Team Writer Sentence Challenges!

The Su-15 shuddered all around him as its engines wailed beyond their limits. Pavel could feel that strain in his teeth as he clenched them harder the more he pulled the control yoke back into his lap, forcing the interceptor higher into the un-tameable blue sky. He’d seen his target in action, knew full well  the level of death it had in its belly. But that terrifying potential also kept the enemy bomber restrained to a speed his FLAGON could catch far and away from his home base.

 

On his radar scope, the blip beyond his horizon suddenly shifted and started to pull away from him, telling the Russian pilot that his Soviet enemy realized what was coming to meet it, and decided to try escaping. “Net, net, net, sukin ty syn!” (No, no, no, you son of a bitch!) he called out to a muted radio, letting the stick go so his interceptor would start to fall back toward the savanna below.

 

The window would only last a second,based on how fast the enemy bomber was executing the same dive. One second in which Pavel would have enough of the speed edge to get within maximum range of the two large missiles under his wings. 

 

His fingers tensed on the trigger before he fully realized the tone of a missile lock was ringing in his ear “Dzhek-pot!” (Jackpot!) he called out as the Su-15 rocked with sudden weightless, his fangs leaping forward at insane speed for the kill.

**************************************************

He knew this moment would come as soon as he’d given the order to return to the Starbase. So when his cabin door ‘ding’ed to admit his visitor, it Captain Wallace great effort not to clench his fists. It had honestly been a miracle no one had figured it out sooner. You don’t send a battleship on search and rescue… his gut had told him. Especially when other starships were closer to the attack.

 

Hard bootsteps echoed through the room, only to stop suddenly when a datapad hit Wallace’s table. “I honestly don’t know which one I’m more pissed about. The fact that you were sleeping with a superior officer, a married one at that! Or, that I didn’t see it happening after serving together for almost five years.”

 

Gavin turned to see the reddened face of his former Captain glaring holes through him, adding to the unease in his gut. “There was no way for you to know, sir. We made sure of that…it’s why we only met whenever the Barnet and her Poesiden were docked at the same time.”

 

Standing upright to tower over his former student, Bruce pinched the bridge of his nose, “And that’s supposed to help?”

 

“No, but you’ll never lose if you don’t play. But you’ll never win, either.” Gavin retorted, tossing one the first lessons Bruce had taught him back at his newly-retired mentor. “Bruce, I loved her. If we had to keep it secret, then it was a secret worth keeping.”

 

**************************************************

 

He didn’t go to the Midnight Dream Club because he wanted to. To him, it was a den of sad, lonely souls that enjoyed being teased with what they could never have. Tired, run-down hearts that looked to the crooning sounds of the bourbon-dipped harpies behind the velvet curtain for their sole source of joy. 

 

He’d come here tonight for the other half of the club’s occupants, those whose names he’d seen come in and out of his possession a thousand times each day. Those who steal, who assault, who kill for greed and power. For in this club, they felt impervious, and who could blame them. Corrupted authority and wanted lawbreakers all mixed together like chocolate and water.  Today, the one man he needed to see was sitting in the front row, drunkenly howling like a hyena at the temptress on stage.

 

No sooner did the song end did the criminal stand to head to the bathroom, so he was sure to make it there first. Miming the action of relief, he watched the newly-paroled man stumble to the urinal next to him. His heartbeat pounded in his ears as he listened for any other company or traffic in the restroom before he moved, letting the knife concealed in his sleeve slip down to his palm. Not letting himself second-guess his purpose, he swung the blade in his off-hand, catching Joey ‘Razors’ Slazinci in-between the ribs and burying the strike up to its hilt in the man’s lung.

 

“Jackpot.”

**************************************************

He hated the New Republic formal dress uniform, every single fiber in the constraining, non-flattering ensemble. If everything went to hell right now, most everyone’s arms wouldn’t be allowed to bend enough to aim a blaster, so everyone would be mauled by the hypothetical attack Wes Janson daydreamed while some diplomat from some planet somewhere spoke about something. Thankfully, after years of being in the legendary Rogue Squadron, Wes had mastered the art of false attention. A craft which helped him not jump a little when Hobbie tapped on his shoulder, “Up and at them! Time to go make merry with the big-wigs.”

 

Janson kept his grumble of apprehension deep in his throat as the regal and pompous alike came to shake hands with the Rogues. Yet over the shoulder of the fifth minister, he’d caught a glimpse of an oasis in a sea of boredom. A fellow pilot, equally uncomfortable in her dress uniform, but sporting the infectious smile he wishes he was wearing now. More importantly, in that split-second, she’d looked his way and auburn eyes sparked in equal parts invitation and mischief.

 

“Status update, Three.” Hobbie whispered to Wes in-between handshakes.

 

“Target’s on the nose, starting the Tannabian run.” Janson replied, giving the upcoming minister an apologetic hand-wave before almost skipping out of line to go meet the object of his attention. Hobbie just shook his head, remembering Wes’ life-long mantra hidden in his code-phrase. You’ll never lose if you don’t play. But you’ll never win either…

 


The second in a series of delightful writing challenges I’ve been able to participate in this year. My many thanks to my dear friend Mayumi for creating the challenge sentences these sprang from!

I hope you all enjoy.

100 Word Challenges Aplenty

She ran through the crisp, cutting cold of the morning, leaping over exposed root and crashing through low-hanging branches without caution as Byely’Volk sprinted to the woods’ central clearing to catch the first rays of the rising sun. The chitter of the fallow-kin and the caww-ing of the blackwings filled her ears when she slowed to a trot, “Qaranliq! Jelen!”

In turn, the largest of the quadrupeds and the most regal flyer moved to greet their canine counterpart. “You almost missed the dawn again, hunter,” quipped the stag.

“And risk ill favor in the coming season’s hunt? Not a chance.”

 

******************************************************************

“You’re burning the steak again, bro!” Lance called down from the second story balcony, cranium still trying to navigate its way out of his shirt.

“Shows what you know! A little char brings flavor to an otherwise dull slab of meat!” Bryan retorted, before lithe fingers crossed over his, and promptly snatched the tongs away.

“You’re both idiots, all you need is some salt and dashi,” Yukari smirked, planting her violet lips on Bryan’s neck while turning the main course from burning to salvageable. “Must I teach you everything, soldier?”

The grilling dunce barked a laugh, “Only if you beat me at push-ups.”

*****************************************************************

Mission Log: It’s now Day 31 since we were shot down here. We’ve finally got the base camp running normally during daylight hours, but we still can’t make enough room though all these damned trees to get the walkers out.

They came again last night…we still can’t get good looks at them, but that shriek echoes for ages thanks to all the forest. How those …those demons move so fast…it’s like they aren’t even there. They don’t even disturb the leaves when the come.

 

I can only pray that everyone they take…dies quickly.

 

-Capt. Deltran, Ravage Squadron

***********************************************************

For the third night in a row, his own hovered over the paper like a wayward soul blocked from heaven. He could see the words writing themselves on the paper, he could feel their voice etched on his heart, a spell barely restrained by the chains of his mind. A curse collapsing in on itself like a dying star.

 

He could see it….yet they wouldn’t come. Every single time, they defied him.

 

Tonight, he couldn’t take the tease anymore, slamming his fists down on his desk and sweeping it clean, ink well shattering on the stones at his feet. 

*************************************************

By all accounts, the man in the white hat was no one, just a stranger soaked by the Dublin rain and waiting by the streetlight. It just so happened that the man was soon joined by a second, sporting a crimson fedora.

“Project GOLDEN?” Asked the first man, never looking at his company.

“Compromised, I’m afraid. The little puss-bucket back at Site C failed to defend the safe when the Yanks came,” replied the red hat, adjusting his tie.

The white-capped man shook his head. “Have Arley jerk his fingernails off, that should remind our employees how much failure costs.”

