The Fan Fiction behind the defunct WC Comic


Well, as you may or may not knowt he WC Comic project of Kenshi is officialy considered abandoned as I have not been able to contact him for many months now. However I think the idea was quite fun and I thought I'd share the opening fiction behind the project.

2654.288 A.D.
Proxima System, Douglas Quadrant (Vega Sector).
TCS Falcon

Captain Hermann “Baron” Vorchstein eyed the cards in his hand coolly, they hadn’t been favorable to him lately and it was certainly looking like his luck wasn’t going to change anytime soon. Tearing his eyes away from his dismal hand of cards he eyed his opponent seated directly across from him. Poker peer, Lt. Jonathan Craft was still intensely focused on whatever hand he held. Hermann had no doubt that whatever the young lieutenant was holding it had to be better than his own cards. Hermann had almost bowed out last round and now that he had seen what he had been dealt he regretted his decision to stick it out for another hand. Well, here was yet another week’s salary gone down the drain with nothing but a rotten spirit to show for it. What a disgrace…Hermann shifted his gaze to his immediate left to see longtime flying partner, Sarah Molynieux, looking entirely too pleased with her cards. Perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing, if he was going to lose his money it might as well to Sarah, better her than the silent Jonathan Craft. Hermann could swear the man didn’t have a tongue, he rarely spoke a word even when it was important. There was no way Hermann could tell what Jonathan was holding in his hands but it was clear that Sarah was packing a winner, she typically didn’t let her emotions show during the game. Then again, she could be bluffing, it wasn’t entirely unlike her, she was a habitual risk taker.
Hermann swung his focus back to his right and found the intense black eyes of Lt. Ling Wu staring right back at him. He managed to flash a wry smile and looked back down at his hand of cards. When he glanced back up he found her still staring at him. That girl was more than a little unnerving when it came to playing cards, she became an ice queen fixated on peering into his soul. None of his gentlemanly grace and charm seemed to work with her, not that he’d intentionally try to manipulate her in any way but it was slightly disturbing that he had been unsuccessful in even eliciting a smile from the Japanese pilot.
“Everybody ready?”
Sarah’s voice crashed through Hermann’s wandering thoughts bringing him back to the game at hand. Across from him, Jonathan nodded, his eyes never leaving his card. Hermann gave his own dismal shrug then slowly placed his cards on the table. He glanced to his right as the impenetrable Lieutenant Wu discarded her own cards with apparent grim determination. Hermann had to bite his bottom lip from breaking out into a smile, somehow Fate had been kind. The steel eyed Lieutenant had managed to receive worse cards then his own depressing hand. Ling seemed rather resigned to her fate considering she had just as much riding on this hand as did he, and he was pulling in a Captain’s pay whereas she was running a good grade below him on a lieutenant’s pay. At least she was a decent loser. If there was one thing Hermann hated it was a sore loser. Across the table, the often silent Jonathan shook his head in resignation then laid his hand down. Hermann raised an eyebrow at the Lieutenant’s feeble cards. Somehow, these poor lieutenants had been dealt a cruel twist to be given such a sad collection. Compared to their cards, his pathetic hand looked pretty decent. Still, that left only Sarah left to play. He glanced back at her expecting to see her radiant winning smile but was surprised to see her jubilant expression deflate.
“I got nothing…looks like you take this one, Hermann. Although how you can that much money with that crappy of a hand is beyond my understanding. It’s got to be that German luck of yours.”
Hermann let a wide grin cover his hawkish face as he leaned forward to rake the large pile of confederation credits towards his edge of the table. Despite the humble hand dealt to him, fate had decreed him a winner tonight, he was well ahead of where he had started the evening at and far better than where he had thought he would be only a few minutes earlier. He was beginning to think that maybe he should stick around for a few more rounds.
“I don’t believe you cleaned me out on such a rotten hand, what a load of filthy crock!” Sarah declared, continuing her tirade with mock sullenness. Hermann knew that their long friendship was in no danger of being shattered by one small card game so he flashed her a wide grin that hinted at a rematch. She met his preying smile with a dark glare then turned her attention to the table next to them.
“Hey, Stoneman, why don’t you come join us for a round and ante up that fat major’s pension of yours, I’d love to get me a piece of that.”
Herman twisted in his seat to get a good look at the sole occupant of the adjoining table. Major Jack “Stoneman” Bradley didn’t even look up from the news pad he was intensely scrolling. “Sorry, Widowmaker, I’m not a gambling man. But if I did, you’d never touch my money.” He replied with a somber voice, his eyes still playing across his data pad.
“Come on, why don’t you at least give me a shot at it? I’m already thinking of ways I could be spending it. Besides, playing a round of cards has got to be more exiting than reading reports from the front.” Sarah persisted, her voice taking on a slightly pleading tone. Herman glanced back at his table companions. Jonathan was idly shuffling the deck of cards, indolently taking in Sarah and Jack’s conversation. Sara was still watching Major Bradley, clearly expecting him to look up at her eventually. Ling was also closely watching the Major, her gaze remained fixed on the Major’s downturned head. Herman took a second look at the young lieutenant, her stare was more than just idly observing the Major, she was practically entranced by him. It certainly was no cold poker stare now; it almost appeared that the young pilot had a crush. Now that was interesting, it would explain a lot of things, her apparent spurning of his usual comedic genius, her often silent moodiness; she was practically emulating the Major. Why hadn’t he picked up on that before? Hermann wondered if Jack had already noticed. Most likely he had, there wasn’t much that slipped the Major’s careful attention, he was an extremely observant man.
