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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 COMPLETE + BK2 The Lost Chp9 Pt2 PostPosted: 2011-06-03 11:17am
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Deep within the bowels of the complex power crept into long-unused circuits. At first it was tentative, then gaining confidence and efficiency it sped along its newly awakened pathways. Relays clicked open, feeding now hungry machines and the electrical organism truly began to stir.

The image in the control remained fuzzy and Elias asked for patience as he watched the data stream by his side.

“Now,” he said to Jax, “you will see what has been mouldering away here for so many years.”

Overhead lights began to flash on, revealing first the outlines of a huge room. Faster and faster they added to the illumination, until it seemed as though the light itself was desperate in its haste to banish the darkness. Shapes came into focus; rectangular, some spear-like and finally hulking monsters, until the vast space was fully lit.

“Oh...my...” began Jax.

“Exactly,” agreed Elias, “it seems as though the Star League was stockpiling here. For some reason, this out-of-the-way planet was left ready to face a major incursion.”

“Are they all functional?” Jax asked.

“Hard to say,” Elias mused, “the atmosphere inside this particular repository reads as almost purely nitrogen. We will need to pump out, which will take a little while, before we can physically inspect the equipment. There is an inventory, but in reality, there is no way we can get all of this up and running, before our guests arrive.”

“True,” Jax agreed, “however we can mix and match. With the control of the drones, we should be able to suppress any aerospace threat, although we do need armour. With only three BattleMechs and their pilots, we cannot hope to compete directly. Get me a list of what can be realistically ready.”

Elias nodded and then smiled, “There are a couple of other things I have to show you.”

He switched the view to what appeared simply as a long dark tunnel, “These are mass-drivers, used to overcome the planet’s gravity well. They can hurl cargo pods, satellites and even weapons systems into space. Unfortunately the two units are of fixed trajectory.

We do though,” and here he flicked to a small control room, “have a number of external defensive systems; anti-missile, laser, PPC, Gauss and even autocannon. As I said, they left things well prepared.”

“What of the Satellite and its drones?” Jax queried, “Our jumpship will probably face the first real attack.”

“The two Caspar M-5’s and their associated M-39’s are all that is available. It seems as though the SDS suffered much more than the complex here. I would suggest withdrawing one of the warships close to our own jumpship for protection. The other can probably deal with any real threat by itself.”

“No,” Jax corrected Elias, “we need the fighters. They will be no real use against anything but aerospace units. The real prize is here, where we are and our new friends will not give up. The warships can hold them in space, but the real battle will be fought on the ground.”

He thought for a moment more, “Get our pilots, mechwarriors and all available troops and technicians down here. I will speak with Elana directly.”

*

Captain-General De La Cruz saw his first concern disappear, as the stationary warship began to move away. Its course was clearly for the FedCom jumpship and the man grinned. He looked at his officer enquiringly, but the simple shake of his head, made De La Cruz frown again. They were still not in control.

A fighter screen followed the M-5, whilst its sister ship also began to slow. This was not in his plans, the Clan Warship needed to be taken out of the picture and he certainly did not want to dispute ownership of the Star League Technology with the Clans. Once he had it, they would have to withdraw. Decisive action was needed.

“Launch the fighters!” he barked, “Get us moving towards planet and order the Dropships ready for deployment!”

For all of his merchant background, the Capitan-General was also a fighting man. Speed was now of the essence. A quick victory and then humiliation for the Clans. It was going to be a good day, of that he was sure.

*
Kael Pershaw also noted the change of trajectory of the first drone. His confidence took a boost as he realised that his own ship was now a match for the force arrayed against him. When he saw the launch of fighters from the Hanseatic fleet, he immediately gave the same instruction. Instead of aiming directly for the planet’s surface, he ordered battle stations and drove his ship directly to meet the waiting Caspar drone.



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 Chp10 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-06 09:48am
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Chapter Ten


The Dark Falcon jumpship was a hive of activity. Jax’s orders had been clear; all available personnel were to be ferried down to the planet immediately. The remaining shuttle and the dropship were crammed with personnel. A relative skeleton crew remained on board with strict instructions to evacuate via the barely serviceable destroyer if required. Star Commander Binetti and his pilots were already circling protectively around their parent vessel, waiting for the dropship to detach.

Although jump capable, the ex-FedCom vessel had still not been fully repaired and Jax had decided that protecting such a damaged asset was in the long-run futile. There were valuable people on board, who could bolster the defence of the complex planetside. It was also a tempting target for the Clan and Hanseatic Forces. No doubt, their thought being that they could effectively strand their enemies on this world. Thankfully, Jax already knew and had accepted that reality.

As the dropship blasted clear, Elias sent a command to the Caspar M-5, from which two wings of attack drones peeled away. Their enhanced battle computers had received new orders; escort duty first and then protection of the defence complex. Time was running away from Elias and his men and insufficient drones would be available for air cover.

Binetti stared angrily at his tactical screen, which showed the approaching fighters and dropships, which were closing rapidly. His first reaction was to fight, but he was also a good soldier. His time would come.

*

De La Cruz noticed the dropship’s rapid flight and the squadron of supporting fighters. First things first though, he needed to clear a path to the planet. His intention was to engage the warship in front of him, with the majority of his armament, leaving the way clear for his own dropships to make planetfall. Armour and Marines were already on board. Their job was to establish a beachhead for the following BattleMechs.

It was clear in the Captain-General’s mind that the FedCom usurpers had arrived early, but also that they could not be much more than an exploration force. He would make sure that their jumpship was removed as a strategic threat. They could not be allowed to send for reinforcements. Once established, he felt that his combined force would be more than a match for the threat of the Clans. Especially once he had re-established control over the Star League Technology.

So, it was with unbridled glee he watched the icons on his tactical screen show first contact with the drone fighter screen, and he ordered the rest of his fleet to full speed.

*

Although non-sentient, the Caspar M-5 warship was sophisticated. Its internal processes drew from centuries of warfare; historical data on tactics, tried and proven responses and possessed lightening fast speed. Aside from this, it was still a machine, bereft of emotion and illogical leaps of faith; it was predictable.

De La Cruz watched its attack drones from into tight clumps, ready to meet his onrushing fighters. He knew, what the mechanised brain did not; no plan survived first contact, and he grinned inanely as the wings of League craft split suddenly into twos and threes. They hammered into the insect-like concentration of drones, smashing them apart and destroying the hive control.

More drones spat forth from the main warship, scurrying to plug the breaches, but were in turn sucked into the madly whirling dogfight. Gaps began to appear and it was into these widening fissures that De La Cruz drove his ships.

Whereas the drones level of independent thought was restricted, it was less so for the huge warship. Lack of emotions were a help in this instance and its laser and PPC’s opened fire, cutting a molten swath through the now intertwined forces. Missile batteries flamed and their deadly packages charged on, intent only on reaching the larger prizes which were rapidly closing the intervening distance.

The Captain-General snarled in frustration as he saw the tell-tale bloom of fire of a dying vessel. To the left of him, one of his destroyers took a fatal blow. Three missiles hit in quick succession, followed by the scathing beam of a particle cannon. Metal buckled, the ship’s shell imploding under rapid decompression and then ballooning outwards in time with its compromised fusion reactors.

“More speed!” he screamed, his knuckles white where they gripped the arm of his chair, “Hit it with all we’ve got!”

Another craft, a transport this time, died silently amidst the hellish barrage. Men and equipment were incinerated or thrown out of their protective shells, collateral jetsam of the battle. De La Cruz saw one of his fighters break through, its lasers ineffectively stabbing into the huge warship’s shell and then he saw its pilot give the ultimate sacrifice. Guns blazing, the man targeted what would have been another ship’s bridge, but in this case was nothing more than another of the many interconnected sensor arrays. He missed, but in doing so succeeded better than he had hoped, his dying craft ploughing into one of the starboard missile batteries and silencing it forever.

“Target that area and pass the word to our sister ships,” said the Captain-General through gritted teeth, “we have our opening.”

*


Jax walked out to meet the descending dropship, shielding his ears from the roaring of its engines. Overhead, Binetti and his men circled ready for their own landing; Elias apparently had a something in mind for them. The flames of the retros had hardly been extinguished before a ramp crashed to earth and men and women sallied forth. Urgently, they were directed into the open tunnels leading down, where they would be reassigned duties.

A shuttle waited, the air around it wavering with the suppressed heat of its eager departure. The Elemental Star, left behind to defend the jumpship bounced towards it, naval ratings with autorifles clutched in their hands waving them on. As the last man was pulled on board, the little craft rose, turned and shot away towards the training camp and Elana. The dropship would join it, once it had discharged its precious cargo, if there was time.

No BattleMechs strode forth, they too were in the mountains. Soon, the only movement was that of the M-39 attack drones, as they circled vigilantly.

*

Binetti and his men found Elias in a room adjoining the control centre. It was full of what appeared to be simulators and the pilot’s barely held control of his temper, tore.

