Tooth and Claw: Chapter Three- - Fear and Confusion...


Well, it's been a while, so here it is.

To clear up some confusion I've put together this background for my story:

-Giovanni Valentino was an orphan who grew up in a traveling galactic circus. Later, he partook in a Confed ROTC program to become an officer in the Marine Corps. During his training, it was said he recieved a vision from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. She told him to found an empire in the name of Orion to take over the galaxy. Later, Valentino's platoon was captured by an elite Kilrathi team lead by Sha'ark nar Caxki. Valentino's insane teachings surrounding Nike and Orion were adopted by the prisoners of Sha'ark. When the war ended, Valentino and two-hundred of his followers were assigned to the TCS Belleau Wood, and took advantage of this position to mutiny against the captain and begin several attacks near the Border Worlds, as well as serving a small part in Tolwyn's Black Lance. Once Tolwyn was defeated, and Blair and Maniac were sent maintain order within the Border Worlds, Valentino fled and Confed was content to write him off as a simple madman.
-Vagargk nar Kiranka was a Kilrathi fighter pilot and a Baron in the court of Prince Thrakhath, who flew off of a Hakaga supercarrier during the Battle of Earth. He was a devout worshipper of Sivar, and despised anyone who was not. After the war, a young pilot who served under Vagargk, Srakkah "Redclaw" nar Ki'ra, denounced war and fled to an area of space called the Outlands. Vagargk and Redclaw became arch enemies, and after two years of hunting Redclaw, the Baron took his dilapidated Hakaga KIS Skarr'var'Rhis into the Outlands to kill Redclaw and destroy his colony on H'Rktath II. On his way, Vagargk abducted a powerful Terran by the name of Tobias Hart, and hoped to use the man to restore Vagargk's power to its former glory, so he could eliminate any who did not worship Sivar. But before he could tap into Hart's powers, Vagargk was contacted by Valentino and the Orion Consortium, which had somehow grown into a massive empire in the Outlands in merely two years. Valentino struck a deal with Vagargk: The Consortium would use its massive dreadnought Leviathan to destroy H'Rktath II and deliver a potent message to Redclaw's followers across the Outlands, as long as Vagargk gave up Hart. Blinded by the desire to kill Redclaw, Vagargk saw this as a good thing, and agreed. But Valentino had no desire to allow Vagargk to simply waltz away to conquer Redclaw's followers after the deal was apparently done. Using a secret weapon, Valentino kills Vagargk's cousin Mokat and threatens to do the same to the Baron if he does not dispatch the TCS Enterprise, a joint Confed-Landreich effort, which had been sent to the Outlands by Adm. Eisen to respond to the massacre at H'Rktath II. Riddled with fear, Vagargk agrees, although his sister Kali knows that Valentino will ultimately betray them.
-Meanwhile, Valentino prepares a massive invasion fleet and starts a war against a powerful group of people called the Navigators...

Well, that's that.

Space battles aren't my strong suit, so be kind there.
And please don't complain that the Navigators are un-Wing Commander like. There are bound to be various supernatural occurences within the WC Universe. And besides, it's only fan fiction.

Well, enough with my ramblings, let's get on with the tale!

Hellcat 315, TCS Enterprise
Aeolus System, Outlands
1525 hours (CST)

“ Okay, Gamma Wing, good luck out there. Report back if you come
across any Orion fighters,” came the soft voice of Ensign Sela Jamison, the
Enterprise’s comm officer. Chris sighed, his breath coming out in ragged gasps.
Suddenly, the cockpit of his Hellcat medium fighter felt very small- - more so
than usual. He looked down at the eject bar, tempted to reach forward and pull
the damn thing, but he thought better against it. He’d end up splattered against
the flight deck ceiling a lot sooner than anything else. I’ll just have to put this
thing in the back of my mind, I can’t think about it... or else it will end up killing
He watched as HardCore punched through the airlock of the Enterprise,
soaring out into open space on low thrust. “ Okay, now you, Lieutenant,” Sela
said a moment later. The deck tractor dragged his Hellcat into position, and
Chris watched as the Launch and Recovery Officer saluted, crouched low and
pointing forward. Edison returned the salute, the action a tad awkward with his
helmet and gauntlets on, and hit the throttle. He had done this thousands of time
in the simulators, but this time, however, it was for real. His Hellcat zoomed
down the deck, his port and starboard surroundings a blur, rapidly gaining
speed at a couple of klicks a second. He’d thought he’d puke just from the sheer
force of it all, but fortunately his stomach held firm.
A moment later, his Hellcat cleared the deck, a trio of blue blips
appearing upon the central scope, and he took careful hold of the flight stick,
pulling slightly up to starboard, the Enterprise dropping away below, to form
up on Carrie’s wing. As he did so, he accidentally miscomputed, however, his
nose striking Gandalf’s starboard wing. Nathan let out a startled yell, then
launched into a barely contained tirade. Chris saw the pilot’s eyes chock-full of
rage glaring up at him from the VDU, and he placed a gloved hand upon the
screen to block the image. “ That’s enough, Gamma Three!” Nike, however,
shouted, coming to Chris’s rescue. It was a little shaky, he had to admit to
himself, but a good first try. Good try, hell, I know Rigsby won’t let me forget it!
“ All wings, report status!” she barked, a little angry. He didn’t know
whether it was because of being stuck as the wing commander of two
undisciplined hotshots, or because of Chris’s mistake. The latter made him a
little worried. He didn’t have that many friends to begin with, and it would not
be too nice to have one pissed at him.
He sighed, shrugging the thought aside. It was irrelevant now, he told
himself. He was going to make a lot of mistakes- - he was only human- - but
right now he had a job to do. “ Gamma Two all set, Wing Commander. Ready
for autopilot.” Milo and Nathan responded similarly, and Nike gave the order to
engage the autopilots for the trip to Nav 1. Seeing the light, he toggled the
switch and felt the slight tug as the Hellcat was pulled across the cosmos
towards their first destination. They were to perform a standard, three point
patrol, engaging any hostiles that they may have encountered. Rumor had it that
the Orions had in their possessions Excalibur fighters- - cloak-capable heavies.
The thought sent a chill down his spine.
“ Disengaging autopilot,” Lieutenant Denham announced, and Chris
followed suit, sliding back the switch and taking back manual control. His eyes
bobbed down to the radar display. He saw the white cross representing the next
navpoint, the three blips representing Gamma Wing, but other than that the zone
was clear. “ There here, somewhere... Count on it,” Gandalf whispered. “ I can
smell the bastards.”
“ Don’t blame the smell on the Orions, Lieutenant,” Carrie shot back,
much to the sadistic delight of HardCore. “ All right, this zone’s all clear and--
wait! Picked up a blip, two blips! Got it! Four Excaliburs coming right at us.
Gamma Wing, break formation and open fire!”
Chris saw the quartet of enemy bogeys swell within his Hellcat’s
canopies, the thirty-two meter long heavy fighters looking deadly in the
blackness of space. Be with me, Dad, Chris thought, sending out a silent prayer
across the cosmos. He linked his neutron and ion guns as one, called up an
ImRec and hit the juice. He zeroed in on one of the Excaliburs, eyeing his
approach, thumb poised over the trigger. The Orion fighter pulled sharply to
starboard and port to evade the splattering of gunfire Chris spewed forth, but
the movements were random, erratic. He obviously isn’t Academy trained, Chris
thought with a grin. If all of the Orion pilots were like this, he’d be in good

