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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-19 11:04pm
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Now.. why would the ComStar priests be acting that way, hmm?

You might want to go back and clarify the skip between Walter at the Cave and the Hologram of the Khans. It runs right from one to the other.



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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-20 04:46am
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LadyTevar wrote:
Now.. why would the ComStar priests be acting that way, hmm?

You might want to go back and clarify the skip between Walter at the Cave and the Hologram of the Khans. It runs right from one to the other.


Breaks now in place...Thanks



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-20 03:42pm
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Chapter Nineteen



“Elias!”

The tech turned to see the Lieutenant, Elana and the rest of his squad dragging a trio of figures before them.

“Yes, Lieutenant?”

“You are to come with me, we’re going to have a little look at what ComStar have been hiding…”

“Blasphemy!” shouted the Demi-Precentor.

“Elana?”

“Yes, Lieutenant?”

“You have my permission to kill this worm, if he interrupts me again,” said Jax, winking at the big woman.

“It will be a pleasure,” she grinned evilly.

“Where were we? Ah, yes,” continued Jax,” our mission is to take and hold the ComStar HPG facility. We do not know what forces are holed up there, nor to what extent the Clans will rush to protect them. There will, however, be lots of lovely gadgets for you to play with. Interested?”

“I am honoured,” said the Tech, bowing, “much has been said of the vaunted powers of ComStar. David and I will be very interested in devining the truth of the matter.”

“Good,” Jax said, “that’s settled then. Once Elana gets the troops together we’ll be off and I have no doubt that we’ll get the chance to play with our new toys…if we’re really lucky, of course.”

*

The ComStar compound was in a valley between two small hills, to the west of the city. Their communications array could be seen from a long distance away, as could the fortified walls and the patrolling guards. Jax used the display in his suit to zoom in and was glad that Elias had given his infantry some new tools,

“Elana?”

“Yes, Lieutenant?”

“I have positive identification on at least two tanks and three fixed gun emplacements. What do you see from your side?”

“It seems that the Demi-Precentor was not at all truthful with us,” she said with a grunt of laughter, “I see two…no wait, three of your light Mechs. They are hidden to the rear of the compound in a covered building. Their eagerness is showing, though, and I can detect movement.”

“Very well,” said Jax, “return to my position. I would like to demonstrate our appreciation of the Demi-Precentor to his troops.”

*

“Sir?”

The Gunner in the lead tank spoke cautiously to his commander, who was busy listening to the command circuit transmissions.

“This had better be important!” he snapped and then gasped as he saw the hover truck reversing down the road. In its rear bed was a metallic structure which looked suspiciously like a gun, hung from which was their very own Demi-Precentor.

“Get us out there now!” he snarled, gabbling further orders into his transmitter. Together the two tanks rolled majestically out to meet their leader, confident in their ability to quash whatever threat they might face.

“It seems to have worked,” Jax said quietly into his private circuit, “you may move in now.”

The double click of receipt made him smile, and it was with a bounce in his step he moved in front of the hover truck. Above him, the Comstar official threatened him with every punishment he could think of.

“Now, now,” admonished Jax, his voice amplified by his external speakers, “whatever happened to the Peace of Blake? Keep it up and it will be pieces...”

“Halt!” he roared and the lead tank came to a stop, a short distance away.

“Release the Demi-Precentor and surrender yourself for judgement,” said a voice, made ludicrous by its tin-like timbre.

”I think not,” said Jax, “you see, your boss has been a little offensive, so that we have decided to place you all under arrest. You have only a few moments before judgement is passed. I have a wager with my Sergeant that the Demi-Precentor has enough mass in his body to survive being flung from a Gauss rifle. My personal opinion though, is that he won’t survive the impact against your tank.

However, I am an officer who likes to prove his point practically. IN five seconds I will give the order to fire, then we will see for ourselves. Five … four…”

“Wait!” the voice came again.

“Three…” continued Jax, “Out of the tank, please, Two…”

“Stop! We are coming out!”

Jax watched as the upper hatch opened, he also saw the second tank’s turret track towards him and noticed the lack of any other movement.

“One…”

It had now locked on him. He had moved slightly to one side to give Elias a better shot. The target had never been the tanks themselves, rather the main entrance. He wondered whether the ComStar’s harness would snap before he was launched into the air at frightening velocity. Well, there was only one way to find out.

“Fire!”

Four things happened at once: the tank fired, Jax activated his jump jets, the Precentor Projectile was born and Elias fired the APC’s PPC. Everything seemed to be going to plan.

Elana saw the bolt of lightening flash into the second tank’s turret, where it met little resistence. The armour-plating buckled and then melted in gobbets of molten metal. A streak of wailing humanity shot across the intervening space in front of the ComStar facility, it’s impact throwing a mix of rock and liquid debris high.

“Now!” she shouted and the three other battle-suited figures bounded after her.

Jax had already overpowered the lead tank’s crew and men swarmed over the armoured vehicle. In short order it was again under way, trundling towards the compound, the Falcon’s hover trucks slowly fanning out beside it.

Once through the main gates, Elana’s force raced towards the main building. She heard the distinctive thump of Mech’s feet, but ignored them. Her task was to take the compound, Jax and his men would deal with the Light Mechs.

*

A Locust was the first Mech through the gates, its companions, a Wasp and a Stinger had activated their jump jets and came over the walls. If they had thought to surprise Jax and his men, they were mistaken. David triggered the pod of SRM’s which at that range could not miss. At the height of their arc, the two Mechs were hit mid-air. The Stinger was punched backwards and slammed onto the top of the wall, doubling over, before crashing headfirst back into the compound. Triple lasers peeled away armour as the Wasp fluttered downwards and another PPC strike swatted it to the ground, where it lay smoking and twitching.

That left one fast moving Mech whose Medium Laser and Machine Gun began to hammer into the lightly armoured Dark Falcon vehicles. The turret on the tank turned and its gun fired, its Sabot round drilling deep into the Locust’s chest before exploding. Reloaded, the Gauss Rifle fired, sending a metal bar deep into the Mechs right leg, shearing Myomer and shattering its hip joint. Jax felt no mercy. He had been given a job to do and intended to make this a short action.

Apart from the fact that he knew his mobile weapons were out-classed, he needed time to secure the compound before any message could be sent. So, he gave the order to fire again.

*

Inside the compound, Elana and her men met with little resistence. Autorifle rounds pinged off her armour, but a blast from her machine gun soon cleared a small pocket of soldiers. She was restricted by her ability to only effectively one arm of her suit and as that controlled her machine gun, there was little finesse in her actions.

They were taking longer than she had wanted to. They needed to take this facility with the least possible damage. Sheehan had been explicit in the necessity of capturing a working HPG. That however, meant that people and buildings were free game.

An autocannon emplacement high on the outer wall pinned them down for a few moments, but the impact of an explosive round soon deterred them. And then it was over.

ComStar soldiers surrendered as soon as the tank entered the compound, coming to a halt below the communications array. The other vehicles entered shortly afterwards and Elana strode to meet Jax.

“The area is secure,” she reported to Jax.

“For now,” he said, staring at the smoking ruins of the ComStar Mechs and the damage to the walls and gates, “we need to get our prisoners working alongside our men on shoring up our defences. I have no intention of being taken by as much surprise as these fools.”

Ater a moment’s thought, he called Elias over, “Get inside and find out if the HPG is working. Take a couple of soldiers with you so that any of the Comstar officials can be convinced of our seriousness, if needed. We must know if they had time to send any messages out, and if so, who to. I like giving surprises, not receiving them. Understood?”

The Tech nodded and rushed away to obey his commander.

“Are you expecting trouble?” asked Elana.

“Always,” replied Jax, staring up at the pyrotechnic display visible high in the planet’s atmosphere, “Better to be prepared, than dead, Quiaff?

“Af,” agreed Elana, as she registered the significance of the sheer number of drop pods needed to light up the sky in such a fashion.

*

“It appears that our visitors have decided to land without permission,” said Sheehan as he studied the stream of data before him, “isn’t that a little unusual?”

“Very unusual,” agreed Mattlov, “it would suggest that the Jade Falcons still consider this their world and any batchall carried out, without our inclusion.”

“Can the saKahn really be that ignorant of the current circumstances?”

“That, or he feels that we are nothing to be concerned with,” said Mattlov, as he too studied the screen.

“What are your orders, My Khan?” he asked.

“I think we need to carry out an exercise of dissuasion, but first I want some information. Get that pilot in here and raise Walter on the transmitter. Then get your Mechs and Elementals together, we’re going for a little stroll.”

*

“What did you find out, Elias?” Jax asked, as the Tech emerged from the main building.

“It seems that both Steel Viper and Jade Falcon forces are landing. Khan Sheehan has ordered us to remain at this position, for now.”

Jax paused, then nodded, “Okay. What about our ComStar friends? Did they get a message off?”

“More than one,” said Elias, “they appear to be friends with everyone. A message denouncing our actions has been sent to their Primus, copied to the IlKhan and our heads have been offered to the highest bidder.”

“Were there any replies?” Jax, was feeling a little nervous about the answer, but needed to know.

“Many,” said Elias, “it appears that we have become extremely popular. ComStar forces have been given free passage through Clan controlled space in order to “teach us a lesson”. Also the Ilkhan has assured the Primus that his own forces will aid in the capture and punishment of any Dark Falcon left alive by her troops.”

“You’re smiling,” Jax accused the Tech, “there’s something else, isn’t there?”

“There was another message, directed to the Commanding Officer of the Fedcom forces here. They are to give the Dark Falcons every possible help they can. Relief is on its way, but it will take some time.”

Jax laughed, “I suppose that we are the Fedcom representatives on this planet, sort of. So really, the message is that we have permission to help ourselves. Nothing changes, does it?”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-21 05:04pm
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Chapter Twenty


The Clan forces met at their pre-arranged co-ordinates, deploying an awesome array of weaponry. Sheehan looked down at them from the safety of a wooded area high on a nearby hill. It appeared that there would be little restraint shown by either side.

Jade Falcon aerofighters flew over their advancing Omnimechs, whizzing tantalisingly towards the Steel Vipers forces, like some schoolyard dare, before scurrying back to the safety of their lines. There were at least forty Mechs and associated Elementals visible with the distinctive Steel Viper emblem and slightly less Jade Falcon machines.

Sheehan hoped that they would cause each other sufficient damage to give his own forces a chance. The news from Jax of an impending ComStar force did not give him a warm fuzzy feeling. He had asked Walter and Diana to remain in the Cavern, but to be prepared for any eventuality. Jax was in control of the HPG and well dug-in and he himself had two Stars of Omnimechs at his back. Otho had brought along all of his Elementals, but they were sorely outmatched.

A sudden roar of missiles and the distinctive sound of laser and PPC fire brought his attention back to the plain below. It had begun.

*

“I don’t like this,” muttered Jax, to no-one in particular.

“You just want to kill something,” laughed Elana, “and the action is elsewhere.”

“No,” said Jax, “it’s not that. The IlKhan’s support of ComStar and his promise of aid is what is playing on my mind. Both of the Clan factions here must have received that communication, yet still they fight. It’s just a little strange.”

“Perhaps,” said Elana, “there could be a number of reasons. The Steel Vipers believe themselves consummate warriors and that they have a right to lead this invasion, rather than wait as part of the reserve forces. Any Batchall could have included the fate not just of this world, but the honour of destroying ourselves too. Although, the hatred between Jade Falcon and Steel Viper is well known and may have clouded sensible judgement.”

“So, in other words,” grinned Jax, “you have no idea either.”

“You could look at it that way,” agreed Elana, “but it would make sense for us to be safe…”

Explosions rocked the building and alarms blared stridently.

“You were saying?” shouted Jax, as he ran for the exit to the compound.

“This is not an honourable act,” she spat, as she sealed her faceplate.

“I am less concerned about the honour of the situation,” replied Jax, “more about who our actual enemy is.”

As he left the building, he called for more information, but no-one could give him a clear picture. They had received incoming missile fire but as of yet no enemy had been sighted.

“That won’t last for long,” Jax said to Elana, “get your team together, we may well need them pretty quickly.”

He stopped as he was hailed from the wall by one of his soldiers.Instead of climbing, he took the quick route and activated his jump jets. What he saw there almost took his breath away. A long line of Mechs strode into view, in what seemed at the time an endless column. That they were Omnimechs, there was no doubt, but whose?

“Elias,” Jax spoke into his private circuit, “get me Captain Sheehan. We have a major problem here.”

“I understand, Elias, but there is nothing I can do right now,” said Sheehan in frustration, “we’ve been outflanked. I will send in our fighter wing to help provide cover for your withdrawal. We need all of our forces where best we can use them. Please tell the Lieutenant to get his backside out of there.”

“Yes, My Khan,” acknowledged Elias. Now to break the news to Jax.

Jax was less concerned over the order, rather he had decided that retreat was a given. Now his major worry was in how to get all of his men out safely.

“How much explosive do we have?” he asked Elias, whilst he watched the Clan Omnimechs form a line and then stop.

“We brought our usual amount, Lieutenant, what do you have in mind?” Elias was fairly certain that it would be some radical hare-brained scheme, however, Jax had an uncanny knack of pulling his crazy ideas off.

“I want you to wire this ComStar facility up. It needs to be reduced to rubble, but at just the right moment,” Jax said as his gaze turned to the rear of the compound.

“How easy is the slope at the back of this compound?” he half-asked.

“We can climb it with little problem, but the vehicles will never make it. A rampof some sort would be necessary…”

“What a good idea,” agreed Jax, “Elias, get the flyjockies on the transmitter, I’ve got a job for them.”

*

“Have you worked out who they are yet?” Jax asked, as he rejoined David at the front of the compound. The Tech was making a few final adjustments to the last of the hover trucks.

“They are definitely Jade Falcon, but I am puzzled as to why they are waiting. It seems strange that they have issued no challenge.”

“Yes,” said Jax, “I get the impression that they are here only to keep us bottled up. They are saving us for someone…and I have my suspicions. However, I have other plans. Will the trucks be ready?”

“As you commanded Lieutenant,” confirmed David, “although I am not sure…”

Elias’ voice crackled in Jax’s headset, drowning out whatever it was David was trying to say, “Fighters starting their run now…”

Jax jumped down from the truck and signalled to Elana, “Let’s get this party started…”

There was a boom from the tank as it fired its first round. A double echo accompanied it and Jax grinned. No answering salvo came from the Clan Mechs as the shell exploded short of their position. It was working.

*

“Tell them to hit the Clansmen, now!” snapped Jax as he gave the signal .

The Tank depressed its barrel and blew their make-shift gates to pieces. A volley of SRM’s streamed over the wall and their mobile Gauss Rifle barked. At one and the same time, the five Dark Falcon Visigoths swooped down upon their unsuspecting brothers. Never could they have imagined this Clan Tech in the hands of Spheriods wreaking such destruction. In that one fact they were right, they were ex-Jade Falcon pilots.

Instant uproar followed. Jak had already jumped onto the body of the tank and peered closely at the churning dusk across the compound. A black-suited figure waved him on and he closed his power claw onto the body of the vehicle as it tipped upward and began to scale the hill.

