooming them to Danh’Tu’s advantage since the day she was given Vak to take care of.

Hassa knew this Nalga beast was a young adolescent that the boys could handle. It was also raised in captivity on Kulrag rather than wild in its native habitat on Draga. It was still extremely dangerous. It was smaller than a full-grown adult Nalga, but its claws were still the size of a Kilrathi forearm and its four heads made it very difficult to sneak up on.

The boys would be hunting with only their bare claws (as had always been the case). Kilrathi slaves, a subjugated race called the Varni, hauled the beast by truck to the hunting grounds. Often low born Kilrathi known as Kilra'hra or the even lowest class known as Utak would help out at the hunting grounds, but for some reason the Emporor was increasing the size of his military. Even these low classes were being called up as transport pilots and crews. Many Kilrathi on the planet Kulrag supposed there was a threat to his throne from a rival clan. Certainly it was not that ape race that was rumored to be encountered. By all accounts they were a prey species. They would be an unworthy opponent similar to the Varni.

The Nalga would be brought in a steel cage since it would easily break through even a strong wooden crate. It could catch and tear apart any creature from the planet Kilrah (including a Kilrathi). The Varni would certainly not last but a few seconds were the Nalga to escape.

“Now go and hunt! Don’t come back until I hear you shout ‘Jak-ta Gah’!” Hassa said to the boys, describing what Kilrathi cry out when they achieve victory.

A horn and loud drum beats were heard over loudspeakers, marking the start of the hunt. Danh’Tu’s heart was beating fast with excitement. The wind was blowing through his mane as he surveyed the territory. He mostly saw the typical blackish gray sand dunes, which comprised most of the land on the desert planet. In the distance, he saw a forest created just for the hunting grounds. “Let’s head towards the forest while I formulate our strategy for the hunt” Danh’Tu stated. Even though Danh’Tu was a year younger, Vak was accustomed to following him thanks to their mother Hassa.

At first they were smiling from their excitement and bloodlust for the hunt. Then a few seconds into their jog they heard the cry of the Nalga from a few miles away. It was a frightful noise, which wiped their toothy grins off their faces and stopped them dead in their tracks. It conjured up stories they heard about Nalgas impaling two seasoned hunters at once and biting with all four heads. Each bite can and has killed by stabbing and taking off chunks of a Kilrathi’s furry flesh or throat. Even though Kilrathi are hunters by nature, they historically would single out the weakest prey animal of a herd and attack. Hunting a strong dangerous foe took willpower.

“We’ll travel first to the west of the forest before entering, this will keep us downwind of the Nalga.” Said Danh’Tu

“The forest!?” Vak questioned; “That’s the Nalga’s natural habitat! Let’s fight it on open ground where a Kilrathi is most at home!”

“I’ve already formed my plan and I’m confident it will work beautifully, but I’ll need your cooperation Vak.” Danh’Tu stated.

Danh’Tu’s mind formulated the strategy nearly instantaneously. “A Kilrathi is faster on open ground than a Nalga, but we won’t be able to outmaneuver him with speed since its heads and arms can reach in all directions. We certainly won’t win a stand up battle against its huge teeth and claws. We have to outsmart it.” Danh’Tu said

“Outsmart it!? What are we supposed to do, think it to death!?” Vak asked sarcastically, meaning no insult to Danh’Tu but rather looking for ideas.

“You let me know if you can think of something better, but I’m confident I have the best plan in mind.” Danh’Tu continued: “This beast will be looking for us in all directions, so it will be impossible to sneak up on it. We will need a distraction for it to focus on. Once we have it focusing on something, it’s less likely to watch it’s back, but it would still probably see us coming from behind or it’s flank. One of us will have to strike from above.”

“You mean jump? I don’t get it?” asked Vak

“Just do what I say Vak and we’ll defeat it. We’ll first find an open trail that leads beneath a high tree branch. Once you get the beast’s attention, just run underneath. I will pounce on it from above and hopefully strike a deadly blow before it even sees me. If I fail… well, I’ll probably be dead so it’s up to you if you want to attempt a rescue.”

Vak replied “I would die before I left you to your death, cousin.”

The Kilrathi boys found a trail by the river that lead under a tall tree with an overhanging branch. It was perfect! Danh’Tu climbed up the tree and waited while Vak headed farther downwind. The boys waited while listening and sniffing the air for a scent of the beast, but found no sign. Night fell, and the boys both slept in the tree since they didn’t think the four-headed Nalga to be a good climber and feared it might have good night vision.

