Never Doubt. Never Change. Never Grow
tried to make myself comfortable for the long frelling trip. This tub made
scrub runners seem comfortable by comparison. Looking down at the shinny
new boots that were part of this ridiculous new uniform that came with the
promotion – the glossy black boots that were unyielding to my feet and
protested at every movement. These were not the clothes of a soldier these
were the clothes of a politician. It occurred to me that in my entire life
I had never owned anything new. The camp had clothes that, as you grew out
of them, were passed on to the yearlings behind you. The uniforms you
received were from those older than you or those who had perished in
training. During Commando training I was distributed a uniform that still
had the blood of a less fortunate plebe. So the mere newness of my uniform
added another level of discomfort. Thinking back on it, I had been
conscripted from the breeder colony over twenty cycles ago, yet certain
smells and sounds triggered memories I had long lost. Frell, in most cases
I did not welcome their return. The bench of the transport pod could have
held fifty soldiers easily but I was alone. I tried to sleep during the
long flight, but everything about this assignment continued to haunt me. I
am no fool! I understood Crais's motivation but there was the feeling of
betrayal that continued to gnaw at my belly. I have followed my orders
without question. All I have
wanted to do in my life is to fly and now that is being taken from me. For
what? Saving my friend? I suppose I should be grateful. I had heard of
similar instances, usually ending with the offender’s head rotting for
weekens on the end of a Jinka poles outside the frelling captain’s
Captains’ powers are far-reaching. After all, this assignment was a
gift. A gift! It was laughable! My stomach turned further as I started
once again to get worked up about it. What I wouldn't give to have a PK
rec center available with an evenly-matched opponent up for hand-to-hand.
Bloody fists would help work this off. I craned my neck, allowing a number
of vertebrae crack. I had spent the first few arns desperately trying to
comprehend the data files Crais had sent me all it did was add to my
frustration. I had long given up trying to find some position in which
this uniform would allow me a microt of comfort as I continued to think
whether there was another way I could have handled the interrogation.
had been Tauvo's wingman for more then five cycles. We had moved up the
ranks quickly on the carrier after the reclamation of Casival,
Tauvo was promoted to captain on the command carrier’s
elite assault wing. The promotion to the elite fighters did not keep us
from the menial duties of covering deep transport supply missions. With
the carrier this close to the UT defensive measures were constantly taken
and prowler escorts were assigned to each supply run. We had been on a
routine escort of the supply convoy when Zenetan
pirates using an old Luxan cruiser attacked the lead supply ship.
Within a microt they had launched fighters thinking that we would be easy
prey. We were two hundred light cycles from the command carrier and they
knew exactly when to hit us – half way between the position of the
command carrier and the commerce planet. Frelling animals! They were in
for a surprise.
Although we were taking heavy fire, I tried to protect Tauvo, drawing fire
away from him. But instead of heading for the safety of the carrier, Tauvo
returned to engage the Zenetans. The fighting seemed to go on for
arns. We managed to keep out of the way of the plasma fire the cruiser
continued to lay down. The Zenetans were not backing down. We had
nixed three fighters (the frelling idiots) and another hit would have
vaporized Tauvo’s prowler so I shadowed him. He caught on quickly
to my actions and threatened to have me demoted for not listening to a
superior officer. Once again I violated the Decca. Tauvo never really knew
that my first sworn duty was to protect the Fleet Captain’s brother.
This was more complicated considering we had been friends since commando
training. It was Tauvo's pull that got me on the Fleet Captain’s ship.
the command carrier approached, the remaining fighters broke off their
engagement returning to the cruiser as it continued to fire at us, laying
down cover for their returning fighters. I had tried to steer Tauvo away
from the cruiser but he would not listen.
I was flying in tight formation with him when we were struck by a single
widespread plasma blast, damaging both our prowlers. Tauvo’s lifeless
ship spiraled away. I had enough auxiliary power to go after him
with the prowler’s grappler. You know, I was never good with those
frelling things – give me a pulse cannon any day – but at this moment
I needed it. It took some doing but was able to take hold of Tauvo's
damaged ship. He was still alive and his energy signature was strong so I
transferred my remaining power to his life support and activated the
distress beacon. I com'd him a number of times but he did not respond.
life support was gone and as we waited for pickup the cockpit grew colder.