“Where is Elias?” Jax shouted over the tank’s roaring engine.

Below him the cable joining each of the vehicles stretched taut. It would be a very close run thing. The last of the trucks strained up their purpose-built ramp, the explosions had done their work. As it moved, the tank compacted the rubble and allowed the hover trucks access. Added impetus was given to their flight by its growling engine.

“He is checking the explosives we left behind,” replied Elana.

“Still? We need him out of there now. The Clansmen will be right on our tails!”

He looked up as the Visigoths began another strafing run. They were now jinking and twisting to avoid the barrage of fire being poured at them.

“There he is!” shouted Elana, and Jax saw a lone figure scurrying between the remains of the buildings.

“Frak this!” snarled Jax, activating his jump jets, “Get everyone out of here!”

Elana watched him arrow back down to the compound and cursed. She had been given a clear order, but Jax’s tenet of leaving no-one behind had burrowed deep within her. The tank had now cleared their hastily-constructed ramp and was reaching more level ground and she hurried to give some order to the mayhem.

Jax landed with a thump next to Elias, just as the first Omnimech smashed its way into the compound. He flung one arm around the Tech and set off back up the ramp, Elias struggling beneath him.

“Quiet!” he snapped through his external speakers, “I’m saving your scrawny life!”

The first flash of laser fire ricocheted by him and he redoubled his efforts. There was no possibility of any fancy evasion, he just had to rely on his speed and the pall of smoke through which he bounded. A gun boomed above him, but he dared not stop, so he never saw the round slam into the Mech’s chest staggering it. There was a whoosh of missile fire and the distinctive sound of a PPC, but Jax concentrated only on reaching the top of the hill.

Spraying gravel announced his arrival, as he carelessly tossed Elias to one side.

“Thanks,” muttered to Elana, “now can we get the frak out of here?”

“Just a moment, Lieutenant,” she laughed as she helped Elias to his feet. He was bleeding from his rough climb, but grinned as he looked down onto the area below, now rapidly filling with an assortment of Mechs.

Another round screamed down, followed by more missiles and it was answered by a rain of fire.

“Now, would be good, Elias,” Jax said, as the Clansmen’s shots began to find their range.

“My pleasure,” said the Tech, as he took a small transmitter from his pocket. With a savage laugh, he flicked a switch. Nothing.

“Don’t tell me I’ve got to go back down there?” pleaded Jax.

“Wait…” Elias said.

It began as a low rumbling, followed by sharp reports. The Omnimechs staggered, then righted themselves. Flames spurted upwards in a rapid progression and the buildings seemed to fold in upon themselves. Structural supports for the communications array bent and then collapsed, smashing into the Clan machines. Then there was a horrendous cacophony of sound and the ground opened up beneath them.

Escape pods exploded upwards, but they were in the minority as Elias’ meticulous handiwork consumed the Clan Mechs. At last it was over, the compound riven with smoking graves. Metallic arms stretched upwards in mute pleas for succour. Shattered torsos lay half-out of new piles of rubble and here and there a human body stirred. They were the lucky ones.

“Maybe you should have a used a bit more explosive, Elias?” Jax said sarcastically.

“But, I used…” and then the Tech began to laugh, followed by the rest of Jax’s motley crew.

“Do you wish to tell the Khan that the Comstar facility has been destroyed, or shall I?” asked Elana.

“Oh,” Jax replied, “I think that little surprise can keep for later.”

*

One huge leg thumped down after another, as the Steel Viper Khan made his way majestically to the front of his troops. There was similar movement from the opposing Jade Falcon forces and then they both stopped. The wait was interminable and Sheehan turned to Mattlov in his frustration.

“What are they doing?” Sheehan asked.

“I am unsure,” responded Mattlov, “this is not normal. Ah,” he said, as the Jade Falcon screen of fighters roared away, “the Vipers were waiting for the Falcons to complete their promise. Our Steel friend disdain the use of aerial power and it seems as though the saKhan wants this to be a clean and undisputable victory.”

“So, when…” Sheehan’s voice was drowned out by the stuttering roar of autocannons, the exhalation of missile pods and the whip-like crack of PPC’s and lasers.

The plain below them was a maelstrom of twisting and turning Omnimechs. Any pretence of rigid rules had dissolved with the first shot. Metallic monsters strode across the plain, vomiting forth death and destruction. Death stalked by their side; here an Omnimech crashed down on the stump of a knee, there another’s head was obliterated at close range by withering fire. Lighter Mech’s raced around the outside of the melee, engaged in their own combat. These huge machines could not physically bleed, but they dripped molten metal, bellies were lacerated and their innards tumbled out. Limbs were sheared and bodies crumpled, as more than one Mechwarrior drove his titan straight into another.

Again, the Jade Falcons aggression was their undoing, as the Vipers’ discipline began to win through. At this turning point in the battle, Mattlov cursed in surprise and horror. The Visigoths, sent away to even the odds, had returned.

“It is not possible!” he roared, “has the honour of the Jade Falcons fallen so low?”

“It would appear so,” replied Sheehan softly, “but can we interfere?”

Mattlov shook his head, “No Trueborn, no Clansmen could intervene. It would bring dishonra to all concerned!”

Sheehan grinned wickidly, “Freebirths have no honour, then? Good.”

The look of chagrin on Mattlov’s face only added to Sheehan’s laughter. He slapped the man on his shoulder and called over his communications man.

“Look at it this way,” he said as he finished giving his orders over his command circuit, “we can consider it an evening of the odds.”

A crackled reply, proceeded the arrival of a wing of fighters. They flashed over the Jade Falcons lines and opened fire on their ex-companions. Not though, on the Omnimechs below them. Sheehan had been specific and they tore into the ranks of Jade Falcon fighters, sowing confusion and terror. As quickly as they had come, they raced away, fighters in hot pursuit. Behind them they left damaged and broken craft, and an apoplectic saKhan.

Those, to all intents and purposes, were his own people and he did not know who had betrayed him. His agile and political mind, could only think of one person; his Khan. Critchell must have learnt of his plan and was here to punish him.

Jade Falcon Mechs flung themselves forward on his new orders. The Vipers must die and quickly, if he was to stand any chance of pulling this off. His frantic calls to his the forces he had sent to the Comstar facility were met with silence and so he broke another rule. Withdrawal was demanded and he ignored the curses of his men and the screaming of his enemies. Treachery birthed within his own mind was carried out on the battlefield.

Now, it became a running battle. Vipers pressed the Jade Falcon Mechs as they tasted victory and Sheehan knew it was time.

“This is our chance,” he said to Mattlov, “all of our available forces are to attack. Split them up and drive them towards the Eastern Mountains. We must give them a beating they will never forget.”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-23 05:48am
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Chapter Twenty One


Perigard Zalman was both angry and confused. His anger always remained close to the surface, but the Jade Falcons’ behaviour had left it a raging torrent. He wanted to strike at them repeatedly, yet they chose to flee. That in itself was unlike them, as was the disobedience of their fighter pilots. Although, one of his Mechwarriors had claimed to see a reversed Falcon emblem. Zalman was inclined to put that down to the obvious cranial damage the man had suffered, when his escape pod activated.

“My Khan,” came a flat voice across his circuit, “new targets, closing fast. I count ten Mechs plus a number of Elemental Stars.”

“More Jade Falcons?”

“It would appear so, however first reports indicate non-typical behaviour,” there was silence for a moment, then the voice came back puzzled, “They are demanding our withdrawal, My Khan. A Khan Sheehan claims this world in the name of the Dark Falcons. He says we have interfered in the affairs of his planet and his war against the Jade Falcons. If we leave now, he will grant us Hegira.”

“Dark Falcons?,” Zalman’s voice was pensive, “Spheroid trash, no doubt. There will be no mercy for such as they. Relay my answer.”

Again, there was only static and Zalman demanded a reply from his warrior, “What do they say?”

“The khan’s answer is….”

Zalman could hear the sound of battle and shouts over the comm. circuit. He tried to interpose some discipline, but a strange voice interposed itself amidst the furore of weapons fire.

“…You had your chance.”

*

Jax drove his men hard. Somewhere nearby, their comrades were engaged with the Clan forces and he had no intention of being left out of the fight.

“What have you gathered from the comm. chatter?” he asked Elias.

“It seems that Khan Sheehan has taken the battle direct to both sets of Clansmen,” said the Tech, “and that we will have our own set of company, shortly.”

“Why is that?” Jax watched the Tech’s face, which was lit by the colours from the screen in front of him.

“We have Omnimech’s coming our way,” Elias said.

“Whose?” asked Jax, as he prepared to leave the APC in which he was travelling.

“Not ours,” replied Elias, “and they are approaching at top speed.”

“Never a dull moment,” muttered Jax.

“And Sir?” there was a tremble in the Tech’s voice, something that Jax had never heard before.

“Yes…?” the question hung in the air for a moment.

“Drop pods, Sir,” answered Elias, as he continued to stare at the screen.

“Don’t tell me,” Jax said sarcastically, “not ours, either.”

“No, Sir,” said the Tech, “and it appears that they are centring their landing around the Eastern Mountains.”

“Change of plan,” Jax said decisively, “order our withdrawal and full speed towards the Cavern. Our Khan has never demonstrated the necessity for outside help and we have too many of our people in jeopardy on this new front.”

Rapidly, the orders were transmitted and Jax’s mobile unit sped away from their impending encounter. Jade Falcon Omnimechs passed by in full flight, without ever knowing how close they had been to an ambush. Jax could only hope that they would reach the Cavern in time. He had an awful feeling that he knew exactly who were the new forces, and if he was right, the people in the Cavern would need all the help that they could get.

*

“Power down, Elias’ Guardians,” commanded Walter, “we will use them once we have drawn our enemies here.”

“What about our people?” asked Diana, as she looked down upon the mass of humanity below. They had brought the majority of the survivors from the main city here and had swept up many of the outlying communities.

As well as them, there were the many caste members of the Jade Falcons who had been taken in battle. All were willing to fight. Their allegiance had long ago shifted to the Dark Falcons, who to them had been the only ones ready to stand for Winfield. In fact, many of them wore a semblance of the Dark Falcon emblem on their homespun tunics.

“They are our future,” said Walter, “someone needs to get them out of here, and when the time is right, that person will be you.”

Diana started to object, but saw the concrete resolve on the veteran’s face.

“Okay,” she agreed, “but only on the understanding that you come too. Remember, we leave no-one behind.”

He nodded in accordance with her wishes, but there was a resignation in his look, a worldliness which spoke volumes.

“Let us get them moving,” he said business-like, “the Tech’s have opened a subsidiary tunnel which leads away from the conflict zone. Essential personnel will remain only .”

Walter watched Diana hurry away and then called Jurgen over, “You will see that she obeys me, Jurgen, I am counting on you.”

“I will not be staying at your side, Star Commander?” he asked, surprised.

“No,” said Walter, resting his hand on the powerful warrior’s shoulder, “Diana is typical of the Inner Sphere, you will be needed by the Dark Falcons to instil our steel in them. They show promise and it is people like you who will allow that to flourish. Do not fail me.”

Jurgen nodded, but seemed to swell with pride. He looked on Walter as a father figure, not that he understood truly what a father was. Such a man gave purpose and pride to a warrior’s life and he inwardly swore not to let him down.

A sudden commotion below indicated that their enemies were close and Jurgen ran towards his Mech. Before he left, he had some fighting to do and another way to make the old man proud.

*

“No Diana,” said Walter as she rushed towards her Victor, “I gave instructions for our machines to be swapped. We need to preserve the Clan technology as much as possible as you will need it later. Two of my men have also swapped with others from your lance. And no arguments…”

Diana had been about to object, but there was no time. In a sudden rush of emotion she hugged Walter and kissed him on the cheek. He was a little non-plussed at the attitude, but she had already turned away.

Jurgen watched the side-play and smiled. Wherever he went, Walter brought out the best in his people. Thrusting aside worthless thoughts he ran through the pre-checks on his Omnimech. The atonal sound of his on-board computer gave him a reassuring feeling, and the green lights on his weapons board a surge of anticipation. He felt the comforting purr of the fusion reactor beneath him and moved his Mech forward. By his side, his men did the same, allowing the Star Commander to take the lead.

*

There was an ominous silence on the battlefield. A line of Omnimechs had turned to face them and Sheehan knew that there would be little room for sleight of hand. The remaining Steel Viper forces had taken up their position, with a staggered two deep front. It was an awe-inspiring sight, which Sheehan could not afford to overawe him. He moved his Omnimech to the front of the line and activated his external speakers.

“I am Khan Sheehan of the Dark Falcons, you have received our ultimatum. What is your response?”

A Mad Cat stepped to meet him, Khan Zalman’s voice boomed forth.

“There is no Dark Falcon Clan. We will deal with your imposters, just as we would any Falcon. Death will be your only reward.”

“So, that’s a no, then?” asked Sheehan as he checked the readiness of his people.

Static erupted in his headset and faintly he heard Diana’s voice, “Repeat, please,” he said calmly.

“We are…attack. Multiple Mechs…ground forces…ComStar…”

“Hold your positions, we are on our way,” Sheehan replied, then reactivated his speakers.

“I do not have time to play with you,” he snarled at the Steel Viper Khan, “you are in my way. Our forces are under attack by ComStar and the quickest route to their aid is through you. We, as of yet, have no direct quarrel with you, but that can be quickly remedied.

“You may leave with the honour you showed in your battle against our enemies, the Jade Falcons. Or you can choose a quick death. Make up your mind.”

Perigard Zalman was confused. There was no fear in this Spheroid’s voice, only determination. His Clan’s belief had always been different to that of the others. They propounded cooperation with the Inner Sphere, after conquest, but co-operation none the less. If he could trust this upstart perhaps he could win his battle against the Jade Falcons here on this world. No weakness could be shown though.

“What do you offer?” he asked carefully, “A rede?”

“He wants your oath,” Mattlov’s voice whispered in his ear.

“Yes,” replied Sheehan, “stand aside and we will fight with you against the Jade Falcons and beyond, if you wish it. You may call on my aid.”

Zalman thought quickly and then moved his Mech aside, “Well bargained and done,” he said.

Mechs formed a menacing corridor through which Sheehan ran. He had taken his decision, oblivious of the consequences. Right now, he had to deal with ComStar.

A Steel Viper guard of honour watched the Dark Falcon Mechs thunder by, their Elementals following. Perigard Zalman could only watch in wonder as they looked neither right nor left. As they disappeared from view, he paused for a moment in thought, and then followed. Behind him strode the rest of his command, eager to see the battle unfold.

*

“This does not look good,” muttered Diana.

”Quiet!” snapped Walter, quelling any idle chatter, but even he was impressed by the first two Mech’s to begin the climb up the approach to the Cavern’s main entrance. First an Awesome and then an Atlas moved slowly forward, behind them came a stream of lighter Mechs.

“Diana,” Walter said clearly, “you will take your lance with you and guard our people’s withdrawal.”

“But…” she began, but his command whiplashed into her helmet.

“Now!”

She knew what he intended to do, or at least thought she did. He would sacrifice himself and his men to ensure her and the other’s survival, and it stung her pride. Her men waited for her, and then a vision of unarmoured civilians facing Mechs crossed her mind, and she savagely wrenched her machine round.