“Well, enlighten us feeble folk, what is the latest news from the front?” Hermann asked as he lazily stretched his long legs inadvertently bumping his against Sarah’s underneath the small table. She winked at him and flashed a mischievous smile in response.
“Hmm, well it would appear that the Tiger’s Claw is ripping the Kilrathi a new one in the Rostov System. Yesterday, Major Michael Casey and a certain Captain Christopher Blair iced a Kilrathi Cruiser and its escorts with just a pair of Raptors. Now you know that had to be some damn fine flying.” Jack stated as he finally looked up from his news pad. “They evidently have become quite the heroes of late, average schmoes like you pale in comparision.” He continued with just the slightest trace of a smile to indicate his harmless jest.
“Wow, this is like the 3rd time in the past 2 months I’ve heard of this Blair fellow, sounds like he’s a hot item right now.” Sarah remarked stoically. Hermann caught just the slightest twinge of jealousy in her voice, though she’d never admit it, Hermann knew Sarah truly enjoyed being in the spot light. She had already had her moment in the news headlines for her maneuver against a Ralari destroyer in Hubbles Star but it was clear she wouldn’t have minded a few more good news stories about her.
“He may be a good pilot, but he’s no legend like the Iceman.” Lieutenant Wu suddenly spoke up. It appeared she had finally broken the hypnotic spell she had been under, or maybe it was because the Major had started talking so now she felt she could. Hermann was going to have to watch her more closely to see just how deep these feelings for Major Bradley were. Things could definitely get interesting.
“That, he may not be just yet, but according to what Michael wrote me in his last email, this kid is the real thing. He’s got natural ability in the cockpit and knows how to stay cool in hot situations, sounds like he may really develop into something.”
Jack replied, as he laid the news pad down on the table. Hermann nodded absently and shifted to the side of his chair. Shadow had laid the deck of cards down realizing there wasn’t likely to be another round. Sarah was tugging at the collar of her uniform, something of which she complained daily. Once she had even threatened to sue the designer, but fortunately had been distracted before she launched her typical lecture.
“That’s right, I forgot, you used to serve on the Claw didn’t you?” Hermann asked as he began to sort his recent winnings into different credit denominations. Major Bradley nodded slowly before replying.
“Yeah, I spent 7 years on that ship. Started at Custer’s Carnival, what a hell of a way to start a pilot career, I guess better that than a quagmire like McAuliffe. The Claw is a fine ship, got a hell of a crew and has probably scored more Kilrathi kills than any other ship in the fleet.” Jack replied, his admiration for his former ship and comrades showing strongly in his voice. Hermann could understand the man’s pride, after all the Claw was practically the poster ship of the fleet. If there had been any battle worth fighting, odds were that the Claw had been somehow involved in it.
“So you know the Iceman?” Ling asked softly, her voice barely carrying across the small bar room. Hermann was almost surprised the girl had worked up the courage to speak directly to Jack, the girl was timid almost to the point of reclusive when it came to actually addressing the Major.
“Know him? I was his wingman for the better part of those 7 years, so I guess I know him…” Jack’s voice trailed off as he recalled the change that had taken place, the fact that was common knowledge to most every pilot in confed. “At least, I know him as well as anyone does these days.”
“What’s he like?”
“Well, that depends. Before the Kilrathi murdered his family he was pretty much like any one of you. Young, full of life, loved to fly, had a great sense of humor but really only what you would probably consider an average pilot. He was a good wingman, someone you wanted covering your six. Then, after he lost his family, he changed overnight. He refused to take bereavement leave and insisted on remaining in the flight lineup. In that first month, he made the Kilrathi pay dearly. Those cats must have thought Confed had a new secret weapon he was piling it on them so much. He was a weapon of their own making.” Jack paused for a second reflecting on his former wingman, “He’s probably the best pilot I know, he flies with a type of cunning I’ve never seen in any other pilot. He knows how to use anything and everything to his advantage, that’s how he invented the Iceman maneuver.”
Hermann listened reverently, for although he’d heard many stories of the Iceman from the Tiger’s Claw, Jack’s personal accounts were always much better, the other stories always seemed to pack more fiction than fact but at least with Jack he knew he was getting the real scoop. Hermann could see Ling was eating up every word the Major was saying, no real surprise there. The other two were clearly interested as well, even the oft silent and indifferent Lieutenant Craft was listening intently. Widowmaker had clearly forgotten her intentions of winning Major Bradley’s salary in the card game and was twisted in her seat listening to Jack describe his former wingman. The story probably would have continued but a young jarring voice unexpectedly and unwelcomed boomed out from behind them.
All five pilots turned to face the bar’s open entrance and found a clean cut, black youthful 2nd class lieutenant standing boldly framed in the doorway. Beside him, looking extremely embarrassed and timid was another lieutenant, his eyes frantically roving as if searching for a quick way out of the room.
“Now presenting the greatest replacement pilots this bucket of bolts has ever had the greatest pleasure to carry within its rusty innards, Lieutenant Charles ‘Suicide’ Conner and his trusty sidekick, ‘Lefty!’”
