Tooth and Claw- - Chapter One: Welcome Aboard...


Please read my prologue! Quarto gave it good word.

This is pretty much an introductory chapter, we don't see any action, but merely meet our hero, Chris Edison.

I'm sure I've gotten some continuity problems wrong, so kindly let me know so I can fix 'em.

I'll type the next chapter on MS Works instead of Wordpad, so I'll be able to spellcheck it next time.

So enjoy, and don't be too cruel.

TCS Mt. St. Helens
Sol System, Sol Sector
2235 hours (CST)

" Dear lord, Commodore. Why?" even as he spoke the words, Fleet Admiral William Eisen knew that there would be no answer forthcoming from Commodore Marcus Sertorius, his military attache. But he couldn't blame the man, who had come from a long line of noble sailors, beginning with roman warriors centuries ago. What he saw before him was an enigma the likes of which he had not seen in years. The images displayed upon his computer screen outlined a nightmare. A sprawling beach had been blasted into glass, the sea dried out. Charred bodies were strewn upon the hellish field for hundreds of kilometers, and Eisen was grateful that he was not there, but aboard the massive flagship of the Terran Confederation fleet.
Sertorius, a tall man with closely cropped golden hair and chisled features worthy of a Caeser, shrugged his shoulders, his deep blue Confed uniform rustling with the action. " Damned if I know, sir. ConSat Deep Space Satellite 35 recorded these images during a flyby ten hours ago in the H'Rktath System. This was apparetnly a Cat world, sir."
Eisen nodded in acknowledgment. " Yes, I know," he said, his dark craggy features drawn up in horror. During the Galactic War, he had seen countless grizzly acts perpetrated by the cats- - including the bombings of Locanda IV- - but he had thought humanity was better than to commit those same grizzly acts, even after the Black Lance fiasco of two years back. But now here it was, before his eyes like a grim omen. " H'Rktath II, the homeworld of Srakkah nar Ki'ra, co-founder of the Kilrathi Peace Corps which appeared back in '72. I remember hearing about Chancellor Melek's and his efforts to unite all of the Kilrathi under one peaceful flag. I was hopeful, but saddened when I learned that Redfang had given it all up to leave behind a galaxy of hatred and death. In a way I actually envied him, despite his heritage. He was a good man." He suddenly realized the irony of his words.
" Imagine, Admiral, all of the Kilrathi holding hands in a vast circle around the world," Sertorious said with a bemused smile. " Strange. In a way, I almost miss the War at times."
The former commander of the Victory looked up at his Second-in-Command with a raised gray eyebrow. He had heard the words from countless others before, but they still worried him nonetheless. " Look back, way back, Commodore. Remember the death, the horror of watching a comrade-in-arms slowly being led away in a body bag! Imagine giving the order to actually kill a fellow sentient being, man! Do you really miss that, Marcus Sertorius?"
Marcus did as Eisen had suggested, closing his eyes. He could almost hear it again. He had commanded the destroyer Mahan during the War, fighting in various skirmishes throughout Vega and Enigma Sectors. The memory of that Kilrathi torpedo screaming through the silent vacuum only to detonate against his tiny ship moments later sent a chill up his spine yet again. Marcus could almost see Commander Heather Varney lying still and silent upon the deck, wide eyes open yet still unseeing. Peace had been uneventful and quite boring, to be sure, but war had been far worse. " I'm sorry, sir," he whispered in a shaking voice. " I spoke in haste. I respectfully take back my words."
Eisen nodded. " Of course, Commodore." Tapping at his computer screen, the older gentlemen asked, " What other information do we have on H'Rktath's destruction? Why would the Orion Consortium want to assasinate Redfang?" The Consortium. They had once operated on the fringe of the Border Worlds, dealing in various unsavory activities from blackmail to extortion. But they had only been interested in affluent organizations, such as the Landreich Republic. After the Border Worlds conflict, they had been forced to flee to the far-flung Outlands, wary of the presence of the Intrepid and the Kiev. They had been unheard for the past year and a half and Confed had been content in simply writing the Consortium off in the history books. But now this? It was a complete mystery. Why would Giovanni Valentino and his criminal organization want to get rid of a few Cats?