“Move!” she snarled, but was still the last to enter the tunnel leading into the mountains.

“You too, Jurgen,” said Walter calmly,” I have my two volunteers and the Guardians’ personnel. It is time.”

Jurgen looked down at the copy of Walter’s codex, which he held in his hand, and then followed Diana. There were no words to say, Walter intended to die as he lived, a warrior. Unnecessary emotions would only detract from his sacrifice. As Jurgen passed the main entrance, he activated the remote countdown on the charges placed there. Whatever happened, the ComStar Mechs were entering into as much of a trap, as that they thought they had laid for the Dark Falcons.

*

Walter in his borrowed Victor stood in front of Diana’s Centurion, and the Whitworth. His two companions would share his fate. Higher up the side of the entrance and hastily concealed were the three Guardians cobbled together by Elias. Their firepower would be devastating, but only within their short arc of fire. He needed to draw the ComStar forces into their range, and that meant damage.

If Khan Sheehan was to have any chance, Walter would have to bottle up his enemies, holding them here for as long as possible. Diana and Jurgen would also need time to spirit the rest of the Dark Falcon personnel away. How much was uncertain.

He wondered where his recent protégé, Jax, was. It was probably a good thing that the maniac was elsewhere. His tendencies for insane operations would not be in their best interests today. No, a calm head was required, not something the Lieutenant was known for.

*

“Multiple contacts,” Elias’ voice chimed helpfully, “and all making their way towards the Cavern.”

“Enemies, I take it?” asked Jax, although he knew the answer.

“Confirmed.”

The reply was icy, flat. Jax could feel desperation sneaking up on him. The numbers that he had been quoted made it obvious that the punitive nature of this mission was meant to send a message. Well, he thought to himself, we can also send a message.

“Communication from the Khan,” Elias interrupted his thoughts, “he will be with us shortly. He asks to be patched through to you directly.”

There was a momentary silence and then Jax heard Sheehan’s voice clearly.

“Lieutenant, I know it will be pointless asking you to wait for us. Therefore, I am giving you clear permission to take down as many of these frakkers as you can. You will use maximum force. You will destroy them and you will make them fear the Dark Falcon name. Are we clear?”

“Yes, My Khan,” responded Jax, sheepishly.

“Good. Keep them busy and leave some of them for us. Out.”

Jax grinned to himself, despite the dire nature of the circumstances. Just what he liked, orders with latitude.

“Falcons!”, he transmitted in a cold and deadly voice, “Time to do some damage.”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-23 06:27am
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Wow! This story gets better with every post. And every time I check the board (or so it seems), there's a new chapter! It's like Christmas time and time again!

Is there anyone in the Sphere that won't be pissed at the Dark Falcons by the end of this? Aside from the Vipers, at this point?

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-23 06:46am
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MondoMage wrote:
Wow! This story gets better with every post. And every time I check the board (or so it seems), there's a new chapter! It's like Christmas time and time again!

Is there anyone in the Sphere that won't be pissed at the Dark Falcons by the end of this? Aside from the Vipers, at this point?


Thanks - Glad you're enjoying it. The idea is to post this one chapter a day, if I can, as it's already finished. I will then do the same for Book II and as far as I am in Book III - life permitting :wink:

...and to answer your questions about pissing everyone off...you'll just have to keep reading :lol:

Cheers

Rayo



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-24 06:40am
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Chapter Twenty Two



“Fire!” screamed Walter, letting go every one of his missiles. He wanted to get the Heavy Mech’s attention and also do as much damage as he can. The staccato echo of his companion’ fire rolled across the rocky walls. They were firing downhill, at slow moving targets and in a compressed zone. Their volley fire was devastating.

Rock exploded outwards showering the slowly striding monsters, missile after missile hit, digging deep into myomer musculature and paring away armour. Some of the smaller Mechs behind the two giants staggered and fell, righting themselves in a sort of drunken stupor. Still, the Atlas and Awesome plodded on, though.

“Our turn,” said Walter to himself after beam and cannon streaked upwards. He felt his Victor shudder, and saw the Whitworth in his peripheral vision, as it seemed to shear in half from the vicious barrage. The Centurion still returned fire, but it was weak and ineffectual. His plan was not working, and Walter could think of only one way for it to be effective.

“You,” he transmitted to the Guardians’ pilots,” will not open fire until I tell you, or it becomes obvious to do so.”

“How will we know, Sir?”, the voice was familiar.

“Corporal James, is it not? Good to have you with me, “then Walter laughed, deep and joyous,” You will know, Corporal, believe me.”

At that Walter pushed his Victor forward, his reckless speed increasing with each bound down the pathway. All of his weapons were firing as he raced on, alarms began to blare, signalling overheating, but he kept on. He had spent too many hours as a Clan Tech not to know how to bypass the safeguards. In any case, he had a specific outcome in mind.

As the Victor sped downwards, it began lose armour rapidly, under the withering fire of the Atlas and Awesome. Walter did not stop. He aimed his machine directly between the two heavily armoured Mechs, drawing their undivided attention. Just as the left knee of his Victor sheared away, bowling his machine forward, he heard the warning he was waiting for. The Victor slid on, Walter holding one arm up and still firing, screaming his battle cry. Then it exploded in a ball of coruscating fire.

*

James had no doubt his moment had come. Walter had said he would know and the frakker had sent a big enough signal.

“Now!” he roared, and the Guardians’ camouflage fell away, revealing the three pared down Omnimech emplacements. As one they opened fire, their rage transmitted into action and in the inferno below, ComGuards died.




*

An incandescent ball of fire rose above the canyon walls and a scream of defiance echoed across the comm. circuit. It died off and Jax knew his mentor was dead. Unholy anger raged through him. It burnt with a cold flame which seemed to centre the Lieutenant. He spoke quietly on an open circuit to his men.

“There will be no bondsmen, no prisoners. I want these ComGuards to feel our darkness. We will strike swiftly and without mercy. A great man has given his life today and we...will...honour him!”

A roar assuaged his ears, it rose in crescendo, pounding in his temples and he realised that every Falcon was on that circuit, and one and all shared his feelings.

“Move!” he roared.

Elias paralleled the tank with his APC, the hover trucks behind. Jax led his armoured infantry high up the rocky walls, their jump jets screaming. The first Comstar Mech breasted the corner and was blown backwards. Armour piercing rounds and PPC fire punched it off its feet and did not let up until it was a smoking shell. The Gauss rifle carrying hover truck passed them and continued on its way. Its weapon was filled with Elias canisters. Two more light Mechs scurried into view and the rifle barked.

These were no ordinary canisters. Elias had re-invented chain shot and backed it up with the ballistic power of the magnetic rail gun. Canisters ballooned open after leaving the rifle’s muzzle, spinning out a scything shot, linked by chain. These feral charges whizzed towards their targets and smashed hip and knee joints. Not only did they dig deep into armour, but they tore myomer and destroyed musculature.

Mechwarriors could do amazing things with their machines, but blow after blow struck them, leaving stumps for limbs and gauging deep holes into their bodies. Laser fire followed, burrowing into structure and piercing gyros and heat sinks. They stood no chance.

Now high above his guns, Jax saw a group of four Mechs approaching and heard at the same time Sheehan’s confirmation of his arrival. The Lieutenant was, however, in no mood to leave this prey for others. With a Falcon’s cry, he swooped down, locking his power claw onto the back of his target. Beside him, his men mirrored his actions and then they struck.

*

Sheehan and his men arrived at full speed, the tank and APC grudgingly giving way to the fast approaching Omnimechs. Walter’s death had been heard by all. If these beasts of war could have transmitted emotion, they would have roared in anger, screamed in rage and bellowed their intentions. As it was, their message would have t be delivered in cannon and particle beam.

Rounding the next corner, Sheehan saw four Mechs in various stages of destruction. Clinging to them were Jax and his men. Explosive charges had ripped huge holes in chest, neck and back. Now the miniscule figures fired machine guns into cabins, tore at armour with their power claws and placed more charges before leaping away.

Dismissing any threat and not wanting to get between Jax and his revenge, Sheehan powered on. Up ahead would be the Medium and Heavy Mechs, more than enough for him to vent his frustration.

*

Jurgen had also heard his friend’s last moments and now he strode beside Diana and the rest of her lance. Gone was any thought of preserving the Falcons for the future. Behind them streamed the Techs, wounded warriors and plain citizens of Winfield. They had armed themselves with anything that they could find and with blood in their eyes poured towards the waiting ComGuards.

*

A serious mistake had been made by Comstar, they had thought in their arrogance that one simple attack would sweep away any resistance. They had also expected weakened and cowed Inner Sphere warriors, guerrilla fighters who had lived through starvation and were lacking in machinery and resources. What they were not expecting was the Dark Falcons.

Sheehan’s Mechs cut through the ComGuard line, like a hot knife through butter. Their Clan Tech was too much for the hoarded technology of a prideful organisation. Added to this was the sheer ferocity of the attack. Long range was forsaken, the Falcons wanted blood.

In a geostationary orbit above the planet, data streams were captured by an incredulous official. He hurried to prepare a transmission of what had been birthed on Winfield, but his amazement was to prove costly. Alarms clamoured for his attention as missiles struck his craft. Fighters duelled to protect the vessel, but armoured men broke through. Their own fighter screen was more than adequate to snuff out the Comstar resistance.

Elementals burnt away door seals and forced their way into the ship, gunning down anyone who had managed to react quickly enough. Space suits were not in great evidence and many of the Comstar personnel died as the atmosphere screamed away. Others were summarily executed by their Clan attackers, as the bridge and all communication equipment was secured.

A simple message was transmitted to the planet’s surface, confirming the boarding action’s success and the neutralisation of Comstar’s threat. That left the remaining ComGuards to their own devices and the ravening Falcons.

*

Sheehan twisted his Mech to the left and fired his autocannon. Chips of armour flew away beneath the fury of his attack. His opponent stepped back and tried to find some way to avoid the fury of his onslaught, but Sheehan was relentless. Otho and his Elementals had now arrived and were adding to the carnage. Inferno missiles streaked across the enclosed space, their gelatinous fuels sticking and burning through the resistant myomer. Where Mechs had been downed, they leaped astride the wounded machines, beams of red hot fire spearing into joints and picking away at any weak spot. It was carnage, pure and simple.

Fresh targets appeared on Sheehan’s screen and he let loose a volley of SRM’s. The missiles’ flat trajectory ad short distance of travel, meant that a miss was all but impossible. He heard screams of triumph being transmitted from all sides. Any pretence at radio silence was lost in the madness of the action.

The red mist of battle was dissipated suddenly by an urgent call from the wing of Visigoths circling overhead. Multiple contacts. Clan Mechs. Heading directly for the engagement.

“Jax, this is Sheehan.”

“Jax here.” The reply was clipped, resentful.

“Enough of the bloodletting,” Sheehan said, “We have company and I’ve no idea, whether it’s friend or foe. Get yourself out there and find out.”

The curt affirmative calmed Sheehan somewhat. Who was it? Had the Steel Vipers decided to take advantage of the situation, breaking their word in an attempt to destroy the Dark Falcons. Had saKhan Chistu found the guts to return? Jax would find out. Right now though they needed to finish with the ComGuards and he needed to bring some order back to his forces.

“Mattlov. Otho. We need to finish this up and regroup,” he transmitted on the command circuit, “Fun time is over. Get the men together, quickly.”

He received their confirmations, just as a Crab staggered into his view. Sheehan slashed its chest with his PPC and hammered it against the wall with his autocannon. There was at least time for one more.

*
Jax had followed Sheehan’s instructions, pushing the other four armoured members of his squad hard. They had quickly cut down the distance between themselves and the advancing forces and had reached a small wooded hill, where they waited for their potential enemies to appear. It was whilst Jax and his crew paused, that he heard the frightened radio chatter.

“They’re firing on innocent civilians!”

“All Mech’s will engage. Drive these frakkers away from our people.”

“Jade Falcon forces have flanked us...”

Diana’s voice had been clear and now he saw the first line of people racing across the valley below. They were still firing auto rifles, even throwing stones, whilst Diana’s Mechs fought bravely to give them respite. A flight of missiles crashed to earth, sending bodies flailing through the air.

“Lieutenant Jax,” Otho’s voice cut into his thoughts, “We are approaching your position. Do not, I repeat, do not engage. The Khan sent us ahead to help you, but we cannot take on the might of the Falcons without our Omnimechs. This is an order.”

“What are you going to do?” Elana asked quietly. She could not see Jax’s face through his helmet, but his armour seemed to tremble with ill-contained rage.

“My orders came direct from Khan Sheehan,” he spat, “he...gave me...latitude!”

His jets roared into life and flung him towards the dying people. Elana was the centre of attention as Jax’s men watched for her reaction. Otho’s voice came through again, this time in anger.

“What is the fool doing? I told him to wait. I will meet him...”

“Enough!” roared Elana, “he is doing what is right, and I for one am following. Do what you will when this is over, but before Jax you will face me.”

She cut off the transmission and activated her private circuit, “As the Lieutenant would say, “It is time for the Infantry to earn its pay”. Well, what are you waiting for?”

The roar of their jets sounded of approval and they sped madly after Jax. Otho reached the woodland with his Elementals just as they disappeared. He shook his head in exasperation, but he too felt the thrill of combat and the pull of his new Clan members. Disobedience could be dealt with after they had won.

“It seems,” he transmitted, “that the Lieutenant misunderstood my orders. He will no doubt need our help. Follow me.”

Hans’ rumbling laugh echoed in his headset. They all liked and respected the mad Lieutenant. Now they would see who would be willing to die for him.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-24 09:38pm
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And the shit hit the fan.

Nice to see a Crab in there... I had the most fun painting one of those way back when :)



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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-25 11:39am
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Chapter Twenty Three


Something had snapped in Jax when he had seen the cold fury of the Jade Falcon warriors. The cruelty and disdain displayed had boiled away any inhibition or thought of self-preservation. Tortured screams of dying men and women echoed in his mind and all he wanted was to kill. His suit would give him little protection against the armoured might of the Omnimechs, but he just did not care.

Leaping across the sparsely grassed valley, he singled out a Mad Cat, whose pilot was calmly gunning down the fleeing Falcon personnel. Like a self-propelled missile he shot across the intervening space and crashed against one of the machine’s legs. With enough velocity to stagger the upraised leg, he ricocheted sideways and planting his feet bounced upwards, his jets holding him upright. Slowly he raised his armoured body and held himself directly in front of the Mech’s cabin.

A screamed warning sounded in his headset, as Elana tried to warn him of the Summoner which approached from behind. Jax held his position.

The Mad Cat’s arms swung in parallel to its body and he saw the twin muzzles gaping wide before him. Just as the pilot began to fire, Jax cut his jets and plummeted earthwards. Fire blossomed above his head, as the Jade Falcon warrior let loose everything he had. One slug punched into his suit, spinning Jax to one side, but the rest of the devastating volley continued onwards, spearing into the chest and cabin of the rapidly arriving Summoner.

He dropped like a stone, smashing into the earth and rolling to one side. Diana appeared, sending a volley of SRM’s into the astonished Mad Cat and Jurgen’s PPC added to the destruction.