The ebony skinned lieutenant was anything but timid, Hermann had to give him that but although he appeared to be the direct opposite of the tacit Lieutenant Craft, this Charles Conner was quickly looking to be a hundred times as annoying. With his introduction apparently completed, the smiling lieutenant strode forward clearly intent on sitting down next to the Major. He was about three feet from Jack’s table when he caught the Major’s eyes and stopped dead in his tracks.
“Baron, would you please explain the rules to this young plebe, please?” Sarah asked sweetly, her voice laced so thick with courtesy not even the outspoken lieutenant could miss the sarcasm. Still smiling, the lanky pilot took a seat at a separate table across from them and a good distance from the Major. Hermann smiled at Sarah, then swung around to address the already slightly tamed lieutenant.
“Alright then…Charles, let’s get a few things cleared up here. You are not God’s gift to the cockpit or to women. You are not even the first lieutenant to be assigned to this ‘rusty bucket of bolts’ that has made his own unexpected speech of greatness to the entire bar, as humble a crowd as we may be. So, here’s the ground rules, you shut your mouth and listen to us 90% of the time and you talk about 10% of the time. If you can hold to the 90/10 rule you should do just fine. If you continue to act like an ass then you’ll probably find yourself handcuffed to your bunk one morning with shaving cream in peculiar places while the Colonel is hollering out for inspection. Believe me, it has happened before on this ship.”


Hermann watched as the young lieutenant’s smile slowly began to fade as he realized that Hermann wasn’t joking. The instance to which he had referred to really had happened, but Hermann didn’t mention that it had been he himself who had been the one with the handcuffs around his wrists. Sarah could be so sadistic at times. Of course, Colonel Thompson had found it rather amusing as had the rest of the pilots. They often referred to it as “Vorchstein’s official military dress.” But that had been several years ago, and although quite an embarrassing experience, the humiliation had eventually faded. Hermann had learned from the experience, at least now he knew when to keep his mouth shut, at least most of the time.
Clearly, his words had an effect on the brash lieutenant who was visibly already reconsidering his brazen announcement. The smile had disintegrated into a worried expression, as Charles nervously fidgeted his fingers. Disturbed, the young pilot ventured a cautious response.
“Alright, I get the message. Yeesh, sorry for the problems, I was just trying to make an interesting entrance.”
Although it went against his better nature, Baron decided to ease off on the Lieutenant, at least the boy probably was a little more well behaved than he had been when he first joined up with Confed.
“And what an entrance it was, even though clearly wasted on such a meager audience as ourselves. Anyways, I suppose some sort of introductions should be made. Since you already have given us your handle, I’ll give you mine. I’m Captain Hermann Vorchstein, everyone calls me Baron.” Hermann paused for a second, then gestured to his left to Sarah. “And this well behaved young lady here beside me is Captain Sarah Molynieux, we all call her ‘Widowmaker,’ my advise is to be careful, Suicide, she doesn’t limit her skills to just practicing on the Kilrathi.”
Hermann felt Sarah’s boot explode into his shin underneath the cover of the table, he winced but managed to keep from cracking another smile despite the scowling expression imprinted on her pretty face. That expression was worth the pain in his left leg. He gave her a quick wink then turned his attention to Jonathan who was still seated across from him downing the last drop of his drink. “And this distinguished gentleman seated across from me is no stranger to the 90/10 rule. In fact, he seems to regard it as more the 99/1 rule, a lesson it would appear you’d do well to consider. This is Jonathan Craft, everyone around here calls him ‘Shadow’ partly since he doesn’t really talk much and partly because the furballs never see him coming.”
Shadow slowly lowered his glass and placed it steadily on the table, he gave Charles a curt nod of acknowledgement, about all he ever gave anyone then picked up the deck of cards and started idly shuffling through them again. Hermann continued on pointing to Ling on his right side.
“And this fine young lady here is Lieutenant Ling Wu, which up until your arrival was the newest pilot aboard the Falcon. I do believe she’s a darn sight prettier then you are but that may just be the booze talking. Your Chinese, right?”
“Whatever, of oriental descent shall we say.”
“You can say.”
Hermann gave a wry shrug, there was just no pleasing that girl. Apparently she only had eyes for the Major, although for the life of him he couldn’t imagine why. Jack had a good 12 years on the girl; how he’d come by such affection for which he wasn’t even partly working was beyond Hermann’s understanding. Not that it mattered, Hermann knew he was twice the life of any party, between him and Sarah there was always fun going on and that had to count for something.
“Before Baron gives another dry crappy introduction, I’ll save him the trouble. The name is Major Jack Bradley, everyone on board calls me, ‘Stoneman.’ Everyone, that is, except for you. You can call me, Major, and before you ask why, it’s because I don’t like you. I don’t like your attitude, I don’t like anything about you and until you prove yourself in a cockpit, you and I don’t have anything in common.” Major Bradley announced stoically, his voice flat and menacing, his gaze seemed to wilt Suicide’s revamped bravado. Again, Baron felt a twinge of sympathy for the kid, he was getting things screwed up from the start and that wasn’t going to be easy to fix, especially with the Major.