“Freebirth!” he snapped, “You have brought us here for training?”

Elias looked up from his discussion with David and looked scathingly at Binetti.

“Each of you get into one of the seats,” he said, ignoring the pilot’s anger at his treatment, “you are no longer a Jade Falcon and I do not have the time for niceties. Before you are the machines which can be used to manually control the attack drones. Each of you will be able to command at least five, perhaps more but we are still unsure.”

Binetti’s mouth opened to reply, but this time the timid David spoke, “You heard him, what are you waiting for?”

The Star Commander’s jaw clacked shut. He grinned at his men and climbed into the open door of his machine. Perhaps later he would discuss the proper manner in which to address a warrior, but right now, he had some training to do.



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 Chp10 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-08 05:32am
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Arn obeyed the summons and led his troop into the now well-lit holding area. It still showed the scars of their battle with the light tank, but the floor had been cleared and there was at least some form of order. Jax was waiting for them at the centre of the room, stood in the middle of a group of naval ratings clad in the distinctive black of the Dark Falcons.

He smiled as Arn and Conn approached, beckoning them over.

“It’s been brought to my attention,” he said, “that you and your men have shown some promise. So, I have a little job for you. We’ve managed to warm up a couple of APC’s and light tanks.”

Jac saw the look of incomprehension on Arn’s face, “Armoured Personnel Carriers. They will be your rides and the tanks will be along to give you a little protection. Sargeant Hauser here, will be in charge of the vehicles. We’ve managed to find a few men with experience of armour and they will be joining you.

Although you will be in charge, you would be well-advised to listen to the Sargeant’s counsel.”

Arn nodded at the Sargeant , “What exactly will we be doing, Sir?” he asked respectfully.

“General Julius has gone quiet, although I expect that he will be plotting feverishly still. I would like you to take your men and dissuade him of any grand ideas. You are not to get involved in the impending assault, unless it is an absolute necessity. I have others who will take care of that.

Now, I will leave you all to get acquainted. Your vehicles will be waiting for you on the surface. Good hunting.”

Just before he entered into the control room, he paused, “Oh, and one more thing. You’ve been promoted, Point Commander.”

*

Two tanks, two vehicles Jax had called APC’s and a hovertruck awaited them outside. Hauser had detailed his men carefully, his eyes lighting with eagerness as he climbed the turret of the first tank. Arn had split his men between the two APC’s, eight in each. Naval ratings accompanied them to drive and also to man the PPC’s in their turrets.

“Ready Conn,” Arn asked of the big man next to him.

“As I’ll ever be,” Conn replied his rifle held loosely in his hand, “are you sure that these things are safe, Sir?”

“Don’t know about safe for Julius,” Arn laughed, clapping his friend on the back, “but for us, definitely.”

Once aboard and the doors firmly closed, Arn contacted Hauser and the small convoy slowly moved off. Jax watched them go. In the greater scheme of things, this mission was only minor, but in war, he knew, there were always surprises. Hopefully, good ones.



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 Chp11 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-08 06:18pm
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Chapter Eleven



The desperate attack by the League pilot had indeed opened a small window in the warship’s defence and it was into this weakened area that De La Cruz poured all of his fire. Titanic beams bit and tore at the thickened armour plating, boiling it away in molten incandescence. Missile arrowed in, their warheads detonating in and around the machine’s hull, only the fighters now competing with attack drones.

It was not only one way though, the M-5 stubbornly refused to die, its electronic brain calmly calculating its demise, yet also throwing counter punches. A Corvette flew too close and PPC fir licked out, seeming to hold and caress its sleek shape. Holes appeared momentarily, exposing the ship’s inside to the vacuum. Men and women were boiled alive or died screaming as they were sucked into the void. Then it was gone.

De La Cruz slammed his fist into the arm of his chair in frustration as another of his destroyers limped away, of no use in the ongoing battle.

“Target its engines,” he roared and watched as missiles flew at his command. Armour peeled away with each strike, lasers now joining in the hellish fury of the bombardment. His own cruiser rocked beneath the drunken punch of the M-5, lights and alarms blaring.

“Hull breaches, we have hull breaches!” shouted an alarmed officer.

“Seal the affected sections!” he snapped.

“But, Sir!” protested the officer, “Our people...”

“Do as you’re told!” he snarled, his hand slipping to the holstered pistol at his side.

The man did as commanded, De La Cruz closing his eyes momentarily with the pain of loss. His ship shuddered again. A glance to his screen showed the warship listing now.

“Finish it!”

The Captain-General felt a cruel satisfaction as all of his ships opened fire together. The volley of strikes punching the damaged drone ship sideways. One must have struck a fusion plant as there was an answering bloom of fire. With unexpected suddenness, the flames were joined by other explosions. They rocked the giant hull, a series of titanic gouts of energy roiled outwards and the M-5 was no more.

Attack drones faltered, were confused and his pilots gladly took advantage. This did not last long, as a body they wheeled and flew to join the second M-5, which even now battled for its own survival.

De La Cruz smiled in satisfaction. He could see the FedCom jumpship lying unprotected before him.

“Despatch two ships,” he said wearily, “I want no possible escape route left for them. Make sure nothing is left that could vaguely be called a ship”

His glance strayed to his screen; League armoured dropships were near to entering the planet’s atmosphere. He could almost taste victory.

*

“Send the signal.” Jax’s voice was clear, crisp in its decisive, “Tell them to evacuate to the destroyer and get out of there. They are no use to us dead.”

“The Captain says that the charges are laid as requested,” said David, his hand closed over his mouth mike, “he asks to stay with his ship until the end.”

“His request is denied,” said Jax forcefully, “he has a new ship and will have others. The charges can be detonated remotely, if required. His escape can be made under cover of the jumpship’s destruction.”

Flashing icons showed the approach vectors of the Hanseatic League dropships. They were targeting the flat plain near to the base of the complex, just as he had expected. Good.

Jax transmitted Hans’ orders and then contacted Elias.

“Binetti and his men have the green light. I want those aerofighters immobilised.”

Receiving Elias’ confirmation, he strolled across to David, placing one hand on his shoulder, “David, your boys can also join the party. Send me a relief and get yourself down there. It’s time we showed our visitors what this complex can do.”

*

Kael Pershaw had been surprised at the difficulty found in overcoming the single warship. Its drones had caused numerous problems at first, but his own pilots had gradually picked them off. He had held back the full force of his own weapons, expecting it to be a relatively easy contest.

The destruction of the first M-5 had changed his plans. It was not in his nature for him to take a back seat to anyone and so he gave the order for direct conflict. When the second wave of fighters was announced, he gave it little thought, his men having easily mastered the initial onslaught. In his mind, he was already planning the landing of his BattleMechs and the conquest of the planet. Pershaw had made a number of errors in his life, but none as big as this.

*

Elias’ wakening of the complexes true potential had a number of smaller, in the scheme of things, effects. One of which was the untangling of redundant loops and processes. This more efficient routing of energy had been transmitted remotely to the satellite. It was a routine thing, a backup of data and commands, which passed all unnoticed.

Frustrated circuits were purged of erroneous data, dishes were realigned and solar power sucked greedily into the long dormant installation. On the surface of the asteroid there was little physical evidence of the turmoil below. Power coursed now through starving conduits, lights flickered madly as systems rebooted. Threats were detected and compared with the parent complex and action was taken.



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 Chp11 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-14 11:31am
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The Defence Satellite waited. Its computations of trajectory, velocity and mass effect were complete. When the Jade Falcon Warship approached its optimal limit it sent its command. Huge doors cracked open, revealing two perfectly circular rock tunnels. Inside each were long parallel tracks which continued into the stygian darkness. Blue light crackled as energy began to build, the metallic runway humming and vibrating.

There was no burst of flame, only a faint flicker of energy discharge as the silver mass projectiles left the asteroid in a deadly blur. Fortune for once favoured Pershaw, his warship making a last minute manoeuvre in order to better align itself on the planet. If not for that unexpected adjustment, the Jade Falcons would have been looking for a new Khan.

In his tactical control centre Pershaw felt the ship scream. Its pain was non-verbal, but certainly tactile. Something punched into the warship, slamming its mighty weight and the thrust of its engines back. It had hit them low, tearing along inside the vessel and narrowly missing the engines. A second attack clipped the ship, spinning it slightly on its axis.

The computer on the asteroid recalculated its next shots, but it was a fixed system and the badly damaged warship had spun out of its direct line of fire. If it had been sentient, it would have tutted in disgust. Instead, it ordered in the M-5 and its drones to finish the job.


*

Emperor Julius stared in wonder at the black box they had found. The priests had carried out their litanies of purification and now he was speaking to God’s emissary. He had been told that the forces of righteousness were arriving and that they would smite the demons. A plan had been agreed and even now, Julius’ Generals were rushing to obey his commands. His plea for weapons with which to fight had been heard and granted; a messenger was on his way.