“ Jupiter spits on you!” his foe spat, his dark-helmeted head filling the
VDU. The Excalibur hit a burst of afterburner, stood on its tail, and punched
straight up. Chris pulled the stick into his gut, checking the inertial dampers as
he did so. He fired again, kicking the ‘burners, crossing his fingers as the range
closed down. His computer let out a warning, the red brackets surrounding the
Excalibur on his HUD. “ Gamma Two, Fox One!” The ImRec lashed out, trailing
an exhaust plume. The Excalibur dipped sharply to port, launching a decoy, but
the missile ignored the chaff, plowing through it and slamming full brunt into
the bogey. Chris flinched at his foe’s tortured scream as the pilot was introduced
to the vacuum of space, flung from his shattered plane. Swallowing a curse,
Chris dodged the wreckage and saw that the enemies had been dispatched.
Even as he hit the autopilot to get the hell out of there, the image of the
Orion pilot’s blackened, mangled corpse floating lifeless in space still haunted

KIS (former) Skarr’var’Rhis
Aeolus System, Outlands
1600 hours (CST)

Baron Vagargk nar Kiranka sat down, his head pounding. The former
Kilrathi fighter pilot shifted in his seat. Curse the bastard that didn’t put a
tail-slot in this chair! he thought angrily, curling his claws as he attempted to get
comfortable. He had a lot of work to do, after all, and he’d most likely smash
everything in his wardroom apart if he was forced to endure this torture for
much longer.
Damn it all to hell! Could things have been any worse? Granted, that
bastard Redclaw and his blasphemous followers were out of the picture, but
there was more. With the powers of Hart, the Terran Navigator, Vagargk had
hoped to restore the Skarr’var’Rhis to its former glory, to unleash his wrath upon
the galaxy all in the name of Sivar. But he had wanted to use the Consortium’s
powers to scare the piss out of all who refused to kneel before Sivar... a
Consortium that didn’t worship the Terran god, much less the Kilrathi one.
Argh! It was so confusing, he thought, scooping up his tankard and downing a
gulp of wine.
Back during the War, it had been far more simple. He killed for the
Emperor and Sivar. Plain and simple. But what was he doing now? he was
forced to wonder. Giving up a man that could very well have saved his ass, just
to bump off one simple prospector utilizing the powers of a Terran madman?
Soon, after Vagargk and the Skarr’var’Rhis had eliminated the Confederation
vessel and had outlived its usefulness for Valentino, he would most likely kill
the Kilrathi. What would it be? he wondered, remembering how Mokat had
been utterly slaughtered like that. Death now or death later? Difficult question.
I’d go in there, guns blazing right now if not for that nagging fear I have
of the Orion Consortium’s might. It is bordering on heresy, I know, but I cannot
help it. O Sivar, a sacrifice in your name just to make amends for this dishonor.
But now it is too late to break the pact. I’ll just go out there, hull the Enterprise,
and run like hell before Valentino can catch up to us.
Suddenly, there was a trilling at the door, and Vagargk, annoyed,
snapped, “ Yes, what is it!?”
The heavy orange door slid back and Kali stepped in, the dim light
causing her leather jumpsuit to shimmer. He had always wondered what had
gotten into him when he had invited his sister onto his crew. After all, she was
just a female... And also a damned good killer. “ Sorry to disturb you, Vagargk,
but I think it’s time we talked!” she hissed, anger flaring.
“ About what?” he scoffed.
Exasperated, Kali flung her arms into the air and began to pace around
the wardroom. “ Damn you, brother of mine! Have years of warfare and your
damned holy crusade made you mad?!”
Vagargk felt his hand go down to the dagger he hid within his shirt. One
more insult and Kali would be dead, her throat sliced wide open. Just give me
an excuse, he thought darkly. I don’t think anyone will object. “ Go on,” he
hissed with a smile.
“ Must we ally ourselves with these Terran scum!? We should have kept
that rat Tobias Hart and used him in our campaign. With his TK abilities, we
could have sent billions of souls down to their knees!” Kali roared. “ But, no, you
gave him away to Valentino just so his Leviathan could go in for the overkill and
send out your message: Praise Sivar or die! And now we’re backed into a corner!
And why?” She narrowed her green eyes at him, her hand dropping to the pistol
slung at her hip. Vagargk flinched. She’d have that gun up before he could even
get his knife free of its scabbard. “ Because you’re a coward.”
Howling low in his throat, the Baron lunged forward, fangs bared. Kali
held the business end of the pistol at his groin and he stopped. “ You dishonor
me, idiot female! Sivar will see that you roast in hell for all eternity!”
“ Is that all you can do, dear brother? Offer insults? If anyone will burn at
the feet of Sivar, it is you!” she shot back, pistol never wavering. “ This useless
holy war began it all, but giving away Hart and agreeing to serve Valentino was
the last straw. Why, I should just kill you right now.”
“ And be at the mercy of Sharg and Na’Grok? I think not. Those two cubs
have been with me since the Battle of Terra. I’ve never doubted their loyalty, but
you on the other paw... Here you are, pointing a gun at me. My reasons for
helping these Terrans are my own. Now leave me!”
Kali chuckled coldly. “ You are a frightened, sniveling boryangee!
Coward!” Vagargk took a step forward, but Kali’s claw tightened around the
pistol’s trigger.
“ Aggh, damn it all, you are right!” he grudgingly admitted, slamming a
fist upon his desk, the tankard of wine crashing to the deck. “ I am scared! I’m
now at the mercy of Sivar, something I’ve always dreaded, because of that! I saw
Mokat there, incinerated in the blink of an eye, and I didn’t want that to happen
to me, or you, or the twins!”
“ Valentino will kill us all, brother,” Kali responded, finally lowering her
pistol. Vagargk was tempted to knife her then and there, but something within
him expelled that bloodlust. “ Just as soon as the Enterprise is destroyed. We
have to leave now, run away, go back to what we did before we ever met
Giovanni Valentino. You understand, don’t you?”
Vagargk turned away, red eyes locked onto the stars beyond. Out on the
periphery of the system were two Consortium frigates, ready to launch
torpedoes if the Skarr’var’Rhis should ever attempt such an escape. He
desperately wanted to run away, however, to get far away and forget this
debacle ever occurred. But he could not. Not now, not after what he had seen
unleashed upon his cousin, not with that fear still there. “ I am sorry,” he
whispered. “ We must do what we have been told. We shall delay as long as
possible, but we are now under the boots of the Consortium.”
“ Damn you!” Kali roared, holstering her pistol and stomping out.
Vagargk scowled. “ I know,” he whispered. “ I know.”