“Well, as you can see Stoneman is in a classic conversational mood, just wait till you catch him when he’s grumpy. You’re likely to lose an ear. You can loosen that collar, Lieutenant, this isn’t the Academy and as long as you behave you’ll find the dress standards are a little lax around here.” Baron remarked with a raise of his glass, he nearly put it to his lips when he realized it was empty. Now that was a waste of a good gesture. He set it back down gently and twisted in his chair to see if there was anything else left to drink.
“What about you, fella, you going to just stand there or you going to take a seat?” Sarah asked from beside him. Hermann looked up and realized the other lieutenant had remained silent standing in the doorway. He gave him a welcoming smile and gestured for him to come join the party. “Come on in, we won’t bite, well maybe Sarah will but at least not very hard.”
The young lieutenant cautiously picked his way towards them then chose a seat next to the recently disciplined Suicide. Apparently the exact opposite of his fellow classmate, this young lieutenant was determined not to repeat his friend’s mistake. Hermann wasn’t about to blame him for that, not after Suicide’s tactic had exploded practically in his face.
“What about you? You got a name, Lieutenant?” Hermann asked amiably. Perhaps he was just in a friendly state of mind, but he didn’t really feel like making the young man suffer the embarrassment of silence. Although, it wasn’t really as if the young man were so much embarrassed of the situation as it seemed he was content to remain silent of his own accord. It was beginning to look like they had received another carbon copy of Shadow. Finally, the lieutenant cleared his throat quietly and responded softly.
“My name is Thomas Halcyon. My instructors at the academy called me ‘Bishop.’”
Hermann knew the name was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place the reference. Somewhere before he had heard that name, but like the combination to his locker, he couldn’t quite remember. Hermann saw Major Bradley straightened in his chair beside them and gave Thomas a second look.
“You’re Halcyon’s boy?”
“That’s right, this is the Colonel’s only son, and he’s got the old man’s skills too! He’s cool in the cockpit, not as good as me but he does a decent job.” Suicide interrupted in response to the Major’s question, his earlier enthusiasm clearly breaking out again. For the moment, it appeared he had forgotten his previous rebuke.
“Alright, Suicide, you’ve got to remember the 90/10 rule. Less talking, more listening.” Widowmaker spoke up from Hermann’s left. The statement seemed to jar the young lieutenant and he quickly closed his open mouth in a sudden change of mind. With Suicide finally quiet, Thomas ventured his own response to the Major’s question.
“He’s my father, although I haven’t seen him in several years.”
Stoneman nodded his head in understanding then gave his own reply. “Well, the man’s had a war to fight, that’s been occupying a good deal of his time.”
“It would appear so.”
“Well, don’t worry about it, Bishop, if you’re Halcyon’s boy you ought to do just fine. That man’s a born leader, I’d crawl across broken glass on my belly for a commander like that. If you’re even a quarter of your father’s aptitude you’re alright by me.”
“Thanks, I guess. I’m afraid I don’t really know my father that well, I can’t really say if I’m a quarter of the man he is or not.”
Perhaps Hermann was in a particularly observant mood that night, but it was clear even to him in his slightly inebriated state that Bishop didn’t seem to be all that excited to discuss his father with the current company. Judging by his tone and comments, he didn’t seem all that interested in talking about his father at all, with anyone. Another interesting tidbit he needed to store away, Hermann made a mental note to tread cautiously on that subject.
“Well, I don’t know if I’d crawl across broken glass for our own Colonel Thompson, but maybe I’d wiggle my way across some gummy bears and mud for him.” Baron declared with an impetuous smile, “But in all sincerity, the Colonel is a pretty bright fellow, always knows when to strike and when to call it quits. A quality many commanders sadly lack. It would have been interesting to meet him while he was still flying.”
“I did meet him while he was still flying. He was stationed on the TCS Panther, which was support ship for the Claw when we mounted the Xanadu offensive. He flew support on our wing. Actually it was Iceman’s wing, he was a might fine pilot, saved my tail from getting chewed up by a tenacious Salthi. He’s got some wits about him, that’s also especially important in a commander.” Stoneman responded. Hermann gave a low chuckle and replied, “I forget, Stoneman, you’ve flown with every pilot in the fleet. Is there anyone you haven’t met?”
“There’s a fair decent number of pilots I’ve never flown with yet.”
“That was supposed to be sarcasm, Stoneman.”
“I noticed.”
Stoneman was clearly losing interest in Hermann’s verbal sparring so he decided not to take it any further. He gave an indifferent shrug then gave a glance towards Sarah. She was eying the young Halcyon thoughtfully, as if trying to see if he was related to the famed Colonel. Hermann leaned forward and nudged her with the tip of his boot.
“It’s not polite to stare.”
“Shut up, Baron. I wasn’t staring. Anyways, Lieutenants, welcome to the Falcon. If you have any questions feel free to ask Baron, he’s our official PR man.” Bishop smiled politely at Sarah’s comment.
“Thanks, I hope we get a chance to take the Raptors out for a spin.”