" Well, nothing official, Admiral Eisen," Sertorius responded. " But the Confed High Command all agree that this has something to do with Baron Vagargk." Vagargk nar Kiranka was a former noble within the Kilrathi Empire who had escaped the destruction of Kilrah in a Hakaga-class supercarrier, left over from the Battle of Terra. He was a fanatical worshipper of Sivar, and would easily execute any who would not bow down to the Kilrathi war god. While Srakkah nar Ki'ra was a follower of Sivar, like most Kilrathi, he was not as militant as some, going as far as to denounce violence and warfare altogether, which some Cats had considered sacrelige. A price had been placed on the peaceful alien's head, Eisen knew, and he wondered if Vagargk had gone as far as to simply pay a human organization- - obviously not worshippers of Sivar- - to do the dirty deed. Was he that desperate? Eisen wondered. If that was the case, what could the Consortium possibly gain from placing themselves in league with the Cats.
" Dammit, that's the fiftieth reported assault by the Orion Consortium in a year! It makes me wonder what their true capabilities are," William exclaimed. " Back when they were snooping around Border Worlds/ Confed territory, they were reported to possess a fleet carrier and a squadron of Arrows, nothing that could do this kind of damage!" He paused, letting out a long agitated breath. Before him, however, Commodore Sertorius was the epitome of sang-froid, and he could easily imagine the man in a toga and a crown of laurel leaves. Coming to a decision, Eisen continued, " Marcus, what's the Fleet's position?"
Sertorius pointed to a holographic respresentation of Vega and Sol Sectors which floated in midair above Eisen's desk in the St. Helen's wardroom. " They're spread out all over these two sectors, sir. We have a carrier battle group stationed out near Enigma, however, and a squadron of frigates and cruisers out past Gemini."
" What ships do we have near the Outlands?"
Eisen's military attache checked his computer slate momentarily, before turning his gaze upwards. " Only one, Admiral; The TCS Enterprise, one of our new Francis Marion-class assault escort carriers."
" I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with that design, Marcus," Eisen admitted.
A holographic schematic of the Francis Marion appeared next to the map of Sol and Vega, a squat blocky vessel which resembled more of a Marine transport ship than a starfighter carrier. " She's brand spanking new, sir, just pulled out of the dock last week. She's a joint effort with Admiral Bondarevsky and the Landreich Republic, combining the Naval capabilities of a strike craft with that of the escort carriers we used back in '67 and '68. She carries a complement of forty fighters and fifteen bombers, and is armed with twelve laser turrets and capship missile launchers, a trio of gatling mounted torpedo launchers, and two mass driver turrets. The Enterprise is five-hundred meters long, with a maximum velocity of two-hundred KPS."
" Where's the Enterprise's position, Commodore?" Eisen asked.
Once again, Marcus brought up the positions on the hologram. " Out past Kilrathi space, sir, Quadrant 005 of the Outlands."
The Admiral raised an inquisitive eyebrow. " Support ships?"
" The TCS Tripoli, sir, a Marine transport ship, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Grant Stone," Sertorius responded. " As well, the Enterprise is backed by the destroyer Churchill and various fleet tenders. Not as large as a battle group, mind you," he continued almost apologetically, " but with the firepower this CV carries, she almost doesn't need one."
" The Enterprise is too far out for a communique to reach her," Eisen observed with a sigh.
" Shuttle from the Academy at Hilthros is ferrying out four replacement pilots as well as an engineering crew and strike Marines to the Enterprise. I'm sure her pilot would be glad to deliver mission orders personally."
William rubbed his temples. The Orion Consortium was getting increasinlgy belligerent, and he knew they would not be content with raiding the Outlands for long. He knew their next goal was the Confederation, Valentino had been gunning for them for years before his exile. They had to take action fast. The Enterprise was the only Confed ship anywhere near the Outlands, and as a result the choice was clear. Reaching forward, Admiral William Eisen hit the "record" button on his computer terminal, opening a link that would soon change the lives of four young pilots irrevocably.

