PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 14 of 28 )
Ashes to Ashes
TCS Atlas (Plunkett-class Cruiser)
February 3, 2681
Over the past few minutes the battle had gone well. The Confederation's Excaliburs had hastily intercepted the Nephilim fighters and destroyed the threat. But now a new threat existed. Several Nephilim Orca-class destroyers had broken away from the main fleet to concentrate on Krugan's Cruisers. During Krugan's absence he had left his XO, Joel "the Tyrant" Huang in command, who made a huge mistake. And now the crew sat silent as James Krugan stalked onto the bridge, fearful of the fire burning in his eyes.
"I have the bridge." His voice was hoarse and intense. There came a reply, but too unimportant to be noticed. Joel the Tyrant tried to swallow the fear that was building inside him, as Krugan strode towards him, his hands balling into fists. They stood eye to eye. Krugan glared down on Joel until the XO turned away from the heat.
"Who told you to stop working?!" Krugan bellowed, "Take evasive action, I want each boat lined up, double stacked for a strafing run! We have a job to do children, be sure it gets done! Comm, relay that order to the other captains."
Instantly the crew returned to their work propelled by an invisible kick in the backside, and now Krugan could turn his attention back to the fool.
"What the hell did you think you were doing? Don't answer that! You had your orders. You were supposed to obey them and relay any doubts to me. Any slip up from you and I must assume you are trying to usurp my command!"
"Shut up! I talk, you listen. I'm relieving you of your position. As of this moment, Colonel Jackson Edwards is the new Executive Officer, and Mr. Russ will take the role of Wing Commander. You, Mr. Huang, are suspended of all rank aboard any Confederation vessel pending your court martial."
"But - "
"God damn it, you shut the fuck up! I'm chief of this fucking boat, I don't have to think this over. Staff Sergeant, escort Mr. Huang to his quarters and have him guarded. He is not to leave unless the order comes directly from me."
Huang felt Krugan's eyes bore into the back of his head as he was dragged from the bridge. The crew bearing witness to his public humiliation. He felt like bawling like a baby.
I was only trying to prove myself, damn you. You took that from me... You'll get yours, old man.
TCS Cicada (Murphy-class Destroyer)
"Dammit, I said align vertically beneath the Whitworth. Get it right. You, concentrate fire on those bombers, we're lacking too much in fighter cover at this end." Aaron sighed with exhaustion. People just panic, natural, but a pain in the ass. At the opposite end of the bridge, Captain Konstantin was coolly delivering orders to the crew. He wondered if Krugan had spoken the truth about Konstantin.
Indeed, it was possible, the evidence pointed towards it. But people twist the truth, turn it into a mutated form of madness that is still so believable. But Krugan wasn't one of those. He was as blunt a man as you could get, and the others were intent on believing him. Konstantin knew something was going on, and Aaron knew, even more blatantly, that he was Viktor Konstantin's prime target.
Whatever Krugan has planned, he thought, I will follow...
"Aaron!" Viktor called across the bridge. His eyes were vacant like piss holes in the snow. Aaron knew what was coming.
"There's an envelope in my office, it contains vital information on the enemy strategy. Can you get it for me?" Viktor's voice seemed to ooze with conniving connotations as of late. This was no less of an obvious statement. He had Aaron cornered. To disobey would put the crew's trust in the chain of command right out the missile tube.
Viktor tossed Aaron the keycard to his office and Aaron caught it in both hands.
And this is it...
He shot a glare at Viktor. "Yessir."
"All wings, status report." Ephrael took a deep breath as each of his squadron reported in minimum damage. The Bug's were slowly itching towards optimum bombing range. After some fatal attempts the bugs had realized that any long distance bombing runs were futile, taking around 70 percent casualties each time a torpedo was launched. With Excaliburs swarming all over their collective tailpipes, such risks couldn't be taken, and the bugs began to concentrate on more direct approach.
"This is the Atlas. All squadron commanders commence your Beta attack runs - we are in position."
Ephrael relayed the command throughout the fighter squadrons. Instantaneously, the Excaliburs kicked in their afterburners and began rushing the Nephilim destroyers. The Cruiser squadron laid down a hail of fire as the bugs went up like popcorn. Gradually the squadron began to advance into the Nephilim, peppering their fighters as the Excaliburs began to wipe out the destroyers' defenses.
"All wings, commence Gamma attack runs," Ephrael ordered.
Jeffrey Russ's ship was damaged. He was sure he'd lost some panelling due to the battering he took from the destroyer's gun turrets, which were now all disabled. He shouted in triumph as another missile turret exploded like a nova.
"Jeffrey..." Rebecca appeared on his HUD, a frown crossing her face as she fiddled with a few of her controls, "I just got an encoded message. I think you'd better see it."
She punched a few buttons and then fizzled out of view.