 

By all accounts, the man in the white hat was no one, just a stranger soaked by the Dublin rain and waiting by the streetlight. It just so happened that the man was soon joined by a second, sporting a crimson fedora.

 

“Project GOLDEN?” Asked the first man, never looking at his company.

 

“Compromised, I’m afraid. The little puss-bucket back at Site C failed to defend the safe when the Yanks came,” replied the red hat, adjusting his tie. “Apparently Vashalov was asleep at his post when the alarm went up.”

 

The white-capped man shook his head. “Have Arley jerk his fingernails off, that should remind our employees how much failure costs.”

 

“What of the remains of GOLDEN?”

 

Pulling the brim of his ivory hat down at his brow, Casper stepped away from his company and back into the night. “Let those pigs keep it. We’ll use it as a false-flag for PLATINUM.”

 

*************************************************

The temple’s entrance wasn’t so much a door as it was a crevice dug into the earth by time. Tolomir stepped quietly over jagged stone, which quickly blocked his Divine’s light, forcing him to rely on her blessings to tread. It wasn’t long before the cultist chants of the devout reached him, and the paladin saw the gathering of men and beast around their idol to Gaius-grel Grethxathur. All packed in an intimately close gathering.

“Silena, blessed Lady of Light, focus your will through me as your Lance” he whispered, extending his palm at the rock face above the crowd.

 


A smattering of 100 Word Challenges held through the Facebook “Team Writer” page earlier this year. Because why stick to ground I’ve already tread? Let’s explore different arenas!

I hope you all enjoy.

Carnwennan – Chapter 2: The Surprise Package

After sixty minutes and a few billion kilometers of slipstream, the Carnwennan shimmered back into the mortal universe, deep in the void between stars. It was a two-fold stop, and one that Deter had ordered every time his merry band of pirates made off with such success. Such a short jump into nowhere allowed the Carnwennan’s main slipstream engine to recharge for the long drive back to civilization, but more importantly, the stop allowed Vexx to pull their plunder into the ship’s main hold. As most every captain, pilot and adolescent was taught; Opening your ship to the slipstream invites madness into your hold. Many have tried, and all have died.

The familiar ‘thump-thump’ of sealing bay doors told Deter that his cargo was now safely in his atmosphere, so the captain tapped his pilot on the skull, “Crates are in, you finish crunching the numbers yet?”

Anon stiffened in shock, even though he knew the question was coming. Shaking the headset from its spot, Deter was treated to the near-deafening screams and wails of some thrashy song. “Whoa! Sorry, boss…yeah, I’ve got the nav computer running the final numbers now. Want a straight shot back to Kranob?”

Deter ran a hand over his mirror-clean head, then nodded, “This far out, we better not risk the extra time. Drop us in their orbital plane and we’ll mingle with the rest of the traffic into New Peiria.”

“You got it, cap’n! Now, what’s say we go look at what we ‘liberated!’” the lankey pilot grinned ear-to-ear. 

“I’ll go wake the sleepy one, Vexx should be in the hold already if he’s coming.”

Anon nodded and bounded out of his seat, up the access stairs into the Canwennan’s main hall and disappeared. The quick moment of silence allowed Deter to check that his pilot was actually running the right numbers to get them back safely, and not right into the jaws of waiting Imperators for arrest, torture, and imprisonment.  The lesson of trust is the lesson hardest learned… Deter reflected, gliding his hand over the pilot’s seat, allowing just a moment to remember who sat there previously.

The Captain shook his head, “No time for that”, he muttered before turning on a heel and making his way to the crew deck. As expected, Wyvorn’s door was warm to the touch, and he could hear the ‘chuff’s and snorts of a sleeping saurian. As a precaution, as soon as Deter rang the room’s alarm bell, he stepped to the side and out of lunging range.

Immediately, he heard the aggravated ‘hiss’ of an irritated crewmember, but it calmed quickly as the door slid open.  “Must you summon me everytime you need a container checked?”

Deter smirked, “The one time I don’t, it’s gonna be filled with det-charges and you’ll be floating home.”

Wyvorn glared at him, then stretched out his body and tail to their longest before the pair made their way to the main cargo hold, “And what do we suppose is in this one? More ‘trinkets’?”

“Supposed to be ration crates. Not the normal ones that are half-filled with parasites and cyanide, but the good ones. Royal-grade ones. That transport was headed to that new colony, Balin Prime, and their founding leader splurged on himself.”

That made the Soromite perk his head up, “Good, it will be a pleasant change to smell something decent. You should upgrade to a finer vintage, that cheap swill you drink is vile.”

The Captain grinned. “We get a good payout, I’ll let you choose my next bottle.”

Vexx had just finished releasing the several magnetic capture arms by the time the two arrived in the Carnwennan’s belly. The stolen container stood at least ten feet tall and still had portions of bulkhead hanging from it, making it look even more like a kill. Anon came around the far side, scanner ‘buzz’ing in his hand and gave his Captain a thumbs-up. “All clear, boss. I’m not seeing any triggers or sensors on the top-level, just your standard pressure lock with a combination randomizer.”

Deter nodded. “Mild security for a mildly worthless Governor, sounds about right. Vexx, pop it.”

From a catwalk above them, the silent cyborg nodded and stepped down onto the container’s lid. For a normal man, this would have been a harrowing jump over sharp edges and splayed metal, but one of Vexx’s many unwanted modifications included long-extending limbs. After a few silent moments, the box rang out with a ‘ping’, and one of its long sides lowered open with a rush of air.

Just like Deter had been told, the crate was stacked top-to-bottom with sweet profit. Glistening packs of quality food and water, the likes of which many worlds would never see. The sight of which made Anon’s jaw drop, “Holy fuck…we’re rich!”

“Not until we get paid, flyboy. Start getting these into the lockboxes. Something this important, you know the Imperators will be hunting for it.” 

At Deter’s command, the rest of the crew started the tedious process of taking the smaller crates out and storing them in the false bulkhead between two of the Carnwennan’s volatile material holds. The Captain had paid a pretty penny to have the space hollowed out, since his jobs normally didn’t require the transport of molten rock or liquid uranium. But to most Trade Quorum scanners, the years of use these chasms endured made most readings a useless mess. Sure, Customs agents would probably board the Carnwennan at Karoub, they always did. But never do they look in the space between spaces.

What Deter had not expected was for Wyvorn to take one sniff and let out an ear-splitting screech. The saurian leapt away from the container, body lowered in a hunting stance and razor-claws ready to tear into whatever he smelled. On instinct, both Anon and Deter drew their pistols  and aimed without guidance at the container.

“What the fuck, lizard-lips?!” Anon howled, shaking the ringing from his ears.

Wyvorn shouted back something in his native tongue, only to realize he wasn’t understood and repeat, “Chemical, un-natural…stings!”

“Alright, back it up! Anon, pull one of those food crates back out make sure the goods aren’t ruined! Vexx, get down here and take a look!”

Silently, the half-metal man simply leapt down and hit the main deck with a light ´thud´, immediately setting to work scanning every inch of the container with augmented eyes. Anon cursed to himself repeatedly as he pulled the massive false panel back open and pulled out one of the crates. When his human eyes and nose didn’t find anything, the pilot pulled the hidden knife from his boot and cut down the package´s seam. Splitting the seal revealed row upon row of colorless foodstuff bricks.

“Not here, boss! Loot is clean.” Anon called out, causing Wyvorn to snarl at him, “No, you chich’tak! There! The crate!”

Deter looked up to Vexx, who was still creeping down the open side of their loot. The captain put his hand on the second layer of ration boxes and frowned. They feel normal…what maniac hides contraband under a fortune of food?

Suddenly, the mechanical man froze, extending his finger into a razor-edge, and jabbing it into a ration-pack. Instead of protein and water spilling out, out spilled neon blue fluid as thick as solvent.