The next day, Vak headed out again. This time he let out phony wounded cries throughout the day to attract the Nalga. Vak could be a real comedian and some of the things he said in Kilrathi and the sounds he made with his phony wounded tone almost made Danh'Tu fall out of the tree with laughter. Then Danh'Tu remembered that he couldn't give away his position. He stuggled to hold his laughter and smiled while appreciating how much he loved his cousin and how he could ease their fears and keep their attention up throughout the day. The carnivorous beast was getting hungry after two days of an empty stomach. It soon honed in on Vak's position.

None of the stories the boys heard prepared them for the fearful sight of the Nalga. The powerful monstrous beast shrieked and howled as it ran towards Vak. The chase was on. Trees whizzed by, some of their branches smacked Vak in the body and face as he stumbled on. Each of those branches hit the huge Nalga as well, which continued on as if it didn’t even notice and didn’t slow a step. This Nalga was exceptionally fast, normally faster than Vak. However, Vak’s tendency toward timidity made him frightened out of his mind as this colossal, hungry, slobbering, goofy looking Behemoth wanted to turn him into lunch! The sight of Vak running, his arms flailing above him out of sincere fear for his survival, made him look like a deranged lunatic! He looked like what Terran marines in the near future might call a "scaredy cat". His genuine yips, yelps, and wails would’ve brought hysterical laughter out of even the most sober Kilrathi! Danh’Tu was far too focused for laughter.

As Vak was hotfooting it under the tree, Danh’Tu pulled his claws from the branch and fell from about 25 feet like a flying squirrel. His timing was perfect. He gained incredible speed, which caused the air to rush by his sensitive furry ears and his vision to blur. He aimed his front claws for the spinal chords of the two back heads. As they sunk in at their rapid pace this naturally caused his body to whip around and his back paws to sink into the Nalga’s back. The relative speeds of the two creatures brought them crashing down. The Nalga began sliding as it plowed faces first into the ground. The skid turned into a rapid roll, which pounded Danh’Tu due to the incredible weight of the Nalga and their rapid speed.

Thankfully, he was thrown and rolled a few feet from the Nalga as it lashed out at the air with its huge claws. “Vak, I’ve fallen” Danh’Tu had to wheeze the air in for the next words since he had the wind knocked out of him; “and I can’t get up! You’ll have to finish him!” Dahn’Tu exclaimed in a croaky voice that made efficient use of the oxygen he managed to heave into his lungs.

The Nalga stumbled to its feet as two of the heads hung lifeless to the sides. The remaining heads didn’t look very pleased with Danh’Tu. “You’ll have to get his attention now, and I will finish him!” exclaimed Vak as he felt a little more courageous. Vak was courageous partially because a Kilrathi’s bloodlust will kick in when an enemy is wounded. He was mainly courageous because of Danh’Tu’s inspiring performance.

Danh’Tu wanted to make a sarcastic statement of how it wouldn’t be hard to get its attention since he just plunged his claws into the creature and it was looking at him for revenge. He couldn’t say this because he was still trying to catch his breath. About all Danh’Tu could do at this point was wiggle and wave his arms, kicking up dirt and sand as he crawled away. As he did this, he realized he didn’t need to do anything since the enraged leviathan was stumbling towards him and had no intentions of deviating for anybody or anything. Danh’Tu then just focused on crawling as fast as he could for his very life (which wasn’t very fast in his stunned state). Fortunately the Nalga was almost as slow at this point with its damaged heads and the gaping gashes in its back.

Vak, in contrast, was fast as ever. The stench of the wounded Nalga was overwhelming to Kilrathi nostrils as the alien blood poured out and the scent was blown towards him. The smell whipped Vak into a frenzy as he leaped onto the Nalga's back. His claws went wild cutting and tearing just like the stories Hassa told of the Kilrathi hero Karga (similar to the human David and Goliath story except Karga is the stronger picking on the weaker). The Nalga was deafeated and Vak looked embittered about it as if he wanted to continue fighting.

Just then Vak looked over and met eyes with Danh’Tu to see his huge toothy grin. Right then, they held eye contact and without speaking they felt the bond that only Kilrathi who’ve hunted together with their own claws could know.