I remember thinking that if this was my time, then that's it. I wouldn’t
die in battle but I would die alone while doing my duty. You could not ask
for more. Could you? The last memory I had was looking out the frosted
clear plaz of my prowler at the stars. I had been in space most my life
but not until the brink of death did I notice the spectacle of space
woke abruptly to the splash of cold water and became aware of my
surroundings. The place was alien to me. There was a bright light shinning
down on me from above that made it impossible to see into the darkness
beyond. I was in a lone circle of light laying on an examination table, my
arms and legs restrained.
is this? Where am I?" My demands were met with silence. I quickly
gave up my struggle against the restraints and calmed myself. “Fear is
the enemy.” The mantra spouted silently in my head.
Selton, I will ask the questions”. The woman’s voice held an air of
anger that I had come to know quite well. Fleet Captain’s second in
command, Zina Teeg.
could not hide the bitter smile. She and I had bedded a few times when I
was first assigned but Zina was after bigger prey. Just as well. Looking
at what she had become erased the last of my interest in her.
Ulric Selton of the New Star Regiment, what happened on patrol Velka nine
head was pounding as I struggled against the restraints that kept me
secured to the rusted metal interrogation table. "Officer Teeg,
telemetry from my prowler was active. The data spools will tell you what
happened." I didn't know what this game was she was playing but this
was not standard ops.
stepped into the light, the lightest wisp of a smile on her face as she
stepped closer. "The records from both prowlers were destroyed. I
want to know from you, Officer Selton. What happened on patrol Velka nine
heard whispers from the darkness. I craned my neck to look in the
direction of the voices. The hushed whispers continued. I could not make
out their conversation but Zina was not alone. I suddenly realized that
perhaps Tauvo didn't survive "Tauvo! Is Tauvo alright?" The
thought that I allowed him to die scared me as I had not been since I was
a young recruit. Fear is the killer.
Kill the fear or the fear will get you killed. The mindless mantra
returned. Tauvo was the first person in my life I would call friend. I
have fought with comrades who had died in my arms but they were merely
members of my team. None would be considered a friend. I had to push back
these emotional thoughts that were even now betraying me, making me lose
only reason they would treat me like this was if Tauvo was dead! This was
now a different kind of warfare and I
was at a tactical disadvantage. Teeg tilted her head slightly.
"Answer the question!" Her
tone became deeper. She looked off to the darkness as if waiting for an
looked back in the direction she was looking. "Is Tauvo
alright?" If I was to be sentenced to death I wanted to die knowing
whether I had failed my assignment. The thought that I had allowed Tauvo
to die ate at me as my question went unanswered.
next to Teeg another figure stepped into the light. His appearance
enlivened a fear in me that I had long forgotten. Devon Tarf. He
was the personal physician of the Bialar Crais. He reminded me of the
Kennel Master at the breeding colony where I was raised. Rumors on board
were that Tarf was from a Double Helix Gammak Base. Nightmarish stories of
what they do had been floating around for centuries. No one would go near
the man. He was like a strange shadow for Bialar and Tauvo, always nearby
keeping tabs on them.
first smiled at me then at Teeg. He wore the smile like an ill fitting
mask. "Officer Selton, this is how it works: We ask you a question.
You answer it. If you do not then I will do things to you that will make
you wish you had been more helpful to us."
realized what they wanted. Without records they wanted to know what I had
seen in the battle. I rested my head back on the cold unyielding metal
table. As I had done many times in the past, to survive I disgraced the
Decca. I had never been proud of that but I had survived. I
dirtied myself every time I violated what I had sworn to uphold. With
each transgression I became less, not more. I was now further from the
ideal soldier but at least I was alive.
Ulric Selton, New Star regiment. While on standard patrol Velka nine
Helios three we encountered a
cruiser attacking the supply ships at mark 13.45. Under
Decca rule 034 we engaged the enemy and waited for reinforcements to
arrive. Through the courageous efforts of Wing Commander Tauvo Crais we
survived the initial battle. My forward shielding was damaged and Tauvo...