Jax lay where he had fallen, bright lights sparkling before his eyes. Slowly he regained control of his battered suit, just in time to witness the arrival of Elana and the rest of his men. They formed a cordon around him, ineffectual but filling him with pride. The Summoner continued in towards them, smoke billowing from its weapons pods and Jax thought at last, he had met his match.

Missiles streaked in from the left, shattering the Summoners right arm joint, as it announced Otho and his Elementals appearance. More Jade Falcon Mechs appeared from amidst the carnage, concentrating their fire on the battle-suited figure below them.

A PPC burst struck Pershaw above the knees, slicing through his armour-coated figure. He tumbled forward, right under the raised leg of one of the Omnimechs which crunched down upon him. For a moment the Dark Falcon Elementals stuttered in their attack, then a renewed Jax opened fire. He was joined by his compatriots and one-by-one Elementals joined him. They marched in step, machine guns firing, missiles rocketing upwards and lasers melting armour. Volley fire of the oldest kind.

*

More Mechs appeared on the battlefield. This time though they stood in silent witness. Below them was being played out an epic encounter. One in which they need not take part.

Sheehan had heard the reports from his forces and had pushed his undamaged Mechs to their utmost. Otho’s fall had pierced him to the core and the watchful Vipers felt the brunt of his anger.

“Out of my way,” he grated, “as he approached their rear. His targeting icon was already locked on the Mech in front of him and he refused to reduce speed. In a wedge formation, the rest of his Mechs powered along behind him. The message was clear.

The Vipers’ ranks parted to allow Sheehan through, and Khan Perigard Zalman watched in awe the ferocity of the Dark Falcon leader and his troops. For a moment, he hesitated and then he gave the order to advance. Steel Vipers and Jade Falcons had ever been enemies, but the warrior’s heart within the Steel Viper Khan sang with joy at the courage and pride of his new allies. This was how he would like to be remembered. Warriors who fell today would have their Codex venerated by their peers and would be remembered for generations to come.

*

SaKhan Chistu saw his men stall in their attack, saw his Falcon Guards beaten back by men and women, machines and sheer raw courage. He received information on the arrival of the Steel Vipers and screamed in frustration.

Dropships came at his call, hovering over the field and pouring down their own fire on the defenceless hordes below. A wing of fighters arrowed towards them, pounding away at their giant cousins and Steel Viper Mechs sent volley after volley of missiles into their vulnerable bellies.

The saKhan called for his troops to withdraw and one after another, those Mechs that could forced their way clear of the melee. Very few made it to the ships, which had to move further away in order to land and pick up the Jade Falcon Omnimechs. First Khan Critchell and now he had tasted the bile of defeat on this world. He though, would bombard the remaining forces into dust before he left this planet. Nothing would remain of the Dark Falcons and the crushing dishonour received today.

*

Three men stood, surveying the ground before them. At their feet was the crushed remains of a Bloodnamed hero, Otho Pershaw. All around them hung the miasma of battle. Ionised air still clung to the field, burning wrecks and melted flesh added to the unholy stench. A busy to and fro of men, searched for survivors or useful parts. This scavenging was important for the future of the Dark Falcons.

“This is my fault,” stated Jax, turning to speak with his Khan, “he told me to wait and I let my anger get the better of me.”

“No,” Sheehan said, “you held them up, allowing the rest of us a chance and no doubt saving many of our people from the Jade Falcon’s wanton destruction. I have spoken with Hans, and he confirms that Otho was in agreement with your actions, even though his pride would have had him face you i a Circle of Equals, had he survived.”

Perigard Zalman laughed, “That is ever our way. We have learnt something important here today, yet I wonder whether those who did not see your Falcons in action will ever believe me.”

“I have learnt much too, “agreed Sheehan, “one man’s determination swung this battle and hi refusal to follow rules. Although, “and here, he too laughed, “I did give him...latitude.”

“That honour should go to men like Otho,” insisted Jax, “not...”

“Enough self-pity, I think,” interrupted Sheehan, “your punishment, if you wish to see it that way, will be to meld the Elementals and your Mobile Infantry under your command. I want you to build me something new, unexpected by our enemies. Take Elias and David with you, even though they have already seemed to have adopted your unit. Those two have shown themselves unusually inventive.”

Jax snapped a salute and walked back to the waiting Elana. There would be plenty of work for both of them to do, that was if the Jade Falcons gave them the luxury of time.

“You have some good people,” said Zalman to Sheehan, “very close to the ideals I would instil in my own warriors. If you would let me, I would like to leave some of my warriors here with you. It can be seen as a demonstration of our alliance and the trust between us.”

“Your people are welcome and I thank you for the honour. Perhaps, you may also have an ulterior motive?”

“That,” chuckled Zalman, “may be true. Depending upon our reception by the IlKhan, we may need a refuge and allies. It would not harm us to have such a refuge here on Winfield, nor the support of such strong allies.”

“I’m not sure,” said Sheehan, gazing out across the scene in front of him, “about strong allies. It will take time, which I am not sure we will have, to rebuild our world. Not only is there the immediate threat of what the Jade Falcons will do, but we have dealt ComStar a mighty blow here. Then there is the invasion and of course our standing within the Federated Commenwealth itself.”

Khan Zalman placed his hand on Sheehan’s shoulder, “One thing at a time my new friend. Let me worry about the Jade Falcons.”


*

Sheehan looked at the row of armoured figures in front of him. Their ceramite bodies had been blackened to mirror that of Jax’s command, the Dark Falcon emblem black on green on their left shoulder guards. Not one Elemental was left, all stood here with their impulsive leader one step ahead. His faceplate was up, his impassioned face waiting for his Khan’s word. Perigard Zalman was there too, wondering what this mad Lieutenant wanted now.

“So,” said Sheehan calmly, “to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“My Khan,” Jax said, dropping to one knee with a crash, “you asked me to lead these men and women and I am here to ask you to let me do just that. There are Jade Falcons above us, intent on our destruction and Khan Zalman has a plan to stop them. It is only right that we, the Dark Falcons, strike this final blow.

“Give us your blessing. Let us carry this fight to our enemies. Let them quake and tremble at our passing. We will crush them and repay them for every slight they have visited upon our people. What say you, my Khan?”

The Khan of the Dark Falcons paced forward and placed one hand on the kneeling man’s shoulder, “Go with our new friends and let the saKhan of the Jade Falcons learn once and for all the error of his ways.”

Jax rose, and with a curt nod, led his new company towards the waiting Steel Viper drop ship. There was a pride and purpose in their step. Sheehan felt awe at the change in these men, his men.

“Chistu will be sorry he ever saw this world,” stated Zalman, as he approached, “your people have been hardened in the fire of battle. They are a drawn sword, ready to strike.”

“Tempered in a hot fire,” agreed Sheehan, “they will not bend, break, nor shatter. Look after them. I want them back in one piece.”

Zalman laughed, “I think they will be looking after me, my friend. We will see you soon.”

Without waiting for the vessel to roar skywards, Sheehan called for Mattlov. Whatever happened now, they would need to prepare. The Cavern was still the best place for his people to shelter in and he needed to get his Mech’s moving. There was much work to do.

*

saKhan Chistu strode onto the command deck in a fury. Their flight had been rushed, dishonourable and it smarted.

“Have you calculated the necessary co-ordinates? Do we have a targeting trajectory?” he roared, quailing even the normally proud Clansmen around him.

“Then why,” he shouted, “have we not fired?”

“We cannot,” came the quiet reply, “the Vipers’ ship has interposed itself between the planet and ourselves.”

“What of the ComStar vessel?” Chistu’s question was sharp and demanding.

“Even now, it manoeuvres to come to our aid, as you ordered,” said the officer, “although we have had no confirmation, as of yet, directly from the vessel.”

“What?” screamed Chistu, “You fool...!”

*

“We are not heading directly for your ship?” asked Jax as the Viper’s dropship changed course.

“No,” said Khan Zalman, “we will take the shortest route possible to our objective. The Jade Falcons are about to have a rather unwelcome surprise and will be far too busy to worry about us.”

“Direct action,” grinned Jax, “just how I like it.”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-27 04:06pm
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Chapter Twenty Four



A thin screen of fighters flew ahead of the ComStar vessel. They appeared no threat to the two wings of Jade Falcon Visigoths which sped swiftly to meet them. Most of the fighter pilots thought that their saKhan had become cautious after their reversal on Winfield. Too cautious. It was well known within the Clans that those from Comstar were extremely political, avaricious in their insidious domination of the conquered peoples and of little threat. Those ideas were still being ridiculed, when the fighters opened fire.

*

“saKhan, we have detected the signatures of two new vessels,” the information was given dispassionately and was the more disconcerting because of it.

“Can you identify them?” asked Chistu quickly.

“One is known, it is the Khan’s ship.”

“And the other?”

“Inner Sphere design, Federated Commenwealth recognition codes.”

“Hail the Khan,” snapped Chistu, “I need to speak with him urgently.”

Elias Critchell’s face appeared on the screen in front of him. There was a mixture of anger and disdain displayed there.

“Do not speak,” he ordered his saKhan, “you have placed yourself in a very delicate situation. I would normally leave you to your own devices, but we are needed elsewhere. It seems that even ComStar have turned against you and threaten to defeat you and your men.”

“They are not ComStar!” snarled Chistu. “The Steel Vipers have made a play for this world and have allied themselves with the so-called Dark Falcons. Their treacherous ways have ever been less than subtle, but this time they have gone too far. We can take this information to the Ilkhan and show them as the dishonourable surats that they are.”

“Fool!” spat Critchell, “This can never be known. We will become the laughing stock of the Clans and our part in the invasion will be over. Zalman knows that if he fails here, there will be nothing to gain in front of the rest of the Clans. He wishes your death and mine if possible. If he can weaken us sufficiently, he can push to take our place.”

“And the Freebirth scum that have followed you?”

Critchell laughed, “Two of us can play at the game of deception. It is filled with our men. We took it recently. Listen carefully, this is what I want you to do...”

*

Jax and his men were ready. Their darkened armour made them as shadows and they waited quietly for the order to attack. The command structure of his unit had been little affected; the Elementals were used to Elana in her old role and easily accepted her position as second-in-command. They had been split into two groups, with Jax in command of the first, which included Hans and Greta. Elana would lead the other.

The plan was simple. Direct. It would be a twin-pronged boarding party, striking at separate entry points. They would then converge on the bridge, killing and sowing mayhem as they went. Once control had been established, the dropship would dock and the rest of the Steel Vipers would join them.

Zalman’s voice indicated the first sign of trouble, “There has been a change of plan.”

“What is it?” asked Jax over his private circuit.

“Khan Critchell has reappeared and in the company of an Inner Sphere warship.”

“That isn’t possible,” replied Jax impatiently.

“I can assure you that it is, my friend,” said Zalman, “I think that Critchell intends to beat us at our own game.”

“So three-against-two. Not bad odds...” mused Jax.

“I like your style,” said Zalman,” and I think that you will like my plan.”

“Which is...?”

“We will take the bait and attack the two Jade Falcon ships, pretending to discount the threat of the Inner Sphere vessel.”

“And then...” questioned Jax.

“Why the Dark Falcons will take themselves a jumpship...with a little help from their friends, of course.”

*

A surprise waited for Jax outside the skin of the dropship. Five Visigoths hung in space, stripped of their missile pods and with strange fastenings fixed below their wings. It seemed as though Elias had been busy again. He had wondered how they would approach their target and it appeared here was the solution.

One by one his men jetted across to the fighters, their power claws locking into place on one metallic support, with their feet hooking into others. They sat less than comfortably in the makeshift harnesses and Jax keyed his transmitter.

“Now what?” he queried of his personal Tech.

“You will be carried close to the ship and released,” said Elias, “The Visigoths will then provide you with a diversion. Hopefully, the defenders of the jump ship will be far too busy with them and the oncoming dropship, to be too concerned about a few spurious blips on their radar. Then, it will be up to you.”

Just as Jax was about to reply, the fighters ignited their engines and began to pick up speed. He had the feeling that he and his men had suddenly become converted into mass projectiles. At least, that would be what they would become if this plan went awry.

*

“What is it?” asked Critchell as an aide rushed to his side.

“It seems as though our ruse has been discovered, my Khan,” reported the aide breathlessly, “A dropship and a wing of fighters are approaching the Inner Sphere ship from the planet.”

“That,” replied Critchell, “should be of little concern to us. One dropship will provide little danger to the defences of the vessel, even if it is of Freebirth design. No, the real battle will take place between ourselves and the treacherous Steel Vipers. Order our gunners to stand ready and get me the saKhan.”

*

There was no way that the ride could be called smooth. The fighter pilots struggled with their pendulous charges. Holding the craft in any semblance of a formation caused them to fly at a reduced speed. With a sigh of relief they reached the agreed drop-off point, and their fighters suddenly became responsive again. Now the fun could start.

Jax and his men had to use their jets to slow down their approach velocity and hold themselves in some kind of order. Their first priority was to reach the ship in one piece, once there they could continue with their boarding plan. Blossoming fire around the disguised FedCom vessel indicated that the Visigoths had begun their attack and Jax now ordered his men into action.

Jets flared and they began to slow, although they were still travelling too fast. Even their power armour could be damaged by too great an impact, but he was waiting for the last moment. Twenty ceramite projectiles hurtled through the storm of anti-missile defences. The lack of heat signature aided them greatly, although the buffeting fire skewed his tightly grouped men.

“Now!” he shouted, kicking his jump jets on full. All around him flames burst free as his men tried to arrest their progress. Still the impact when it came was heavy. Jax scrabbled with his power claw for some kind of purchase, as his body bounced off the ship’s hull. A scene which was repeated all around him. If they missed a hold here, they would continue on into space, lost both to the mission and to him.

His grasping hand found a grip and with a screech of tortured metal he finally came to a halt. He could see three other of his unit close by, but the rest were missing.

“Report!” he hissed fiercely into his command circuit.

Miraculously, they had all made it. There were few complaints of injuries and those so injured complained little. Perhaps it was their staunch nature, although Jax tended to belief that their suit’s reactive cocktail of drugs was the more likely reason.

Gradually and painstakingly, they converged on his position. He had managed to fasten on to a part of the ship’s communication array, which was now bent and twisted. A bonus.

“Elana?”

“Here.” She replied succinctly.

“The plan has not altered,” said Jax, “our only problem is that we don’t know exactly where we are. Entry is our first priority. Once inside we revert to our original objective.”

“Mayhem and death?” she asked, laughter tinging her words.

“Always,” agreed Jax, “and a little ship to call our own.”

*

“Multiple strikes have been reported on the FedCom ship’s hull,” the aide quietly informed the Khan, “but there have been no hull breaches.”

“And the fighters?”

“Driven off, My Khan.” The aide replied smugly.

“Good. Communicate to them that they will form up on us. We are going to take the fight directly to the Steel Vipers.”

Critchell smiled evilly. First he would deal with Perigard Zalman and then he would bombard the planet into dust. It was all coming together nicely.