Rec Room, TCS Enterprise
Aeolus System, Outlands
1610 hours (CST)

Chris sighed, rubbing his temples in a vain effort to expel the nausea
which had seized control of his digestive system. The image of that Orion pilot,
burned to a crisp and floating free in space, still made him shudder. He had
taken a life, the first time he had ever done that! For some reason it made him
feel, well, dirty. But, of course, it was his job, what he had trained to do in
service of the Terran Confederation. He couldn’t start second-guessing himself
now, not while he was here in the Outlands.
He thought back to the mission today. After the first battle with the
Excaliburs they had, of course, moved on to Nav Two. That zone had come up
empty, despite several thorough scans by Carrie. But she had concluded the
zone empty and so they had moved on. Nav Three had presented them with a
pair of Arrows-- possibly recon against the Enterprise and her support ships.
They didn’t get very far, however. After the leader had taken a missile up the
tailpipe from Carrie, his wingman had bolted, pushing afterburners to full and
getting the hell out of there. No pursuit had been ordered.
One kill... One measly kill and yet it still felt like a big deal to Chris.
Whether that was good or bad, he wasn’t sure.
Sitting at a back table in the Enterprise’s rec room, Chris wrapped his
hands around his drink and stared at the burgundy table top. Ju’rak, sitting next
to him, was busy devouring a titanic sandwich, piled high with nine slabs of
greasy, gray meat, dripping with gravy. Just looking at it made Chris’s stomach
turn. Hell, the smell alone was horrible. He wondered if that was how the
Kilrathi ate all of the time.
“ This is the life, Chris,” Khan rumbled around a mouthful of his meal.
“ Just give me a sandwich and a cockpit to sit in, and you’ll be looking at one
happy kil.”
Chris winced. “ What the hell is on that thing? It smells like a
Ju’rak shrugged nonchalantly. “ Ox hide, what else? You Terrans sure
have some delicious animals on Earth. Ox, giraffe, leopard, hippo, rhino... Even
had a beluga whale once.”
“ If we ever have an overpopulation of hippo on Terra, we’ll be sure to
call you,” he quipped. Ju’rak boomed with laughter, punctuating it with a belch.
“ Oh, Carrie’s here.”
Nike, smiling, pulled a chair over to Chris and Ju’rak’s table and sat
down. Despite Chris’s mistakes during today’s mission, she didn’t seem to
overly care that much. Fortunately, he had managed to avoid Major Rigsby.
“ So, boys,” she said. “ How are we doing?”
“ Well, if we can scrounge up some giraffe and rhino for Slaughterhouse
Five here,” and he jerked a thumb towards Khan, “ I think it’d be better than
Carrie laughed good-naturedly. “ Yeah, I’m sure,” she said, patting
Ju’rak, who looked over at them with a puzzled expression, on the shoulder.
“ Look, I want you to meet a couple of pilots. Dana, Ruby?”
Chris turned his head to see 2nd Lieutenants Dana Carver and Ruby
Gomez saunter over to their table. He felt a little self-conscious with all of the
people around, a trait he had had since he was little. “ Hi,” he said quietly,
studying the two women sitting across from him. Ruby was a slight young
women, dark skinned, with a menacing gleam in her eyes. Her leather jacket
was adorned with dozens of tiny stitch marks, representing her kills. Chris had
to admit, the sheer amount of those kills was surely impressive. And yet there
was the air of a killer surrounding her, something almost... Kilrathi. That made
him a little scared, he had to admit.
Dana was far more tame, he reasoned. She was rather attractive, with
smooth skin and long brown hair, and Chris felt his cheeks burn red at the mere
thought. He noticed she was smiling at him... at him, not just in his general
direction, but at him! He knew he shouldn’t have looked too much into it, but no
girl had ever smiled at him that way.
“ Ruby and Dana fly under me in Gamma Wing,” Ju’rak stated,
swallowing the last bite of his sandwich. “ They are wingman. I fly usually with
Machine,” and he nodded towards the burly, bald-headed pilot whom Chris had
tripped over earlier in the day. Actually, Machine wasn’t that bad of a guy; Chris
had exchanged a few words with Lieutenant Bill Montoya in the ready room
after the mission.
“ This is 2nd Lieutenant Christopher Edison,” Carrie said, tilting her head
towards Wizard. “ He’s my wingman, and a damn good pilot. Just doesn’t have
a strong stomach.” Chris grinned.
“ Yeah, I knew an Edison once,” Ruby proclaimed loudly in an accent
Chris couldn’t quite place. “ Back in Gemini before I signed on with Confed. The
crackpot claimed to have invented the telephone just to get me to join him in a
broom closet, if ya catch my drift. Yeah, like it would impress me. Ended up
having to knife the son of a bitch in the ribs just to get his goddamned hands off
Chris shrugged. “ My family has a saying: If it ain’t great, it ain’t an
Edison. Keep that in mind the next time someone pulls that line on you,
although I don’t see why anyone would.”
The people sitting around him chuckled politely, but he knew it was
lame. Dana grinned broadly, turning to face Carrie. “ He’s kind of cute,” she
said and Chris’s cheeks went from red to a deep crimson. Well, no girl had ever
used that adjective to describe him before. Ju’rak leaned in low, chuckling softly,
and playfully elbowed him in the ribs.
The group began to engage in a quiet conversation about the latest
best-selling book on the market, a documentation of fighter pilots throughout
history entitled “From Doolittle to Blair: Six Hundred Years of Combat Pilots”,
but Chris’s attention was elsewhere. The door to the rec room had opened and in
stepped a tall man with the insignia of a colonel. His hair was straw colored,
against regulation, but his beard was flecked with silver. Horrible burn scars
traced the man’s face, and he seemed to have an aura of sadness about him.
Ordering a Scotch from the bar, the colonel sat down by himself to quietly read a
computer slate.
Chris nudged Ju’rak. “ Say, who was that colonel that just walked in
here?” he asked, curious.
“ Colonel Dirk ‘Stringray’ Wright,” Khan replied simply. “ Our Wing
“ What’s wrong with him?”
“ Meaning...?”
Chris shrugged. “ Well, he just seems so depressed, and he’s horribly
scarred... Was he in a great battle or something?”
“ Colonel Wright served on the TCS Concordia back toward the end of the
War between our two peoples. I heard from a friend of mine who was assigned
to that ship that he was a regular, as you Terrans would say, ‘asshole’. But then
there was Vespus. The Concordia was covering a rearguard action after the
Battle of Earth, when she was hit and crashed into the Mistral Sea. Stingray’s
Ferret was shot up badly, and he was forced to eject, but not before suffering
severe burns,” Ju’rak responded. “ He is a good Wing Commander, but after
seeing the destruction of the Concordia and the deaths of so many friends, he is
now... distant. I cannot blame him.”
Chris shook his head, studying Stingray, seeing the pain in his eyes. The
things that man must have seen, serving on board Admiral Tolwyn’s flagship,
surely have scarred his soul. It must have made him a different man. Chris had
to agree with Ju’rak... he couldn’t blame him. “ Yeah,” Chris whispered.
Before Chris knew it, he was face down on the deck. What the hell? he
wondered, even as another salvo of neutron guns ripped into the starboard flank
of the Enterprise. A shower of plaster rained down from the wall, covering
Chris’s hair in white. Dana was by his side, pulling him to his feet. “ We under
attack?” he asked lamely, even as the pilots rushed towards the exit.
“ Let’s go!” Ju’rak roared, pushing the two Terrans towards the crush of
pilots making their way toward the Rec Room’s door.
Captain Hawk’s deep voice suddenly exploded from the ship P.A.