Shuttle "William Halsey"
Sector 005, Outlands
0914 hours (CST)

With a screech of roaring engines and the sudden jolt of landing skids striking a durasteel flight deck, the small transport shuttle glided to a halt. 2nd Lieutenant, TCSF, Christopher "Wizard" Edison slowly opened his eyes and sighed in relief. Damn it all to hell, he always seemed to get space sick, a trait almost laughable from a twenty-four year old combat pilot. Flying was his job, it was his life, and yet he always got a little queasy watching the stars fly by so damned fast.
If only Dad could see me now, he thought with a wry grin. His father, dead for twelve years now, had been a Major flying off of the TCS Antietam, a light fleet carrier that had been gutted by the Cats during the Enigma Campaign. Although his time with his Dad had been nauseatingly short, Christopher had developed an eternal rapport with the wiry old man, something that he would never shake, even after old Doug's shocking death at the hands of a Sartha pilot. Christopher, always close to his father and crushed by his loss at the tender age of twelve, had vowed that day to follow in his father's footsteps, despite his trepidation of space travel.
His trip through the Academy was, he was sorry to say, certainly not a memorable one. He was always picked on by the other cadets for being the short, puny, towheaded kid who always ended up running to the head after a training excercise. Although the words of the other students, particularly the vicious upperclassmen, hurt the fragile Chris, he had preservered, just like his father would have wanted him to. Courage combined with stick-to-it-ness had resulted in his graduation from flight school with honors. With a grin he could remember the face of Senior Cadet Piedmont upon hearing that Chris Edison had left Hilthros with a pair of shiny new wings on his uniform, while the smug upperclassman had been snubbed after he had snapped a wing clean off from his Hellcat during an asteroid maneuver.
And now, after a year and a half of hanging in limbo at the TCSF Academy, Chris was here- - on the Enterprise. She was an ungainly craft, to be sure, short and blocky, bristling with dozens of vicious-looking offensive and defensive weaponry. Just getting the shuttle through that narrow opening, one-fourths of which was nearly blocked by the huge mass driver cannons, seemed challenging enough, but bringing her down into an appropriate berth on this bantam CVE was, to Chris, the pinnacle of piloting skill. The tiny deck was packed to overfilling with thirty-odd fighter and bomber craft, and the Enterprise was lucky to have the presence of the Tripoli, capable of holding Colonel Stone's LCs, lest there'd be no room for moving at all on the flight deck!
But while nowhere near the splendor of his homeworld of Arcturus VI, the Enterprise seemed like a good ship, and Chris was just excited to finally get his first shipboard assigment!
"Need this?" a soft voice asked, and Chris turned to see 2nd Lieutenant Carrie " Nike" Dunham, the only person he could really have called a friend back at the Academy, approach, holding aloft a space-sick sack. Her company and words of advice had been invaluable to Chris during those five hard years, and he knew there was an undying friendship there. Despite Carrie's attractiveness, with her dark brown hair and clear blue eyes, Chris knew that their relationship would never take a romantic turn.
Chris forced a smile and with a wave of his hand said, " No thanks, I'm cool." She merely shrugged and filed down the ramp behind the other occupants of the shuttle. Gathering his duffle bag from the overhead compartment, Chris trudged down behind her, the last man off of the ship. His bag over his shoulder, the young pilot took a good look around. The Francis Marion-class was unlike any carrier he had seen, which wasn't neccessarily a good thing.
The strong smell of metal and cleaning fluids permeated the air of the place, making it almost palpable. It hit him pretty damned hard, and he was almost regretful that he did not accept Carrie's offer of the vomit bag. The deck was barely solid, as well, he noticed, composed of a sheet of durasteel mesh which allowed him to see to the hangar deck below. Various deck crew, donning multi-hued tunics, bounded back and forth between planes, servicing the damaged ones and marking off the clean ones. It all resembled a well coreographed ballet and Chris could do nothing but offer respect for them.
" Atten-SHUN!" a young Lieutenant barked and Chris quickly fell in step with Carrie, and the other two pilots, Gandalf and HardCore. The quartet snapped to attention, offering salutes as Major Charles "Falcon" Rigsby descened the steps from flight control, stopping directly before them. Rigsby, a tall man with thick golden hair and demples, returned the salute. " At ease," he ordered and Chris instantly relaxed, locking his knees so as not to pass out from a sudden wave of nausea. " As you nuggets may or may not know," he continued in a thick English baritone, " I am Major Rigsby, C.O. of Pitbull Squadron. I am also a commissioned officer in the Free Republic of the Landriech." Chris's verdant eyes widened, taking notice of the "X"-shaped St. Andrew's cross upon his shoulder. He had to admit it looked a little unusual against the bright blue of a Confed uniform. " A little information about myself: I was born at Sirius, and later signed up with an independent parcel service, but signed up with the Landreich at Buford' World back in '67. I was promoted to Major after the Black Lance fiasco of '74 and volunteered for this mutual project between Confed and the Republic. End of bio."