“Coolant?” Anon puzzled, almost sticking a finger in the good before deciding better. “The hell do you need to cool with foodstuffs?”

“You don’t.” Deter muttered flatly, before picking at Vexx’s new puncture hole and ripping it open. On top of more blue ichor leaking into his floor, the captain quickly found wiring and pumps masked within fake food parcels, making him clench his teeth. Great, a fucking false layer…there goes most of the payment for this run! “Vexx, find a control pad and break in!”

The cyborg nodded and went back to scanning. After only a moment, he dug spindly daggers into the false layer and ripped an entire section clean off. Underneath, the glaring display screen of a sealed lock stared back at them.

Even at a distance, Anon whistled in amazement. “Octodecimal encryption, biometric redundancy AND an electronic dampener?! Boss, this is way beyond the Quorum’s budget…”

“Yeah, so you’re down to top-level military or the Royalty…” Deter grimaced. “Can you break it, Vexx?”

The half-man furrowed his brow and looked back at his captain, which Deter understood. “As soon as you can. Anon, you take over recharging the slip drive. Dino-butt, suit up! We don’t know what’s behind that seal!”

Wyvorn snarled a positive response, leaping the twenty feet from the deck up to the access hatch back to crew quarters with ease. The rushed clicking of claw against steel echoed down the corridor grew distant, then back to them as the saurian returned with his biggest rifle at the ready.

For a moment, Deter had to remind himself to breathe while Vexx’s metallic arms split in half up to the shoulder and descended upon the complex lock from multiple angles. He had no doubt that his silent crewman could break into the secret cargo, but Vexx’s expression troubled him. If YOU’VE never seen this before, what the hell is worth keeping so secret?

The shrill beep of the lock changing from red to green almost made Deter jump out of his skin, which was thankfully masked by Anon howling in surprise “Holy sweet Jesus fuck! Never do that again!”

With a much quieter motion, the access panel slid open down the entire length of the crate, more than the captain predicted. To his surprise, the outer thirds of the entire container were just a mass of computers and regulators for the expanding mass of coolant drowning his boots. At the center of that mass of technology and fluid sat a simple finned cylinder nestled in an amber gelatin. At the sight of it, Wyvorn recoiled in agony, cocking a shell into his weapon’s chamber. Vexx also stepped back, eyes wider than Deter had ever seen.

“This is bad, isn’t it?” The captain posed, to which the cyborg nodded. Vexx tapped the still human part of his torso and gestured an explosion with his doubled arms.

“So…it’s a bomb?” Anon asked, cautiously approaching the exposed chamber. “Who the fuck would put a bomb in a food shipment?”

“Someone who doesn’t expect it to be found,” Deter frowned. “This was bound for a Royal, and you’d need that kind of influence to move something like this through Quorum Security.” 

The captain turned back to the warhead spinning slowly in a suspended state. Something about the device made Deter’s stomach seize in his gut. I’ve never seen Wyvorn react that way to just ordinary explosives… “Vexx, what kind of weapon is this, exactly?”

The cyborg re-focused on the weapon, his head tilting to one side, then the other. Deter knew that the spindly engineer was going through the entire band of measurable energy, from radio waves to gamma rays. Whatever it took for the human brain to process such different data, he didn’t want to know. He can do it, and that’s enough…

Then Vexx stopped, his spider-like limbs extending to scan the weapon from multiple angles, as if the engineer still didn’t understand what he was looking at. Wyvorn continued to skulk one from one side of the cargo bay to the other, staying as far from the smell as possible and snarling all the while, distracting Anon from his wrist interface with the Carnwennan’s engine display. “Boss, it looks like the slip engine isn’t charging as fast as it should. Want me to get in there?”

Of course it’s not, our main technician is busy playing bomb-sniffer… Deter cursed to himself. “See what you can do through the software, but don’t open any hatches or valves!”

“And risk Vexx tearing me in half? No thanks…” the pilot retorted, jogging up the main stairset from the hold to the ship’s engine block. 

Suddenly, Vexx’s armatures locked in place and the half-man’s eyes glowed an eerie yellow, a spider-like position he held for a time beyond Deter’s comfort level. “Well? What do you see?”

Slowly, after retracting deliberately into his normal human shape, the cyborg faced his captain, producing two small wires from his palm and weaving them together in a double-helix pattern, which then violently ripped itself apart.

“A…gene bomb?”Deter asked in shock, to which Vexx nodded.

Wyvorn snorted, “Typical mammalian approach, it’s not enough just to kill…”

The captain grumbled at the sting of the surian’s words, before a realization hit him. “Why would a Royal want a weapon that would scramble basic genetic material into soup? You can’t rule over a colony that’s dead.”

Vexx shook his head, then tapped the side of his cranial dome, which caused Deter to mirror the move, fingertips skating across the long surgical scar that ran from his temple to the back of his skull and down to his spine. “An Unitatis Fidei weapon…you’re saying the so-called ‘holy order’ that’s supposed to be the unity for all mankind just built and delivered a world-ending bomb?”

Vexx nodded in confirmation, and Wyvorn hissed at the conclusion. “Then dump this abhorrent toch-thrakka into the nearest star! Be rid of it!”

The cyborg shook his head, waving his arms like a fish skipping along the wavetop of a non-existent pond. “Seriously? The bomb’s shockwave would survive even that?” Deter stammered. To which Vexx nodded again.

“Then just dump it now, and let it wander the infinite void!” Wyvorn countered.

“We can’t take that chance,” Deter responded, “Some dumbass pirate may find it, or it could just float into another world.”

“So what do we do, oh wise Captain?” the Soromite sneered, ticking his longest prehensile foot-claw on the deck. “We cannot be rid of it, nor can we use it.”

“Vexx, can you take it apart? Maybe we can dump all the dangerous components?” Deter asked. 

The engineer sadly shook his head in a negative, pointing towards the device and extending his fingers to the computer bank the weapon was attached to. 

“Natually…fuck.” the captain grit his teeth, burning through every possibility he could think of, until only one was left. “Anon! How’s that recharge coming!”

“Stalled at stage six, boss-man! I dunno what’s wrong with it…” the pilot yelled out from the engine core, adding more woe to Deter’s day. Pointing to Vexx, the captain snapped to the uncooperative drive system, which the cybor understood and swung himself up into the upper level to assist in repairs.

“Wyvorn, get on the long-range comms and see if Willow is open for business, she’s about the only one I know who would touch this merchandise.” the captain ordered, and the saurian compacted his rifle onto his back. “Sure, if you want her to get you arrested again…” came his retort before jumping back up to the command deck catwalk, leaving Deter alone with the stuff of nightmares sitting quietly in his hold. 

He put his hand on the viewport that separated him from the weapon, watching it for a moment as it stared back at him. “I should have known they would finish you eventually…”

*******

The next chapter in a little project I started a very long time ago, but they’ve come back to play lately. And who doesn’t love the idea of a space dino?

I hope you all enjoy

Solaris Knight – Chapter 6(ish)

Were anyone passing by on the forested road so late in the night, they would have mistaken his groans and grumbles as the sounds of an angered predator. And perhaps there was some truth to that, as Tolomir hunted sleep but could not attain it. Instead, shadows and whispers crept at his serenity, lashing small cuts and ripping little bites off his balance until they had buried their way into his memories. And when one of those specters hit on a sensitive nerve, Tolomir shot awake, panting and glistening in sweat. The grass at his back was trampled and pulled up in clumps and the rock that served as his headrest was cracked.

If there was one time in the day he held the most disdain for, it was now. Even searching the deepest tombs, Tolomir took solace that his Divine was casting her light down on both the worthy and unworthy alike. And he knew this to be true even now, when the moons were at their highest in the night, because Silena was the Lady of All Light. Yet right now, when she was the most distant, he was the most shaken and that did not please Tolomir.