Navigator Colony
Titus System, Outlands
1612 hours (CST)

With a spray of laser rounds, the chest of the Orion Marine was torn open
in a spray of blood, dropping the grunt to the dust. Janice Carmichael howled in
triumph, whirling around to drop yet another raider. Just another victim to add
to her body count. Serves them right for dropping in on us like this, she thought
viciously. Never mess with the Navigators!
The Navigators... Janice was one of them, their de facto leader ever since
Tobias Hart had been abducted by the Kilrathi six months ago. Hart had gone
out on a mission to find help in their struggle against the Consortium, but he
had vanished, never again to return to Titus. Janice had never wanted Tobias to
go out, not after what had happened in the Outlands in the two-hundred years
since they had arrived. Yes, Janice was two-hundred years old, they were cursed with eternal youth, just another fabulous gift from the Terminus Nebula.
As Janice ducked to avoid a flurry of laser shots directed at her, she
thought back to that mission two centuries ago which had left her and her people in the Outlands. The year had been 2459, and civilian Captain Tobias
Hart of the SS Santa Maria had been hired by a relatively young Terran Confederation to venture out past Terran space in an effort to map the far side of the Milky Way. It had been dangerous feat to be sure. It was because of this that the crew of the Santa Maria had been dubbed the Navigators. It had been a bold enterprise, to be sure, nobody had ever ventured out that far, and who knew what would be waiting for them at the Galactic edge? Janice had been Hart’s young, nineteen-year old first mate, and had been filled with trepidation when the Maria had ventured out.
By the time they had reached their destination, Janice had been twenty five years old, and most of the crew was going mad with cabin fever. There had been ten nervous breakdowns and fifteen suicides. But to Janice Carmichael that six-year trip through hell had been worth it all. For the the SS Santa Maria had discovered the Terminus Nebula; the single most massive heavenly body which had ever been discovered. It had been glorious. A massive cloud of writhing energy stretching as far as the eye could see. Janice had been mesmerized. When Captain Hart had announced he was taking out a Sphinx work pod for a closer look at the energy cloud, Janice had
immediately volunteered to go along.
Just thinking back to that myriad of brilliant hues, dancing back and forth
across the cosmos filled Janice with chills. Their time in close proximity to the
Nebula, however, had been brief and they had returned to the Maria after fifteen minutes. But that fifteen minutes in heaven would result in two-hundred years of hell. When they had returned, a great change had overcome them, they had
developed an almost mystical connection to the cosmos around them. At first she
could not explain it, nor could Captain Hart. It was as if they had developed a
bridge spanning the stars, connecting the corporeal to the noncoporeal. Soon,
this extraordinary new gift had passed through the ship like a plague, and all of
the Navigators had been affected. And so had begun their exile.
With these awesome new powers, they knew they could not return to
Terran space. Hell, the six year trip back would have been hell alone, but they
would be outcasts back home, shunned by the populous for their telekinetic
abilities. After a few unsavory contacts with various alien races unknown to the
Terrans, the Maria had found herself in what would be called the Outlands, but
had been stuck with the label Astris Incognita on their star charts. Finding a
planet called Titus, the Navigators had developed a colony on the dusty world,
with the Maria looming above them in the town square.
They had prepared for their remaining years on Titus, but soon things
had gotten far more unusual. After the first twenty years, they had noticed no
changes in their physical appearance nor health. It was as if they were stuck in
time, cursed with immortality. Many had committed suicide then and there after
finding out the awful truth from their doctor, Frank Glasgow. After all, who
could stand an eternity of boredom on a dusty planet in the middle of nowhere?
But Janice had soon come to accept her newfound powers and immortality, as
had most of the Navigators.
For a hundred and seventy years, the Titus colony had flourished,
becoming a Mecca for wayward travelers in the Outlands. Taking advantage of
their position as an affluent space port, Tobias Hart had built up a small fleet of
vessels, hoping that one day they would build enough ships to transport the
Navigators and their numerous offspring back to Terran space. Quite frankly,
however, Janice was quite comfortable on Titus, but whatever Hart wished was
said, for the Navigators had come to honor Hart as if he were a king.
And then the Orion Consortium arrived, shattering their dreams of
wealth and prosperity. Led by the madman Giovanni Valentino, the Consortium
had begun several hit-and-run raids on Navigator colonies all along the Titus
Sector. Hart had responded by sending out some of their fighters against the
Belleau Wood and her fighters, but it was no use. Nevertheless, Janice, leading
the squadron, had captured an ejected Orion pilot and brought him back to Titus. From that pilot, they had learned of everything that had transpired since they had left Terran space. The Kilrathi War, the Black Lance... So much had
happened that Janice was sure she’d never want to return to a place that was
even stranger than when she had left it.
In two short years, the Navigators had found the Orion Consortium grow
from a madman with a fleet carrier, to an empire. To this day, it was still a