Wing Commander Crais covered my forward shield. In doing so he took heavy
fire resulting in both of our ships being disabled." I shifted
forward, hoping what I told them was enough proof that I was loyal to
could tell by Teeg’s expression that she was disappointed. "I see,
Officer Selton. So this is your account of the battle?"
Commander Teeg!" I had to swallow hard to continue the knot in my
throat tightening. "By the glory of all!" Once again disgracing
the ideals of the Decca.
moved forward to the edge of the bed and looked back into the darkness
nodding to someone who remained in the concealed. He then spoke warmly to
Lieutenant Teeg. "Yes. Well I think I have heard enough, don't you
agree Zina?." Tarf did not wait for her response before keying
the control on the side of the table to release my restraints. The bright
light from the center of the domed ceiling dimmed.
tried to sit up quickly but my body was slow to react. Instead, I shifted
to one side and used my forearm to pry myself from the rusted table and
then scanned the dark chamber. I was in was Tarf’s operating theater. As
I sat up looking into the darkness the door opened I saw the silhouette of
Bialar Crais stepping out through the hatchway. He stopped in the lit
passageway beyond, looking back past me to the others. “Clean him up and
send him up to logistics.” He finally looked at me and nodded slightly.
I understood that whatever this frelling test was, I had passed.
a few microts I had a new uniform. Tarf lead me through a darkened
corridor to a level riser. I had never been in this part of the ship but
it was obvious that this passage was restricted. Perhaps this was how Tarf
seemed to come and go without notice by the crew?
entered the open frame level riser. He placed his ident chip in the
scanner, then both hands. The platform moved quickly.
smiled at my reaction to the speed. “It’s not quite a prowler but it
does allow me faster access.” His ever-present smile did little to cover
the cold stare . I had seen that stare many times. The dead have that
fixed lifeless stare. The platform abruptly stopped and I followed Tarf
down yet another small dark corridor. He stopped and turned to face me. I
stepped back and reached for the empty space where my pulse gun should be.
I crouched slightly expecting any possible scenario of attack.
stepped back slightly and chuckled. He crossed his arms as if to show he
was planning no aggression towards me.
Commander Selton, I just wanted to say that you have done an admirable
job.” He did not wait for me to respond. "You and I are much
so?" I spat. Looking at this monster before me, there was nothing to
compare. His was a world of science. I am a simple soldier following my
duty and the Decca.
have both been given tasks. You have been given the difficult task of
protecting Tauvo. I have the task of protecting both of them. The brothers
Crais have a knack of getting into trouble. You have done well, Commander,
I wanted you to know that." He turned silently and continued down the
was surprised by his statement and quickly caught up with him. "Why?
Tell me this, Tarf." When I grabbed his arm to stop him, I did not
expect his reaction. He recoiled from my touch with a force I would not
have expected from a man of his age. As he spun around to face me, he
caught me in the jaw with his elbow, knocking me off balance. I crouched
down about to retaliate when I felt the cold steel of his blade against my
neck. I stood slowly and grit my teeth against the protest of my jaw.
"Never! Touch! Me!" Tarf spat, shoving me into the far wall of
the dark corridor.
quickly stood from where I had landed. He had already sheathed his blade
and the ever-present smile returned. “Commander, he is waiting.”
adjusted my jacket and rubbed my jaw, which was not as bruised as my ego.
"Are you going to answer my question?"
folded his arms again. "I owe all that I am today to the Fleet
Captain. My duty is to him and his family.” He became pensive and his
smile waned. "There is no time for this; he is waiting."
turned and continued down the corridor. I followed silently.
corridor opened onto a much larger, well-lit one that connected from the
command tier to the captain’s logistics.
stood next to the door and waited until it opened. He did not enter but
gestured me to enter the captain’s room alone.
large gray room was split into two levels. The lower level was a server
alcove containing his logistics table and a small seating area. The upper
level displayed trophies of his previous conquests.
room was empty. I looked back at the hatchway as it closed behind me. Tarf
was gone. Bialar entered form the server alcove, an attendant following a
few steps behind him.
server was Delvian. Why the Fleet Captain would want a alien server was
something I could never understand. I had never sought or wanted an
attendant. I could take care of myself and the concept of having one as a
means of showing one’s status was lost on me. The whole concept of
dominating another who was heavily drugged showed only weakness. That to
subdue your enemy you needed a chemical treatment had always seemed in
many ways cowardly.
then again, Bialar Crais was a conscript.