“Good luck on that, you’ll probably wind up with a Hornet or worse yet, one of the Falcon’s hippos, a Scimitar.” Wasp piped up, her voice clearly conveying her disdain for the Falcon’s complement of light fighters. Admittedly, she had good reason for disdaining them, compared to the hard hitting, stronger, more powerful Raptor, the other fighters served in more limited roles but each in their own right had a part to play. The Hornet was an superiority fighter, it could out fly and out maneuver just about anything in space. When it was commissioned it was designed to out fly other fighters, not out punch them. The venerable Scimitar that Wasp had referred to in such disdain as the hippo was perhaps a deserved slur as most pilots learned to loathe its wallowing maneuverability and relatively low max speed. Still, Baron had learned early on the secret to flying the old design, a technique that called for patience and perfect timing. The Scimitar carried a strong load out of missiles which was something the Hornet lacked and, if carefully used, a single Scimitar could nail up to 4 Kilrathi fighters with only minimal use of its Mass Driver cannons. Despite all this, neither could live up to the Raptor, at least not in Hermann’s mind. The Raptor was a pilot’s wet dream. Designed to be the premier fighter of space, the Raptor combined strong shields with superb maneuverability and devastating firepower. The Raptor was Confed’s answer to the high powered fighters of the Kilrathi Empire. Unfortunately, their high cost kept their production half that of the Scimitar and far far below the Hornet’s numbers which was currently the mainstay of the Confederation fleet.
“You’re kidding, right? They wouldn’t stick us in a Scimitar would they?” Suicide asked incredulously, his face contorted in an expression of anguish. Hermann couldn’t help but wonder if the young pilot could truly be so naïve. The academy was great but it somehow always left the impression on its graduates that they would always get a chance to fly every type of fighter the Confederation had to offer. Life in Confed wasn’t like that. You flew what you were assigned, if you were good at it, chances were you would continue to do that the remainder of your career. Unless something specific caused a need for you to change, the commanders liked to keep their pilots assigned to what they do best. Hermann had flown all Confed ship classes at one point or another in his career but typically he was called on to pilot Scimitars and occasionally Raptors because he was able to achieve better results with their heavier hulls. Widowmaker was much the same as himself whereas Shadow was almost exclusively assigned to a Hornet because his fighting style was such that in the maneuverable Hornet he was almost untouchable. Stoneman was a Raptor pilot through and through and with good reason. Raptors were too expensive to risk with just anyone flying them, Stoneman’s long standing experience and excellent reputation made him a fine match with the Raptors’ strong firepower.
“If someone were to whisper the right word in Colonel Thompson’s ear, he probably would.” Stoneman quietly spoke up, staring directly at Suicide’s horrified eyes. Hermann almost laughed at the panicked expression across the youth’s face, the Major sure knew how to put the fear of God into someone. Hermann stood wearily to his feet, determined to head for the barracks.
“Don’t worry about it, Suicide, you’ll get what the Colonel thinks your best in. Now, you’ll excuse me but I’m going to get some sleep. Word has it we might be jumping out tomorrow and you know that means…lots and lots of patrols.”


Rear Admiral
DAMN!! that is one long fan-fic there, took me almost forever to read that. Impressive...most impressive


Second section of the written script:

* * * *

Commodore Ollie Helmsley stared at the reflection in her cabin’s only mirror. The blue eyes that peered back at her seemed too weary to be her own. War was hell. Even though she was still relatively young at thirty nine years old, the enduring war that had ravaged the Confederation for the past twenty years had taken its own painful toll on her. She had joined the Confed Navy as an enlisted comm. Tech and worked her way up the ranks from position to position till the Brass finally offered her a command. Not just any ship either, but command of the TCS Falcon one of the few active Bengal class carriers in the confed fleet. The Falcon had just spent the last three months in dry dock undergoing extensive structural repairs from a Kilrathi attack that had left her stranded inoperable with three quarters of her crew complement dead or missing. The former commander had been one of the many who were listed as Missing in Action.
Ollie sighed and leaned back in her chair, stretching her arms over her head. Sleep was a luxury she could rarely afford and it was showing. The slight discoloration under her eyes told the story, her aching joints shouted it and her slightly disheveled uniform did nothing to deny it. Her first command, still in dry dock, and already more things had gone wrong then she cared to recall. First there was a water supply issue then a shortage in field techs, followed by nearly half the fighter complement failed to arrive on their scheduled transports…problems after problems.
She gave her reflection in the mirror a wry smile and then tried to fix her tousled hair, arching her shoulders back she straightened her wrinkled dark blue uniform. Colonel Fred Thompson was due to report to her office any moment and it wouldn’t do for her to look sloppy. It was more a matter of principle than practicality.
A gentle rapping against the steel door of her quarters sounded alerting her to Thompson’s arrival. Ollie took one last glance at the mirror, pulled into place one last offending lock of hair then pivoted to face the doorway.
“Come in.”
There was a brief pause then the heavy door swung inward as the tall muscled frame of Colonel Thompson filled the doorway. The colonel was a model of perfect order. His uniform was finely pressed hugging his body tightly while his short cut military style hair was laid down neatly in a sweeping forward movement. Unlike herself, the colonel looked refreshed, vigorous and ready to act. Ollie made a mental note to herself to pay closer attention to her appearance in the future.
“You wanted to meet with me, Ollie?”
“Yes, pull up a chair, I need some sound advise.”