Rigsby stepped closer to 2nd Lieutenant Nathan " Gandalf" Park, a lanky, pale-skinned pilot who had tormented Chris back during their Academy days. Chris had always wanted to grind Park's face into the deck, but had always abstained from the task. " Civil matters are not decided through the use of fisticuffs," his father had always told him. Words to live by, he thought.
" Park, Nathan J.," Gandalf barked. " Callsign: Gandalf."
Falcon was about to move onto HardCore, but stopped short, whirling about to face Lieutenant Park. " What the hell kind of stupid-ass callsign is 'Gandalf?'" he hissed, and Chris notced Nathan visibly flinching from the onslaught.
" The Lord of the Rings, sir." He leaned over to shoot a cold stare in Chris's direction. " 'Wizard' was taken."
The squadron commander merely rolled his eyes, moving over to the muscular, dark-skinned pilot to Gandalf's left. The bald man saluted smartly, barking at the same time, " Cambell, Milo T., callsign: HardCore."
" Ah, yes, I read about you, Cambell," Rigsby whispered menacingly, narrowing his eyes to slits. With an inward shudder, Wizard knew what was about to happen. HardCore did not have an incredibly positive reputation; With a moniker like that, who could? " You broke wing formation on three-hundred and twenty seven separate occasions, young sir. You even struck a senior cadet during your plebe year. That doesn't sound like the actions of a honorable Confed pilot, if you ask me."
Milo narrowed his dark gaze into an equally menacing expression, and Chris suspected a standoff. " I do not believe I did, sir!" he spat. " And I am not, as you say, honrorable. I cringe at the word."
Falcon seemed ready to explode, the other three pilots noticed, He whirled on Milo like a rabid pitbull, his face as read as Kilrah. " That shit won't fly with me, Cambell! Your Academy instructors may have put up with your goddamned attitude and... irresponsibility, but I for one sure as hell won't! Now if you do not straighten up and fly right by the first time your fighter clears that airlock, I will personally see you busted down to Spacehand! You'll never see the inside of a cockpit again, you read me?"
" Like a good book, sir," Milo responded, but Chris was not convinced. He had known HardCore for damn near five years, and the pilot's attitude had still not changed. Maybe he had reverted to being a bad seed when both his parents had died in the Galactic War, he did not know, but there was something behind Lieutenant Cambell's dark eyes, something that scared Chris. Rigsby nodded as if he approved and moved down the line, seeming to take no notice when HardCore muttered under his breath, " Major Dickhead."
After a brief meeting with Carrie, who was always a model officer and never in a need of a grilling, Charles stopped in front of Chris, who looked mighty green by this time. He weakly saluted, struggling to keep down his breakfast, and mumbled, " Edison, Christopher D., callsign: Wizard."
" Are you alright, Lieutenant?" Rigsby asked with a raised eyebrow.
" I'm fine, Major, sir!" he replied unconvincingly. " I'm just a little queasy."
Falcon sighed, grinding his teeth together in an irritated fashion. Chris's heart plummeted to his boots. " Well, get over it, pilot, before you go out there. I don't want one of my people blowing chunks in his helmet in the middle of a huge furball!" Growling low in his throat as if he himself were a Kilrathi, Charles stepped back, his thick arms folded across his chest. " This is the best the Academy had to offer?" he roared, and Chris felt the sting of his comment. He had been aboard this damned ship for merely ten minutes, and already he wished he were somewhere else- - anyplace but here! " Well, you bastards better straighten up, dammit, because you are now Gamma Wing! Lieutenant Denham, you will be commanding! Get well aquainted with your surroundings, you hear me?"
" Yes, sir!" they barked in unison.
" Good. Dismissed!"
Nathan and Milo stalked away yelling at the tops of their lungs and making a huge ruckus. With a sigh, Chris settled against a stack of crates near the bulkhead leading to Flight Control, rubbing a shaking hand over his face.
" How are you feeling, Ace?" Carrie asked sympathetically, rubbing a soft hand over his back.
" Like shit, Carrie. They might as well just clip my wings and send me back to Arcturus right now," he admitted, feeling slightly depressed. He wondered if this was how his father had felt on his first mission. Oh, I wish you were still alive! his mind roared. I wish I could just talk to you!
" Oh, cheer up, Chris. It'll get better," she said with a bright smile and Chris had no choice but to smile as well. Carrie always had that effect over him.
" You'll see." She handed him his duffel bag and with a groan he followed her up the steps. It was time to get well aquainted with their surroundings.