He did not have the clear-minded training from birth that I had. I
chuckled as I thought of what a lie that was. Here I am as the Decca
commands and yet the Fleet Captain in this sector was a conscript.
passed me and sat at the logistics table. I turned to face him. My stance
did not waver. He shuffled through a pile of transparencies until he found
what he was looking for. He finally looked up at me. “Sit down,
Commander.” He pointed to one of the chairs that faced the logistics
table and looked back down at the document he held in his hand. He shoved
the document across the table. I caught it before it fell off the edge.
raised his hand and the server move forward and lowered the tray. He
pulled one of the cylinders of Reslack. "Join me." He raised his
cylinder. As with all things Bialar dealt with he never offered or asked,
he ordered. I had witnessed enough of his bullying on his brother. I
picked up the warm cylinder from the tray, looking up at the strange
creature. She was in a way beautiful, the mere thought of that sickened me
that I would consider her in that manner. But I found it difficult to take
my eyes off her. Her color seemed brighter than I recalled Delvians to be.
But then again on the three campaigns I had participated in on Delvia, we
had little time to notice. For such a peaceful race they were deceptive
warriors. I felt a wave of shame at these thoughts. Yes perhaps I have
been hanging around Tauvo too much – he has contaminated me with his
wrong ideas. "You have good taste Ulric." Bialar cracked an
unusual smile. "Would you like her?" He shifted forward in his
seat. I was surprised by the question but knew better then react. "No
thank you, Captain Crais."
shifted back he let loose a sharp laugh. "Very good! I am glad to see
being with us simple conscripts for so long hasn't tarnished your
ideals." His words made me more uncomfortable. I deal with tactical
disadvantage better out there in a prowler. The battles waged by command
staff were something I never was good at nor did I care to learn. In
situations like this, all I had was the Decca to fall back on. I
straightened slightly in this too comfortable chair. Bialar was unusually
calm and spoke in a very informal way, adding to my uncertainty. "How
long have you known Tauvo?
had to think... He was assigned to my regiment the first year of commando
training. We had both entered and summarily dropped from the elite Ravstar
program. Had it been that long ago? "Ten cycles, Captain."
have served him well, Commander. In doing so you have served me very
live for the...”
Ulric, take the compliment. If I want spouting phases from the Decca I
will ask!" There was the return of the more normal gravelish tone.
me get to the point.” Bialar stood and walked two steps to his trophy
area. “You have saved my brother’s life more times then I choose to
had known that this was my duty although Bialar had never acknowledged
this. The reason I was overlooked for promotion was simple. I protected
his younger brother. I did not mind the fact that he and I had become
friends and I never sought any greater position in life. The campaigns we
now saw were all I needed to be content. There was nothing more. "
Allow me to finish.” Bialar’s anger was once again creeping in.
“There are rumors of your latest feat of destroying the aggressor and
saving my brother’s life. I cannot have rumors. You have placed me in a
difficult position. I cannot allow others to think that the commander of
my lead assault team is being protected by his wingman."
climbed the final step and turned away from me. He raised his gloved hand
to the large chunk of rib of a leviathan. “Do you know what this is?”
had told the grand tale many times. The way that Bialar had moved from a
mere captain to Fleet Captain was thanks to being the first to capture a
Dadlius species biomech. The chunk he kept as his trophy was from
Desurn, the largest biomech ever recorded.