“Well, I don’t know how sound my advise is but I’ll be glad to give what I can.” Fred replied as he settled into the only open chair across from Ollie’s desk. Ollie grinned in slight amusement, Fred was a veteran of the Kilrathi war from its early days and if anyone knew anything about the Kilrathi, Fred was that person. He’d served in the ill-fated McAuliffe engagement that had claimed 80% of his fellow pilots. Despite watching his wingmen get slaughtered like cattle in the first day he came back for the second push on day two that ultimately halted the initial Kilrathi juggernaut.
“I’ve received our orders from Confed Command.”
“Excellent, when are we heading out?”
“Tomorrow morning, once we receive the rest of our fighter complement.” Ollie replied, letting her voice show just small amount of her exasperation. How that order got muddled so badly was beyond her, it would seem that fate itself was against them. Fred’s focus narrowed as he tilted his head back.
“You don’t seem too excited?”
“I’m not. We’ve got a tough one to pull. We’ve been ordered to take out a supply depot.”
“That doesn’t all that hard, where’s the depot located?”
Ollie watched as Fred’s amused look abruptly vanished. Concern spread across his hawkish features as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair like a fish suddenly out of water. She paused to let him formulate his thoughts.
“Aloysius? How the hell do they expect us to do that? Aloysius is behind enemy lines…behind thick enemy lines!”
“Which is precisely why command has designated it such a high priority target. That supply station is feeding the Kilrathi’s front line efforts and allowing them to double up on our boys across the front. That station has to come out and quickly. We slip in, do our business and then slip back out.”
Colonel Thompson transfixed her with a piercing look and Ollie knew the game was up. Fred had known her for too long to be put off by a positive optimistic spin. He knew the score, he’d been around long enough to smell a spin job and certainly wasn’t going to be swayed by a flowery glossing.
“Ollie, you can’t expect me to believe that it’s going to be that easy, I’ve learned to know better. Now what’s the real scoop?”
Ollie sighed and shook her head in reluctant acceptance. Fred was right, there was no point in trying to glaze the facts, that wouldn’t accomplish anything. She twisted her wrists as if trying to work out some unseen tension and pointed to the star charts spread across her desk.
“I know, it’s going to be tough, damn tough. Getting in won’t be that difficult, Intel has already identified several holes for us to exploit but once we hit that depot, those holes are going to vanish.”
“…And we’re going to have to slug our way out. That’s assuming, of course, that we can take out the station. This is going to be a bloody mess no way around it.” Fred finished flatly, his eyes already distant as he started playing the scenario over in his mind. Ollie nodded gravely in agreement. “You got that right. We’re going to lose some good people on this one, I can feel it.”
“Well, what about the station. What do we know of its defenses?“
“Intel has placed the station’s own fighter squadrons at heavy strength but there should be no anticipated capital ship support. There are round the clock Dralthi patrols with Gratha heavies always close by to back them up.” Ollie paused as she considered the most recent intelligence report she had scanned through. “We don’t know an exact number but you can be sure whatever they have they’ll scramble once we show up.”
Fred nodded knowingly, as he mused over her assessment. Ollie let him have a minute to consider. In the amount of time she had known Colonel Thompson she had learned to trust his judgment. His time as a fighter pilot have given him a shrewd sense of tactical cunning that was often invaluable to her. “I assume you’ll want to launch our wings from a distance and not bring the Falcon into actual combat with the station and its fighters?”
“You assume correctly, I don’t want to take the risk of those Gratha’s getting ambitious on us. Now, our Raptors are going to have a hard time on this one, they’ll be dodging flak coverage, missiles and enemy fighters the whole time. I’d suggest you only keep our best pilots in them.”
“Agreed, I’ll probably assign at least one wing of hornets to cover the Raptors while the others try to wreak some havoc with that fighter coverage.”
Ollie nodded emphatically in agreement, she knew she could trust the colonel’s lineup. Thompson had consistently proven himself to be an expert in pairing pilots to ships for extended engagements. There was no one better at understanding the importance of psyche for combat situations.
“Good plan, Fred. One last thing, I don’t want any of them to know yet at least not till we make the first jump. The less time they have to think about it, the less time they’ll have to be nervous.”
“If that’s the way you want it, but they’re good kids, Ollie. They won’t back down from a fight.”
“I know, I just don’t want this to sit on their minds for too long. You can over think things sometimes.”
Fred nodded and shifted slightly in his chair. Rubbing his neck he grimly admitted, “Believe me, I know. I’ve seen it freeze pilots in the middle of a furball and that’s worse than anything the Kilrathi can throw at us. What’s our planned jump route?”
Ollie turned back to the star charts and pointed to the main sheet sprawled across the others.
“Well, tomorrow once we finish securing the last of our replacement fighters we jump out to Port Hedland. From there we plan to slip through the gap Intel has pegged in coordinates 800,645 and jump on to Aloysius. We scramble fighters immediately after the jump and hit the station. With any luck, we’ll have some element of surprise working for us. Once we cap the station you can bet every Kilrathi in the sector is going to squealing and those holes will be sealing up quicker than proxy glue.”
“So how are we getting out?”
“Well, I figure the best way will be to punch our way through their lines to take the jump to Freya and then from there back to Acor.”
“Bold plan, nothing like sneaking in through the back door and then stomping out through the front.”
“Its only bold if it works, otherwise its just suicidal.”
“Well, even if it doesn’t, we’ll give them one hell of a run for their money.”