Danh’Tu leaped to his feet while continuing eye contact and the smile that Vak now matched tooth for tooth. Vak could tell what Danh’Tu was about to roar and joined him in unison. “Jak-ta Gah!!!” They both exclaimed with a boisterous roar that the hunting ground workers and their proud mother (who was watching by camera) couldn’t help but hear.
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
Nice work, you've included some very interesting and well thought out details about Kilrathi camaraderie, sport, culture and even parenting. I find sometimes that its difficult to write Kilrathi and not make them sound too human, but I think you've managed it well. Another nice touch is the mention of a seemingly unimportant ape-species on the horizon which we all know is the foreshadowing of decades of war and the ultimate fiery doom of the Empire. Should be interesting to see how Danh’Tu deals with that.
 

Mjr. Whoopass

<FONT color=lightblue><B>I was going to say someth
Chapter 3: Combat Training​

So many things happened in the three years following the Nalga hunt. On that day, Danh’Tu and Vak were on their own and no longer under Hassa’s care. A year after this, in 2634, the Kilrathi Empire was thrust into war with the Terran race. This “Confederation” of humans was taking longer to conquer than everyone expected. Vak and Danh’Tu were each hoping to participate in the adventures of battle before the Empire completely crushed the humans.

Perhaps more important in Danh’Tu’s life was his marriage to his childhood friend Graknala. Graknala was the daughter of Hassa’s good friend. Danh’Tu loved her and the two became lairmates a few months after the Nalga hunt. Four years later, the two were thrilled when Graknala became pregnant with two cubs. Upon hearing this news, Danh’Tu prepared to volunteer to be a warrior in the Emperor’s service. He would leave Graknala to raise the children just as his father before him left Hassa in order to serve the Empire. He would also leave the care of his father’s estate to Jala, their talented Varni slave.

The Varni were a sentient reptilian race conquered by the Kilrathi several decades ago. Many of them fled into other systems to escape the Kilrathi as the overwhelmed Varni military fought delaying actions. During the attack, Jala’s brothers knew their family rations wouldn’t last for a long space flight. Jala was just a young boy and the most favored son of their parents. Out of jealousy and fearing the rations wouldn’t last, Jala’s brothers tied him up a few miles away and lied to their parents. They said Jala was dead from a Kilrathi attack as the family made their escape. When the Kilrathi troops found Jala tied up, they took him as a slave.

After being purchased by Danh’Tu’s family decades ago, everything Jala touched seemed to prosper. With his father absent, Danh’Tu even looked to Jala for guidance and wisdom when his Mom didn’t have the answers Danh’Tu desired. He was fascinated by Jala’s strong morals and stories of his “God most high”. Of course it was just out of curiosity, as Danh’Tu knew a Kilrathi must believe in Sivar. This still raised questions in Danh’Tu’s mind and caused him to think about what he believed. It was miraculous that everything Jala did seemed to be blessed. Danh’Tu could leave for a battle across the Universe knowing the estate was in good hands.

Danh’Tu and Vak both qualified for fighter training. The Nalga teeth around their necks and the story of their hunt made them very popular and respected among the other young volunteers. That experience played no small part in their acceptance into this prestigious group. The military classes taught them not only how to fly, but also about their enemy. These humans were very strange aliens.

These aliens were leaf eaters who occasionally ate meat. Most humans don’t hunt. Those that do simply hide in cover and shoot prey animals with projectile weapons from a distance. They are cowards. Where’s the sport in that? Danh’Tu wondered.

The entire class erupted in laughter to hear that these fools believed they were descended from monkeys! “As if the stronger could come from the weaker!” one student roared. More than one student in the class thought that calling humans “descendants of monkeys” would make for an excellent insult.

Even their heroes are weak. They learned of a human folk hero from intercepted video transmissions. This hero was a leaf-eating mammal called “Bugs Bunny”. It appeared to be a type of rodent, which was always running and hiding from hunters.

Danh’Tu learned that the Kilrathi Empire was gradually defeating the human Confederation due to the superiority of the Kilrathi race. This is evident in the dominance of Kilrathi warriors and their tactics.

Kilrathi fighter groups often prepare elaborate plans for their hunt. A patrol’s battle plan might involve leading an enemy into an unfavorable situation or fooling the enemy with tricks such as phony distress calls. The Kilrathi always seek to dictate the terms of the engagement even before the first contact with the enemy. Kilrathi patrols are seen as hunting groups with each member playing their respective role in the plan. More often than not, humans fall for their clever hunting tactics.

Past battles with the Confederation show this Kilrathi tactical supremacy to be evident. Confederation fighters don’t have these clever plans. Rather, humans may simply fly to a series of points on a patrol route. They generally enter an engagement with no plan other than fly into the area and shoot at the targets. They generally have over-ambitious pilots who fall for what they perceive to be targets of opportunity but are actually a Kilrathi ambush.