"Okay, thanks." Russ watched the text appear on his HUD. The message was somewhat scrambled but he could make out what it meant. Traitors... Cicada... Have the colonel... warning Krugan, beware the Atlas until... Black...
Russ was now more concerned than Rebecca could have looked. He looked around his cockpit half expecting someone to be standing over his shoulder. "Where did it come from?"
The frowning face appeared once more, this time even more stony. "The Awesome. Samantha's stumbled onto something. Aaron and Krugan are involved, God knows who else. What did it mean 'beware the Atlas until black?'"
"I don't know. Maybe something's happening there too, especially if Krugan's involved. Listen we'd better get off this before someone picks up this frequency."
Russ waited for a confirmation before closing the channel. He turned his bird towards a Nephilim destroyer as it gouted flame from it's exploding interior. He saw an Excalibur drop behind him, he shot a glance at it and his eyes went hollow with realization. "Shit! Black Owl!"
Beware the Atlas until Black... Ephrael's callsign was Black Owl.
Russ pulled his Excalibur hard to starboard, just in time to feel the heat of tachyon guns searing past him. Then Ephrael was on his tail. Ephrael kept him pressed against the side of the hollow destroyer, laying down a withering hail of fire as he slowly focused in on his target. Russ tried in vain to pull away from his shadow.
Ephrael kicked in his afterburners, dropping a dumbfire as he flew over Russ. A tight smile crossed his lips as the flaming Excalibur crashed into the remains of the scorched Nephilim destroyer.
Aaron knew this
was a trap for sure. The real trick here was getting out of it.
In the confined spaces of an office, any attacks against him would
be swift and sure. If Aaron had time to react there would be hell
to pay. The door appeared as though no one had tampered with it.
Still, he scanned it for any sign of triggers that may have set
off an explosion. He found none. He opened the door and hoped
there would be no such devices on the
He visually scanned the room and found the envelope on Viktor's desk. It was an official highest level confidential document. Why would anyone leave of this importance laying carelessly on a desk? On closer inspection he noticed his own name was typed onto the header of the envelope, which also read Case Study and Documentation of... He felt something move behind him. He spun himself around and flicked his right leg up in a roundhouse kick.
His boot thudded against the wall from which a shadowed figure now leapt away. The butt of its rifle lurched forward and crashed into his face, forcing blood to flow from his nose instantly. His knees buckled and his body leaned forward, with a heavy thud his face planted into the floor. The figure stepped over him and pocketed the document inside it's jacket, then began to bind Aaron's hands.
TCS Atlas (Plunkett-class Cruiser)
Joel sat in his quarters. How would he get out? There were two armed guards on the door. He had no offensive or defensive weapons, except for his hands. The door was locked shut. He sighed.
Son of a bitch, it was a perfect plan...
He took out his butterfly knife. Casually he flicked the blade around. Small things amuse small minds, he thought. He flicked the knife back so it remained open. He rotated it so the blade was turned in towards his stomach. Slowly he pushed it in and the edge began to push through his skin. He stopped and threw the knife. It scraped along the metallic wall in front of him and then clattered to the floor. He fiddled with his fingers and remembered something his mother had once said. "The devil finds things to occupy idle fingers." Bitch. He cracked his knuckles one by one.
"You'll get arthritis from doing that, Joel."
Shut the fuck up. Joel rocked back and forth on his bunk. What was he to do? What was he to do?
"Yes, Joel, What are you to do?"
He jumped. "Who said that? Who's there?"
"It's me, Joel. You remember me. I've helped you all this way, and now you're going to do something for me."
"Who are you!? I don't know you!!" Joel twitched nervously. His eyes scanned the empty room closing around him, searching for some logical, or at least visible answer for the spectral voice he was hearing. He found none.
Instead, only the low reply of the ominous voice was given. "Yes, you do."
Frantically, Joel darted around the room. "You didn't help me! I'm stuck in here!" He almost tore his hair out in frustration before taking back his seat on the bunk.
"Don't you see, it's part of my plan to help you? Now stop acting like a headless chicken and calm down." The voice seemed to soothe Joel, his boiling blood began to settle as he listened to the voice speak it's mind. "Beneath your desk is a small object taped to the underside. Remove it. It's a transmitter that will unlock the door code. Use it, and get out."
As Joel rushed to desk and fumbled around like a child, he considered his options for a moment. "What have I got to lose?"
"Exactly, Joel. What have you got to lose..."
TCS Awesome (Murphy-class Destroyer)
Samantha tore her eyes away from the screen. It had taken her hours to confirm her beliefs, encode them, and transmit them. So this was why she had been chosen. Not for her ability to captain a ship. For her loyalty and clear thinking. She felt used for some reason, but she had no quarrel with that. With a mission like this in the bag, she felt she could do anything when it was over. She sat back, proud of herself. Looking at the viewport, she saw the gutted remains of two Nephilim destroyers, and the dog fights that illuminated the dark with bursts of light and small explosions.