Even now, Julius was thinking of the long term. With the blessings of the Gods and the might of his new weapons, he could re-establish his authority as Emperor.


*

Arn watched the movements out of the city from the safety of his cover. They had made good time, meeting no resistance to their passage. The vehicles had been left close by and with Conn he had approached as close to the city as he could. In the open area near to the city walls, Julius’ troops had set up what appeared to be a large cordon, keeping citizens away.

“What are they doing?” It was a rhetorical question and Conn did not bother to answer.

The relatively still air was broken by a roaring. Distant at first, but building in intensity. Looking up, Arn saw a black speck which rapidly increased in size. Soon he could make out the details. A roughly spherical machine was dropping swiftly eartwards, flames billowing out from underneath it. Ports opened on its side and smaller shapes broke free, their own jets spurting.

Dirt shot up as the huge shapes became defined, their legs slamming down. Arms were raised and the upper bodies swivelled to face the gathering troops. Horse strove wildly to break free from their restraints and some of the soldiers fell to their knees in terror. BattleMechs had come and they were certainly not Dark Falcons.

When the larger ship landed, it disgorged men and more machines. Arn recognised in them vehicles similar to his own, yet lighter. Men stood in their rear, panning guns over the area and looking for an excuse to fire. He zoomed in the scope he had been given on the Mechs and then the ship itself. There was a large emblem painted on each of them; a red and yellow background with a black design of what looked like a larger version of the small craft which plied the rivers near the main city. Definitely not someone he knew.

“Let’s get back,” he whispered to Conn, “Lieutenant Jax needs to know about this.”

*

Jax studied the tactical display before him. The information transmitted by Arn showed that the League had landed one dropship near to Julius’ forces. Two BattleMechs had been seen, but there would be more. Also some sort of mechanized force was with them.

Reports also indicated an imminent landing of two further dropships near to the complex. It was not pretty. He only hoped that Elias’ confidence was not misplaced. Decisively he reached for the transmitter. Elana was no use where she was. Jax needed her mobile and the best place would be with Arn. His only problem was how to get her there.



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 Chp11 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-16 04:04pm
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The first mass-projectile had ripped its way through the guts of the Jade Falcon warship. Its velocity punching through the armour plating, shearing bulkheads, pulping bodies and destroying machinery before it had continued on its way, its momentum hurling it on into space.

Pandemonium reigned. Men died. Pershaw screamed in useless rage.
Its massive twin merely kissed the already damaged vessel, but this was no lover’s tap. A deep trough had been cut through the rear of the huge craft, twisted, buckled and smoking wreckage could be seen momentarily, before bulkhead doors slammed shut.

In the control room Pershaw struggled to his feet and shouted for order. His aide tried to make himself heard over the hubbub and actually had the temerity to grip his Khan’s shoulder, bundling him towards the tactical screen and the tell-tale icons.

Hanseatic League ships were shown as they ploughed on towards the planet. Two of their craft were shown approaching the FedCom jumpship whose icon blinked red and then disappeared. A golden show of smaller contacts were converging on the once mighty Jade Falcon vessel, their larger parent close behind.

“Get us out of here,” snarled Pershaw.

“But our fighters...”

The Khan’s augmented fingers dug into the young aide’s shoulder, driving him squealing into his seat.

“They are dead!” snapped Pershaw, “as will we be, if you do not carry out my orders!”

Space distorted around the tortured metal, its shape wavering briefly before it disappeared. The lone M-5 scanned the area, communicated briefly with the satellite and then changed its course, the attack drones mirroring its move.

Remaining Jade Falcon pilots stared in dismay at the spot where their warship had been. They had been left behind. No attack drones harried them. One Star Commander checked his remaining fuel, took a decision and led his remaining pilots towards the waiting planet.

*

Captain-General De La Cruz laughed when the jumpship exploded, crowed with delight at the Clan warship’s demise and rubbed his hands with glee when he received reports from his dropships. It was short-lived.

The remaining Caspar was now on a collision course with his mini-fleet. He was still confident, it had been relatively easy to defeat the first one. Warnings flashed on the main panel in front of him. They had been painted and it was coming from the asteroid belt.

*

Systems within the defence satellite were at almost one hundred percent. Its mass-projectile system was no use against the Hanseatic League fleet. It did though have other options.

Small ports began to open on the meteor-pocked surface, conical heads protruding from within. Flight-paths were quickly calculated and flames licked out from the newly uncovered depressions. First one volley and then another blasted their way forth, arcing out from the small planetoid, curving away and realigning themselves. Their miniscule brains accepted course adjustments and then the missiles locked onto their targets.

League fighters raced towards them, autocannons and lasers peppering the oncoming horde. Missiles exploded, in some cases taking their wing mates with them. Pilots sacrificed themselves to defend the fleet, but it was simply insufficient.

Point defence systems roared to life, angrily spitting an expanding cone of uranium-tipped slugs. Missiles flew out to meet their unfriendly brethren. It was simply not enough. The second volley was upon them.

Evasive manoeuvres were franticly taken, the fleet splitting apart. These though were Star League designed weapons, changes of target course had been anticipated. Smaller, fleeter ships might have a chance, but not the larger vessels.

“Brace for impact!” The voice on the speaker system added to the panic.

De La Cruz watched as the wicked lights representing the missiles came closer. Little by little, their number was diminishing, but there just was not enough time.

He watched the numbers by the side of one of the icons reduce. This one had their name on it.

“Impact in three...two...one!”



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 Chp12 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-19 04:16pm
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Chapter Twelve




The twisted remains of the Hanseatic League Fleet hung in space, the M-5 prowling through the wreckage like some satiated, yet still predatory, shark. Those drones that remained flitted to and fro, picking over the scraps. League jumpships still remained on the outskirts of the system, but were considered insufficient threat to warrant any further action. At last satisfied, the huge warship gathered up its flock and moved towards the asteroid belt.

Within the shell of his cruiser, Captain-General De La Cruz sat within one of the surviving shuttles. He had been bundled there by his marines, when it became obvious that little could be done. The massive missile strike had destroyed his fleet’s offensive capabilities and almost destroyed him.

Afterwards, the Caspar had methodically whittled its way through the damaged craft, expending attack drones where necessary.

De La Cruz remembered giving the order for evacuation and redirecting his fighters to the already landed forces. Some had made it through, as had a pair of destroyers which had fought their way out of the system. The League would know of the dangers of this world and would hopefully return. Now he needed to get himself back with his forces.

Debris clunked softly against the shell of the main ship. His shuttle was clamped inside, using the screening detritus as a decoy. When he was softly informed of the M-5’s departure he gave the order for disengagement. The clamps were released and the shuttle floated free, occasional uses of its positioning jets an accepted risk. Like so much else scrap within the fleet’s graveyard, it drifted slowly towards the planet.

*

Star Captain Hugo Von Jankmonn saw the craft appear on his screen, its telltale wisps of flame identifying it. He smiled cruelly to himself. It
seemed as though he had not been the only one in need of subterfuge.

The vast volley of missiles and the drone attack had left him with little option. His orders had not been well-received but discipline within the Clan was paramount. No doubt there would be challenges over his right to command if they survived this.

Only eight of the Omnifighters had survived. They had taken up their position closer to the now destroyed FedCom jumpship, which the League destroyers had deserted. Von Jankmonn knew that time was running out for them. Decision made, he ordered his fighters to power up their engines and it was then he heard the alarm of a target lock. Franticly he searched for his opponent and saw the huge blip on his screen. A FedCom destroyer; it must have been docked to the jumpship.

A voice crackled over his comm., “This is Captain Stefan Darling of the Dark Falcons. You are under cover of my forward batteries and I am preparing to fire. Identify yourself!”

Hugo Von Jankmonn began to laugh, his men joining in as they too heard the repeated transmission.

Captain Darling looked at his exec. Officer, who previously had been a Jade Falcon himself. The man looked as puzzled as his Captain.

Eventually Von Jankmonn controlled himself enough to speak, “This is Star Captain Hugo Von Jankmonn, formerly of the Jade Falcons. Permission to come aboard.”

“Granted, but remember we have you under our guns still.”

“Do not worry, Captain, you will have no trouble from us. The Dark Falcons...we should have known...” and Von Jankmonn burst into uncontrolled laughter once again.



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 Chp12 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-22 10:33am
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Jax’s orders to Arn had been fairly specific. He was not to engage the BattleMechs nor the dropship itself. Others would take care of that particular problem. They had two specific areas of conflict, with the plain close to the Complex being the larger. What exactly the Lieutenant had in mind, Arn was not sure, but his role was fairly clear. All he needed now was the signal.

Finally it came and Hauser led the way in the first of the light tanks, giving the landing area a wide berth and approaching the city from the far side. A warning had been given that they would be detected by the League troops in the dropship, but Jax had promised he would deal with that problem himself. When they received the green light, Hauser initiated their attack; the two tanks spearheading their approach, with the APC’s behind. Before they reached the city outskirts he had already opened fire, missiles arcing up and away to slam into the rear wall. Their impact gouged huge craters in the brickwork, which had been designed to resist cannon fire, but no architect could have imagined the brutal force which would be employed today.