*

The explosive charges blew the hatch and its supports away, sending them spinning outwards. There was little flame externally, but Jax knew that below their arrival had literally, been announced with a bang. Already the second set of charges had been laid on the inner door and once the all-clear had been given, they too were efficiently ignited.

They had chosen a small cargo port as their first point of entrance, it would not do to be boxed in as they fought their way past the twisted metal.

“Hans, Greta,” called Jax, “clear the way!”

Lieutenant Jax had little worry that the defenders would have been able to mount an effective defence just yet, but doors would be sealing the still air-tight areas off from them. This had to be a swift and deadly action and the two Elementals had already proven their worth on Winfield.

Below him came the dull thump of more explosions and he grinned at how quickly his men had learned from him. He called Elana over.

“I will head for the Bridge. Get your people moving towards the docking bays. We need our reinforcements here, as quickly as we can.”

She grunted in agreement and then led her men into the hull, Jax following behind her with the rest of her party. Hans and Greta had already cleared the main passage and had advance to the end of the adjoining corridor. Elana and her party swung left and Jax called his people together. This was going to get bloody.

*

“They are in,” Elias said calmly to the Steel Viper Khan. There was no deference to his rank and Zalman felt a little bit put out at the familiarity. He was also unsure of the rank of this ex-Clan Tech, within the Dark Falcons.

“What do they wish us to do?” he asked carefully.

“The Lieutenant said that we should make our way over. It appears that the natives are a little bit restless, but he says that he will have them sorted out in a moment.”

“Sorry?” Zalman’s sense of humour was as stunted as he was tall.

Elias looked up at him, took a deep breath and continued, “Lieutenant Jax would be pleased if you could join him as soon as possible. He will have cleared the docking area shortly.”

“Why did you not say that at first?” grumbled Zalman.

Elias just grinned. What a huge difference there was in being a Dark Falcon.

*

Elana gasped as she saw the array of Omnimechs lined up in the Mech Bay. She had taken a short cut, intent on reaching her objective as soon as she could. Now, she could see how far Critchell’s plan could have been taken. Unsuspecting world’s would have welcomed this ship and then faced the nasty surprise held within it. Never mind, she thought, I am sure that the Khan will find some use for it.

Machine gun fire rattled off her armour, as a contingent of Jade Falcon Elementals leapt to face them. They avoided the huge war machines towering above them, desperate to minimise any collateral damage. That, though, was not a priority for Elana and she ordered two of her men to target them with their missiles. The projectiles whizzed across the open space, knocking a group of Elementals to their feet and sending boxes of spare parts careening all around.

Eyes narrowed, Elana took careful aim with her machine gun. Larger replacement parts for the Mechs were suspended from chains or lashed sturdily to the deck. She sprayed bullets liberally around, causing the enemy Elementals to seek cover and then ordered a concentrated hail of fire.

Missiles, laser beams and machine gun did their work effectively, shearing links and cords and sending a rain of heavy metal crashing down on the crouching soldiers.

“Finish them,” she said as she stood, “we do not have much time.”

*

Slugs ricocheted off the metal wall, causing Jax to reflexively pull his head back around the corner.

“We’re wasting time,” he muttered to himself.

“Allow me,” said Hans, pushing past him and sending a missile screaming down the corridor, “the Khan taught me,” he shrugged and ambled after the projectile.

The rough barricade in front of him split apart under the force of the explosion, sending men and body parts flying. More men rushed from cover, rifles blazing, but they were no match for the armoured figures.

“Where are their Elementals?” boomed Greta, as the last of them fell.

“I think someone is getting just a little over-confident,” laughed Jax, “you would think that by now these Jade Falcons might have learnt some respect for us.”

Greta shugged, “They were expecting the Steel Vipers.”

“Well enough, now let’s take this bridge and teach them the errors of their ways.”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-28 04:28pm
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Chapter Twenty Five


Four ships raced towards each other. Two Clans intent on destruction and with no thought of mercy. A fifth ship began to pick up speed. Inside its hull were the victorious Dark Falcons and successfully docked to it was a Steel Viper dropship. In the larger scheme of the Clan Invasion this encounter would decide little, however in the lives and futures of the inhabitants of Winfield, it was all-important.

On the planet below, Khan Sheehan of the Dark Falcons had received the confirmation of the success of his men. With the aid of Mattlov, even now he was preparing his men and machines for whatever the outcome of the battle being played out above their heads. Faith he had, yet still he prepared for the worst.

Circling the planet were no detectors which could announce to the forces below either the victors of the battle or what was hidden with the folds of space. No space station sat in orbit and so all were oblivious to the tell-tale neutrino emissions. Opposing fleets were converging on Winfield. None had announced their coming, nor their intent. Oblivious to the impending conflict, fighters spat forth missiles. PPC and rail-guns fired, men died in the awful vacuum of space and on his new warship, Jax schemed.

*

The Cavern was once again a hive of activity. It was packed with people and machinery. There was not sufficient room to warehouse all the Mechs now in service with the Dark Falcons, so that Sheehan had ordered a rotation of Stars. Those whose Omnimechs were the most damaged were dealt with first, the rest waiting their turn whilst they patrolled the surrounding area. Other teams worked on salvaging parts and machines where possible, from the battlefield. A constant stream of supplies were being ferried into the underground habitation.

Even though it had never been there intention to spare any of the Jade Falcons, survivors had been found and pressed into service. They were more than ready to defend their new Clan. It was unusual for defeated warriors to immediately be given back their Mechs and accepted as brothers. The most staunch Crusader found it difficult not to be impressed by their new Khan. His prowess on the battlefield had been clearly demonstrated and here they would have the right to fight and win their names in a new and growing Clan.

Steel Vipers, who had been left behind, had been initially unconvinced, but they too had quickly adapted to their new positions. Mattlov now ran a mixed unit of veteran Dark Falcons, recently incorporated Isorla and Steel Vipers. Sheehan had insisted that he would lead his own unit, but that those who had fought and won the right of being Dark Falcons would make up his force. This in itself bred a healthy competition and gave his new warriors a goal. Who would not want to fight alongside their Khan?

And in himself, Sheehan could not shake the feeling that all would soon be tested. Recent experience had shown him that peace and tranquillity were hard to come by. So, he drove his men and himself the hardest of all and it was almost with relief he heard the information of multiple ships approaching Winfield. Let them come, the Dark Falcons were ready.

*

“The ship is secure,” reported Hans, “and our new Brethren have been suitably reminded of their new place, within the scheme of things.”

Jax acknowledged the information and stared greedily at the approaching melee of ships. All around them was a maelstrom of fire, whirling fighters and ravening beams. Everything seemed as though in slow motion, the larger warships rolling on their axes as they tried for better firing positions.

“Lieutenant,” Elias broke into Jax’s thoughts in a state of excitement.

“What is it, Elias?” asked Jax calmly.

“Things have just got a lot more confusing,” he stated, swinging away from his screen.

“Explain,” a nervousness gripped the bridge, as in answer Elias pointed to the display before him.

“One, no three, no...” and here he gasped, “multiple jumpship signatures.”

“What does this mean?” snarled Jax, aiming his question at the Steel Viper Khan.

“I do not know,” replied Zalman, “they are not my vessels.”

A voice boomed through the speakers, causing all to stop and listen.

“This is Federated Commenwealth space. Identify yourselves immediately or be destroyed...”

The Lieutenant rushed across to Elias’ side, so that he could see for himself the recognition signals and cursed.

“Not just Fedcom,” he hissed, “it appears that ComStar have come to play their own part in this little escapade. Get a transmission through to Khan Sheehan right now. In no way do I think that this is good news.”

Again Elias spoke, “The Jade Falcon vessels are disengaging and making all speed away from us. It appears that they do not wish to be caught in a FedCom trap.”

“And what of you, Khan Zalman, what will you do?” asked Jax of the Steel Viper by his side.

“I would stay, but cannot,” he replied with a shake of his head, “there is too much at stake for me within the politics of the Clan. My men below on the planet will fight for you and yours, the rest of us must return to protect the interests of the Steel Vipers.”

“Then go!” snarled Jax, “take your dropship and get out of here whilst you can.”

Then he turned to Hans, dismissing the Steel Viper Khan, “Get us close to the planet. Tell those Jade Falcons we captured that they are now Dark Falcons truly, their lives depend on it.”

“Are you still here?” he snapped at Zalman, who had yet to move.

“We are allies, my men will remain under your command. I will take the minimum necessary to get me to my ship. Use them well, my friend.”

Jax’s grimace of disgust slackened and he smiled at the Khan, “We thank you. If you would order your Mech warriors to the Mech bay, we still, I feel, have some work to do.”

*

On Winfield, Sheehan heard the re-transmitted message and thought a while, before replying. He had received information from Elias as to the mixed nature of the combined fleet and as under no illusion as to the threat that ComStar posed. However, they had not fought against impossible odds only to have the supercilious politicians of ComStar strip them of their hard won spoils.

Taking a deep breath, he nodded for the comm. Technician to open a channel. He had asked that he be broadcast on an open circuit so that not only the intended recipient, but all of the Dark Falcons would hear him.

“This is Khan Sheehan of the Dark Falcons. Once this was Federated Commenwealth property, but we of Winfield have fought and retaken our world. We will never again bow to another master. ComStar have already tried, through their alliance with the Clans to punish our actions. They will not be given another chance.

“We thank you for your aid in driving off the Jade Falcon Clan, a task, which though, we had well in hand. If you attempt to land on our planet, in the company of ComStar troops, we must treat this as a Declaration of War. You will be dealt with accordingly. You have a few moments to give me your answer.”

A silence hung in the Cavern then the first shout arose, joined quickly by others. It became a swelling roar, an amalgam of voices young and old, screaming out their defiance.

*

Jax too heard his Khan’s message as did the Steel Viper Khan by his side. All of the bridge crew seemed suffused with a new and burning pride.

“I have changed my mind,” said Zalman, a pensive look on his face, “there is something about your Khan, which makes me wish to stay and fight alongside him.”

“Yeah,” laughed Jax, “he does seem to have that effect on people.”

“I cannot jeopardise my Clan, yet I could not leave my new allies to fight alone. Therefore I must compromise.”

“What do you have in mind?” asked Jax, curious as to how far the Steel Viper Khan would go.

“I will, as I said, return to my ship, but the majority of men and equipment on the ComStar vessel we took will also join your Khan on Winfield. We have no use for their technology, so I would also give you this vessel too, however, it would not seem to be of much use.”

“No...” mused Jax, “but it does give me an idea. I will take the ComStar vessel off your hands, but just not yet. Listen very carefully...”

*

There were two entirely separate forces which manoeuvred around the Winfield system, yet in a strange way they were very similar. One consisted of an increasingly uneasy alliance between the Federated Commenwealth forces and those of ComStar, the other the newly formed brotherhood of battle.

ComStar in itself was coy and silent; its machinations within the emerging Clan-Inner Sphere conflict, had come close to being discovered. The Primus had been clear, their role must be a secondary one. It would not do for the rest of the Inner Sphere to know of the jealously guarded Tech, stored for ComStar’s use. This was all well and good and the upstart Khan’s message had been a boon, in that respect. They would be able to sit this fight out, yet the FedCom commander had refused to be dictated to.

Even now he was organising a strike against the captured fleet craft. Fighters had been prepared and were launching from their bays. Smaller destroyers which had been carried on the main jumpships were being deployed and dropships were on course for the planet itself. Communication silence had been ordered and Comstar resources forced to take part. The one thing, which he could not share with his opposite number, was the quality of the weaponry facing them. To do so, would be to admit greater knowledge than was realistically possible. Well, he thought to himself, as the Primus always says, collateral damage is acceptable to achieve our ultimate goal.

*

“What is the report from Jax?” asked Sheehan of Mattlov.

“It appears that your ex-comrades have taken umbrage at your comments. They have launched a full-scale assault. I fear little for our Steel Viper friends, as their Warship could deal with any direct threat.”

“And what of our people?” asked the Khan worriedly.

“They are warriors,” replied Mattlov seriously, and then with a slight smile, “who have a certain advantage.”

“Please, explain,” aked Sheehan in a puzzled voice.

“Our enemies do not know who is in charge up there...”

“Ah, yes, Jax,” and now Sheehan laughed, “you could almost feel sorry for them. Well, almost...”

*

With a limited knowledge of Clan capabilities, but the guiding counsel of Comstar, ships were sent en-masse towards Winfield. In their way stood the Steel Viper Warship, whose bulk struck fear into their opponents. It was a reminder of how much they had lost. Nearby Twenty Omnifighters flew close in, waiting their prey and specific orders. The ComStar prize was smaller but had been a treasure trove of unexpected finds. This vessel was crewed by a small force of Steel Vipers, the old ComStar personnel either dead or prisoners. No-one trusted them.

Dropships had detached from this and Jax’s vessel ferrying men and machines down to the planet. He was determined not to lose either the Jade Falcon technology nor the recently inducted Dark Falcons. Messages had been transmitted to the surface in preparation for their arrival. In this case, the main battle would be fought on the ground, yet there was another skirmish to be dealt with first.

Elana had at first refused to leave Jax, but he had insisted. Someone needed to co-ordinate the infantry on the ground and he still had a little job to do. Hans and Greta remained with him, citing their expertise in protecting the Khan. Her face of thunder boded ill for anyone getting in her way, right now. The truth was that volunteers were not needed, al would have stayed. Instead of asking, he had merely chose the people he would need. Neither Dropship was to return, two shuttles stood ready, as did the now vacant escape pods.

Perigard Zalman had already been transferred to his warship and so the stage was set. It was really only a question of who was going to fire first.

*

“Is everything completed, as requested?” asked Jax of Hans.

“Yes, Lieutenant,” replied the big man, “and the laden shuttles are even now on their way planet side.”

“Good. Elias,” he said to the man now manning the communications equipment, “send the agreed message to the Khan.”

“Which one?” asked the tech cheekily.

“Both,” said Jax, “and make it good.”

*

Sheehan watched the Dropships as they approached and disgorged their cargo. He had heard what the Dark Falcon Infantry has achieved but he had still been sceptical. Now though, he saw the Omnimechs as they strode down the ramps, their Jade Falcon colours still apparent as they were marshalled into the various units. Steel Vipers also stalked proudly clear of their mother ships, there were now enough of them to require an independent command and Khan Zalman had provided them with the officer. Knowing e man, there would no doubt be a hidden meaning o all of this. Well, thought Sheehan, I will just have to wait and see. For now, they would be welcomed with open arms, as would any of their new enemies who happened to get past Jax and the other vessels.

*

“It seems as though we are to be ignored,” said Elias, as the FedCom fighters streaked towards the Clan Warship.

“Now that,” muttered Jax, “just won’t do. We’ll have to remind them we are here. Fire!”

Missiles screamed out from the stationary vessel, autocannon and rail guns roared, as the ship began to move. It was headed directly for the advancing fleet.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-02-28 10:36pm
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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-03-01 03:04pm
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One more Chapter and the Epilogue to follow...

Chapter Twenty Six



Twenty Omnifighters lit their engines at the same time as Jax drove his vessel forward. They smashed their way through the front ranks of Stingrays, as if they were not there. Metal was shed like an old snake skin, paring away under the onslaught of uranium-tipped shells. PPC bursts melted and crumpled structures leaving bodies spinning uselessly in their wake. Without stopping, they bored on, joining the five Dark Falcon craft shadowing Jax’s attack.