Placing his hands upon the broken stone, he whispered “Silena, most glorious Light, I beg your audience in this silent hour.” With one of the few blessings Tolomir could use at such an hour, the rock began to glow, energized by her light as a beacon to summon his lady’s favor.

You are troubled, my wayfinder. I see wavering in your fortitude.” Silena called to him, honestly stern in her vision of his worry, like a mother with her youth under the wing.

“I am sorry, Queen of all Light. I do not mean to concern you, especially in this most still of hours…I do not know the cause of my weakness, and that troubles my mind greatly.” Tolomir bowed his head low, understanding full well how his Divine viewed hesitation of any kind.

What do these distractions show you, Dayfire?” 

Tolomir raised up to sit erect, now trying to focus on what he had tried to crush not ten minutes ago. Now, what had previously come in fragments and echoes washed over him like a rising tide. “I…I cannot say for certain. Whispers in the dark, but ones I feel I should know. Broken reflections of places and people I have never seen, but ring in my chest like I should remember.”

Though he could not see it, he could feel the hand of his Divine lightly upon his scruffy scalp, and that sensation alone warmed his blood and commanded the demons to retreat. “Do you recall when you came into my Light, my paladin?”

“Of course, my Light. It is my earliest memory, though I was a broken shell when you blessed me with your message.” Tolomir smiled, one of the few times he would do so in any day, but the memory filled his mind with balance and clarity. “It was the first time I can recall being given purpose.”

Because you were worthy of my banner, sentinel. And do you recall my first decree?”

“I was to reclaim your temple at Barthall Dume, and purge the wickedness that infected your Divine Light. The orc warlord Havnaroc bel Castadadon had infected your sanctuary with his brood, and sullied your blessings.” Tolomir let his eyes wander through his clear thoughts, remembering the great strength it had taken to smash the beast’s skull upon the false throne his followers had built. The shining Light she had bestowed on him to cleanse false writings and idols made Tolomir’s body feel afloat in divinity, and it was a feeling that plagued his greatest dreams to reclaim.

And when you emerged from my temple bathed in my favor?

That moment was one of his strongest memories, one that he anchored each day to when he woke to give devotion. “You honored me with your words, that I had succeeded where others had failed you. That I was with to bear your symbol and be an extension of your will.”

Tolomir unconsciously touched his bare chest and smiled.”It was on that day that I was born how I always should have been, yours and yours alone.”

And do you believe that I would grant that kind of power to one that was weak or corruptible in any way?” Silena’s question was a razor that stole his breath and quickened his pulse. “Of course not, yours is the Will by which I live. It can’t be flawed, because your Light is ever pure.”

Then hear my command and take solace in its finality!” Her words echoed from the stone and out into the night, sending any beast or wildlife that had been docile into sprints of fear from his camp. Tolomir fell to as low a bow as he could manage, nose buried in soil. “Forgive my impudence, my Divine. Your sword is sharpened and your shield unbreakable. Your Will is my life.”

Continue your journey to Koenn, and seek the temple of Gaius-grel Grethxathur, the World Dragon. Cleanse the heretics who worship their mindless beast and rip down the false walls! Let no mortal or beast evade my purification!” His Lady’s order shook Tolomir in its weight, but it focused his mind. It was an unusual command, for a Champion to murder the Speakers or followers of another Divine without contending with the opposing Champion first, but those concerns did not shake his newfound resolve. “Their lies will be silenced and the city frees of such heresy, my Light. Yours is the true Word the world should know.”

Then be at peace, my vessel. My edict will guide you and my gifts preserve and defend you.” Her last words as the stone grew dim swelled within his core, making his muscles twitch for movement. “I am yours, Lady of Light. Yours is the only desire I obey.”

Finally feeling his mind settle with its mission, Tolomir stretched back out within the tall grass, letting the blades frame the portrait of the treeline above him, so dense that only the brightest lights of the heavens could pierce the thicket to reach him. Just as my Divine intends…is there no greater display of her absolution?

And as his eyes closed once more, a single word left his lips. A whisper that not even the plants would hear easily. “Keena…”

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In a much different light that yesterday’s post, this one is actually a continuation to an older WIP that really hit a nerve with me. I’ve never written fantasy until Tolomir came calling, and now I want to see where his journey goes.

Why did I call this Chapter 6? Simple: I haven’t written Chapters 2-5 yet…but this is the scene that came to me, so here you go.

I hope you all enjoy.

Wildlife Security Solutions, LLC – Contract #1

WARNING: MATURE CONTENT AHEAD. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

The hovel in Bin Jawad looked much the same as every sad slab of tan that was next to it. Air conditioners hung haphazardly out of windows and cables for power linked each building to the next, forming a thin canopy to go along with the afterthought window shades. One would need to be close to it to see the thickness of the doors thanks to layers of sheet metal, to watch the same four men walk the same corner every five minutes during the day, but never say a word to each other. 

It had taken Pasha back at Kontrol a week to track the truck that left bombed out yellow-cake uranium vault loaded with barrels and crates it should not be carrying, scouring image after image of the Libyan wastelands. Every day, he had cursed at their handlers for being so tepid. “Yesli by eto byl Afganistan, my by prosto bombili yego seychas…” he’d told his men on day three of training and idling. If this were Afghanistan, we would’ve just fire-bombed it by now.

Finally, their overworked and underpaid intelligence support had found it, thanks to the driver’s complete lack of cellphone encryption. Now the four-man sedan waited an alleyway a block over from their quarry, under the cover of midnight, counting.

“Chto ty vidish’, Akula?” What do you see, Shark? Asked the man behind the driver, who was equally focused on the western facing corner of the dwelling he could see.

“YA schitayu dvenadtsat’, a mozhet byt’, vsego pyatnadtsat’. Vse nesushchiye pistolet” I count twelve, maybe fifteen. All carrying pistols. Akula responded. It was a standard tactic used by extremists and cowards. The driver of the stolen goods had called his brothers, who had brought their wives and children to stay with him, at least until the uranium was unloaded to some other extremist who actually had the backbone to use it. Nekotoryye malen’kiye mordashki, eti khuligany na Zapade, ne porazyat ikh. Vse lyudi uvidyat, chto kusochki detey snova vyvozyat iz-pod oblomkov… (Some many little faces, those fucks in the West won’t strike them. All people would see are pieces of children being carried out of rubble again.) 

“Kak naschet bokovoy dveri?” What about side door? Asked the passenger, sliding his fingers along the edge of his favorite hunting knife.

“Net, Volk. Slishkom predskazuyemo.” No, Wolf. Too predictable. Akula replied, then gestured to the eastern corner that faced the street. “Tam steny samyye tonkiye, ideal’no podkhodyat dlya Nosoroga” Walls thinnest there, perfect for Rhino. The last member of the team said nothing, but pulled a backpack up from between his feet.

Akula fixed his gaze to each member of his team, the non-verbal acknowledgement that they were ready, then opened his door. The rest followed, Nosorog at his side, Volk and Grizli behind them and to the right. They moved silently along the pavement and dust, years of training muffling the many pounds of gear each man wore under their thawbs. At such a late hour, it was haram (sinful) to be out so late, so only one sentry was at the main door, and the poor idiot was asleep, beaten old rifle practically at his feet.

It was over with one strike. Akula grabbed the man by the scruff and yanked, bringing his brick-like fist down on the guard’s windpipe, collapsing it with a meaty ‘thuck’. Desperate eyes widened as the man gasped for air through a pipe that couldn’t open before he collapsed back into his seat, as if falling peacefully into eternal sleep. Nosorog slipped his fist into the dead man’s robe and pulled a small wad of dinar for his own, as well as yanking a small silver chain easily from his neck. With that, the massive Chechen took his cover along the designated wall, Akula sweeping the still of the darkness with night-vision. 