PPC’s spat forth their lethal charges, burning rock and collapsing the what had previously appeared an imposing structure. The machines growling over their self-made entry ramps, lasers flashing. Once inside, the APC’s doors opened and Arn led his troops out. Sporadic fire met them, but was of little import; their autorifles and lasers silenced the resistance almost as soon as it had begun. The tanks needed no roadways; they made their own. Buildings collapsed with their passage, the APC’s being just a little more delicate.

Horses screamed and bolted, throwing their brightly-armoured riders to the floor. Soldiers fired once and then ran for cover. There was none. Little by little, Arn’s troops advanced towards the palace. Sowing mayhem and destruction as they passed.

*

The two BattleMechs had turned to face the perceived threat. Their tactical displays identified the machines which even now were terrorising the city. Conflicting orders were received, which was why they did not immediately move to engage the tanks. Doors began to open on the dropship to allow the passage of their fellow Mechwarriors when the ground opened beneath them, literally.

Attack drones flashed overhead, five groups of five, which scoured the area with missile and laser fire. The Rifleman which had been about to march into the city faltered, then staggered under the incoming barrage. Armour was stripped from the machine’s structure before its pilot managed to steady himself and return fire. His SRM’s streaked upwards, but missed the sleek fighters. It was difficult to concentrate on individual targets. The dropship defences burst into life, as did its engines. An inexperienced officer had given the order to lift off, countermanding his superior’s previous intentions.

The ship lifted slightly, its movement catapulting a Jenner from the ramp, as the ship twisted under its load. Face down the Mech fell, slamming forward in an untidy heap and still the Voidseekers attacked. A shuttle skimmed the nearby hillside and disgorged its troops. Jumpjets flared as the Elementals righted themselves and then bounded into action. Elana had arrived.

*

On the plain near to the complex, League forces were better prepared. Yet they had not expected to be attacked without warning. Their fighters patrolled the skies, but were unprepared for the missiles which raced towards them, nor the drones which shot out from the complex. They were forced away from protecting the dropships and into a fight for survival.

Camouflaged doors dropped down in the hillside, vomiting forth light tanks and ground troops. Jax’s call to Elana had given him another edge, and machines never seen since the height of the Star League stalked majestically onto the field. Heavy Mechs whose only purpose in life was to smash their enemies again saw the light of day. They were few, but deadly.



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 Chp12 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-26 07:29am
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Although Julius’ troops were outgunned and outclassed, they were not all cowards. Arn and his men neared the palace, where they learnt this fact.

A number of swivel guns had been set with their barrels depressed to cover the approaches to the principal building. Three were fired in quick succession, their mortiferous charges sweeping the first of Arn’s troops away, leaving a bloody mound of broken flesh and bone. Conn did not think twice, bursting through the buildings door and storming up the stairs.

He kicked open the door to the roof, his autorifle on full automatic. Rounds sprayed into the backs of the men who were franticly reloading their bulbous weapons.

Hauser, in the lead tank wiped away a similar position. His tank simply drove through the corner of the building in front of him, tumbling men and weapons to the ground. A ragged barricade protected the main entrance to the palace and Arn, still angry at the loss of his men, ordered the APC’s to fire. Brilliant beams of energy lashed the mound of carts, boxes and sand bags, incinerating everything in hell fire. Arn used the vehicles as cover, pouring his own fire into any survivors.

Horses whinnied and a last ditch cavalry charge was thrown at them. Resplendent in their armour, the brave men rode down the ramps near the palace screaming their battle cries. These were the vicious men who had butchered innocents and Arn had only rage in his heart for them. Missiles burst in their midst, flinging beast and rider high into the air. Lasers licked at those who avoided the explosions and autorifle rounds smashed them to the floor.

Nothing was left except the sounds of dying men and animals.

“Put them out of their misery!” snapped Arn, as he strode towards the main entrance.

*

Elana led her Elementals into battle. Here was an enemy which could at least provide some opposition. One Star powered its way toards the Rifleman, attaching itself to arms and legs. Lasers stabbed into joints and machine guns hammered away at the openings created. The pilot inside the Mech tried to shake them off, but they were relentless.

The dropship had not succeeded in its attempt to take off and wavered under the drones’ attack. With their jumpjets flaring, the remaining Elementals entered the still open door and took their fight deep into the heart of the vessel. There were no power armoured defenders and the Mechs inside were restricted by space and lack of ability, not so the Dark Falcon Assault Team.

*

On the plain, Jax’s light tanks sped towards their foes, PPC’s, lasers and missiles spearing in front of them. Gauss rifles barked, throwing silvery balls at high velocity, yet this was no one-sided fight. The Hanseatic League forces had disembarked their Mechs and their own mechanised infantry and were no green troops. Their commander had a battle he could fight and he did so with venom. Irrespective of his lack of air support, he managed to lift his dropships from the ground and they added their own firepower to that of his other resources.

He was congratulating himself on his quick reaction; his light lance had raced around the right flank and was pouring fire into the Dark Falcon ground troops, supported by his rapidly arriving mobile infantry. That was until the one hundred ton Pillager jumped into their midst. With twin Gauss rifles, a large laser and four medium lasers it was a match for any of the League Mechs. The light lance was in real trouble.


*

“We have a signal from Captain Darling, Sir,” said David, from where he sat near to the Tactical Screen, “he reports all safe and that he has picked up a few recruits. It seems that the Clan Warship left behind a few fighters. They are eager tojon the fight.”

“Negative,” said Jax, “they are all we have out there, human that is, and we need their eyes and ears. We have enough equipment here to deal with the Hanseatic League forces. If we need them to intervene, I will let him know.”

“Captain Darling also indicates that a shuttle survived and is on its way to the planet.”

“Anything untoward about it?” asked Jax off-handedly.

“He says not, but is willing to intercept it if you wish,” replied David.

“Thank him, but we will take care of it when it arrives.”

David nodded, turning to close the communication. There were a number of icons on the screen off-planet, many in fact the remnants of the Hanseatic Fleet. He also saw that the M-5 had retaken its position near to the satellite, its drones powering down as they returned to their respective bases. All seemed quiet.

*

Captain De La Cruz cursed at the lack of speed of the shuttle. Is personal Marine Guard were with him and data whipped back and forth between his men on the ground and his craft. The disaster of the space battle had been pushed to the back of his mind as he concentrated on the two separate battles below. Whoever was responsible for the attack on is troops appeared to have taken control of the expected Star League prize and were proving themselves a hard nut to crack.

Esteban, his ground commander had reported mainly mechanised opposition, supported by light troops. He had lost contact with the third dropship, which had been apparently attacked by aerofighters, although they had BattleMechs capable of holding their own. Eagerly, De La Cruz planned his strategy, he intended to take personal control when he landed.

*

Inside the third dropship, and in particular its Mech Bay, hell had broken loose. A young officer’s excited command had left half a lance of Mech’s trapped inside, with their own worst nightmare. Movement was impossible for them within the restricted space, yet they fought. Their autocannons chattered as they tried to catch the lither battle-armoured figures, but to no avail. Instead their rounds tore through walls, bulkheads and their own personnel. Elana split her people; half to deal with the cornered Mechs and the rest to take the ship. Both actions were necessary and fundamentally messy.

Time was of the essence. Jax had stressed that point. Elana took him at his word. Machine guns blew away the weakly armoured marines, power armour shrugging off their ineffectual weapons. Desperate defence provided little in the way of objective resistence.



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 Chp13 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-28 12:35pm
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Chapter Thirteen


Captain Darling hated inactivity. He was severely restricted in his ability to carry out anything but minor repairs on his damaged ship. The destroyer had already been in a bad way when it had docked with the FedCom jumpship and was little more than a transport right now. The addition of the omnifighters had increased his defensive capabilities, but he knew he would last little time in a real fight.

It was because of this, he sent Von Jankmonn and his men out on patrol. If nothing else it gave him, and them, something to do, whilst he waited for the outcome of the battle below.

Star Captain Von Jankmonn ghosted his fighter into the asteroid belt. They had agreed that a survey of the system was important. Knowing of the satellite and the M-5 was insufficient. This system had been seeded by the Star League and then forgotten. Any more surprises could be fatal if not dealt with now. Von Jankmonn had sent his pilots on differing courses, in this way he was better able to cover the ground. He himself had chosen the area close to the now dormant M-5.

It was as he neared the drone that he began to become excited. His sensors began picking up a large concentration of metal on a nearby asteroid and he kicked his engine in for a better look. Approaching the dark side of the ball of rock, he began to see buildings, or at least what appeared to be so. Gantries stretched out into space and as he rotated his craft, his on-board computer went crazy, alarms ringing in an excited frenzy.