The Steel Viper cruiser too began to move, picking up speed as it followed. Its purpose was not to join the headlong rush against its enemies, rather to reduce the numbers of troops which would eventually reach Winfield’s surface. Coldly, Zalman stalked his Bridge, greedily taking in the myriad of information. He laughed once and then gave the order to fire.

Broadsides had been unknown for centuries and yet the Viper’s cruiser was well-constructed to deliver them. Majestically it floated along the broad front spewing forth missiles and autocannon rounds. Like an old-time cannonade, its raw power tore into the oncoming ships. Armour flashed into incandescence as laser batteries added their fire.

Traffic was not one way though, FedCom fighters did get through and their own weaponry began to take its toll. Yet still, the withering fire continued. The captured ComStar craft now added its own voice to its sistership’s.

Dropships were unable to withstand the wave of destruction in front of them and swung away, their trajectories now set at an oblique angle. Some though were not fast enough. New suns were born as fusion drives were hit, creating instant balls of plasma which consumed all before them. Then his initial job complete, Zalman set course for the reticent ComStar ships. He had one more task to complete.

*

Jax heard the heavy tramp of feet as a body of troops entered the Bridge.

“So, Elana,” he said without turning from his study of the ship disposition in front of him, “which part of my order did you not understand?”

There was a sharp intake of breath and the ex-Elemental spoke, “How did you know?”

“Call it intuition. Which personnel actually left in the Dropship?”

“All of the Steel Vipers.” She replied.

“And the rest?”

“Enough Mechwarriors to operate those machines left here. The rest of the Dark Falcons remained.” She waited for an explosion of anger, but Jax merely laughed and shook his head.

“This idiocy seems to be catching,” he muttered, and then, “very well, tell them to man their stations. It seems as though there has been a change of plan.”

*

The unprecedented attack seemed to have caused consternation in the ComStar fleet. Instead of being overawed by the strength of vessel numbers, the Steel Viper Warship swam boldly on. It was like a vast and vicious shark, which had smelt spilt blood and now had given in to a feeding frenzy. Without its fighter cover, it should have turned tail and fled, but instead it ripped and gouged.

Batteries of missiles targeted slower vessels. They brushed aside anti-missile systems, fastening onto the smaller craft tenaciously. Particle beams lit up the blackness of space with their actinic brilliance, as they hammered home. Khan Zalman was doing even more than had been expected and the ComStar fleet scattered before him.

Those Dropships which had escaped his ire were approaching Winfield’s atmosphere, but any thought that they had avoided the worst of the mauling would soon be corrected.

All around the straggling FedCom vessels, Visigoths twisted and turned. Their mission was to give Jax his chance, but even this thought had been lost in the midst of battle. Now they were infected with the madness of adrenalin-induced belief and they savaged their slower prey.

Aerofighters which had been intended to provide air support were recalled. A protective cordon was formed around their jumpships by the destroyers and corvettes, as though they had finally discerned the real targets.

Desperate messages were sent, threatening, cajoling and eventually rage-filled, but with little effect.

On his Bridge, Jax took the holo message from the FedCom commander, whose sneering face was now perplexed and red with the flush of blood. It was a well-known face, at last to Jax. One he had seen before, which always seemed to haunt him. He had come to Winfield to change his ife and the Clan invasion had done that brutally. Now he was stronger, a man with an unshakable belief and purpose. No longer the little boy, terrorised and cowed.

With a grim smile on his face, he snapped the transmission switch and watched the blood drain from the commander’s face.

*

“Hello, Cousin,” said Jax, the older man still gasped, as though struggling for air, “how is the family?”

“You...” he stuttered.

“Bastard? By-blow? You were always so good with words before.” Jax was enjoying himself. All of the thinly-veiled slights against him and his mother seemed to pale into insignificance now. His cousin was on his way to meet Khan Sheehan and had left his fleet behind, vulnerable to the whim of... how had he put it? Oh, yes, a mistake of genetics.

“I just wanted you to realise what awaits you on Winfield and what you’ll be coming back to. As to the former, my Khan has prepared a warm welcome for you. For my part, I will make sure that you have no means of escape from your nightmare.”

“Traitor!” it was spat venomously from the twisted mouth, but Jax only laughed.

“No, Cousin,” sneered Jax, “that would be you and your Uncle. My mother died in sorrow and I came here to forget and rebuild my life. Drink was helping me to blur reality, but then the Jade Falcons gave me a rather rude wake-up call. Right now, I can see clearly what you and the rest of the Steiner family stand for. And, I am glad to no longer be a part of that.”

With a laugh, Jackson Milby-Steiner finally was dead to his family and Lieutenant Jax of the Dark Falcons ordered his men into battle.

*

Ryan Steiner was mortified. He had taken this assignment under protest. There was no belief in him of this tentative Federated Commenwealth and his sympathies were well known. It was only because of the promises of ComStar to support his cause, that he had been convinced. Also he had been given to believe that it would be an easy victory, one which would stand him in good stead with the Lyran Commenwealth. Now, though he was faced with an unwelcome part of the past.

Jackson’s mother, Anya, had pridefully announced to the world her affair with Richard Milby, whose parentage and lineage through Nondi Steiner was unquestionable. Ryan had taken her, and the boy, under his wing, when Richard and his family had disowned them. Another Steiner misfit who he potentially saw as a future ally.

Jackson had rebelled, especially over the cruel treatment meted out to his mother, who Ryan saw as a commoner. The boy had convinced her to flee, with sufficient funds to live on, and then they had disappeared. It seemed as though Jackson remembered, not only, his lineage but was willing to wreak some form of revenge.

Desperately Ryan tried to call the ComStar leader, but there was no reply. It seemed that the treachery spoken of by the so-called Khan Sheehan was well in hand. Data received indicated the desertion of eve their own people, who were en route to Winfield by his side.

Jackson’s sneering face still hovered before Ryan’s minds eyes and an ill-feeling of foreboding twisted and roiled in his guts.

*

“You are a Steiner?” Elana’s voice was full of disbelief.

“Was,” replied Jax, “that man is dead. Now there is only a Dark Falcon Lieutenant named Jax. I trust you will keep this information between us?”

“Of course,” she agreed, “who else knows?”

“Just that frightened man on the screen, and that’s the way I would like it to remain. Any name I have, I will win for myself.”

“Very Clan-like,” she laughed.

“And in those best of traditions,” continued Jax, “your unexpected presence means that we will need to change our plans...slightly.”

*

Each one of the resupplied Visigoths took up their stations in front of the Dark Falcon warship. They were set in a saw-tooth pattern, with the five Dark Falcon fighters above each inverse point. As though they were the bow wave of an old-time sea-going vessel they ploughed forwards. Missiles shot toward their targets in an overwhelming volley, brushing aside larger vessels with the strength of their impacts.

Stray armour and body parts bounced off them, where the coruscating fire of their medium lasers failed to volatilise the unwelcome parcels. Enemy fighters had swarmed, those that remained, around the Steel Viper warship and so their FedCom twins left them alone.

One cruiser seemed to tear apart before them, as missiles launched from the bigger vessel punched their way into its interior. Concussive explosions ripped through the craft, spewing their short-lived flames into the surrounding vacuum. In front of them were their real targets, the jump-capable vessels that Ryan Steiner had used to ferry himself and his troops to Winfield.

*

The shuttles which had allegedly been sent down to the planet’s surface were crammed full of power-armoured troops. It would be a more conventional attack this time, but these ships were thinly armoured and so the field of battle must be cleared before they could take part.

With a languid ease, the Dark Falcon warship swung level with the now unprotected jumpships. It must have seemed to the terrified crews on the first ship that they stared into the slavering maw of death. No gun ports crashed open, but a well-timed cannonade of missile, particle beam and high-velocity shot rocked the very fabric of their world. The once Clan members of the Jade Falcons grinned with elation, as they watched each shot strike home. In their new guise of Dark Falcons, they would learn the value of human life, but it was still too soon. That was why Jax had ordered them to take charge of the batteries.

In a lazy circle, the warship turned, now freeing up the batteries on its other side and giving the eager gunners their turn. The fighters had peeled away, snapping and snarling at the second jumpship as it tried to make headway. Only the five Dark Falcon ships waited, to shepherd and protect the now ready boarding crews.

The two craft waddled from the launching bays, as though protesting at the packed together troops in their holds. Elana would lead the attack, Jax finally realising that command meant co-ordination. Besides, he had marked the second FedCom jumpship as his.

*

Not far away, ComStar was finally realising how much more was their arrogance, than their actual capabilities. Their commander had resorted to little more than defence and data-gathering. He had recalled all of the men and equipment that he could and convinced himself that loss of life was worth it, for the intelligence gathering he had undertook.

Struggling against the firepower of the Steel Viper Warship, he waited. Craft after craft was fixed to his jumpship’s hardpoints, as others were reduced into their constituent parts. He has heard nothing from his chosen ground commander and had ignored Ryan Steiner’s imperious whining.

Just a few more ships and he could at least tell of a valiant rearguard fought against insurmountable odds. One or two more and then he could leave.

*

Ryan Steiner felt much better. Their landing had been unopposed and as he stared at Mech after Mech, which either left the various dropships or strode to take up its position on the field, he became flushed with confidence. The ComGuards had also moved out onto the open expanse of the plain and their technicians hurried to set up a joint communications centre. He was sure that the might displayed here, would be more than a match for any cobbled together force that they might face.

Any lack of information from the space battle taking place would not affect his chances of success here. Although they were deficient in air power, there had been no demonstration of any aerial threat. Even now, anti-missile batteries were being dug in and they should be more than capable of protecting the important communication nub.

To the East he saw a series of low hills which merged with the distance, with the larger mountains behind. It was a good day. The sun was shining, sparkling off the polished metal of the nearby Mechs. Bright flashes blinded him for a moment and it was as he struggled to clear his vision, that he saw the single black speck. It was far away and he wiped his hand across his face to clear his vision. Very quickly it grew in size and he realised it was an enemy Mech, which moved across a nearby hillside.

One Mech? His habitual sneer broadened as he thought of how easy this would be. Then he looked again and saw other figures emerging from a concealed valley. They joined the first and soon they spanned across his field of vision in an unbroken line.

Alarms sounded and his comm. circuit chattered into life. More of the enemy had been sighted to the west and cold sweat sprang to life across his forehead. Then, as if receiving a common signal, the Dark Falcons moved down onto the plain. Ryan Steiner’s thoughts had been scattered, no longer was he thinking of an easy victory, rather he was wondering how he could get out of this. The dark shadow of a still lowered dropship ramp caught his attention. Maybe he still had a chance.

*

“When you are in range, commence firing,” said Sheehan, as his heads-up display registered the ranks of enemy Mechs, “They must not have the chance to scatter, nor escape us via their dropships. Hit them hard and make them pay.”

There was a staggered chorus of agreement and Sheehan smiled. It was unlikely that the FedCom commander had ever seen such might arrayed before him. No doubt, he still thought he had time and was calculating effective ranges erroneously. Well, he would quickly learn.

The squeal of a target lock concentrated Sheehan on the job in hand. With a vicious stab of his finger, he sent a flight of LRM’s straight into the midst of the enemy Mechs. Immediately after, he launched his Summoner forward. The heavy machine responding instantly. He could see that he was not alone, and just for a moment felt a twinge of pity for the recipients of their deadly barrage of fire. Only for an instant though.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 2 PostPosted: 2011-03-02 03:57pm
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Chapter Twenty Seven


As his combined forces drove towards the enemy, Sheehan could see two distinct battles taking shape. His own Dark Falcon unit was used to the new tactics and avoided one-on-one conflicts. They worked with precision, almost infantry-like in their firefights. One Mech would engage at longer range whilst another moved in. Then at the shorter range, and with their beam fire taking its toll, they would free up their partners. Where necessary, they concentrated their fire on individual targets, shredding armour and smashing their way through any resistance. Not so the more recently incorporated Jade Falcon isorla and the Steel Viper contingent.

Therefore it was that the FedCom forces were driven back, collapsing in on themselves and fouling effective counter-attacks. The ComGuards, on the other hand, were showing their true colours. Their technology and capabilities, long hidden, were clearly on show. Better equipment and their tendency to double and triple-team against opposing Omnimechs meant that Mattlov’s forcing were being held and suffering substantial damage. What had started as a desperate defence, was now being turned into attack.

Sheehan knew that they would win through, but the cost would be substantial. There had to be another way, if he was to conserve a force at the end of this.

“Form on me,” he ordered his mechwarriors, “we have a significant advantage in firepower and we need to use it.”

Mechs joined him and he dressed them into two rough lines. Together they advanced, the front rank firing a volley of beam and particle, the rear their SRM’s. Then, they swapped places. In this way, he minimised any damage and conserved overheating. He also kept up a withering fire against the FedCom forces. A solid wall of weaponry tore and ripped at the defenders. Battle Machines were punched back into their companions, armour was melted, exploding off and creating a vicious shrapnel. Step by step they moved at first, before increasing their speed, as Ryan Steiner’s men gave way.

“Ignore any skirmishes,” he commanded, “if there are losses, we will take them and mop up any attackers when we have taken the FedCom leader.”

There were no negative responses and he saw a Mad Cat disappear off his display, where two of the FedCom Mechs had finally broken through their defences. He gritted his teeth and continued. Sheehan could see the FedCom leader’s Centurion and he wanted it, badly.

*

“We have secured the entry point and are pushing in-ship,” Elana’s message was crisp and direct.

“Good. The fighters will return and refuel before helping me with a little adventure I have planned. Let me know when you reach your primary objective.”

“Very well,” she replied, “we have met very little resistance, as yet, although....”

For a moment, there was only static and then her voice returned, the signal weaker, “They were ready for us. Static emplacements have been set up and we are taking heavy fire. Perhaps we will need your help soon.”

Jax slammed his fist against the arm of his chair, this was not going to plan. At that moment, his decision was made for him as the second jumpship’s shape began to waver and distort.

“Elana,” Jax said calmly, “detach a point to take and secure one of the docking points and let me know when this has been done. We will be coming to join you. It seems as though the other FedCom ship has made up its mind to live and fight another day.”

“They are on their way now,” she said, her trust in his judgement total.

“We’ll see you soon, out.”

Jax closed the link and saw the faint residue where once had been a FedCom ship. He could detect the remnants of smaller vessels around it, where the Steel Viper fighters had taken coup. His initial plan had been to silence both ships, but now at least one of them could return to its leaders with information. If they returned, he had no doubt that the Dark Falcons would be ready for them. He shrugged and concentrated on the matter at hand, as he did so, acknowledging the report that his fighters were on board and being fuelled.

A message from Perigard Zalman was passed through to him and he smiled at the holo-image of the Steel Viper Khan.

“Another change of plan?” asked Zalman.

“It’s been a day for them,” returned Jax, “how is your little skirmish going.”

“Quite well,” the Khan said, “I have requested that the majority of my fighters rejoin me. The last of them will pass over your target once more and draw any remaining fire, before nullifying it.”