Chapter 2
Kal Shintahr Nijhak

Kal Shintahr Nijhak, commander of the Kilrathi fighter squadron stationed aboard the Kar’ak, studied his extended claws intently. As always, he kept them razor sharp, ever ready for the hunt. There was the slightest touch of discoloration at the center of his 2nd claw that stretched from the middle down to where it nearly faded neatly against his fur covered knuckles. It was odd because he’d never noticed it before which meant that the abnormality was a recent occurrence.
“Nijhak.” A lone voice disturbed his pondering and the Kilrathi steel sense of alertness harshly ripped him to attention. Nijhak stiffened his spine and barred his fangs slightly as he instantly placed the voice that had spoke his name. Whirling abruptly, he turned to face his junior officer.
“What is it, Narak?”
“There is a communication from your father, he wishes to speak with you.”
“But I do not wish to speak with him…inform my father that my time is precious and I am erstwhile disposed.”
Nijhak enjoyed a brief moment of pure glee as he watched Narak visibly recoil in shock. The younger had not reached a stage in his political development where he considered disrespect for the higher authority. Fortunately, Nijhak had long since shed any inhibitions that had held him back. His own exposure to the political hypocrisy that saturated the emperor’s court and filled his father’s life had broken his own reserve. Nijhak had decided early that he spoke his mind and acted as he felt was befitting not always how he was expected to act, much to consternation of his family.
“But, Nijhak, your father is…”
“Is what?”
“The advisor to the Emperor, noble of the high court-“
“I’m quite aware of my father’s position, Narak, you don’t need to remind me of it. I’ll take the communications here in my room, have communications route him through.”
“As you wish.”
Nijhak allowed himself a smile as Narak stiffly pivoted and exited from his quarters. Narak would never be a commander, he was too narrow minded. True, he was probably wiser not to show open disrespect but it also showed his lack of true ingenuity. All the great leaders had been capable of thinking in unique patterns. Nijhak had spent the better part of his early years studying the truly outstanding Kilrathi warriors of history. His research had led him to the conclusion that although strength and power was a common characteristic among them, the best possessed their strength in their cunning thinking.
Nijhak shook away his thoughts and returned to his desk to wait for the communication screen to appear. Assuming Karak sped along his way, he should be seeing the screen light up any moment. He rolled his head sideways stretching his tired neck muscles. Ever since he had been promoted to Kal Shintahr, Nijhak had found himself steadily fading from his past physical prime. The simple truth was he had no time to train anymore.
As he had expected, the communication screen came instantly to life with the image of his father. From the expression on his face, he hadn’t been pleased with the long delay.
“I don’t appreciate waiting.”
“I apologize…we were having technical difficulties with routing the transmission.”
“Undoubtedly. I see you have been promoted to Kal Shintahr, congratulations.”
“Thank you, father.”
His father’s harsh expression eased slightly as the older Kilrathi leaned back from his position near the camera. Whatever he had to say, Nijhak had the feeling he wasn’t going to like it.
“Nijhak, I won’t keep you because I know you have no love for our conversations.”
“Thank you for sparing me.”
“Alright, as you may or may not know, the confederation has within it a small loosely organized group of dissenters…”
“The emperor prefers to consider them as enlightened.”
Nijhak narrowed his eyes, it was just like the high nobles to call such rubbish beautiful, yet another reason why he hated the politicking of the court. Corruption had soaked through every value of the Kilrathi way, even the pride taken in loyalty had eroded apparently.
“I’m sure that is what I meant to say.”
“Quite. This group is known as the Mandarin Society, they are dedicated to reconciling with us. With our instruction, they have performed some rather credible feats including severe sabotage and leaking critical information to us.”
“Father, why are you telling me this, I have no interest in the affairs of these creatures.”
Nijhak watched with cold satisfaction as his father’s measured patience finally snapped. The older Kilrathi’s eyes narrowed in harsh anger as his upper lip curled with the strongest hint of frustration.
“Be quiet and listen and I will tell you. For some time a certain member of this Mandarin Society has been communicating with us aboard a confederation Bengal class carrier. He has given us some very useful and reliable information. Unfortunately the ship he has been stationed on was out of commission for repairs and we’d lost temporary contact with him. Now, we’ve received a transmission from him with their current assignment.”
“Father, I pray this has some significance for me?”
“Yes, it does. We are dispatching the Ka’rak to the Aloysius system which is precisely where this confed carrier is headed. Kalahn Balak has been informed already. Your responsibility once Balak has set up the Na’rak in position to ambush this carrier is to safely recover our contact aboard the carrier. He’s proven useful enough for us to retrieve.”
“A creature without honor is not worthy of living.” Nijhak remarked candidly. He instantly regretted his comment. His father’s eyes widened in anger and outrage, Nijhak had played his cards far too early.
“Don’t quote Sivar to me! You young whelp, I read those words before you were ever a thought in my mind. Now you listen and you listen good, our contact aboard the carrier has the Ka’rak’s communication code, he will contact both you and Kalahn Balak when he is ready to make his escape. You will ensure his safe extraction. That is an order and you will obey it!”
The screen went black as his father’s face faded away, along with it Nijhak’s mental restraint. Nijhak grimaced and slammed his balled fist into the side of his desk. A slight tremor of pain shot up his arm but he barely regarded it. Some things were obvious, the old guard was gone. Perhaps his father should go back and read the words again.