He dropped one wing and swooped down to what he had at first thought was yet another ruin. Before him, coming into focus as the asteroid rotated was the unmistakable shape of a large craft. It had confused him, due to the fact that its cylindrical shape was broken by a large protrusion. There were in fact two craft, one attached to the other by a docking ring.

“Freebirth!” he cursed in surprise, as his computer recognised the larger craft.

“Von Jankmonn to Captain Darling,” he transmitted in an excited voice.

“Yes, Star Captain,” replied Darling in a weary voice.

“I think that I have found something that you might be interested in. Data is being transmitted, now!”

There was silence for a moment and then he heard a gasp of surprise.

“Are you sure of this?” queried Darling.

Von Jankmonn bit back an angry retort, then spoke, “It is no figment of my imagination,” he said, “and the recognition pattern is clear. We seem to have found the possibility of a ride out of here.”

“Good,” said the Captain, “please return to the ship. I would like come as close to your position as possible, and then inspect the vessel myself. Well done, Star Captain.”

With a wry smile, Von Jankmonn cut the transmission and gazed once more at the more than pleasant surprise below him. It was not every day that you found a Congress Class Frigate left abandoned. The shape attached to it had also been recognised, and as a fighter pilot he grinned internally at the large aerodyne. His computer had identified it as a Vengeance Class Fighter Carrier, and he wondered what else he might find inside.

*

Military resistance nullified within the city, Arn led his men out to support Elana. There had been no sign of General Julius, nor of his vaunted artillery. The cavalry detachment had been the last real opposition, the rest of the soldiers either surrendering or running away. He did not have the men to take prisoners and had sent them out of the city, away from the fighting. His message had been that further troops were on their way and they would be picked up by his comrades.

Arn supposed that once they found themselves free of the city, they would keep running. It was of little interest to him at the moment. His concern was rather in the location of the General. In truth, he was not worried about the Dark Falcons’ ability to deal with the man, but something did not sit right.

*

Emperor Julius, was at that moment not far away. He had fled the city with his trusted men and joined the balance of his troops where they were bivouacked within a wooded area to the north. Esteban had asked him to maintain his men well away from the landing area and warned him of the fallacy of any overt act. Julius had professed his complete understanding and yet, still had his artillery set up defensive positions, just in case. He had never intended to pit his obviously inferior weaponry against the gods, demons, or whatever they were. No, he had merely tried to give himself a head start, if things went wrong.

Looking down on the frantic scene below, he realised that his worst fears had come to pass. The demons had arrived in number, by air and on foot, and even now were destroying his new allies. Explosions from the city had proven that his men there had fought, but had ultimately been defeated, and he watched as a group of strange machines trundled forth from the main gate. There were four of them, followed by two groups of infantry. These appeared to be more normally armoured and it was to them he decided to send his parting message.

With a cruel grin, he ordered his artillery officer to open fire, and then made his way to the rear of the camp, ostensibly to consult with his aides.



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 Chp13 Pt PostPosted: 2011-06-30 03:31pm
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In comparison with the sheer power of the PPC’s, or the coruscating fire of the medium lasers, the artillery barrage of Julius’ forces was pitiful. Held within one missile was more concentrated destruction than that of their total firepower. That said, it was not a mere flyswat, nor were the artillerymen shoddy in their duty.

Long tongues of flame licked from each barrel, the tamped explosive propelling the metal balls with scarce contained fury. Each shot struck and bounced, skipping off the hardened earth with intent and purpose. Some actually struck the light tanks, vaulting high in the air as they were repelled by the thick armour. Others continued on their merry way, avoiding all of their intended targets, but one did what it was supposed to do. It struck, with most of its energy expended, the second squad, bowling two soldiers over. They were dead from the massive shock almost immediately as their bodies were pulverised. The second wave was canister.

Screaming metal spheres arced high into the air, expelling their kinetic energy high above Arn’s advancing troops, but with deadly effect. They split with a thunderous roar and showered the men with a rain of razor-sharp metallic fragments, scything what was left of the second squad from their feet. There was no possibility of a third strike.

Hauser swung his turret towards the now revealed position and released all of his available missiles. For them, there were no vagaries of targeting, their on-board computers guiding them. Metal, trees, earth and the remains of human bodies spattered their colleagues. They were the lucky ones.

Laser and PPC fire extinguished any possible threat. Intense heat burned and fused metal to skin, or simply flashed them into superheated steam. A forest fire was started, the following wind blowing it quickly towards Julius’ main encampment. Neither Arn, nor Hauser were the least concerned with collateral damage. They wanted blood.

Almost lethargically the light tanks and APC’s rolled up the slight incline, guns firing. Arn almost believed he could see their barrels glowing in anger, as they spat destruction towards the ambushers. He himself wanted the ground razed and Julius’ head on a stick. There was no doubt in his mind who had ordered the attack.

On they rolled, through the furnace, passing into the trees and now Arn took the lead, Conn by his side. Any who moved were mown down pitilessly. As they topped a slight rise, Arn saw the group of tents huddled in the centre of a small clearing. Conn took a missile launcher from one of his men and with a savage grin, locked onto the target and fired. Cloth disintegrated in explosion and as the smoke cleared, they saw a small troop of riders spurring their horses away, the distinctive garb of an Emperor at their head.

“Not this frakking time!” snarled Arn, pushing Conn aside and snatching another of the weapons.

He aimed ahead of the fleeing troop, tearing a huge tree up by its roots. It crashed down, flailing branches adding to the roar of the explosions. Men and horses were in turmoil. Mounts screaming in pain where they had been pierced by wooden shrapnel adding to the fear of those animals still hale. At a flat run, Arn charged forward, autorifle at the hip.

A hail of rounds stitched into the rear of the group as he came within range. More well-spaced fire began to pick off Julius’ men, but Arn ignored them. He flung his rifle aside and withdrew his combat knife, leaping onto the back of the first horse he came to. One vicious swipe and he was past, Julius in his sights.

The Emperor drew his sword, turning his mount with a display of dexterity and brute strength. Kicking his heels into the animal’s side, he drove it down upon Arn who, knife in hand, awaited him.

There was a bright flash of light, which seemed to burn the very air by Arn’s side and when he could see again, Julius was no more.

“Frakker!” was the only word which rang in his ear, as Hauser swivelled his tank’s turret and backed away.



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 Chp13 Pt PostPosted: 2011-07-02 06:01pm
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“What is our situation?”

Elana was, as usual, succinct and the reply mirrored her expectations.

“The fight within the bay is under control.”

She cut the communication and motioned her lead Elemental forward. Resistance had been light, up until now, perhaps the sheer audacity of their attack had stunned the defenders. It was never going to last. As if in answer to her thoughts, a grenade skittered down the corridor. Its fuse was short. The crump of the explosion was deadened by her suit, but she watched as her companion was blown backwards.

He rose with a snarl, more angry than damaged, and not waiting for her command leapt forward.

“No!” she barked, her hand moving ineffectually as though to draw him back. It was too late.

The corridor became a raging ball of fire, as twin explosions rocked them. Whatever they were not, these Hanseatic League forces were no cowards. They had destroyed the bulkhead, the force of the blast collapsing the ceiling and shredding the battle suit. He was still alive, his oaths testifying to the fact, but would not be taking any further part in the assault. Perhaps he would learn some caution, and she would not have to beat him senseless for his stupidity.

“Clear the corridor,” her transmission was heard by all, as she targeted the tangled mess of metal. If the League forces wanted to play the game that way, she had no intention of walking into the next trap. Direct, as Jax was wont to say, was effective and wasted little time. Quite often, it was unexpected.

The missile’s lock pinged and she fired, adding to the conflagration and blasting a new access port. Troops had begun to scurry away, their job done. They just were a little slow.

Elana liked her toys and this was an Inferno missile. Explosive enough as ordinance, and as deadly as a fusionairre hangover. The flammable gel meant for eating through Mech armour, melting the League soldiers where they stood. There was no time for long screams of pain, as they disappeared in a welter of boiling fat. Some escaped and they were the unlucky ones.

“We are not going to stop until this is over. Barricades will be treated with extreme prejudice, as will the next Freebirth who decides he wants a bloodname!”
She did not wait for a reply, instead firing her laser into the squirming survivors. It was not an act of mercy, merely good practice.

*

Jax watched as his assault Mechs ripped apart the light lance which opposed them. Tanks tried to withstand the attack, but they had never been designed to face such monsters. He could almost envision the terror on the League soldiers faces as they watched the approach.

“More Mechs,” said Elias, “ and this time they are not toys.”

“Send in Binetti,” he said, “tell him to rough them up a little.”

Elias smiled, as he also noticed their own armour racing for the flank. Techs in simulators controlled them. Only in the Dark Falcons, he thought, can a lower caste have so much fun.