A double-chirp in his earpiece told him that Volk and Grizli had ascended a rear stairway Pasha pointed out for them from drone imagery. The door there was painted to look like the stone wall, and inset to no one from the street could see it open, but a few easily-pirated pictures had revealed it. Now the count began, for in ten seconds, the two men above him would blast the door in and secure the upper floor. In that same time, Akula and Nosorog would have to clear out the bottom floor, not a single soul was to leave the building or summon help, of that Kontrol was quite specific. Ostal’noye samoye interesnoye… (The rest is the fun part).

Nosorog moved with a speed more akin to a jungle cat that his ‘Rhino’ callsign. Within his backpack was a large pad of C4, spread about an inch flat to cover as much surface area as possible. The entire pad was a good head taller than Akula, but the larger man had no issue securing each corner to the wall, and priming the central detonator. Once armed, both men stepped several paces away while still flat to the wall, supressed AK-74 rifles now revealed from under their clothes and readied. Witnessing such a brute keep pace with him impressed Aklula, as did Nosorog’s focus and steady hand. skol’ko russkikh ty ubil v voynakh?…skol’ko brat’yev? (How many Russians did you kill in the wars? How many brothers?)

The timing was perfect, and a pair of calculated explosions tore down both the hidden door above and the weakened wall below without ringing out in the still of the city’s night. Immediate screaming rang out from both levels as Akula dashed into the room first. He did not hesitate, and a three-round burst caught the small flailing shadow center of mass and dropped it. A young man, no older than fifteen, had lunged for a salvaged American rifle by his mat. Nevernyye delayut ochen’ khorosheye ognestrel’noye oruzhiye, ne tak li? (Infidels make very nice firearms, don’t they?)

Two other men were more prepared, foreign pistols in hand and yelling at each other. One man shot wildly into the dirt cloud by Akula’s head while the other smartly dove behind the remains of a table. Akula caught the standing man in the gut, arcing blood from floor to ceiling as the idiot dropped. Nosorog was less precise, spending half a dozen rounds for only one strike, but that one bullet caught the diving man in the thigh, earning a high-pitched scream of agony as the target’s femoral artery dumped liters of crimson onto the prayer rugs around.

Above them, the two other men worked with equal proficiency, though the resistance was far less from what Akula could hear. The screams were different. Feminene and ranging in age, but at least one of them had shot at his teammates, Akula could hear pistol rounds shattering glass and cheap wood. But those blasts gave way to a shriek that was consumed by a choking gurgle. Volk nakhodit drugoye gorlo. (The Wolf finds another throat.)

Kicking in the door to an empty lavatory, Akula signaled Nosorog with one hand. The first floor had been cleared, and now any remaining targets were encircled. Quickly, the leader made was way to cover at the base of the sole stone staircase up to the middle level. “ladayk fursat wahidat lileaysh , ‘iidha kunt tastaslim alan!” (You have one chance to live, if you surrender now!) Akula called up in one of only a handful of Modern Arabic sentences Kontrol had forced them to memorize. 

What the survivors screamed back at them was nothing that he understood, save for the mentions of Allah. Raz ty tak sil’no khochesh’ vstretit’ svoyego Boga, pozvol’ nam … (Since you want to meet your God so badly, allow us…)

“Podmetat’!” (Sweep!) he called out, and Nosorog rushed to the upward stairway, priming a hand grenade as he dashed. As expected, gunfire rained back town the tight space at them, but in the dark and the confusion, the little handheld bomb bounced between the defenders with ease. The following explosion cut the yelling short like the tearing of meat from bone, and the confined space rang the shockwave out clearly, even over Akula’s hearing protection. “Blyad’!” (Fuck!) was the instinctual howl as he moved forward. 

The shattering of glass, followed by the panicked scream of a final man before the gushing impact of skull against street told him that the fight was over. Tapping the behemoth next to him on the shoulder, Nosorog sprinted up the stairs, ready for more. Akula covered the stairs until the last moment, then walked backwards up the corridor, only looking away from the first floor when he could no longer see it.

On the middle floor, Volk had buried the bayonet of his rifle up to the barrel into the heart of one man, and was pulling his knife out of the neck of an old woman cradling a loaded RPG launcher. Grizli was wrapping a graze on his calf, cursing with every motion. “Neplokho, tovarishchi. Nasha missiya …” (Not bad, Comrades, our mission is…) Akula began before the sudden slam of a dropped corpse upstairs alerted them to a survivor. Expertly, each man trained their rifles at the source. Volk was first back up to the top level, practically leaping into the room, ready to fire. But the desperate pleas greeting them were not in Arabic, they were in Korean. “…dodaeche museun il-iya?! dowa jwoyo!” 

Moving carefully, Grizli stepped around Volk to one of the few beds in the house, now occupied by a young woman who had been shot through the back. To their surprise, the girl was nude and straddled atop a half-clothed Korean man cowering under a pillow and her limp body, who was easily four decades her senior. Next to the interrupted coitus was another girl, equally naked and still in the prime of youth, whose flawless skin and face had been ruined by a textbook shot between the eyes.

The man’s pleading cries only grew louder as the fire team approached. “Podyvitʹsya, braty! Komunist tovarysh!” (Look, brothers! A fellow Communist!) Grizli chided in Ukraininan as he grabbed the man by his still-buttoned shirt collar. The lapels of the survivor’s Dear Leaders were unscathed by the fight, and Grizli ripped them right off with this other hand to place in his pocket. Such an action moved the foreign man from fear to anger, and the Korean lashed out with weak punches and slaps against Grizli’s face, causing the solder to laugh. Only when the elder man struck the open wound did the Bear take him by the neck and slam him head-first into the floor. The Korean did not stir, but he still drew breath.

Akula was just as displeased at finding such a target in his operation. Pasha nichoho ni pro koho tut ne skazav …I (Pasha said nothing about finding anyone else here…) Turning to Volk, he ordered “Kontrolyuyte dzvinky ta povidomlyayte yikh pro nashykh zatrymanykh. Yak tilʹky vin perevʺyazanyy u bahazhnyku, poprositʹ povitryanu komandu vyrivnyaty blok i pokhovaty vantazhivku. Pryzovnyky mozhutʹ tse vykopaty!” (Call Control and inform them of our detained. Once he’s bound up in the trunk, have the air team level the block and bury the truck. Conscripts can dig it out!)

“Bryuki?” (Pants?) Volk asked, gesturing to the half-naked old man being bound in wire ties.

“Vy mozhete otrubit’, yesli on udarit vas etim” (You can cut it off if he slaps you with it) Akula responded, eliciting a belly laugh from Grizli as the broad-shouldered Ukrainian lifted his limp cargo with one arm and headed back down the stairs, Volk following suit, making ever attempt not to look at the Korean’s exposed groin.

“Vy deystvitel’no khotite pokhoronit’ tsel’ nashey missii?” (You really mean to bury our mission objective?) Nosorog asked, looking out into the street at the splattered remains of the final defender.

“Net, ya ozhidayu, chto nashe vozdushnoye prikrytiye zalozhit bombu pryamo v gruzovik.” (No, I expect our air cover to put a bomb right on the truck.) Akula clarified, then gestured to the ceiling. “VVS pokinuli Khmeymim dva chasa nazad, chtoby vyrovnyat’ etot musor” (The Air Force left Khmeimim two hours ago to level this garbage).

The Chechen giant glared at him, but said nothing as he slung his rifle onto his back and headed back downstairs. By now, Akula could hear murmurs of voices through the broken window as people were coming out of their sleepy stupors and onto the street to see what had disturbed them. The fire team leader took one last look at the mauled room, noticing a blinking light coming from a countertop now covered in bits of debris. Sweeping it aside, Akula was rewarded with a powered laptop and satellite phone, as pristine as they could be in such a shithole. “Eto dolzhno sdelat’ Pashu schastlivoy” (This should make Pasha quite happy) he muttered to himself, absconding with the whole kit before heading back to the ground floor. The rest of his squad had kindly left the front door popped open, so everyone coming to see the gaping hole in the wall could not see him leave the hovel. 