mystery of how this had occurred. Perhaps their goddess Nike was smiling upon
them, she thought with a frown. Captain Hart, in his wisdom, knew that they
could not stand up against the ever growing Orion hordes alone, and so had set
off in search of aide against Valentino. But he never came back...
For the past six months Janice, now leader of the Navigators, had sent out
ships to track down Hart, but results had been nil. There had been some reports
of a Kilrathi warlord, Vagargk, but there had been no substantial evidence to
back up those claims. Now, however, out of the blue, the Orion Consortium had
launched a blitzkrieg assault on the Titus Colony, taking thousands of
Navigators hostage on their warships. Janice and her people had fought back
viciously, but now, after three days of intense combat, it looked like they were
Growling low in her throat, Janice lashed out with a booted foot, catching
an Orion grunt in the groin. The man crumpled to the dust without a sound, and
Janice whirled to take down a soldier rushing right at her.
“Some fight, eh?” Miles Coolidge, a young private in the Militia who had
come from one of the newer generations of Navigators, asked, a feral grin etched
upon his face.
Janice had to agree. She nodded tersely to the young towheaded kid,
watching in approval as Miles sprayed the area around him with laser shots,
taking down a squad of enemy Marines. “ Just keep up the fight, kid!” she
roared. “ These bastards will have to let up sooner or later!”
Miles laughed, but a split second later Private Coolidge’s head exploded
in a shower of brains and blood. Janice stared at her fallen comrade in horror,
watching the dust beneath him congeal with blood. “ Goddamn you!” she
roared, lunging towards an Orion, smashing his faceplate in with the butt of her
rifle. Blood and teeth flew upwards as the man’s jaw was broken, and Janice
pumped a round into his gut just to seal the deal. Who was she kidding? she wondered. The amount of warriors the Consortium had at their disposal was astounding; They never seemed to let up! The Navigator Militia would be swamped in another few hours.
A bomber swooped down low from the fiery sky, strafing the battle zone
before launching a deluge of missiles. The ground a klick and a half away from
Janice exploded in a geyser of dirt and rock, showering her with razor-sharp
particles. Janice swore, watching as hundreds of her men were blasted apart.
She aimed her rifle heavenward, aiming for the bomber, but suddenly felt silly
for doing so. She watched as the enemy ship angled towards the northeast,
dropping a bomb which flattened the SS Santa Maria. The Navigator’s first ship
vanished in a flash of red light, and Janice felt tears in her eyes.
" Heretic!" Janice whirled, bringing her rifle to bear as the unarmed, laser riddled Orion trooper lunged at her, a dagger glowing in his mangled hand. She pulled the trigger, heard the click of an empty chamber. " Damn!" she whispered, even as knife fell downwards, slicing across her scalp. Blood pouring into her eyes, she lashed out with her foot, sending the knife flying. With a uncontrolled scream of fury, Janice drove the rifle down upon the injured Orion's head, smashing in his skull.
“ Pull back!” she roared into her radio. “ You heard me, goddammit! Pull
back, let’s get the hell out of here!” She hated to sound retreat, but they could no
longer hold Titus Colony. The hangars were merely sixty paces to her left, and
Janice set off at a run, tossing away her empty rifle and pulling out a short
carbine. Ducking low to avoid a mortar shell arching overhead, Janice ran into the massive
building, seeing the tiny Tarsus freighter sitting there in the middle of the
hangar. A wave of her troopers flooded into the chamber, desperately trying to
get to the transports, even as the Orions gunned them down from behind.
She drew a bead on an enemy sergeant, squeezed the trigger, and
watched as lances of red energy mowed the man down. “ Take that, you
bastard,” she whispered, ducking low and racing towards the Tarsus. She hit the
ramp at a run, ducking inside as a mine went off in the hangar. Body parts flew
everywhere as her people were being slaughtered. There was no time to save
them; Janice had to get the hell off of Titus and find anyone who could help
them. Perhaps Confed, if they had established a presence in the Outlands, could
provide assistance.
She strapped into the cockpit, wincing at the bad smell. The Navigators
had bought the clunky vessel from a privateer traveling to the Outlands from
Gemini four months ago, and Janice hadn’t the time to clean it out. Now,
however, was not the time to worry about that. Humming to life, the Tarsus
lifted off from the hangar floor, rising above the sadistic Orion soldiers, who
vainly attempted to shoot the vessel down. But the isometal hull held, and Janice
punched the freighter towards space above, afterburners glowing white hot.
She looked back and saw the destruction reigning over her beloved home
of two-hundred years. The colony was a crater in the ground, a hellish inferno.
Why had the bastards even come? she wondered ruefully, feeling the tears
running down her dusty cheeks. Why would the Orions need us?
Suddenly, a trilling sounded from the ship’s console as the Tarsus cleared
the atmosphere of Titus. Shit! she thought. Four Consortium Excaliburs. “ God, I
hope this works,” she whispered. She flipped back the special cover on the ship’s
dashboard, crossed her fingers, and pulled back on the switch. The lights
dimmed suddenly and Janet sighed in relief as the Excaliburs pulled back. The
cloaking device had worked!
Pain and fury boiling within her, Janice knew that when she came back,
she would unleash a mind storm upon the Orion Consortium the likes of which
they could not have imagined.