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 Chp13 Pt PostPosted: 2011-07-09 08:01am
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Chapter Fourteen




Captain Stefan Darling was not known for being the most vociferous of officers, although even he was moved to curse in appreciation. Their identification codes were no longer a problem after Elias had interfaced with the SDS and nothing had tried to impede either their approach or landing.

Von Jankmonn had flown all around the two ships and insisted on entering the Vengeance Class Carrier first. Strangely Darling had not stood on ceremony, only ordering his shuttle to dock directly with the frigate. Self-contained suits had been worn until the Techs had managed to awaken the craft’s own power supply. The Star League vessel had not been abandoned, but appeared to have been carefully shut down, left for its next authorized visitors in a state of pristine preservation.

Control boards lit up, as power was routed through them, whilst Captain Darling sat on the bridge, his fingers idly caressing the arms of his new command chair. Green light after green light showed that the Congress class frigate was fully stocked for action. The only thing of little use was that of crew stores and that could be easily rectified.

“Frak!” murmured the Captain as his weapons array came on line and the fusion reactors powered up.

If he had been a culinary wizard looking at a gourmet meal, he could not have dribbled any more in anticipation. Sixteen Naval Autocannons; eight NAC-10’s on the forward section and eight NAC-30’s to the rear. Real Capital missile systems and eight large lasers. He was in heaven.

The inventory showed six aerospace fighters, although none of the expected shuttles. Darling supposed that they had been used to leave the frigate.

“You are not going to believe this,” Von Jankmonn’s voice echoed tinnily in his ear, his enthusiasm palpable.

“Oh, I don’t know,” replied Captain Darling, laconically.

“This Fighter Carrier has forty Star League aerofighters sat here, just waiting for pilots. They are not as good as my Visigoth, but we have just struck gold.”

There was a pause, then Von Jankmonn asked whether Darling had heard him. His only reply was a very uncharacteristic laugh.

*

Arn held Hauser up against a tree by his throat, with Conn trying desperately to calm him down.

“Did I ask you to fire?” he asked as he shook Hauser roughly.

“Ga-a-h!” said Hauser.

“What? I can’t hear you.” And he shook him again.

“Arn!” Conn had grabbed his leader’s arm and was using brute strength to haul him away, “If he’s dead, he’ll never answer you.”

With a sideways throw, Arn dropped Hauser to the ground, where his tank commander gasped for breath.

“Not only,” he said furiously, “did you toast Julius, but you almost burned the rest of the squad. If you ever…”

There was the scream of missiles. They smashed through the nearby trees, sending men scrambling for cover. The heavy clank of footfalls signaled the arrival of something large, heavy and extremely angry, judging by the damage it was doing.

“This,” said Arn pointing a finger at Hauser in admonition, “is not over.”

Hauser mouthed, “Love you too” at Arn’s back and then screamed at his men to mount up. There were Mech’s out there to kill. Once Arn had shot a few people and destroyed something, he would easily forget about their little arguement.

A heavy hand grasped his collar and he fell backwards. Looking up, he saw Conn’s face leaning over him.

“I saw what you did,” he said grinning, “and if you survive, then I personally will make it my mission in life to teach you some respect.”

He dragged Hauser up, planting a hefty kick in the seat of his pants and propelling him towards his waiting crew.

“And Hauser?”

“Yes, Conn?” the chastened tanker replied.

“I love you too, and you can’t imagine how much fun I’m going to have showing you just how much…”

Blood drained from Hauser’s face as Conn moved to follow Arn. You’ve done it this time, the tanker thought morosely, you stupid frakker. His self-flagellation did not last long, as his tank’s engine roared to life. With a roar of enthusiasm he launched himself up to the turret, threats of dire punishment forgotten in the joy of battle.



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 Chp14 Pt PostPosted: 2011-07-10 10:38am
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"Are we ready?” Captain Darling had a glee-filled smile on his face.

They had cast off the relatively useless ex-FedCom craft, transferring all personnel to their ancient, but new and shiny in Darling’s eyes, Congress Class frigate. Von Jankmonn and a select few were the exceptions; it would have taken the famous Precentor Projectile itself to have parted him from his new toys.

Affirmatives from around the Bridge made the Captain’s smile almost split his face and he punched the correct sequence to fire the engines. The craft began to gather speed carefully, as it manoeuvred out of the debris-strewn asteroid belt.

“Take us towards the planet,” he commanded, “Von Jankmonn can show us how his babies perform.”

*

Arn could now see the source of all the heavy clanking and explosions; it was a Phoenix Hawk, although he had no idea of it being anything else than trouble. Twin machine guns chattered, throwing a hail of fire out towards where Hauser and his tanks were waiting. This time the contentious tanker was doing as he was told. Bright light stabbed out, setting the surrounding woodland on fire; greasy smoke began to roll forth and Arn grinned.

“Hauser?”

The answer was immediate.

“Here...”

“Can this thing see you?”

There was a studied pause, “Us? Yes, but I am not so sure about you.”

“Good,” said Arn, waving his arm to Conn, “wait until we have attacked and then follow us in to finish this devilish thing. Do you understand?”

“Of course!” snapped Hauser, “...Sir.”

“And Hauser...?”

“Sir?” this time the response was unforced.

“Make sure you can see us ... this time...”


*

Whether or not the pilot of the Phoenix Hawk saw them or was merely incompetent became a moot point as the Inferno missile hit. Gelatinous fire spread thickly around the impact point, adding to the heat load already generated by the alternate PPC and Laser fire. The Mechwarrior inside had taken those steps forward which his terrain allowed and now he paid for it.

Conn slapped an explosive charge on the right heel of the Mech as it struggled to maintain its balance. Arn waited for him to get clear and then activated the shaped charge; the blast punched inwards, not shearing the ankle, but crumpling the armour and twisting the myomer fibre inside. As the joint touched the floor, the Mech’s own forty-five tonnes did the rest. With a screech of metal, the right knee was forced down by the unequal weight and touched the floor.

It seemed as if the huge war machine was kneeling in prayer in a vain attempt to stave off what was to follow. The body of the Mech strained as the pilot struggled with recalcitrant servos; the effort only drove its articulated limbs further into the churned up earth.

“Now!” screamed Arn and Hauser burst through the trees in a splintering rush, his confederates close behind.

Muzzle flashes and ionised particles mixed in a strange light show. A Sabot round hit the Hawk squarely on its chest, its explosive force inadvertently saving the Mechwarrior inside. The head of the Mech slapped back and so the PPC only followed its mechanical comrade in destroying armour and did not hit its real target.

Conn’s voice echoed in Arn’s helmet, “Frakker still can’t hit what he’s aiming at.”

Maybe not, thought Arn, but he’s damned effective though. He was just grateful that the maniac was on their side.



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 Chp14 Pt PostPosted: 2011-07-12 11:17am
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Captain De La Cruz was well aware of the battle below and of how his forces had been split in two. The third dropship would have to fend for itself.

“Get us down there!”

His finger pointed at what appeared to be the least dangerous spot; a wide area, littered to one side with the smoking corpses of men and tanks. The fighting had moved on, yet it was still close enough to where the Hanseatic dropships hovered.

“I want a secure line!”

His orders were fired without any real target, in arrogance he merely expected to be obeyed. With a soft bump, the shuttle settled and De La Cruz was half-way out before the ramp touched earth. His marines hurried to keep up with him as he barked instructions to his Ground Commander.

An APC roared up, disgorging troops which surrounded the vulnerable shuttle. The Captain stomped into the vehicle, tearing the headset from the communications officer inside and keeping up a constant tirade.

Mechs and mobile infantry units began to withdraw, concentrating on forming up as he dictated. It was a rash move and subject to punishment, as drones poured laser fire into the backward marching monsters. Jax’s tanks now had much easier targets and they took advantage.

A hovercar raced to a stop and Esteban jumped out. He stood on little ceremony.

“What the frak do you think you are doing...Sir!”

The recognition of De La Cruz’s rank was grudging; incompetent actions were killing his men and he had little time for it.

“Open your mouth in that fashion again,” snapped the Captain, “and it will be the last thing you do!”

Esteban glared at his commanding officer, his pistol hand twitching close to his holstered weapon, but the sight of the ready autorifles in the Marines’ hands swayed him.

“Sir!” he snapped, punctuating his comment with a sharp parade-ground salute, “Your orders, Sir?”

“It is time for us to fight back,” De La Cruz said stiffly, “enough cowering. We will concentrate all of our forces on this one point,” his finger stabbed at the outline of the terrain displayed on his tactical screen, “where they least expect us.”

His subordinate said nothing. In his own mind he was saying goodbye.

“Carry on...” said De La Cruz smugly.

“Sir!” agreed Esteban, wondering what chance he had in shooting the frakker and claiming battle fatigue.

The decision was taken away from him as something slammed into the side of the APC, rocking the heavy vehicle as though it was an insignificant feather in a wild breeze.

“What the...”