“We thank you,” laughed Jax, “I think it’s time to get my hands dirty. Once docked, we should have sufficient firepower to quickly subdue the FedCom forces. I will check in with you again shortly.”

“Yes, and by then, we should have taken care of these ComStar troops, irrespective of any future surprises they might have.”

Jax cut the transmission and took another, informing him that a docking station had been taken. He made sure that the co-ordinates were passed on and left the bridge, followed by Hans and Greta. It was time to suit-up and do some real fighting.

*

The hiss of the escaping air as the lock cycled brought Jax back to the present. In front of him were an insistent Hans and Greta. They had been vociferous in their protests of his intention to be the first through the lock and in the end he had given in. Now the door opened and power-suited figures with their distinctive emblem hurried them forward.

It was important that they kept up their momentum. Jax quickly split his troops in two parties, the larger force following Greta to relieve and reinforce Elana and secure engineering. Hans would go with him. They would strike directly for the Bridge and try and end this quickly. A small party was left to guard the entrance to the docking point. He certainly did not want to find himself on the receiving end of a boarding party.

*

Slowly they fought their way deck by deck towards their ultimate goal. At first they had moved quickly, but had soon been held up by hastily constructed barricades. Heavy machine gun fire and team served lasers had been set up, which made their movement more cautious. Now the power armoured Elementals were at the fore and Jax had restricted any use of missiles. He wanted to take this ship and not destroy it. Many of the rest of his boarding party were carrying auto-rifles and as such, hull breaches would be deadly.

Now and again he received transmissions from Elana, whose progress was just as slow. However, all of her people were encased in their own mini-environments, so she had a freer hand. FedCom troops had massed around the Engineering Department, with each junction needing to be taken individually. Jax had started to feel just a little nervous.

It was when they were getting close to the Bridge itself that his nervousness became reality. The hull began to vibrate and he felt the distinctive gut/wrench of an imminent jump.

“Move!” he snarled, leaping to the fore, “We have no time for this. Hans, take out his position. Our people will just have to take their chances.”

A missile spat out from the pod on Hans’ suit, arrowing in to the barricade before them. Its impact, and subsequent explosion, swatted the laser position aside, letting Jax bound forward. He sprayed anything that moved with His machine gun and reached the entrance to the Bridge itself. The doors were welded shut and he roared in frustration as his body protested in vain. He was too late. The ship jumped.

*

Perigard Zalman’s attention was drawn to his screen. His Tech shouted and waved his arms, but the Khan’s gaze was transfixed by what was occurring in front of him. He had seen Jax’s ship dock successfully and had received updates on their progress vias Elias. What he had not been prepared for was his communication to be abruptly cut short. They were gone.

At last, his Tech caught his attention and he saw the ComStar vessel shimmer.

“Get our people back here,” he shouted, “now!”

Then, there were only Steel Viper vessels in the debris-strewn space around Winfield. Those ComStar ships that had been successful in rejoining their parent craft were no more. Any others were either already or rapidly being reduced to useless hulks. Of Jax and his men, there was no sign.

“Put us back in orbit around Winfield,” he ordered calmly, “there is still a job for us to do there, at least.”

*

Charges were slapped hastily against the doors, still warm bodies kicked out of the way in their haste. Jax had sent the majority of his men further back down the corridor to hold the re-constructed barricades against the men pouring out to assault them. These FedCom troops were cheering now, believing that they had won, but Jax needed to know where they were before he would pass judgement.

The charges exploded, leaving a twisted mess of metal which Hans forced his way through, ripping with his power claw as he widened the access hole. A group of Officers stood in front of the doorway, firing their autorifles indiscriminately. One, the Captain, by his look, shouted for them to surrender.

“We are now in FedCom controlled space,” he spat, “even now, vessels rush to our aid. It is hopeless.”

Hans was now fully through and Jax followed, the annoying drum beat of shells hammered against his suit, but he still had enough common sense to stare at the main screen. On it was mirrored a myriad of vessels, whose data points changed as they vectored in on the jump ship’s position.

Elana’s voice echoed in his head set, “Engineering is ours. They tried to damage the engines, but we have everything under control. What about you?”

“We are on the Bridge,” Jax replied, “it seems our good Captain has jumped us into the middle of a FedCom fleet. How good are you at negotiating? Hans...!”

Jax saw one of the Officers approach the big man carefully. In his hands he held what looked like explosive and Jax reacted instinctively. His machine gun spat forth, shredding the man and flinging him backwards towards a control panel. The bomb exploded, destroying the panel and hurling Officers and their respective body parts in different directions. Out of control, the Captain smashed into a nearby panel, knocking switches askew. His hand smacked down. The ship jumped again.
*

The arrival of the Steel Viper reinforcements, Omnimechs and Omnifighters, turned the tide of the battle. Sheehan was able to accept the surrender of a chastened Ryan Steiner, who as leader of the mission made the ComGuards stand down. His only hope now was ransom.

Sheehan was glad that Perigard Zalman and his men had returned. The ComGuards had decimated his recently formed second unit under Mattlov. He himself had led his men to the foot of the Dropship before Ryan Steiner had capitulated and it was only the arrival of his extra forces which had convinced the fanatical ComGuard commander.

The biggest blow was the loss of Lieutenant Jax and his men. His Elementals had been a large part of the Dark Falcons success, up until now. Sheehan thought perhaps that he would be able to trade his prisoners for them in the near future. Now though, he needed to rebuild. Zalman Perigard had vowed to help him, in exchange for a base on Winfield. Something which Sheehan was ready to accede to. He did not know how long it would be, before his enemies struck again. That they would, he was sure.

Khan Sheehan knew that he head the basis for an excellent military force. They had grown rapidly and their Technology was superior to all but the Clans themselves. With the Steel Vipers aid, the remnants of this battlefield would give him a good start. That was enough for now.


*

As the smoke from the explosion cleared, Jax surveyed the damage. The navigation controls were a mess; burnt wire and twisted metal formed a sorry testament to what had once been a technological marvel. Blood was spattered across every surface and frightened faces stared at him. Jax activated his external speakers.

“Clean this up and make sure that we have the ship secure,” Hans grunted in agreement and moved past his commander.

“Elana?” at first there was no reply, but then her voice came clearly through.

“Yes?”

“How is it down there?”

“As I mentioned before, Engineering is secure. Did we jump again?” There was no fear in her voice, which calmed him somewhat.

“That’s correct. Straight after the Navigation system blew up.”

“So...?” she asked warily.

“We have no idea where we are...”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - EPILOGUE PostPosted: 2011-03-03 09:24am
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Epilogue


The young girl walked quietly down the main street, avoiding the puddles formed by yesterday’s rain and the piles of excrement from today’s animals. She was late for school and knew she would be punished for that. Her older brother Arn waved at her as she passed by the guard house where he was standing in his bright new uniform. Even he looked handsome in it.

Arn saw his little sister skip away, her trilling laughter lightening somewhat his dreary day. Turning eighteen was special for a number of reasons, but to him the greatest part was the fact it meant that he was called for military service. Everyone did the basic training early and with the almost perpetual state of war, no-one missed out.

Soon they would be marched to the front, where he too could die in the name of the Emperor. That was, he had been told, the greatest blessing a man could receive.

A growing noise impinged on his consciousness. It was unusual in that it was a strange roaring, as though some wild animal had been chained against its will. At first he though it came from behind him, but then was unsure. He squinted, his hand shading his eyes from the sun, as movement drew his attention. Black shapes, high in the sky. They too were growing. Birds never got that big, did they?

Soon he realised that these were no birds. Their wings were straight, almost stubby and their heads sparkled as the sun reflected off them. They were metal! He raised his rifle, fumbling with the paper cartridge. Biting off the end, Arn poured the powder and ball into the muzzle and tamped it down. Taking careful aim, he saw others rushing out beside him, mirroring his actions. The bawl of his sergeant as he dressed the men into line, made him smile. Arn fired.

In slow motion the things turned, diving down towards him. Musket fire crackled now, yet seemed to have no effect, the things turning and rising, flame spouting from their rears. On their sides was painted a strange emblem. Nothing known to him. Then they were gone.

Sergeant Price patted him on the back and praised his vigilance. He also bulled up their success in chasing the devils away, yet Arn knew that they had not caused even the slightest of damage. It was as he was hanging his head that he noticed the puddle water near him. Ripples shivered outwards from its centre, as though something heavy had been dropped nearby. Then he felt it.

A metronomic beat, as though giant feet marked time on the ground. He heard the scream of his sister and rushed forward, standing in shock and horror by her side. Enormous. Gigantic. A demon stood before them. No rifles were raised in response, people fleeing in panic. Arn took his sister’s hand in his and waited to die.


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



THE END OF BOOK 1



BOOK 2 - The Lost to follow real soon....



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - EPILOGUE PostPosted: 2011-03-03 04:53pm
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Hmmmm..... BattleMechs and muzzle-loading rifles. Something tells me that Jax and company are in for a rather interesting time.

Now I have to wait for the next bit to start. Hope it's not too long. I am chagrined to find myself addicted to this one. I needs my fix, man! :cry:

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - EPILOGUE PostPosted: 2011-03-03 05:13pm
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Cut and Paste chopped this off the Epilogue...Sorry!

Wil get the next book going as soon as I can. I'm editing one of my books for posting elsewhere, so I'll give you Chapter One as well for now...enjoy


Arn and his sister had been passed by, the huge monster striding over them with oblivious ease. He had hurried her away in the direction of their home, intending to leave her there and find his unit. His rifle he carried with him, the Sergeant’s constant reminder of death following its loss having been ingrained in his mind throughout his basic training. When he reached their humble dwelling, he found his parents hurrying to load their belongings on a small cart.

“Where are you going?” he asked, as he handed his sister into the care of his mother.

“Away from here,” mumbled his father, “your aunt and uncle have a nice house in the city. They’ve been on at us to join them for a long time. This seems to be the right moment.”

“We have to fight,” said Arn incredulously, “the Emperor…”

“Is not here!” snapped his father, “now are you coming, or not?”

“Not!” said Arn stubbornly, “I will stay and protect our things from the demons, as should a soldier of the Emperor.”

“Fool,” sneered his father, and then more gently, “you know where to find us. It will take us a day or so to reach the city. We will look for you there.”

A hug from his mother, a handshake from his father and a tearful kiss from his little sister were his last remembrance of them. He watched as the handcart was dragged protestingly away, then he squared his shoulders, checked his ammunition and ran towards the sound of musket fire, which crackled lamely in the distance.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - EPILOGUE PostPosted: 2011-03-03 05:15pm
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Chapter One



A wind blew across the field of grain, stirring the over-ripe husks and making them rub together in an unpleasant discord. It was cold, bitingly so and brought with it a presage of death. These fields had been left untended, abandoned by their owners as the two opposing sides wearily trudged to their meeting. To the left stood rank upon rank of blue-coated soldiery in an unbroken and disciplined line. Artillery pieces were arrayed behind them on slightly higher ground and they waited mostly in silence. Now and again, a dry cough broke the quiet, or the jingle of harness where an officer rode his mount along their front.

From the cover of sparse woodland to the right could be heard the tramping of feet, jocular laughter and occasional song. First one, then another appeared. They sported the remnants of a grey-brown uniform. Battered hats topped their unsightly appearance and each soldier seemed to have felt the hand of a crazed or drug-ridden tailor. In effect, they wore the cast-offs of the battlefield, boots stolen from one corpse, coat from another, yet they carried their long-barrelled rifles with a nonchalant ease.

Murmuring among the Emperor’s troops was quickly quelled by the bark of sergeants and other non-commissioned officers, horses were reined in and swords drawn. The newcomers laughed and jeered as more of their companions joined them. They stopped just on the verge of the clearing and waited. In the shadows behind them was a mass of movement. Indistinct. Threatening.

An order was shouted and the Emperor’s soldiers began to march forward to the slow tattoo of drums. Still their foe waited. As though some magic point had been reached, the dishevelled warriors dropped to the earth and cannon roared. A deadly hail of canister was thrown forward, exploding above the marching troops. It scythed threw the unprotesting crop, reaping a bloody harvest of humanity. Again and again the bestial bellows sounded whilst the disciplined ranks came on. Then, they ceased.

Sound there was now in plenty. The cries of wounded men, pleading for succour and praying for the Emperor’s mercy rang out. Of that, there would be little this day. A howling mob poured from the protection of the trees as the answering roar came from the enemy artillery. Shells exploded amongst them, spinning bodies and spraying blood and gore. This did not stop the keening cries, which rose in an unholy chorus from the throats of the advancing mob.

Men stooped to one knee and fired, their musket balls smashing through blue uniformed figures and punching them to the earth. Quickly they covered the intervening distance and bayonets were fixed and wicked-looking knives drawn. The massacre then began in earnest.

Later, the Emperor would chastise his officers with hangings and summary execution, but really the fault was his. He had underestimated this ill-supplied and rag-tag army, his arrogance and belief in his own near godhood fed by his fawning minions. This would not be the last of his surprises or mistakes.

*

High above the battlefield, two figures stared into their holo-display, eagerly following the outcome of the battle. This had not been the first world that they had visited, but it did seem the most promising.

A signal chimed and the shorter of the two turned and listened to an incoming message.

“Our fact-finding mission appears to have been a success,” he said to the woman beside him, “they’re bringing the prisoners back with them, now.”

“Did they have any problems?” she asked, still staring avidly at the carnage below.

“No,” he laughed, “it seems that gods from the sky have fallen to earth. The majority of them ran away and those that fired on us did so with musket balls. I think that we’re going to like it here.”

“Speak for yourself,” she grumbled, “these surats will provide little sport.”

“I’m not looking for sport,” the man growled, “rather a way home. When we do return, I would like to do so, well-prepared for any eventuality.”

“What good will these freebirth be?” she questioned angrily.

“Don’t forget that I am freebirth, too,” he admonished her, and then laughed, “and Elana, look what you made of me.”

*

Emperor Gaius Augustus the Third sat on his ornately carved throne, heavily jowled chin resting on one hand. Before him were arrayed his frightened counsellors. They had just witnessed the summary execution of two of their fellows, one general and a pastry cook. Now they trembled with fear as a lowly sergeant related the visit of the mechanical demons.

None knew whether it was better to laugh or cry. So, they did nothing.

“Tell me, Sergeant...?”

“Price, your illustriousness...”

“Yes, quite. These demon machines, I wonder that our enemies were able to trick you so,” and then his face flushed with anger, “well I, your Beloved Emperor, will not be so fooled. Take him away!”

The poor Sergeant was led away by two burly guards, all the while protesting his innocence. He was ignored. No-one was going to admit that they in any way believed him.

“Call General Aquilla,” snapped the petulant Emperor, “he will get to the bottom of this!”

As the echoed order was passed outside, Gaius Augustus reached for a honeyed snack and sighed. The world was full of idiots, he knew, buy why oh why was he cursed with the majority of them?

*

General Julius Aquilla was famous, and he knew it. His exploits and conquests under the indulgence of his Emperor were legend. He was a cruel man and his role allowed him to press even his own boundaries and insatiable appetites. Word had come to him first of this alleged visitation by demons; machines which flew and enormous metal men, ridiculous. However, by quashing the rumour and liberally applying a little brutality, he would be quickly able to return to the capitol a hero.