Captain, it is a piece of Desurn, a Dadilus species biomechanoid."
good, Ulric! “
have a fondness for Biomechs.” He turned back to me. “See, they hold
on to their secret till death. Imagine what would happen if we could
unlock that knowledge? Hetch drive would become obsolete. Command carriers
could starburst to any location in the galaxy! Imagine it, Ulric, the
power we would have over all others?” His voice had grown soft as he
spoke as if someone would overhear. “Imagine a fleet of leviathan
gunships laying waste to the Scarran, the Nebari. Even the Khephri could
not stand against us!”
smiled again "It would be glorious power!” He took one step
back down the steps. Those orders in front of you are an opportunity for
you, Ulric. I have a number of programs that High Command has allowed me
to pursue. Two here using leviathan support ships and one in the Oberth
am overseeing the two projects here. The third, due to its nature, is
based near a large celestial body. I need someone I can trust to be my
eyes and ears.” He moved back to his seat. ”Dealing with Newtech
division is a tricky business. I need someone there who I can count on.
I stammered. I picked up the transparencies and shuffled through
them. I had not petitioned for nor wanted a promotion.
transport leaves in fourteen arns. I am having your prowler transferred
with you.” Bialar smiled. “Consider it a gift. For loyal service…”
don't understand..." I stammered, my mind only now trying to grapple
with what was happening. “I will transfer private data files to you
shortly after you leave the command carrier. You will have a twenty six
arn flight, so you will have time to update yourself with the project.”
not to be disrespectful but I am a prowler pilot... Tech is..."
voice shifted lower, mounting anger was barely controlled. "You are
not going to be there to do the research! You are there to control the
techs’ findings and make sure that when the program succeeds it makes
its way here and not to the hands of some political officer at High
Command." Bialar slammed the edge of his desk with his fist.
"Now leave me."
stood quickly and headed for the hatchway. "Yes sir!" This is
the thanks I got for saving his brother’s life!
one more thing. I do not want you talking to Tauvo. He is not to know of
your new assignment.”
I had the feeling that I was a pawn in a much bigger game. I was numb; my
defense closed down everything. Now I was merely on survival mode.
collected my few belongings into the storage bin. I kept running the
orders over and over in my head. How could things have gone differently?
If I had allowed Tauvo to die, my head would now be mummified on one of
the many Jinka poles in the hallway outside of the Fleet Captain’s
com plate next to my bunk chimed and I keyed it without looking up. The
voice stopped me in my tracks. I stepped into view of the com plate.
“Yes, Tarf, what is it?”
congratulations, Captain!” He bowed slightly in that fake subservient
manner he had always done in front of the captain. Tauvo is awake and I
thought you might like to say goodbye." He stopped there, his usual
had thought of stopping by but I would not disobey the captain’s orders.
"The Captain does not want me to speak with him."
are times when the Fleet Captain is in error." Tarf looked down then
back up at me. His steely grin returned. I am doing clinical inspections
of the support convoy for the next arn
I will be... unavailable. Tarf out. I understood his statement –
he would not be near Tauvo, giving me an opportunity to say goodbye. For
some reason breaking this rule did not haunt me so I assumed it was for selfish
reasons. Tauvo was the closest friend I had and there was an odd pain in
the idea of not dealing with his distinctive view on
everything. I only then realized how much I was going to miss that.
lay on the recovery bed. Tarf was good as his word – he was absent.
me! Will you look at this." I said, kicking the base of the bed just
to see how much pain it would inflict.
give me that, Uli, you wouldn't know how to handle such comforts."
is true, but then again, who would want it." I started to laugh. My
sore jaw protested at this action. I don't recall laughing as a child, but
I since I had known Tauvo it had become almost contagious. "So when
are they releasing you?"
am stuck here for another forty-nine arns twenty-two microts!”
bad when you are counting the microts.”
off, Tauvo, don't be a nurfer. You would have done the same for me. We
both started to laugh. This was not the first time one if not both of us
had ended up in an infirmary.
med tech entered about to protest over the noise but once she caught
Tauvo’s glare her eyes fell to the floor and she exited quickly. “I
see you have the med techs in line. What have you been here, one two
tried to sit further up on the bed. "Yes, well at least there are a
few pretty ones here. Unlike those troll hog tralks they called med techs
back in training." His evil smile followed a pained laugh.
chuckled at the insult. "Hey! Nerisa was a fine piece!" I jabbed
his injured shoulder.
about ancient history. I need you to do me a favor. Enra will need her
control bracelet recharged. Can you take care of it for me?"