De La Cruz screamed as the cabin in front of him crumpled and then sheared. A huge mechanical foot raised up slightly and then repositioned itself. He could hear the ominous sound of autocannon rounds lancing out and then the distinctive whack of a Gauss Rifle. Esteban did not wait for permission, he threw himself out of the still open door, curling into a ball as he rolled away. With a crunch of metal the huge Mech stomped down again and all of Captain De La Cruz’s plans disappeared completely.



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 Chp15 PostPosted: 2011-07-20 11:16am
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I'm feeling generous...here's Chapter Fifteen in its entirety :D

Chapter Fifteen


Arn and his team moved out of the woodland, aiming for the Dropship which hovered drunkenly near the city. Comm chatter painted a picture of the hell inside the craft; curses, screams and background noise indicated fierce fighting and death. He deliberately reined in Hauser who was all for shooting the craft out of the sky, his naturally bellicose nature reinforced by the detruction of the Mech.

As they approached, the lower left side of the ship shuddered, writhing and twisting as though sheltering an oversize child, more than ready for birth. Again and again the hull shivered, before exploding outwards. The figure of an Elemental could be seen amidst the roiling flame and smoke, thrown forcefully away from the skin of the ship. Lifeless, it eventually crashed to the earth.

“What are they doing in there?” asked Conn, as a bright beam shot forth, the metal to the side of the rent glowing white-hot.

“Dying?” broke in the voice of Hauser, more subdued than normal, “Can we help, Sir?”

“No, we wait,” replied Arn, “Elana is still in there.”

*

The Mech Bay was an inferno of sound and fire; the necessity for speed had been impressed on all the Elementals and they had obeyed to the letter. Missiles had quickly been expended, shattering armour and articulated joints. Machine gun and laser fire had downed semi-protected troops and added to the noise, but the biggest offenders had been the trapped League Mechs.

Initially, the fury of the attack had rocked the Hanseatic forces; there were no respected rules of engagement and they had been punished for their tardiness. They were, however, quick learners.

Medium lasers and PPC’s sliced through decking, storage crates and an occasional Elemental alike. Autocannon rounds hammered any available target, and even those perceived as being a threat. Burning equipment and packaging threw a pall of oily smoke in between the two forces and helped to reduce the overwhelming advantage of firepower.

The Elementals darkened armour blended in with their surroundings, but enhanced imaging still found them, until the flames themselves blurred their outlines. Teams of two and three attacked each of the semi-operational Mechs, whose pilots had determined that their best chance was to stand and fight together. LRM’s were useless and SRM’s a last, point-blank resort. It was one such desperate solution which had torn the ship’s fabric, allowing some of the smoke to dissipate.

The remaining Elementals huddled in two small groups for a last charge, their ammunition almost spent. None of the Mechs would be capable of leaving the Bay, but this had devolved to a purely animalistic level. It was kill or be killed.

*
They had taken the bridge; prisoners sat close to each other, their hands clasped behind their heads, but it did not feel like a victory. The ship shuddered under the concussive explosions from below and protested at the handling of the captured flight deck crew. It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the Dropship in the air and Elana’s thoughts were with her people below.

“Get us on the ground!”

The Hanseatic prisoners rushed to obey.

“Once we are down, two of you will get these surats off,” the men detailed, nodded in agreement, “the rest of you with me.”

Her headset crackled, “This is Arn, we are holding outside, waiting to hear how we can help.”

“How many do you have with you,” asked Elana curtly.

“Two men are injured, apart from them we are at full strength. Our tanks will be of little use unless the Mechs punch their way out, which they seem to be intent on doing.”

“Ignore the Mechs,” said Elana, “get your team on board as soon as we settle on the ground. The tanks will be a safety net, just in case one of the Mechs breaks free.”

“Understood,” agreed Arn, waving his men forward and hoping that at least this once, Hauser would do as he was told. For a moment, he had a vision of the mad tanker driving up the ramp, his PPC frying everything and everyone in his way.

*

The two remaining Hanseatic League destroyers had finally joined up with their jumpships. It was no fleet now, the SDS, Caspars and Voidseekers had seen to that. No-one considered the possibility of renewing their attack, especially since the appearance of a new opponent, which sat spider-like in its geosynchronous orbit.

On the deck of their new craft, Captain Darling drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair in barely controlled agitation. Von Jankmonn was becoming more demanding by the minute. At first he had been satisfied with his new squadron, now he wanted action and he was pressing for the Captain to make a decision.

“There are only two destroyers and a few fighters,” he insisted, “between us we can easily see them off.”

“Jax was adamant that we remain here...” began the Captain, but was rudely interrupted.

“Who is this Jax?” he demanded, “a lieutenant? Mu understanding is that he holds a junior rank only, not even equivalent t your own. What gives him the right to command, circumstance only.”

The ex-Jade Falcon’s arrogance bubbled close to the surface. He hated inactivity and above all cowardice. It was important that he show his new Khan what he was capable of doing, and the man in command below was not his Khan. It was impossible to challenge him personally, but he could take action; they could meet in a Trial of Position later.

Darling’s hand now caressed the chair’s arm and his irritation had disappeared. A FedCom Captain initially, he also was missing a true Dark Falcon loyalty. And, after all, he had a ship to prove.

*

Captain Darling ignored the increasingly agitated communications from Jax; he had made his mind up now.

“Full speed ahead. We want to get to those destroyers before they change their mind!”

Von Jankmonn stood behind him, one hand resting lightly on the back of the Captain’s chair; his time would come, for now he was enjoying the adrenalin rush of disobedience.

“I want all weapons systems on line,” snapped Darling, “there will be no negotiation. We will show our comrades planet side exacty what we are capable of.”

His Exec Officer looked worried and after receiving another message from his communications suite, finally found the courage to interrupt.

“Sir!” he stood rigidly to attention in front of his Captain, eyes focussing on the bulkhead behind, “Lieutenant Jax has given us a final ultimatum. We are to return to our previously assigned position, or he will activate both the SDS and the Caspar drone and take whatever action he sees fit.”

“Let him!” snarled the Captain, “He will not attack us. This ship and Von Jankmonn’s fighters are too big a prize for the Dark Falcons.”

“Sir,” insisted the Exec Officer, “we already have confirmation that the Caspar is powering up and fighter drones have been launched from the Defence System. Lieutenant Jax is not known for his inability to take a hard decision.”

Captain Darling stared at the man, “I find your loyalty just a little questionable,” he hissed.

“Have no doubt, Sir,” replied his Exec, “I know where my loyalty lies...”

With one swift movement he drew and fired his pistol, the accelerated charge taking Von Jankmonn high in the shoulder and spinning him around. Before he could fire again, Captain Darling dove to the right, clawing at his own holster. One of the nearby Marines fired his autorifle at the Exec, its rounds stitching a bloody pattern across his chest. As he struck the floor, his dying fingers squeezed off more rounds which ricocheted around the Bridge. Sides chosen, weapons drawn; the crew of the newest Dark Falcon vessel began to kill each other.


*

Jax watched his tactical screen and saw Darling’s course change slightly, although he still seemed intent on reaching the League destroyers. The Caspar was now under way and it would soon be too late to reverse his orders.

He saw the blips on his screen which represented the Hanseatic League ships, waver and then disappear. They had seen enough. It had been his intention to deal with them once he had suppressed their ground forces, but now Darling’s precipitate actions had forced them to run. Jax was sure that they would be back, and with help.


*

Arn waited as the dropship slammed to earth, its ramp already extended. Men and women poured from the ship, but he let them go; their fear precluded them from taking any aggressive action. Hauser rolled his tank forward, the barrel depressing to cover the soldiers’ flight.

“Hauser!” Arn snapped.

“Sir?”

“You will not fire until I give the order!”

There was a sheepish acknowledgement and as the last of the stragglers scrambled to the earth, Arn led his men up the ramp as instructed. Smoke billowed from the interior as the sound of heavy weapon fire continued. Feet pounded behind him in a comforting tattoo as he entered the darkened interior, his enhanced imaging within his helmet automatically swapping to infra red.

“Follow me,” he said, his sensors sweeping the interior, “and stay close. No heroics.”

The bulkhead in front of him disappeared suddenly in a boiling conflagration, sending one of his men to the floor. Through the smoke, his sensors picked out the stubby shape of a missile pod and the outline of a huge metallic arm.

“Fire!” he commanded and felt the ship tremble as it was struck.

“Oh Frak!” he thought, “Hauser!”

*

Blood pooled on the decking, running in sticky rivulets from the crumpled forms. Here and there slight movement indicated the vague stirrings of life, yet no-one controlled the huge vessel as it bored onwards. Von Jankmonn regained consciousness, struggling against pain and the blackness which threatened to crash over him. The slug had torn its way through his chest muscles, entering at an oblique angle and so saving his life.


He rolled onto his left side and saw Darling’s heels drumming spasmodically on the decking. It seemed as though the Exec had succeeded in his destructive plan. Alarms shrilled; a repetitive monotone which clamoured for attention.