If i'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Well... this furball's good
I like. An interesting idea for a main character
. But you still haven't read my story. I don't like that
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Just keeping it at the top, maybe someone will notice it.

If i'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Thread noticed. Will post comment after reading chapter II.

No one will hear your cry of death in the void of space
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Dralthi5: See? You just need a bit of patience
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Yeah, something of which I have not an abundance.

If i'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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You can have some of mine if you like.

Well I liked the prologue better, but this is still very good stuff.
I can see the movie influence - that scenario with replacement pilots who just happen to be heading in the right direction. But since I liked the movie, it's forgivable.

I thought the system was called Cyvark? I mean suns and otherwise unnamed planets are usually named after the system.
I don't think body bags can be "led" anywhere.
A queasy pilot? You get extra brownie points for originality.

Deck crew in tunics? Next you'll have pilots wear togas for flight suits.
Sounds like you've been reading too much Shakespeare.
The characters are coming out nicely, looking forward to reading more. Of course I won't read your 2nd chapter until you read my story...well actually I will. :p
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Right on the money, Matrix! I was in the middle of reading Julius Caesar when I wrote this. Never fear, however, I'm done and reading William R. Forstchen now. It'll be more Wing Commander-like!

System called Cyrvark? Nope. I feel like being difficult. Next chapter I write will have different names for every planet in the same system.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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fleet carrier and a squadron of Arrows

A fleet carrier? Neither the Border Worlds or the Landreich don't have a fleet carrier, how exactly would some criminal organization get one of those?

Also, why is a Landreich officer on a Confed carrier? Unlike the UBW, the Landreich doesen't realy cooperate with Confed

[This message has been edited by Earthworm (edited March 10, 2000).]
The Consortium's possession of a fleet carrier is explained later. It was a Confed ship, hijacked by Valentino, who took it out to do some marauding.

This story takes place five years after we heard anything from the Landreich. Stuff happens.

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