Tauvo’s face exploded in a devious smile. "While you’re there,
you can help yourself."
thoughts of being close to an alien were bad enough, but the idea of sex
was repulsive. I swallowed hard, trying to hide my revulsion at the
thought, not wanting to insult Tauvo. Unlike his brother, Tauvo was easily
upset. The breeding facility thought that emotions like that are a phase
that you must have as a child so as an adult they will no longer control
you. Emotional outbursts are for children, I would tell him.
"No thanks, Tauvo, she is your attendant I wouldn’t want to break
lurched in serious pain as he laughed "Ahhhh... frell, don't make me
laugh like that!" he said, rubbing the gray plastic bandage covering
his left side. "Seriously, go ahead." He started to laugh at me
again." I could order you to.".
a tech to take care for your pet, Tauvo."
I understand it’s that Breeding Camp mentality showing again. You’ve
got to get over it, Ulric, there are many things in life to enjoy!".
what!?" I barked becoming defensive, knowing where this conversation
my attendant, for one!" Tauvo did not try to hide his pity.
“Forget it, Uli, you're a lost cause!"
tone lost its humorous edge. "You know, you know there is more
to life than the Decca!"
Silence!" I stepped back from the bed as if by proximity I would be
infected by his words. "You know better than saying something like
that! This ship might not have a political officer on board but that does
not mean that every word uttered isn't recorded!” It was only then that
I was more angered in his recklessness then in what he had said.
"Some day you will understand, Ulric, you just have to have the
mivonks to go after it!"
couldn’t look at Tauvo. As a child I had learned quickly how wrong
thinking can only lead to one thing. Death. Life on a breeder was short
and fast. You mastered all that was taught to you or you died. I remember
a smart cadet in the regiment ahead of mine. He was accelerated due
to his physical prowess. Combat training suited him but there was
something different about him. I was only eight but I could sense it. He
would talk of strange things, bad things. He would openly speak against
the kennel masters and our training. He knew no more than any of us but he
questioned everything. It was as if he had some insight. He disappeared
one night. At the following week’s review, his head adorned one of the
many Jinka poles on the reviewers stand. His rotting head was all that
came to mind when Tauvo spoke this way. I had to get away from him. It was
as if his words would leave me the same fate.
I have to go." I turned and stopped at the hatchway. "Take care
of yourself." I sensed it at that moment I would never see him again.
I felt guilty that there was beyond the sorrow a feeling of relief that I
would no longer be confused by his ideas.
rose slowly from the bench, the uncomfortable uniform still protested
every movement. I had felt guilty over my treatment of Tauvo. Something
inside me made me feel shame for not being more understanding of his
attitudes. Regardless of his training, he was a good soldier and a good
friend. I slowly made my way to the forward hatchway. The data files that
Captain Crais had sent me were huge and I could not get though most of the
technical dren but I got enough to turn my stomach. Leviathan mastery
without a pilot had been attempted for centuries. No program had been
successful. This new approach was different. Allow the pilot to remain and
interface directly into the synaptic strands that bond him to the
leviathan. Basic studies showed that there was some success, but Sebacean
synaptic structure could not control the leviathan. So the latest phase
was synaptic control of a pilot. Again, the program had been lingering for
three cycles with nothing to show for it. I had no idea what I could do to
move it along any further. I rubbed my eyes thinking that having all this
thrust upon me was going to cause my head to explode. My orders were
simple. Command the ship and support the head of the Newtech team. End of
conversation! I keyed the lock of the door. As the biomech hatchway opened
I saw the beast through the forward clearplaz. The Leviathan lay dead
ahead. It was merely a silhouette against the red planet beyond, in low
planetary orbit. From
this distance, the large structure that protruded from the center dorsal
area of the control collar looked to him to be some form of drive system.
want a better look at my ship, Lieutenant. Do a full recon. Start on the
The young pilot was surprised by the request. "But they are waiting
for our arrival."
can wait. I want to see my new command."
End Part One