Akula arrived back at the car just in time to see Grizli slam the trunk lid down, their Korean cargo coming out of his enforced nap and starting to yell at them again. Wasting no time, he popped the disposable car into reverse and crept out of the alleyway and into the adjacent road. Once each man in the vehicle ensured him that no one was paying them attention thanks to lots of shouting now erupting from the scene of their firefight, the team darted around the next intersection and made it a full block over before the loitering Mi-28/HAVOC let loose two air-to-ground missiles fixed on the cutout where the truck has been parked. The entire car shook and slid as the thundering plume of fire consumed the stolen cargo, the building, and anyone dumb enough to be within the intersection. Only careful driving and keeping a line of buildings between them and the explosion kept Akula’s team from being swallowed by the blast.

“Eto Drakon; tsel’ vypolnena” (This is Dragon; objective complete) was the only reply the ground team received from their ‘support’ as the helicopter began its rapid return to their forward operations base. Not five minutes after the precision strike ensured no one would ever find enough of the uranium to pose a threat, two Su-24/FENCER bombers dropped two thousand pounds of iron and death on the area, wiping out the remains of their target and anything else on every neighboring block. Looking in his rearview mirror, Akula watched the fireball light up the night like a second sun. The radiating thunder almost overpowered the Korean swearing  from the trunk, but the two mixing together made the team lead laugh. Yeshche odna uspeshnaya konsul’tatsiya, provedennaya Wildlife Security Solutions Inc. (Another successful consult performed by Wildlife Security Solutions Inc.)

———————-

This little piece was born from one part love of military fiction like Tom Clancy, one part experiment in dialogue-writing, and one part catharsis. A little glimpse into how I get to see the world sometimes.

I hope you all enjoy. 

 

Crew Introductions – Traditions of the Corps

The core of any warrior was rooted in discipline, and the Starfleet Marine was no exception. Core values like courage, honor and duty were drilled into every Private and Officer Cadet from the day they volunteered to wear the uniform.  So when a Marine chose to shirk that discipline in favor of more ¨freelance¨ displays of comradery, it was a matter that required review.

 

1st Lt S´tal regared his two junior Marines with typical Vulcan hardness as they entered the 202nd´s Briefing Room and gave their reporting statements. S´tal knew full well why this meeting was called, but the two junior enlisted were entitled to present their case as to why they had chosen this course of action.

 

Staff Sgt. Kalwari leaned forward, his Andorian antennae peaking straight up, ¨So, let me get this straight: at approximately 0200 hours, you two knuckleheads decided to pay a little visit to the hanger bay, correct?¨

¨Yes, Staff Segreant,” responded LCpl Ricekwinge, before he added ¨We were looking for Private Penn´s rucksack, which she said she left in the shuttle.¨

 

¨You mean, you wanted to show off for one of your most junior Marines in the hopes of impressing her.¨ S´tal corrected.

 

Kalweri motioned for the young men to continue, ¨And at what point did it cross your minds that you needed red paint?¨

 

This time, Cpl Palagena answered, ¨I was gonna mark her bag with it…so she wouldn´t lose it again. Nothin´ vulgar or anythin´, just a big ´X´ or somthin´.¨

 

¨And that´s when you two saw Lt Carver´s starfighter, the No Mercy?¨ the Andorian NCO questioned.

 

Palagena shook his head, ¨No, Staff Sergeant, we were next to Ensign Blackwell´s ship by then.¨

 

¨Which, obviously, required you to paint a two meter-anatomically correct human phallus on it for all to see?¨ the Lt frankly asked, causing the three enlisted Marines to repress varying degrees of snickers.

 

¨Well, he was an asshole, sir! ´Bout bowled me over prancing over to his ship during the first drill!¨ Ricekwinge retored. 

 

¨I didn´t realize you were a ranking member of our Starfighter Wing and so enabled to give this…unorthodox counselling to the Ensign.¨ corrected S´tal, sombering the room.

 

¨So when did Lt´s personal craft come into play?” Kalwari submitted, still picturing the giant member splayed across Blackwell´s ship and laughing internally.

¨His was the last, Staff Sergeant. Figured the biggest swinging dick required the best work.¨ the Corporal answered.

 

¨Do I even want to know how you knew the painstaking details of a Klingon erection, or how long it took to paint it three meters long?¨ the Andorian was snickering again.

 

¨Probably not, Staff Sergeant.¨

 

“And the reason you two proceeded to grafitti every starfighter on the Astraea with photo-realistc genitals was a measure of artistic skill?” S’tal posed.

To which the junior Marines nodded. “I suppose so, Lieutenant.” Ricekwinge replied.

 

“In that case Marines, you’ve got a bit of studying to do.” Kalwari finally laughed.

 

“I concur” the Vulcan began, “and my proposal to Chief Koing for ship-wide drug testing will specify you two as the 202nd’s monitors. So you can fully familiarize yourselves with the biological tools of every male member of the crew.”

**********

Another ensemble session of role-players, highlighting only the finest of cross-service bonding. Because in every iteration I’ve ever seen, a Marine is a Marine is a Marine.

I hope you all enjoy.

When Born a Dragon

In the beginning, I was born a dragon,
An engine designed for a sole purpose.
Every component crafted for little else,
blind passion, light and dark, painted my wings.

Yet without that function,
the beast drifts courseless.
Instinct without reason,
impusle without guidance.

Its mission now determined by power,
leaving animal drives over restraint.
The engine cannot balance itself.
A molten heart cannot thaw infinity,
The dragon, doomed to wither, cannot learn.

************

Sometimes it can be quite interesting to see what the brain can concoct with little rest and in the dead of night. If I’m lucky, it might even make sense.

 

I hope you all enjoy.

All Hallow’s Eve

As blood rises in the black

And the winds stand still as Death
Let us rise to the waking world
And dance our annual macabre
Rise, my fallen friends!
Spirits, ghouls, ghosts and horrors
Come and join our jubilee
Let mortal screams announce our year

**********

My entry for a very special, quick turnaround poetry contest, which doubled nicely as a test to see if I could even stanza again. Turns out, not so much, but it was a lot of fun either way.

I hope you all enjoy

The Bomber and the Predator – Part One

For a Klingon to spill their bloodwine was an act of blasphemy. To actively spit out the warrior’s libation was almost a sin against the warrior-god Kahless himself. But when Captain Vulch’tak heard the proposal, the crimson brew sprayed from his lips onto the table. “You can’t be serious!”

Across from the broad-shouldered barbarian sat a pale-skinned and petitely deceptive Y-Wing ace who now wore the title of Bolo Leader on her helmet. “Not at all, Captain. My squadron has run the numbers through our astromechs and we all agree it’s possible.”

The commotion within the frigate Coronation’s common area forced the Klingon to lean in to avoid attracting unwanted attention to such a ridiculous plot, “And how do you propose to do this? Is my crew to simply lash your ships to mine with our hair?”

Commander Yelah narrowed her eyes “Wouldn’t want your men to risk such fine frizzy locks. I’ve got my ground crews refitting all active fighters they can with magnetizing landing pads. We fly up, latch on nice and tight, then power down everything but life support so your Bird-of-Prey’s cloaking device isn’t compromised.”

“And then what? So we ferry you invisibly into battle, risking my ship for such little glory? You may be brave for a human, but you do not know Klingon ways.”

Yelah took a long draw from her own tankard and smiled, “I know that a distinguished Captain such as yourself, with many victories in your galaxy’s Dominion War, knows the value of drawing first blood against the enemy. My fighters don’t have to use targeting computers to crank out our torpedoes straight off our noses, just a target. You get us close, point your ship in the right direction, and we’ll give you an Imp banner to fly in your quarters as a trophy.”