Determining not to let the confrontation with his father nor his distasteful assignment discourage him, Nijhak rose from his chair and started towards the doorway. If Kalahn Balak had already been informed of their mission then he'd likely want to formulate a plan of attack. That plan would undoubtedly involve Nijhak's pilots, and he wanted to make sure he was involved in the initial design.
Through the gloomy, almost abandoned hallways Nijhak weaved his way up three decks to the command bridge. At this time, most of the Ka'rak's crew were in their quarters or at their posts leaving the hallways deserted. Not that it mattered, NIjhak took no particular joy in watching each crewmen stop whatever they were doing and stand at strict attention while he passed by. Kalahn Balak seemed to take a perverse pleasure in disturbing his crew and enjoyed the false respect they gave him. Perhaps he couldn't see that it was just a show, that their respect lay only on the surface and within virtually all of the Ka'rak's crew was a disgust for their commander. In fact, Nijhak was sure of it, Balak had no idea. He just wasn't that perceptive. Not quite willing to dismiss his commanding officer quite that easily, Nijhak quickly reminded himself of Balak's competence. As an officer he was quite effective, he did his duty and he did it well. The problem lay in the fact that his position had been decided by yet another affair of the emperor's court whereby the Ka'rak's former commander was executed on feeble charges at best. To a crew that had respected and been faithfully loyal to their commander, Balak was just an item that personified their anger. Balak had been nothing more than a pawn in a galactic chess game.
Nijhak arrived at the Ka'rak's massive bridge just in time to witness the changing of the navigational officers. One's duty had been discharged, the other's just begun. It happened frequently, but like many icons in Kilrathi history this routine had become a masterful tradition. Both officers saluted to acknowledge their duty and responsibility. Perhaps it was more habit to these two than tradition. At any rate, it certainly was required. Nijhak nodded to both officers as he passed to indicate his approval as they both turned to salute him. He stepped towards the far right end of the bridge where Balak's command office was located and gently rapped on the door.
Nijhak stepped through the doorway and stiffly saluted his superior. Balak had apparently been deep in study, several star charts lay open on his desk. Nijhaks caught the name of Aloysius on the top of one of them.
"Kalahn, I have been informed of our latest assignment."
"Interesting is not?
"I find my role to be rather distasteful."
"So I've been told."
Nijhak raised his eyebrows in interest. Had Balak been recording his transmission? That seemed rather uniquely suspicious of him, not to mention out of character. Perhaps he had been wrong in his assessment of Balak, perhaps he wasn't oblivious of his crew's disgust.
"I wasn't aware my attitude was public opinion just yet."
"I didn't record your conversation if that's what you are implying, although the thought did cross my mind. He contacted me just a few minutes ago and ordered me to make sure you don't do anything...rash."
Nijhak narrowed his eyes as a fresh wave of anger flooded over him. Now his father didn't even trust him to do his duty, that was a new low. Nijhak wiped away the insult as quickly as it came, right now his anger would serve him little good. It was time for clear thinking, the best weapon any commander had available to him.
"I will do that which I have been asked."
"That's what I told your father. I have complete faith in you."
"I'm honored. If I might ask, what was his response?"
"You might ask, but I don't think you'd be very pleased with the answer so let's not answer it. Rather, let's discuss about our plan for handling this bold confederation carrier. I don't want to tip our claw too early and let them somehow escape." Balak responded casually brushing aside Nijhak's measured question. Nijhak couldn't blame him, there certainly was no desire on the Kalahn's part to become involved in a family spat. Nodding, Nijhak pointed down at the Aloysius map.
"My advise, then, would be to not even let them know we're there. I've studied these terrans and they are quite predictable. They will attack with their fighter wings while their carrier stays directly out of the battle some distance back. They are not willing to risk their capital ships too often. My suggestion would be to dispatch a quarter of our fighters to assist with the defense of the station while we send our heaviest fighters along with the Ka'rak itself to attack their carrier. If we time it right we will hit the carrier just as their fighters are hitting the depot. We'll have enough fighters to defend the depot while their carrier will be without fighter support and no where to run."
Balaks furry face was thoughtful as he pondered Nijhak's plan of action. As time had born, Balak was untypically cautious to act. Nijhak had initialy considered the attribute as sign of cowardice or at least an aspect of laziness. Time had proven that Balak had a shrewd tactical mind, for Kilrathi of his background and stature it was quite uncharacteristically ingenious. Nijhak held his peace and waited for his commander to respond.
"Interesting plan, possibly the best way to avoid them potentially fleeing. The difficulty for us will be in timing our attack and pinpointing precisely where their carrier will be."
"I would imagine our 'contact' aboard the carrier could provide that information."
"Quite so, although that does ruin a bit of the hunt doesn't it?"
"I think my feelings on this matter are quite clear."
Balak's face split into a wide smile something that was also quite out of the ordinary for this solemn faced commander. Nijhak considered that to be a good sign, perhaps Balak was taking a liking to him, One thing was for sure, Nijhak was definitely finding new respect for his commander.
"So they are. Still, we have this resource, we might as well use it to the fullest. I will speak with this 'contact' when they communicate with us and tell them exactly what we need. With their intended location we should be able to crush them before they realize our presence."