To their credit, humans are skilled in teamwork and their ability to adapt to dynamic combat situations. This is presumably from the many ‘team sports’ they favor in place of hunting. They generally pair up in groups of two- a wingman and a wing leader. The wing leader is usually the more experienced pilot. When a Kilrathi goes for the kill on the skilled leader, the wingman attacks that Kilrathi. More than one Kilrathi pilot has tried for the glorious defeat of an enemy ace only to be defeated by the lesser pilot guarding the ace’s back.

Kur’u Caxki Quadrant
Kulrag Sysem
Planet Kulrag
Confederation Date 2637


“Where are they?” Vak asked as Danh’Tu pulled his Salthi light fighter into line abreast formation.

“Not sure, keep your eyes peeled;” replied Danh’Tu.

Vak clicked on his wideband communications so the enemy could hear: “Where are you? Are you too cowardly to face us?” he inquired.

“Quiet Vak!” Danh’Tu exclaimed angrily over a private channel. “Now you’ve given away valuable information to our enemy! They now know we are in open space searching for them and that we don’t know where they are!”

“Let’s duck into that asteroid field then, so they’ll think we’re in open space when really we’re hiding.” Vak stated trying to salvage his mistake.

“My guess is they are already there. Waiting to spring upon us.” replied Danh’Tu.

“I am the flight leader Danh’Tu. I’ve scored much higher than you on flying skills and just edged you out on gunnery. Our commander has made it clear that I am to be the hunt leader. I’ve always listened to you and complied my friend, now it’s your turn to give me a shot.” Vak replied.

“Understood, let’s see what you can do cousin.” Danh’Tu reluctantly replied. Vak was a skilled pilot- he was one of the best in their Kulrag training class. What he wasn’t good at was strategy and tactics. In all of their hunts together as boys, Vak displayed impulsive rash decisions that didn’t have the depth or insight that Danh’Tu had.

“Let’s head towards the asteroids and see if we can route them out.” Vak stated. Danh’Tu knew this would be playing right into the hands of the enemy fighters. Danh’Tu hadn’t formulated a plan yet, but flying directly towards the field was the wrong move. Perhaps they should fly at high speed a great distance away from the field and loop towards the other side. They could enter where they wouldn’t be expected, and make their hiding enemy hunters become the hunted.

“Perhaps we could come up with something more clever. They may be expecting us to head straight there. They could be waiting to pounce on us.” Danh’Tu advised.

“I’m not afraid. If they try to pounce, we will strike them back!” Vak replied. Danh’Tu could tell Vak didn’t want to listen to counsel and enjoyed following his whims without Danh’Tu’s objections.

The stakes were high in this little game they played. This entire simulator operation was being scrutinized by their commander and could have a strong effect on which fighters they were assigned and most importantly which campaigns they would be assigned to. All of Kulrag's training pilots were participating in this tournament. Vak and Danh’Tu had a score of one win, one loss. Already in the loser’s bracket, one more loss and they were out.

Prior to this simulated mission, Danh’Tu and Vak had lost a straight up dogfight to their opponents. As the opposing pairs shot past each other, Danh’Tu ended up taking on the top pilot trainee in their class while Vak took on his wingman. Danh’Tu was taken out fast and Vak was left to face two fighters.

I feel like I failed Vak in the last mission, I am not one to criticize him in this one. Even if his plan is half-cooked, in some sense I will feel redeemed from my failure if we lose. Perhaps we will win. Danh’Tu thought as he rationalized his necessary silence at Vak’s poorly planned attack.

This mission was personal to Danh’Tu. They were facing an old rival of his. As a young cub growing up, Danh’Tu wasn’t the only one with an eye on his future wife Graknala. Another young cub named Kur had made a few advances. If it weren’t for Danh’Tu’s mother Hassa strategically organizing playtime and being friendly with Graknala’s mother, Kur may have won her heart. Kur loathed Danh’Tu for this and was one of the only trainees not impressed by the Nalga hunting story. Kur made it no secret to anyone that he didn’t like Danh’Tu.

Kur was waiting silently behind the asteroids. He had been waiting years for revenge and could easily wait hours more hiding behind the rocks if need be. Taking out Danh’Tu wouldn’t quench Kur’s hatred, but it sure would be pleasurable.