The Klingon raised an eyebrow, but did not pull away, “And you bring glory to your lost commander, am I correct?”

This time, the fighter jockey lowered her eyes, “General Pellius is…was,… a great pilot. We won’t forget him, but this isn’t about revenge. This crazy Task Force idea has a job to do so that our combined fleets have a lot easier job ahead of them.”

She pulled a pad from her hip and placed it between them. “Right now, our big ships have their hands full with a bunch of wayward Cardassians without a ship of their own. While the Feds and our cruisers find them beds and blasters, we’ll miss the window to strike the Imperial walker factory just next door. Six hours there and back at your top speed, and we’ll have given the Hate’s Hammer another reason to pull away from its normal patrol. Even a stocked Star Destroyer won’t catch up to us once the Task Force heads out. Adding the armor factory on Timbauk Seven to our kill list will look great on your banner, as well as save a lot of lives in the future! And we´ll still be on time to hit the Imp´s fighter production plant.”

Vulch’tak gave his drinking partner a long stare, followed by a toothy smile, “I stand corrected, you have surprised me. Such boldness in strategy will bring glory to my crew and the Klingon Empire! Tell me, how many of your Y-Wings are you committing to this?”

“I’ve got four pairs lined up and ready,” Yelah nodded. “Two pairs up top, two pairs inverted along your wings. Plenty of room so we’re not bumping engines. My last pair will have to stay with the fleet, not enough parts to mod all my bombers. We drew straws already to see who’s going and who’s not, but my flyers are all training on this now in their simulators.”

The Klingon stood suddenly with his cup raised, “Then we depart at once! Your pilots and my crew will bring honor and glory back to the fleet!”

The sudden shift in attitude surprised the fighter ace, “Wait, you’re not gonna tell your superiors on that old battlecruiser of yours?”

Vulch’tak drained his tankard in one swig and tossed the cup across the room, barely missing a passing protocol droid “Let them join us in battle if they are as brave as they are old. But this! This will be our battle, our song for the halls of Sto-Vo-Kor!” In a surprisingly sober motion, the larger warrior swept around the table and took Yelah’s shoulders in his hands, squeezing them like she’d seen other Klingons do to each other. “Qapla!”

The shout stopped all passers-by for a moment, at least until those familiar with the garish nature of a Klingon simply went back to whatever business they had at hand. Yelah was thankful the the lack of questions. Now let’s just hope a few sim hours make up for just how crazy this is…
*****
The plan still sounded crazy an hour later, as Yelah’s Y-Wing latched firmly in to the Bird-of-Prey’s port wing with an electronic ‘thunk’. Bolo Two was just as graceful in his landing a moment later, but cursing across the comm channel gave away that someone still had trouble.

“Lead to Six, you alright there Halass?”

A deep sandpapered voice grumbled back, “No damage to report, One. Just underestimated how strong these magnets are.”

“Copy that, ‘Thumper’”, Bolo Three piped in.

“Hope you’re ready for a death-match if you scratch their paint!”

Halass shot back with a retort in his native tongue that no one else understood, but still chuckled at. That told Yelah everything she wanted to hear. “Let’s snap it up, team. Make sure you’re snug and power down everything you can.”

The ‘affirmatives’ rolled in, and she could see Bolo Two’s fighter go dark next to her. “Bolo Lead to May’Siq, we’re locked down here.”

“Target coordinates locked, engage warp drive!” Vulch’tak’s order came, and the Bird-of-Prey banked away from the rest of the Task Force, leaping forward into a streak of iridescent green.

Almost instantly, she heard the main comm channel light up with a Starfleet signal, “This is the U.S.S. Diamante, calling departing forces, state your mission parameters. We didn’t copy your flight plan.”

The Klingon’s response came first as a hearty laugh, “And that is why you’ll never have a seat in Sto-Vo-Kor!” Then the channel was cut.

“Place your bets now, Bolos. My odds say the Feds hold back and leave us hanging.” Two posted to the squadron channel, making Yelah grimace. “So let’s make sure we don’t need them. Keep chatter to a minimum, you’ll have plenty of time for debt collection on the trip back.”

Once she had the confirmation from all her flyers, the Commander closed her eyes and slunk back into her seat, letting the prismatic pinpricks of warp travel wash over her. Speeding past the lightspeed barrier this way calmed her pulse in a way hyperspace travel never would. Maybe because there’s not supposed to be abominations from the deepest parts of nightmares stalking us in this universe… she let herself muse. “Rattler, make sure you’re tied into the May’Siq‘s sensors. Anything comes across our path, you ping the other droids.”

The bubble-headed R2 unit behind her gave an irritated buzz, insisting that Yelah didn’t need to ask it to do something it had already done. She just shook her head at the droid’s cantankering and let her eyes drift along with the stars.
*
Rattler’s high-pitched warble jolted her awake, which annoyed Yelah, more so at herself than the noise. But the stilled stars above her canopy replaced irritation with alert. “Status check.”

Surprisingly, the Klingon leader’s voice answered her first “We’ve located an Imperial patrol dead ahead and closing. We are cloaked and holding position until they are in firing range!”

No no no no no no! There’s not supposed to be anyone out here! Yelah’s mind raced, made even worse when she saw Bolo Two’s cockpit suddenly light up. “All fighters, standby! Keep your power in check until we need it! Rattler, confirm the Bird-of-Prey’s ID!”

On her Y-Wing’s display, she watched her R2 paint the familiar boxy picture of an Imperial Carrack-class cruiser, calling itself Lunar Impaler. And indeed, 350 meters of Imperial firepower was barreling towards them as fast as its sunlight engines would push it. A fact made even worse when Rattler noted that the cruiser was scanning every particle of dust and space directly in front of it.

Yelah’s fighter shuddered slightly as the Klingon starship’s wings lowered into their classic attack position. We’ve got surprise on our side, but it has to be perfect. “Bolo Lead to May’Siq, hold your fire! We can’t let that cruiser send an alert out!”

“Do not presume to dictate our battle plan!” Vulch’tak practically screamed over the channel, “Their broken hull will be a fine trophy!”

“And if you charge them head-on, they’ll rip this ship to pieces!” the bomber ace countered. “We have to hit their main comms dish topside, and a cruiser like that will have its guns facing forward and out, not to the rear.”

She took the Klingon’s silence as a clue he was at least listening. “Get above their centerline and let them get past, and we’ll take out both that dish and their engines before those turbolasers beat you up too much!”

A low growl answered her plan, only for the Bird-of-Prey to begin rotating ‘upward’ from its position, flipping over the Lunar Impaler in a tight arc, but keeping its nose pointed at the cruiser’s heart.

“Bolo Flight, power-up and prep your torpedoes for dual-fire. Target the comms array and the center spine, and fire as the Klingons do! We’ll only get the one shot before that cruiser puts its shields up!”
“Bolo Two, ready!”
“Three, armed to launch.”
“Four copies all.”
“Bolo Five, angling the shot!”
“Bolo Six, two hot and ready.”
“Bolo Seven, ready to pop!”
“Eight, ready for visual lock.”

It was only a few seconds to wait, but it felt like hours in Yelah´s chest. The Lunar Impaler plowed straight on, seemingly blinded by its pursuit of what it couldn´t see. Her fingers tightened around the Y-Wing´s trigger and her breath came rapid and shallow. The Bird-of-Prey kept itself within barely three klicks of the cruiser in its flip, ensuring that any Imperial crewman that saw the Klingons de-cloak would have no time to respond.