This Emperor was weak and easily swayed. Soon, he Julius Aquilla would be able to take his rightful place and lead his people. The disastrous defeat heaped upon his main rival had done him no harm either. So, it was with a calm and measured step he entered the Imperial chamber. Many noted his proud and muscular figure as he approached his Emperor and secretly compared them.

*

It was later that same day that a troop of cavalry in burnished armour was led from the city. At their head sat the General conscious of his finery and the admiring gaze of the rude populace. Each of his men was hand-chosen, experts with rifle, pistol and sword. He had seen no need to take a larger contingent with him, as he was convinced that it was nothing more than sheer peasant superstition.

Also, the less witnesses remaining after his re-education of the locals would be important and he could trust his followers to carry out his orders with gusto. Already in his mind, he was savouring the visceral pleasure of the slaughter he anticipated and his rapid return to be heaped with more honour.

Others also watched his passage. Two men hidden on a nearby hillside followed his triumphant exit and waited until he had disappeared from sight. They then found and mounted their own horses; shaggy mountain ponies, rough of coat but well-suited to their environment. Their path took them on a roughly parallel course, yet they quickly outdistanced the slow-moving column.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Bk II Chp PostPosted: 2011-03-04 03:53pm
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It was terrifying. Nothing could have prepared him for the experience. After leaving his family, Arn had found a small group of soldiers huddled behind an overturned cart. He had joined his musket fire to their’s and suffered the same fate. Their Sergeant was nowhere to be seen, but the small squad had valiantly kept up their fire until a smaller demon had found them. Musket balls ricocheted harmlessly from its metal skin, as it slowly approached.

In a demonstration of the futility of their resistance, it had raised its arm and sent a beam of bright light against the metal spokes of their shelter. Slowly tracing the pulsating weapon towards them, it melted the hard structure easily. Globules of shining metal had pooled onto the ground before them, stunning them into mute terror.

Then its arm was pointed menacingly towards them and one by one they dropped their muskets to the floor. Imperiously the demon motioned them away from their now useless barricade and towards the centre of the village, where they huddled together in fear. One or two more men were herded there and then the creature spoke. No mouth moved, yet its voice seemed to resonate from the very air around them. The words were hard to distinguish, yet still recognisable, almost as though one of Emperor’s historians was recounting an obscure tale.

More gestures sent them scurrying out of the village towards a strange flying cart, which descended from the sky. They were roughly pushed inside, strapped to their seats by strangely garbed servants of the demons, and then began their terrifying ride.

For himself, Arn struggled between wonder and fear of the unknown. Bright lights flashed and he felt a powerful vibration. His hands gripped the arms of the chair into which he had been placed and he mumbled a prayer to the Emperor for deliverance.

When the sickening motion stopped, he and his fellow captives were guided out of the chariot into a huge open space. It was a gigantic room, in which he saw a number of the gigantic demons sleeping. The most terrifying moment came, when one of the smaller beings removed its head, to display a human face inside. It was at that moment he came close to fainting.

Soldiers with strange rifles escorted them down shining corridors to a smaller room, which looked more familiar as it contained a table on a raised platform and a number of chairs arranged in ranks before it. They were left for a while; two silent guards their only company, until a bell chimed and a door slid back. In marched a black-uniformed figure and the most enormous woman that Arn had ever seen. The guards saluted the man and left.

One of his companions rose as if to speak, but the woman smiled and shook her head and he slumped back down again.

“Wise decision, surat,” she said flexing her muscles, “it is time for you all to learn your fate. You will speak only when you are asked a direct question. Failure to obey will be dealt with swiftly.”

She nodded at her companion, who even though she towered over, was treated with great respect. He, thought Arn, must have some terrible power, it this giantess deferred so easily to him.

The man perched on the edge of the table and smiled warmly.

“Welcome...” he said slowly and clearly, “...to the Dark Falcons.”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons B1 COMPLETE + BK2 THE LOST CHP2 PT1 PostPosted: 2011-03-07 05:09pm
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Chapter Two


A slow steady stream of refugees continued down the main road into the valley below. They were a mix of men and women on foot, belongings bundled together and carried on heads, in hands or in satchels. Weaving in between were those lucky enough to own a horse or mule which could do their owners work. At the rear handcarts piled high with the accumulation of a poor lifetime trundled wearily.

It was within this final group that Arn’s family plodded slowly along. His sister gambolled happily beside her parents, blissfully ignorant of their predicament. No-one was away of the eyes which watched greedily from a nearby hillside until it was far too late, lost as they were in their own misery.

The drumming of hoofbeats on the packed earth broke into their reverie and soon cries of fear could be heard. People cast away their personal items, trampled over each other or even just huddled together in desperation. Demons were one thing, but the Emperor’s cavalry was a more well known evil.

*

Julius Aquilla had waited eagerly for the majority of his prey to enter the killing ground. He had studied them carefully through his spyglass, ensuring that there were few weapons and even fewer fighting men before he gave the order to charge. In one long line, his men had begun to walk their horses, sabres drawn and resting against their shoulders. Pistols would be a waste on these vermin and the hot red bodily fluid a prize to be won.

A sharp command brought them to a canter, then a trot as they neared the bottom slopes of the hill. Once on level ground the charge was ordered in earnest. Knee to knee they thundered down on their helpless victims. Soon their chilling battle-cry could be heard and the slaughter began.

As one they slammed into the column, the weight of their charge bowling their victims over, where they were trampled under foot. Bright slivers of metal flashed in the sun as they rose and fell in methodical butchery. Blood rained down from high, as the upsweep of their blades sprayed a rich red harvest. Those who escaped the first carnage ran blindly away and were subjected to the whooping howl of the hunt.

At a full run, the horsemen bore down on them. Sabres sliced, imparting awful wounds in back and face, as the men rose in their saddles to deliver their cuts. Time and again they wheeled back, driving their prey before them and allowing all to enjoy their sport.

Arn’s father had fallen early, his staff raised in a vain attempt to protect his family. Aquilla’s blade had shorn through the ineffective wood and cleaved open the man’s skull. His mother lasted a little longer, holding her little girl in her arms as she ran, but to no avail. The General wanted no survivors, no witnesses to bleat of the injustice delivered to them. He laughed as he killed and his men joined in.

Once the main chase was done, they dismounted to deliver the coup de grace with knife or pistol, leaving none alive. Finally, General Julius Aquilla gave the order to mount, leading his men slowly away laughing and joking as they went.

*

There were no survivors, yet there were two distinct sets of witnesses. A small band of men had stayed hidden under cover and watched the massacre. They had not tried to help, their orders had been clear on that fact. Teeth were ground in frustration and terrible oaths sworn, yet none disobeyed their orders. As the General led his men away, they waited a small time and then sought out their own horses.

The second witness was a remote spycam, many miles high, which diligently recorded the events. It was mindless, so did not know the importance to one, even now held within the bowels of the ship which spawned it. Instead it continued on its way, transmitting data which would later be studied on board the distant warship.

*



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 COMPLETE + BK2 The Lost Chp2 Pt2 PostPosted: 2011-03-07 10:38pm
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I do hope that you are going to continue this. Otherwise, I will be Most Vexed.

Do not Vex a White Mage :angelic:



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Librium Arcana, Where Gamers Play!
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 COMPLETE + BK2 The Lost Chp2 Pt2 PostPosted: 2011-03-08 05:15am
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...as requested...and sory, this is Part2
:oops:

The strange cord sat uncomfortably on Arn’s wrist. He stared at the three distinct turns and toyed with them idly. Elana, the Elemental as she called herself was speaking, her leader Lieutenant Jax had left them with her a while ago, and attempted to explain the honour they had been done. It seemed as though their futile stand had impressed these Dark Falcons and had helped them, and others, become slaves. She had sneered at Arn’s denouncement of his staus and continued to indicate that they were now recognised as part of the Dark Falcon Clan. No matter how hard he tried, Arn could not recognise that he had been done any favour.

A sharp tug on his new tunic dragged him back to the present. The enormous woman had twisted her hand into the cloth and now lifted him easily to his feet.

“You will listen,” she snarled, “there is no room for melancholy. I expect you to continue to show the courage and dedication already demonstrated. Failure will not be tolerated.”

Arn beat futilely against her arm, bruising his fist against the hardened exterior. Terror struck him, as he realised that beneath his knuckles was no flesh. She tossed him aside and peeled back the sleeve of her jacket.

“Yes, my frightened child. Some of us have already given of ourselves to our Clan. Willingly we will give more.”

There was a proud fanaticism in her words and as he struggled to his feet, Arn wondered again at where these people had come from. The Emperor would deal with them eventually, he thought, and then remembered the ineffectual sound of his musket balls against their armoured figures. Doubt crept in, but he had been well-schooled, and fought his worry with defiance.

“You will be sorry when the Emperor finds out what you have done. Even now, I am sure that his strongest troops will be rushing to our aid. They will rescue us and defeat you.”

Elana laughed, “Unless your vaunted Emperor can fly, there is little possibility of reaching us.”

“You’ll see,” shouted Arn, “our army will respond and crush you.”

“I think that your re-education needs to begin immediately. Follow me, all of you.”

The ten men obeyed, some more sullenly than others. Two guards followed behind him, their rifles held easily in their hands. It was a strange sight, the crisp new coveralls they had been given hung off them as they shuffled along. They wore no chains, but behaved almost as though they were shackled together. Their journey ended after they had entered a small room, which contained a number of lighted buttons on one side. Packed together they were hurled upwards and groans escaped from them. This was a new and terrifying experience.

Abruptly they stopped and doors slid open. Stumbling forwards, they found themselves in a large open space, on whose walls were banked metal objects. Sat in front of them were men and women, whose hands flew across a flat object and who seemed to be talking to themselves. Elana made straight towards one who was seated on a slightly raised dais.

“Elias,” she said peremptorily, “I need to see the information received yesterday.”

“Which information would that be?” asked the man, laughingly, “Could you be a little more specific? It would help you know.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from amongst Arn’s group, but Elana just smiled.

“You have been spending far too much time with the Lieutenant,” she growled, “I refer to the incident in the valley.”

The man’s face darkened and he looked more closely at the group before him, before speaking.

“Is that wise?” he asked cautiously.

“Imperative,” she answered.

“Very well,” Elias said, “I will put in on the central holo-screen.”

Elana nodded in thanks and in an almost gentle manner, shooed her charges towards a flat glass-topped table.

“Recording running...” a voice intoned, and Arn began to witness not just the death of his family, his village, but of all of his close cherished beliefs.

*

Jax entered the room and watched the ashen faces of the young men. Their bond cords stood out starkly against their weathered skin and the dark cloth of their new coveralls. Some started to weep, yet on the face of one he saw a cold and terrible anger. He had learnt some of their names and this young man, Arn, had been the most vociferous in his belief in the godliness of his Emperor. Now though, he looked ready to kill.

“Listen to me,” Jax said softly, “what you have seen here is a shock and no doubt, has shaken the very foundations of your beliefs. I will make you a promise, here and now. Join with us wholeheartedly and I will give you the means to exact retribution. We, in the Dark Falcons, will be your family. Your enemy will become our enemy. No slight, however small, against you will be forgiven or forgotten. This man, no this thing hidden beneath flesh and blood, will be wiped from the face of this planet. You have my word.”

“I will join you!” snarled Arn, leaping to his feet.

“Wait,” Jax said quietly, “until you have heard everything. We have our own battle to fight, others of our family in great need. When we leave this world, to journey back to our own, you will come with us. Understand what it means to be a Dark Falcon, the Clan comes before all else. No-one will be left behind.”

“What do I do?” asked Arn, “I am ready to swear my allegiance.”

The others rose, one by one, murmuring their agreement, as Jax reached for his belt knife.

“It will not be easy,” he said motioning Arn forward, “you will be given into the care of Elana here. She will bring you up to speed and will spare no-one’s blushes. If you are found worthy, you will be welcomed into our warrior caste.”

“And if not?” one of Arn’s companions asked, a frightened tone in his voice.

“You will be found a place amongst us, do not fear,” Jax continued, placing his blade under the first twist of the bond cord on Arn’s wrist. With a quick motion he cut through it and turned to the next.

“Welcome,” he said to each of them in turn, “listen to what Elana has to say and show you and you will succeed.” Then he grinned evilly, “Ignore her and not even I can save you!”

*

General Aquilla’s boots clacked on the marble flooring as he strode towards the Emperor’s chambers. He was still flushed with the excitement of his work. To him, there was nothing wrong with his actions and he had no doubt that his Emperor would agree with him.

Two guards moved away from the ornate double doors which led into the chamber and announced him, before quickly standing aside. A courtier sprayed him with scented water, as the stench of horse, sweat and blood crossed the fop’s nostrils. Aquilla glared at him and the man scurried away. When I hold the reins of power, he thought, that one will be one of the first to feel my ire.

He grinned at the thought and moved on, towards the ornate throne and the distasteful fawning he would need to do. Not for much longer, though. No, not for much longer at all.

*

Ioin Kearney sat around the campfire. He had returned with the small patrol and recounted all of the terrible massacre they had witnessed. His leader’s response had been non-committal, as though none of the villagers’ lives had been worth a damn. Ioin knew that they were followers of the cursed Emperor, but still, women and children. It was not right.

As a man, how could he accept to stand idly by? He knew that others felt the same way, yet none spoke out. The sharp reprimand he had received had only served to fuel his determination. Prisoners taken in the mountains had spoken of the demons and their horrible powers. To seek them out and kill them, now that was a task for a man.

Kearney spat into the fire, his decision made. Tomorrow, he would ask permission. His mind made up, he rolled himself in his blanket and laid down to sleep.

Above on the hillside, a dark figure watched. His infra-red sensors showed him the men below, as though it was full daylight. Lieutenant Jax had ordered Hans to find these rebels and test their metal. He had not been impressed with their refusal to try and save even one of the villagers. Hans had pointed out the men who had argued, who had tried to rise, but had been pulled back to the earth. It was for this intervention, he had been tasked with this visit.

“Find yourself and the Dark Falcons some men,” Jax had said and Hans had accepted the challenge gladly. He spoke quietly into his headset and stood. His men appeared on his sensors as small blips as they descended towards the campsite. Hans grinned to himself as he thought of the surprise they were about to spring. Checking through his weapons, he received confirmation that his squad was in place and gave the order to fire.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 COMPLETE + BK2 The Lost Chp2 Pt2 PostPosted: 2011-03-08 06:23am
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"Ioin Kearney" eh....

Well i doubt THAT's a cooincidence :)

Interesting start. I AM curious however about why the new bondsmen have yet to experience zero gravity? Is the dropship still under thrust back to the jumpship/warship? When they do...it's not going to be fun for them!

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 COMPLETE + BK2 The Lost Chp2 Pt2 PostPosted: 2011-03-08 08:00am
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Didn't someone say that there's no such thing as a coincidence? :D

As for zeroG, good spot. I spent a lot of time on developing the world and what's to come, but all comments and pick-ups are gratefully received.

Stick with me...things are about to get interesting :twisted:



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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