Walking down the steel corridors of the Awesome, she felt the shuddering of the ship's hull as it rocked with surface explosions from enemy fire. This is what it's like to be in a battle for the first time. She stepped onto the bridge.
"XO, I have the bridge."
"Aye, Captain has the bridge."
"How many have we lost?"
"About half a dozen fighters total. One of them was... uh... Atlas's Squadron Commander."
The words hit her like a brick in the face. She was so sure she had everything down pat. One of the most important people in the ensuing trouble had been eliminated. "How?"
"Unconfirmed. We had no requests for assistance, no damage reports, he just up and disappeared."
"Ephrael." At that instance she knew. Just like the shock of hearing of Jeffrey Russ' death, the shock of knowing all along had hit her twice as hard. Ephrael was the about the only one airborne capable of catching Russ that quick apart from Stein. Somehow, Ephrael had picked up her transmission to Rebecca.
"Ma'am, do you really think..."
"Yes, I do! Now we have to find a way to keep him on the deck. Without killing him."
TCS Cicada, Unkown Location
Aaron sat in the chair, drenched in sweat. His hands were tied back behind him and fastened to the seat, each leg roped to the back legs of the chair. Above him, an extremely bright light bored down on him. The room was dark apart from this illumination. He figured it was a storage room. For weapons, rations, equipment, he couldn't tell. He wondered how long he had been unconscious.
Ahead of him a figure stepped out of the shadows. He was big and bulky (Aaron assumed it was a he), dressed in a black suit. He walked around Aaron and knelt down next to him, his dark eyes seemed to reach down into Aaron's soul. Aaron met his gaze in an attempt not to be daunted. The man chuckled, and returned to a standing position. His huge fist struck clean across Aaron's face, forcing blood to trickle from his nose. The man leant down in front of Aaron.
"Let's get one thing straight. I don't mess around." His voice was harsh and firm, "You pull my strings, I get violent." Aaron did not reply. "Good, I trust your silence means comprehension."
The man stood once more, "Is your name Aaron Robert Floky?" No response. The man turned and glared down on Aaron. "Perhaps you didn't hear the question, is your name Aaron Robert Floky?"
"Yes." A tight smile crossed the man's lips. Aaron looked up at him, "What is yours?"
The smile disappeared, replaced by a firm scowl. "That is not important, but should the situation arise, you may call me Mister Brown. Now, do you currently hold the rank of Colonel, and the position of Executive Officer aboard the TCS Cicada?"
Mr. Brown began to pace in front of Aaron. "Did you not previously hold the position of Major in the Confederation Marine Corps, following your trial and dishonorable discharge?"
"Yes," Aaron replied dully as he stared into the daunting face. The man looked like someone from a dream, tall, dark but not handsome. He had the face of someone of such ancient history. What were they called? Mongrols? No, Mongols. Aaron chuckled at the thought. Ironic.
"Yes you did, or yes you did not?"
"Was your discharge due to the fact that you slaughtered hundreds of innocent men, women and children, and neutrally aligned militia?"
The man's face hardened. "You deny this fact? I have the evidence."
"No! I followed my orders! It was my belief in the chain of command that made me destroy that installation! And my men..."
"So you don't deny it."
"No, I don't..."
"Then the fact remains that you, regardless of how you felt towards those innocents, and your men, you destroyed the installation without question or regret. You are a patriot Aaron, like myself, you will stop at nothing to make sure your job is done."
"No. There is a difference between us. I am a patriot... you are a fanatic."
Mr. Brown stopped pacing, and his eyes burned with fury. He moved behind Aaron, whose eyes followed him as he went. Mr. Brown laid his hands on Aaron's shoulders, and dug his fingers between the bones. Aaron roared with pain as he leapt and jolted from his seated prison. Ahead of him he sensed shadows shifting in the dark. Mr. Brown now leant over him again.
"Why are you working for Krugan? Viktor covered your tracks back from the Corp, he gave you a second chance, the chance to prove to your country that you are it's faithful protector. And you work for this traitor?"
Aaron squirmed at the man's deceit. "We know your plans. Krugan is doing the right thing. You are the traitors. So fuck you..."
"You will submit." His fingers dug themselves into Aaron's kidneys. Clenching his teeth together, Aaron did his best not scream as the pain shot through every muscle in his twisting body. Behind him, his torturer was cackling insanely.
Pressing his boots hard into the floor, Aaron forced himself backwards, connecting the back of his skull with the man's nose. He heard an audible crack as the man yelped in pain. Then a heavy fist struck Aaron's face, and two arms gripped him as something sharp was inserted into his arm.