And as soon as their nose was straight down on the Carrack´s main comms dish, she heard the command ¨de-So’ ‘ej qul

“Set marks and fire two!” Yelah howled, and two proton torpedoes lanced forth from her nose. Within the same breath, she could hear her wingmen call out the same shot, commands all but drowned out by the May´Siq´s disruptor cannons raining emerald fire into the Imperial target´s spine. The large communications dish shattered into a thousand flecks of metal and Bolo Squadron’s shots tore right through it and deep into the Impaler´s savaged backside. Yelah could see the internal explosions and bleeding atmosphere, illuminated by Klingon shot after shot raking down the cruiser´s length before hitting the engine block and ripping one of the Carrack´s sublight engines right off the rest.

The blocky Imperial cruiser began a slow rotation, trying desperately to bring its port-line guns against the Bird-of-Prey, but it was a losing battle now. The more agile Klingon scout kept its nose to the mortal wound it had already inflicted and continued to rip chunks of metal out of the Impaler. With little resistance, Yelah ordered her Bolos to save their torpedoes and pump as much laser cannon into their target as possible.

The next problem arose when the fighter ace spotted the first escape pod pop free of the doomed cruiser, followed by another, then two more. ¨Bolos, hold fire, the Impaler is dead!¨
“Lead, each of those pods will have a distress beacon on it, “Two reminded her. “That could be good bait to pull any other patrols away from the Walker factory.¨
“Or give them advance warning that we’re coming, boss.” Four countered. “It’s not like they will…”

The point suddenly became moot as the first escape pod popped in a ball of fire, courtesy of a Klingon disruptor shot. Yelah had only enough time to gasp as the Bird-of-Prey vaporized each escaping capsule. But they were fleeing! How is there honor in that?
“Sithspawn! They just slaughtered them!” Two confirmed, to which Five added “Might have been the merciful thing to do. Do you know what these ridge-heads to do their prisoners?”

“Stow it, Bolos!” She yelled into her headset, far louder than she thought she had. A sick mix of revulsion, pity and fear brewed in her stomach, but the bomber ace didn’t dare show weakness now. “What’s done is done, and we’ve still got a mission to finish. Power back down until we reach out target!”

Her squadmates acknowledged, though the mirth in their voices was gone. She couldn’t blame them, “General Pellius wouldn’t lose his cool like that…” she whsipered into the recycled air of her canopy. Not even the eerie calm of warp speed steadied her voice or her hand.

“Lead, Two.” Her wingman chirped in on a private channel. “You okay, boss?”
She hesitated in answering that. This was my plan…this, this is my doing… The thought played over and over, unwilling to let her mind move last the fear she imagined in her enemys’ eyes.
“Brinn, where are you right now”

That got her attention, pulling her violet eyes over to the dimmed canopy of her wingman. “I don’t know, Krull. We all agreed that we’d never make it back on our own fuel supplies…so, I’m the one who baited Vulch’tak into this…but I never imagined they would be this ruthless. Even the Imps take prisoners.”

“They also blow up innocent worlds and erase entire species,” he countered. “I don’t like it either, but I also don’t like burying our friends and families.”
The muscles in Yelah’s jaw tightened. “I miss them too…” From her backseat, Rattler chittered a positive tune, and Bolo Leader let her body relax for just a second, “And we’re all that stands in the way of a few trillion cases of longing and regret.”

“Took the words right out of his mouth, boss. Pellius would be proud.”
She smiled to herself, trying to remember what certainty felt like, “He’ll be even prouder when we all get back and drink these barbarians under the table.”

Krull chuckled over then channel, before it was interrupted by that feral Klingon bravado. “Ten standard minutes to target! Are your pilots prepared for death and glory?”
“Glory, all day! Death, they’ll have to catch us first!”

************

This is a piece I´ve had stewing for some time now…mainly because I don´t know how it will end yet. Will they succed? Or maybe not, and so pay the price for a hasty decision? Your guess is as good as mine.

This is also a sequel piece to a larger opening move, as major intergalactic powers begin to beat the drums of war.

I hope you all enjoy.

U.S.S Gladius – The Tried and True

She was old before she was even born, coming into the universe in equal parts leftover parts and desperation. Officially, she was christened as the U.S.S Gladius, NCC-41379. But anyone who was fortunate or unfortunate enough to serve on her called her “the Lazarus”, because she would not die.

 

The Abbe-class torpedo destroyer was built for only one function; slinging projectiles at everything around it. She was fast on her feet, and built to run instead of brawl. This was made clear during the Cardassian War, when her primary hull was cut in thirds during an ambush. But the Gladius had proven her metal and was repaired, sent back into the wild to wave the mighty Federation flag in its farthest reaches.

 

As with many of her sisters, it was only a matter of time before the cosmic wonders of creation also became wells of destructive power. Such was the case when she ran across a subspace rupture that bent what once was reality into the raving illusions of the crew’s repressed fears. Several of her crew, Captain included, went psychotic as they collapsed into their secrets and no less than a third of the crew were killed in some fashion. Only by burning the impulse engines hot enough to melt the surrounding bulkheads did Gladius push herself free to begin the silent trip to a safe haven.

 

During the brief Klingon War, she gave more punishment than she received at last, pouncing on the even older K’tinga-class battlecruisers. Her new captain at the time had developed quite the tactic for ripping out the bellies of the older Klingon dreadnoughts, and that method carried the Gladius up to the Dominion War. Then everything changed.

 

If there was a mission that a picket ship like her wasn’t built for, it was counter-insurgency. Calming rebellions and detaining prisoners was a job for a larger Galaxy or Excelsior-class. And the Dominion were savants at creating dissonance and chaos within the outer limits of the Federation. While the might of Starfleet concentrated on saving worlds like Bajor, Trill, Betazed and even Earth, the Gladius watched frontier worlds descend into anarchy and panic. 

 

Whenever she had to fight, the battle would always go one of two ways, depending on who her opponent was. Silencing a planetary resistance or indoctrinated fighting group was easy. The Gladius would simply rain down photon torpedoes on her foe until they buckled, or were blasted into pieces. 

 

The Jem’Hadar were the opposite, chewing up and spitting out the Gladius whenever they met. Her first fight with one of their raiding packs cost her a nacelle, most of her torpedo magazine and all of her commanding crew. She wasn’t even fully repaired when she suddenly had to fight off a Breen assault, which left her adrift in the void for a week until she was rescued. And at the penultimate Battle of Cardassia, the Gladius had endured the suicide ram of a desperate Jem’Hadar fighter, at the cost of having her torpedo launchers ripped right off her back.

 

Time and again, her limping back to a repair yard threatened to spell her end. After all, her parts could be used by a dozen other starships, and her crew were gaining experience unlike many in Starfleet ever would. Yet Fate, either in mercy or as a cruel joke, continued to push the aging torpedo ship back into the stars to fight the irregular and unpredictable fight. And so, “Lazarus” endured, always evading the guillotine of bureaucracy.

 

 When the War ended, and her crew rotated out for greener pastures and greater things, the Gladius was long overdue for a gift rarely known at her age; a full refit. Everything including her bones would be removed, restored or upgraded and reapplied in loving detail. She would transcend beyond the original limits of the Abbe-class destroyer and be a young, modernized starship at last. 

 

But the galaxy was a different place now, and there was no rest for the wicked or the dutiful. The major powers were still reeling from the bloodshed, and nowhere was this more prevalent than ever out in the Federation’s frontier. The Maquis insurrection against Cardassia may be a dead memory, but their model of rebellion was alive and well. The promise of utopia and Federation stability had been shattered by the Borg and the Dominion, and several once-nameless worlds now stood alone from the union and each other. So while the shiny new starships rolled off the line and rebuild the Federation from the center first, it was up to her to hold the line of peace until they were ready.

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So this was all based off the picture of the starship itself, which gave me a spark I haven’t felt in a spell. She’s old, rugged and in the twilight of her years. But never call her outclasssed and never count her out.

I hope you all enjoy.