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

[This message has been edited by Dralthi5 (edited March 11, 2000).]
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I'll leave the more detailed nitpicking for Matrix

Remember that nav points are merely places where the ship changes its course. They do not require any special attention; nor will enemy ships always be encountered there. Also, I recommend working on the transitions a bit; it's strange how the journey between the two navpoints just disappeared

Be careful when writing what the Kilrathi think and speak. Sometimes, the terms and phrases you use seem too... Human.

**Argh! It was so confusing, he thought, scooping up his tankard and downing a
gulp of wine.** - Why not Sukhar May'ya? Or Vak'qu?

**Ju’rak shrugged nonchalantly. “ Ox hide, what else? You Terrans sure
have some delicious animals on Earth. Ox, giraffe, leopard, hippo, rhino... Even
had a beluga whale once."** - Eek. Given the Kilrathi habit of eating raw meat, I'm fairly certain that they would be careful what they eat. Also, some of the animals listed are on the near-extinct list right now; do you really think there will be enough left for the Killies to munch on?

**His hair was straw colored,
against regulation, but his beard was flecked with silver.** I see... I didn't know that straw coloured hair was against regulation... but I'm glad that beards flecked with silver are ok
. Also, his hair was a mid-ranged brown, with a kind of reddish tint to it.

**A shower of plaster rained down from the wall, covering
Chris’s hair in white.** Plaster

**Yes, Janice was two-hundred years old, they were all two
hundred or more years, just another fabulous gift from the Galactic Rim.** They can't all be 200 years old, since some of them were obviously born later. Some probably much later.

**. If the Galactic Rim was discovered, then
they were to find a way to navigate through it to the other side, a dangerous feat
to be sure.** Ay? Last I checked, the Galactic Rim was simply the place where the galaxy ends. Ain't nothing special about it. Basically, (even more) empty space begins there.

**A massive band of energy stretching as far as the eye could see.** An odd phenomenon...

**Miles laughed, but a split second later Private Coolidge’s head exploded
in a shower of brains and blood.** Tsk, tsk. Aren't we graphic today

**Ducking low to avoid a mortar arching overhead,** You mean, a mortar shell
Or did they run out of shells and start lobbing mortars?

There, I'm done. Sorry if all those comments were a bit negative. The story overall is still rather good, though I hope you're not planning to give the Navigators too much power. Don't worry too much about space combat; just be a bit more descriptive, and it'll be fine.

[This message has been edited by Quarto (edited March 10, 2000).]
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Oh goodie!

Keep up with the story!

Lots of references eh?
That Tarsus must be th one from Burrows, yes? He didn't forget the Steltek Artifact in there did he?

"This matter winds itself ever in new riddles.", Faramir - The Lord of The Rings
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-Ju'rak's tastes in food was meant for humor only, don't read too much into it.

-I meant Stingray's hair was not cut to regulation. Probably should have been a little more clear.

-Plaster... It's my logic... that Confed uses plaster.

-Yes, obviously some are a lot younger than 200 years. I was gonna change that, but, hey, what to do when you suffering from a cold and writing at night?

-You actually check up on the Galactic Rim? Basically, I borrowed this idea from a book I read, in which the Milky Way was ringed by a massive energy band and ships would explode if they tried to sail right through it. Whether this is plausibe or not, I have no idea.

-I've been reading Bill Forstchen's Lost Regiment series for the past three months, which is chock-full of gory, Civil War-style battle scenes. I've been inspired... You'll be seeing plenty of exploding heads in chapters to come.

-Mortar shell, of course...

-I'll forgive the negativity, it was good negativity. (I love oxymorons).

-The Navigators will stay tame. If I wanted them to be too powerful, they would have easily triumphed over the Orions, right? But, however, something interesting in the end will happen with Hart.

-Thanks once again for the comments, Quarto. Once I get done here, it'll be off to continue to read your story...

-Thanks. It'll be a while until the next chapter, but not too long I hope. Thank God I got the name of the freighter right, at first I had it as a Taurus, but I didn't think Ford would still be around in the 27th century

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Just be sure to change his hair colour back to what it was in the game. Or did he bleach it? Please, no...

Plaster... that's odd, considering that spaceships are made of metal. Plaster is used for different purposes.

Galactic Rim: Yeah, I've been there a few times
. I'm sorry to say that the idea is completely inplausible. Besides, since space is 3D, a ring can hardly keep them confined to the galaxy, since they can just fly above or below it. Why don't you just say that they were sent there just for the hell of it? Scientists always like sending people to new places. And maybe they decided to investigate some sort of odd nebula, and...