The fighters approached the asteroids at a rapid pace. Vak slowed his fighter as he reached the edge of the field and Danh’Tu matched speed. “I think I saw a blip on my screen coming from behind the asteroids. It flashed on and off in an instant. I think someone was taking a quick peek from behind the asteroids or was repositioning for an ambush.” Danh’Tu reported. Vak continued steady and undeterred on his course.

They passed into the asteroid belt and dodged the first of the floating boulders. As they passed the second row: “I’ve” “BOOM!!!” Danh’Tu only heard the first word of Vak’s sentence before an explosive sound was heard through Vak’s comlink. The enemy had sprung from a nearby rock to strike their quick and fatal blow. Vak was history.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Danh’Tu hit his afterburners and delved deeper into the field. He saw four streams of laser fire from the two enemy Salthis crisscrossing his fighter.

Butlav, Kur’s wingman, began taunting over wideband communications: “So the ‘famous’ Nalga hunters have been so easily outwitted! The lone survivor is fleeing like a coward!”

Kur just had to chime in with roaring laughter; “Muah hahaha! Hide you little merdha! You know that your lairmate secretly dreams of me, but she was not worthy of my affection. She is an ugly woman. You know I’ve spent a few nights with her just because I so easily can!”

This infuriated Danh’Tu. He wanted to flip his fighter around and pour everything he had into Kur’s fighter. No, that wouldn’t be good enough. It would be four lasers to two. I need to make absolutely certain I roast his tail for those comments. Danh’Tu thought.

“Have you nothing to say Danh’Tu?” Kur mockingly inquired.

“Must be because he knows it’s true! This fleeing coward has no honor!” Butlav responded with a hearty laugh.

“You can only dream of being with my wife, Kur. I’ve been able to live that dream every day.” Danh’Tu replied over the wideband with a calm, confident, calculated tone of voice.

Heading into the asteroid field at high speed was a smart move on Danh’Tu’s part. The enemy now had a two vs. one advantage. They had much more to lose. If Danh’Tu crashed into an asteroid at his dangerous speed, it would be expected that he wouldn’t win this scenario anyway. At least then Kur wouldn’t have the pleasure of shooting him down. If one of his opponents crashed, Danh’Tu would now have an even match and a chance to come out on top.

At full speed the opponents had little chance of flanking Danh’Tu. He headed towards the middle and denser section of the asteroids. Only subconscious reactions dodged Danh’Tu’s fighter around the rapidly passing asteroids. Kur and Butlav followed in hot pursuit.

Danh’Tu began a long arcing left hand turn while dodging asteroids. His cockpit shook as laser cannons nailed him from the side. While dodging asteroids, Danh’Tu used his peripheral vision to see that side shields and armor were badly damaged. Toggling his damage computer showed moderate damage to his stabilizers. He hadn’t needed to look this up since his cockpit was shaking in sequence with the afterburners.

In a series of intricate weaves made complicated by the presence of dense asteroids, Danh’Tu finally managed his fighter into firing position on Kur. Three long carefully placed laser bursts turned Kur’s Salthi into a burning twisting comet. Kur’s ship then exploded on a nearby rock. Danh’Tu didn’t have time to celebrate the victory or appreciate the accuracy of the simulator they were using.

Neither Danh’Tu nor Butlav exchanged any communications at this point since they were too busy bobbing and weaving around asteroids while jockeying for position.

While Danh’Tu was lining up with Kur, Butlav had been lining up on him. Two well placed laser bolts knocked out Danh’Tu’s rear shielding and most of his armor. Danh’Tu’s cockpit now vibrated and shook with every thruster used to propel or turn his craft. Danh’Tu initiated a series of huge exaggerated barrel rolls while dodging asteroids. The extra space taken up by this maneuver caused Butlav’s fighter to overshoot, giving Danh’Tu a clear shot as he rolled in on Butlav’s six.

One well-placed burst took out the rear shields of Butlav’s fighter. Just then Danh’Tu pulled up rapidly to dodge an asteroid. Back on track, he was finally honing in for his next shot.

All Kilrathi pilots learned that Salthis turn much better to the left due to the way their engine ducts are arranged. Butlav suddenly made a sharp 90degree left turn. Danh’Tu followed the left turn with a quick left of his own, shoving him to the side of his cockpit. He shot a couple long streams of fire from his shaking fighter into Butlav’s slowing, turning fighter. The sitting turn Butlav was making made him an easy target as he took laser damage in his fighter’s right side. Both fighters made dings in the front of each other in the quick moment they faced off.