Why wouldn't Ford be around in the 27th century
? They probably make respectable family-sized spacecraft
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Ah, I see you've done that too! I wrote up my character bios before I wrote the third section too.

Before I begin...some replies to Quarto's post.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>I'll leave the more detailed nitpicking for Matrix .<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
No, no. By all means go right ahead and pick nits. There's plenty to go round.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Remember that nav points are merely places where the ship changes its course.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I thought nav points were places with nav beacons where a lot of ships change course, and thus more likely to draw battles than open space.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Also, I recommend working on the transitions a bit; it's strange how the journey between the two navpoints just disappeared.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I disagree. What happened, is explained more than adequately upon return to the Enterprise.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Plaster ?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Yeah, plaster. You know 'tynk'. But, you're right - plaster is used in buildings, not spacecraft.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>They can't all be 200 years old, since some of them were obviously born later.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Yes, it's definately not enough to say 200 years or older.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Last I checked, the Galactic Rim was simply the place where the galaxy ends.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Yeah, and the rest of the universe begins. Now travelling through the Galactic Core - that'd be something.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>A massive band of energy stretching as far as the eye could see.** An odd phenomenon...<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
At least it stretches as far as the eye can see - and not reach.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Private Coolidge’s head exploded in a shower of brains and blood.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Hey, whatever happened to the bits of shattered skull?

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Or did they run out of shells and start lobbing mortars?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

And now on to the comments proper:
<LI>&gt;he recieved a vision from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.&lt; - As long as the vision wasn't from "Nike, the shoe manufacturer."

<LI>&gt;She told him to found an empire in the name of Orion to take over the galaxy.&lt; - Comma or en-dash after Orion.

<LI>&gt;Blair and Maniac were sent maintain order within the Border Worlds,&lt; - Were sent to maintain order.

<LI>&gt;hoped to use the man to restore Vagargk's power&lt; - Repace Vagargk's with his.

<LI>&gt;he accidentally miscomputed, however,&lt; - Better "however he accidentally miscalculated."

<LI>&gt;to have one pissed at him.&lt; - Being pissed off is better...than being pissed on.

<LI>&gt;He was going to make a lot of mistakes- - he was only human&lt; - Hey, that's what I always say!

<LI>&gt;engaging any hostiles that they may have encountered.&lt; - They may encounter - it hasn't happened yet.

<LI>&gt;the Orions had in their possessions Excalibur fighters&lt; - "Had Excalibur fighters in their possession." Possession singular.

<LI>&gt;“There here, somewhere... Count on it,”&lt; - They're here - and you should probably begin speech on a new line.

<LI>&gt;hit the juice.&lt; - Er...Afterburners run on (tomato) juice?

<LI>&gt;his dark-helmeted head filling the VDU.&lt; - Aw, couldn't the bad guys wear white for a change? Or kinky pink?

<LI>&gt;“Gamma Two, Fox One!”&lt; - Hmm, don't they say that when they actually destroy an enemy? And start speech on a new line again.

<LI>&gt;the pilot was introduced to the vacuum of space,&lt; - Just one of the many fine constructs. "Dead pilot, meet space. Space, meet dead pilot."

<LI>&gt;blackened, mangled corpse floating lifeless in space still haunted him...&lt; - Me too!
Good detail. I reckon nobody thinks of these things until you write them.

<LI>&gt;scare the piss out of all who refused to kneel before Sivar...&lt; - I'd use vulgarity only where neccessary.

<LI>&gt;Giving up a man that could very well have saved his ass,&lt; - Again. Saving his hide is a synonymous idiom.

<LI>&gt;remembering how Mokat had been utterly slaughtered like that.&lt; - I don't think I've heard on non-utter slaughter.

<LI>&gt;hull the Enterprise,&lt; - Are you sure hull is the word you want?

<LI>&gt;With his TK abilities,&lt; - Whoa! Telekinesis?

<LI>&gt;but you on the other paw...&lt; - Heh.

<LI>&gt;No pursuit had been ordered.&lt; - Of an Arrow? I'm not surprised.

<LI>&gt;Just give me a sandwich and a cockpit to sit in,&lt; - Heh! And I thought I was the only one who had a thing for sandwiches.

<LI>&gt;Ox hide, what else?&lt; - Hide? Including the fur? Ick.

<LI>&gt;Ox, giraffe, leopard, hippo, rhino... Even&lt; - Okay, the others I undestand, but LEOPARD!? Who in their right Kilrathi mind would eat leopard?

<LI>&gt;“ Ruby and Dana fly under me in Gamma Wing,”&lt; - How many Gamma wings are there?

<LI>&gt;They are wingman.&lt; - Wingmen...or should that be wingwomen?

<LI>&gt;The crackpot claimed to have invented the telephone&lt; - It was Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph and the electric lightbulb - but I bet you already knew that.

<LI>&gt;Ju’rak leaned in low, chuckling softly, and playfully elbowed him in the ribs.&lt; - How un-Kilrathi like, though I see Khan is well versed in the art of embarrassment.

<LI>&gt;His hair was straw colored, against regulation,&lt; - Hey, I have non regulation hair!

<LI>&gt;I heard from a friend of mine&lt; - Hmm. Hobbes?

<LI>&gt;he was a regular, as you Terrans would say, ‘asshole’.&lt; - Now there's perfectly justified use.

<LI>&gt;to venture out past Terran space&lt; - Past suggests passing through, not leaving it. Pehaps beyond?

<LI>&gt;find a way to navigate through it to the other side,&lt; - The other side of what? Death? To Heaven perhaps? The scientific belief is that space doesn't stop at the edge of the galaxy - just goes on and on and on...for much further than I can write here.

<LI>&gt;It had been a bold enterprise,&lt; - Just like the ship, eh?

<LI>&gt;that six-year trip&lt; - Short trip. Almost as short as going down to the corner grocery store.
5 years into the trip "Did you remember to pack the can opener?" - ""

<LI>&gt;A massive band of energy stretching as far as the eye could see.&lt; - You have some explaining to do. You do have an explanation for this right? I mean the scientific part of science-fiction.

<LI>&gt;But that fifteen minutes in heaven&lt; - Ah, so I guessed right then.

<LI>&gt;connecting the corporeal to the noncoporeal.&lt; It's actually incorporeal...and you missed an r.

<LI>&gt;Hell, the six year trip back would have been hell alone,&lt; - Too much hell.

<LI>&gt;their telekinetic abilities.&lt; - Another good guess.

<LI>&gt;but soon things had gotten far more unusual.&lt; - "Things got far more unusual."

<LI>&gt;cursed with immortality.&lt; - It would be more interesting for those effected to come to their own conclusion of the plague that had seized the ship.

<LI>&gt;Many had committed suicide then and there after finding out the awful truth&lt; - Comma after there.

<LI>&gt;but whatever Hart wished was said,&lt; - Maybe said isn't strong enough. "Set in stone," perhaps?

<LI>&gt;From that pilot, they had learned of everything that had transpired since they had left Terran space.&lt; - Wow! That was one smart pilot to have covered 200 years of Terran history in any detail.

<LI>&gt;There had been some reports of a Kilrathi warlord, Vagargk, but there had been no substantial evidence to back up those claims.&lt; - Reports of what? That such a Kilrathi exists? Specify.

<LI>&gt;the Orion Consortium had launched a blitzkrieg assault on the Titus Colony,&lt; - Would a lightning strike/offensive suffice?

<LI>&gt;a feral grin etched upon his face.&lt; - That almost feels as if the Navigator's aren't human anymore...which could be a good thing.

<LI>&gt;Janice set off at a run, tossing away her empty rifle&lt; - Hmm, how convenient that she had one last bullet to kill that Orion trooper.

<LI>&gt;Ducking low to avoid a mortar arching overhead,&lt; - Mortar or mortar sheel that's just silly. I'd duck at the whistling of a projectile overhead.

<LI>&gt;because Janice hit the massive building, seeing the tiny Tarsus freighter sitting there in the middle of the hangar.&lt; - Uh, that doesn't seem to make much sense.

<LI>&gt;The Navigators had bought the clunky vessel from a privateer&lt; - Hey! That's my Tarsus!

<LI>&gt;But the isometal hull held,&lt; - Oh, can't be mine then. My Tarsus was upgraded to Tungsten armour plating.

<LI>&gt;The lights dimmed suddenly...The cloaking device had worked!&lt; - Heh. That's a good point. It's dark in space, so if you turn off the lights...


That's it. *phew*
It may not seem like it from the number of comments, but I really liked that - right from the start. You have a gift for picking out the right elements with descriptions, and you keep the story flowing well. However, your sentence structure verges on the incohesive. I'm guessing you like Tolkien.
I only mentioned this in two comments, but it often cropped up - you should probably start speech on a new line.
I never thought I'd say this but it's nice to see some evil Kilrathi in action for a change. The dilema faced by Vagargk is intriguing, and makes me wonder what the future will bring - his destruction - his escape. Or defection perhaps?
The attack was nice and sudden - never saw it coming. But don't you think it would take more than 10 or 20 minutes for the Skarr’var’Rhis to reach the Enterprise? Unless these are other Kilrathi attacking.

*yawn* Maybe I should just become the local editor and forget writing my story, eh? Well let me know if I picked up too many nits.

[This message has been edited by Matrix (edited March 11, 2000).]
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Hmm... is "55" some sort of magic number, Mac? That's the second time you've made exactly 55 nitpicks

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>I thought nav points were places with nav beacons where a lot of ships change course, and thus more likely to draw battles than open space.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
That's a negatory. In Priv, the nav points remain the same (though there are no beacons); but in the mainstream, there are new nav points set for every mission. Otherwise, "diamond" patrols wouldn't be diamond

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>I disagree. What happened, is explained more than adequately upon return to the Enterprise.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I actually meant the journey from the Enterprise to nav one. He pressed the button, felt the tug on his ship, and then he arrived.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Yeah, plaster. You know 'tynk'. But, you're right - plaster is used in buildings, not spacecraft.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Aye laddie, I know what plaster be.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Yeah, and the rest of the universe begins. Now travelling through the Galactic Core - that'd be something.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Oh no, you're not getting out of that one. That's your job

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>I never thought I'd say this but it's nice to see some evil Kilrathi in action for a change.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I never thought I'd hear this
. Admittedly, the stories focus a lot on the few friendly Kilrathi out there, but come on. Prince Thrakhrath (Grr... he's not evil though), Khasra Redclaw (Now, he's evil), the Emperor, and all those other Felines. We kind Kilrathi are still a minority.

And finally, a note in regard to your nit no. 23. Oddly enough, my Chapter VIII also includes a sandwich. See what you've done to us, Matrix
? Except that the sandwich I use is much more improvised; certainly the ingredients list is much shorter
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Okay, I'll go back in there and rework the whole Galactic Rim thing to make it more plausible.

In repsonse to Matrix:

11.) I don't mean that literally. Juice= energy.

13.) They say that when they fire a missile.

26.) Meant Beta Wing.

28.) I'm an idiot. Of course, you know what I meant. Light bulb, not telphenone (sic).

34.) Other side of the energy ribbon, but that's going to be changed.

37.) Again, that'll be changed.

46.) History buff.

47.) That he's just raising hell.

-I've read Tolkien. I like his stories.

-Thanks again for the comments and corrections, guys. Appreciate it.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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If you read it again, you'll notice the energy band at the Galactic Rim has been replaced with the Terminus Nebula. I've also added another scene on the Titus Colony, where Janice discovers her rifle is empty.
And the sentence saying all of them are two hundred or more has been fixed to say something along the lines of they were all cursed with eternal youth.

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Maybe nits like to go around in groups of 55?

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>
I actually meant the journey from the enterprise to nav one. He pressed the button, felt the tug on his ship, and then he arrived.
Time flies when you're having fun...or concentrating on keeping the contents of your stomach down.
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