The clever maneuver Butlav initiated was called a Sit-’n’-Kick. It worked well in this situation by causing Danh’Tu to overshoot. What made this maneuver particularly clever was that Butlav had seen how dense the field to his left was and knew it was too dangerous to head into it even though a left turn was called for. This slowing maneuver would entice Danh’Tu to overshoot right into this deadly field.

Danh’Tu looked back over his shoulder to keep an eye on Butlav as his fighter sped past at breakneck speed. As he was eyeing Butlav and turning left to come back around,

BOOM!!!

Danh’Tu’s ship shook abruptly and his screen turned white. Danh’Tu had hit an asteroid. Game Over.

Danh’Tu sat for a minute in his sim pod. He couldn’t believe he let Butlav outsmart him. He had to hand it to him, that Sit-‘n’-Kick was a clever move in that situation. Danh’Tu had no desire to exit the sim pod and face his gloating rivals. Then he remembered that Vak was probably out there alone facing them. Danh’Tu popped his sim pod open.

Kur and Butlav had Vak cornered by the wall, flinging insults at him. Several other trainees had watched the simulated mission to see whom they’d face in the future. These pilots took even more enjoyment out of watching this exchange than they did the fighter combat.

“What a horrible performance Vak! I expect you will be assigned to fly a transport!” Butlav jeered.

The surrounding classmates gathered around and were chuckling with every quip. Not because the jokes were particularly humorous, but because all of them knew the extraordinary contempt these pairs had for each other. They were delighting in the show.

Danh’Tu walked powerfully and confidently between Vak and his adversaries. He eyed the two of them with disdain. “Let’s go Vak,” he stated, his eyes fixed on Kur. “They are standing too close and the scent of their breath is repulsive to my nostrils.” The watching trainees snickered. Danh’Tu held eyes with Kur.

“So you are running and hiding then? That is not unlike your flying style! This ‘Bugs Bunny’ wanted to burrow into hiding even in our simulator!” Kur gave a smile to the other trainees as they laughed.

“I vaporized you easy enough. Kur.” Danh’Tu replied with a relaxed tone implying boredom and just short of arrogance.

“That’s because we were sitting around waiting for you to inevitably fly into an asteroid and be killed by your own incompetence.” Butlav replied with an equally relaxed tone well beyond arrogance. At this comment, the audience of trainees made noises suggesting this insult was a deep cut implying a challenge.

“Enough!” the commander howled as he stormed into the room. “If you trainees so much as lay a paw on each other, you will be assigned to waste management on K'Tithrak Mang! Vak. Danh’Tu. I will see the two of you in my office tomorrow afternoon for your assignments. You will be shipping out. The Empire will be initiating some major engagements in the next couple years to complete the demise of the Confederation. High Command wants the top pilots for the most glorious battles, so congratulations to those who are still in the tournament.”

“That’s me.” Kur said disrespectfully to Danh’Tu. Danh’Tu bristled. Those words cut him worse than even sharp claws could. Danh’Tu took comfort knowing he came out on top in life. He had Graknala. Danh’Tu wouldn’t trade glorious battles in exchange for his lairmate.

The Commander interjected: “Many of those eliminated early will also play important roles in the upcoming initiatives.”

Danh’Tu overheard some muttering from Butlav, who was now at a distance and joining a cluster of trainees. He couldn’t make out what he said at the distance, but the smiles and laughter from trainees indicated it was a quip about where Butlav imagined Danh’Tu would be assigned.

The Commander walked up to Vak and spoke in a low tone only Vak could hear: "Don't worry, someone out there likes you two."
 

Houkiboshi

Rear Admiral
Nice!... You're doing a really good job with this story...

I like the way you are keeping it true to the WC History and feeling. Also, you're doing an excellent job with your back ground research.

Keep up the good work, you're doing great and I really enjoy this story :D
 

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
It's good that you didn't make your central character the all powerful, ever victorious bastion of excellence. Central characters who win wars all by themselves can easily turn a story to dung. (Granted that was kind of the case with most of the games but that was different, obviously).

By the same token i'm glad you didn't let him get torched by Kur. You've done a good job in portraying a character that's easy to hate and it was nice seeing him get fed his whiskers. Also the Kilrathi competative spirit and academy training comes across as both similar in some respects and markedly different to the terran equivilent in others. Nicely done.

My only quibble is that some bits near the beginning seemed a bit rushed. Learning that Danh'Tu was both a husband and father seemed a bit spontaneous, it would have been good if we'd seen him courting his lairmate, or possibly if you'd wrote about the birth of his cublings. That sort of thing.

Overall however, tis ace.
 
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