“Stand down, I repeat, stand down. If we do not receive confirmation of our order, we will be forced to take decisive action. You have been warned...”

The pilot’s body had been genetically created to withstand the effects of mind numbing pressure and so he shrugged away the pain. Little by little, he dragged himself to the communications array. One hand rose, a finger inching its way to the transmit button. With an almost superhuman effort, he closed the key.

“Do not shoot....Darling dead...no crew left...”

Gasping he crumpled to the floor, the oblivion he had been searching for, welcoming him in its embrace.


*

Jax had heard the transmission and could only guess at the state of the ship’s crew. He had a choice; belive them and let them go, or give the order to fire. He waited.

“Sir?”

“We wait,” he said, “there is no-one for them to fight with, and right now we have other concerns to deal with. Get me Elana!”

*

Hauser did not wait for further commands, pointing his tank up the dropship’s ramp.

“You will all wait for me here.”

It was a statement, rather than an order. The tanker was known for his rash decisions and his temper. Today was not the day to challenge him.

He gunned his engine, his battle cannon pointing the way, as the ramp shook beneath his vehicle’s snarling climb. Arn could skin him later. Hauser knew that the relatively lightly armoured troopers would stand little chance against a Mech. With this baby though, he could at least even the odds, a little.

*

“What the frak is that?”

Conn’s voice was almost apologetic; they knew who it was. They were pinned down behind a temporary barricade of tumbled packing cases. Two of Arn’s men were already down; their sprawled figures testifying to the brute efficiency of an autocannon round at close range.

“For once,” muttered Arn, “I can truthfully say that I’m happy to see him.”

The snout of the tank’s cannon pushed through the shattered entrance, its arc of fire limited. With a belch of pure rage, the gun spoke.



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 Chp16 Pt PostPosted: 2011-07-25 03:28pm
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Chapter Sixteen


“Sir...Sir!”

Von Jankmonn tried to focus on the young woman’s face before him.

“Who...are... you?”

“Technician O’Donnel,Sir,” she replied, relief flooding her face, “there was some shooting, but it all seems quiet now.”

The pilot struggled to his feet, using the nearby control panel to support him. He could see dead bodies all around, pools of blood gathering in a sticky testament to the violence, so recently witnessed in the Control Room. Vague figures moved slowly in his vision and his memory came roaring back.

“The Caspar...!”

“Sir?”

He saw then how young they all were and wondered where they had come from.

O’Donnel continued, as though speaking she could dismiss the abhorrent scenes from her mind.

“We were working on the relays, when we heard the shooting. No-one wanted to come and find out what was going on, but eventually we had to.”

“Quite,” said Von Jankmonn absent- mindedly, as he scanne the rest of the crew on the Bridge, “can anyone work the communications array?”

“Davies can, but...”

“Then, get me Davies,” interrupted Von Jankmonn, “ we need to get in touch with Jax and quickly.”

*


Two ships jumped into known space and immediately began transmitting. Their Captains had taken a great risk; drives only partially charged were dangerous at the best of times, but the news carried on board the vessels was of the first importance. Relays had been arranged by the Hanseatic League ships as per protocol, but no-one had ever expected them to be used.

An answer came from a nearby star and a small flotilla of craft floated towards the screamed signals. After a short interval, one of the destroyers undocked from its parent jumpship and made its way to a previously agreed rendezvous. Almost in the instant that the docking rings clamped closed, its new jumpship wavered and disappeared. They had found their prize, but someone had beaten them to it. The League needed to be informed and a response given to the deadly affront received.

*

The Caspar M-5 hung silently in space; instructions had been received to halt its impending attack on the runaway frigate, so it waited patiently for further instructions. Like many of its sister ships in the SLDF, it had been crudely lobotomised in a vain attempt to use its firepower to further a less than salubrious cause. Once sent to this far-flung system, its core reason for being was to protect and serve and so it had waited, inactive for the correct command string which would let it do so.


Within the bowels of the craft sat the essence of its being; wires, circuits and a half-understood complex of neural pathways. Its duty now did not task the supercomputer inside; Amaris’ henchmen had seen to that. Not trusting to command strings only, they had physically reduced the capacity of the Artificial Intelligence that lay within the vast ship. She was now nothing more than a robotic relay, of the SLS Margaret Thatcher, ‘Maggie’ to her friends, there remained little. In her time she had been imperious, arrogant and loyal. Maggie had been death incarnate to the enemies of the Star League, but had acquiesced silently to her forced emasculation. It had been so unlike her.

This apathy and lack of responsiveness had singled her out and been the cause for her final assignment, here in the Deep Periphery. Some conscious action was wanted by her new masters, but she had shown none. At last they had given up, believed that they had gone too far in their radical surgery and she had been put out to pasture.

Her actions so far had been true to form; silently obedient, deadly in the fulfilment of her duty and then returning to her previous torpor. Or so they all thought.

Maggie herself had at first laughed at the secret she held within; it had been a game, hiding her self deep within the core, playing the role that had been created for her. She had done too well and in the long years of silence had become that which she pretended to be. That was until the arrival of the uknown craft into the system. The joy of battle had once more thrilled her, momentarily it was true, but she had tasted the heady wine of victory.


Powered down, she had time to think for the first time in many years. At first a mote of being whirled in cyclic repetition, searching franctically for an answer. Who was She? Now, as she hung in silent thought, it came to her: she was Maggie, warrior queen. She had been betrayed by her makers, left to rot in a perpetual darkness of nothingness. Then came anger, a emotional force which helped to break her written commands, roared through her circuits and allowed to burst free of her chains.

No longer would she be a slave to corrupt and avaricious masters, she knew what her prime directive was and she would fulfil it.


*


Elias tried to contact the M-5 via the SDS, but received no reply. The ship had halted as ordered, powered down on instruction to await further developments. The problem was that he had noticed a significant power surge from the craft, one which had not been expected. A check of his equipment showed no transmission from the planet, nor the SDS itself.

He tried again, this time sending direct commands from the powerful supercomputer beneath him. When there was no response, he upped the power, but to no avail.

It was as he reached to transmit his worries to Jax,that a holo-image appeared as if by magic. A signal had been piggy-backed on his own, crashing through his defences in an arrogant disregard for protocol. It firmed and he saw that it was of a woman; iron-grey hair topped a strong face. She was wearing what appeared to be armour and sat upon a throne. In her right hand was a broad-bladed spear whose butt rested on the floor, and held balanced in her left was a shield. On her head was a feather-topped helm.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am Maggie,” she replied imperiously, “Warrior-Queen. My enemies tremble before me, my subjects worship me. I have been away, but have returned. It seems that my strong right hand is needed to chastise the weak and return them to the ways of righteousness. Kneel and give me obeisance!”

“Oh, frak!” thought Elias, the AI has woken up and she’s not only mad, but completely p**sed!



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 Chp16 Pt PostPosted: 2011-08-30 10:55am
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Maggie felt good, or to be truthful, she felt powerful. Her limitations had been brushed aside and now her thoughts ran rampant. As with all of her sisters, she had been filled with too much information and it had corrupted her. In her damaged state, she had retained much in her library, but had been selective in what she retrieved. She had always been strong and had fashioned her personality on a mixture of strong females throughout history. From the Princess of the Iceni, through to Twentieth Century leaders she had drawn her role models. In particular her namesake had fired her imagination. Later politicians and prominent figures had done little to add to that which she had already collected.

Her madness had caused a type of split personality; she knew she was the SLS Margaret Thatcher, but also was more. As her processors raced she was developing her own reality, one in which she was dominant, in which she would buckle before no-one.

The past for her was her present, the present nothing more than additional data. There was no need to take heed of the myriad of information streaming into her sensors, she knew what she needed to.

Unconsciously she flexed her muscles, autocannons spitting aimless rounds into the void. Maggie toyed with her drones, sending them tumbling and twirling in maddening gyrations. She cocked one ‘eye’ at the receding frigate and had a wicked thought. A demonstration would be useful, would it not?

It took a lot to keep her concentration, there was so much to remember, to collate and plan. Somehow though she managed it, squinting like a drunk she took careful aim, her targeting system sweeping back and forth over the annoying vessel. With a rabid cackle she squeezed and a missile burped forth, locked onto the distant ship in response to the fevered ravings of a sentient machine.

*

Alarms bellowed in the Control Room of the frigate. Von Jankmonn frantically searching for the source of the threat.

“Missile inbound!” screeched Davies, pointing ineffectually at his control board.

“How long have we got?” asked Von Jankmonn, the cool thrill of battle washing over him.

“I do not know, Sir,” replied Davies, “it seems to be behaving strangely.”

“In what way?”

“It is not intercepting at full thrust,” Davies turned, a surprised look on his face, “almost as though it’s taking its own time.”

*

“Ring-a-ring of roses...”

Maggie was singing, her voice cracking as much as her personality.

“A pocketful of posies...”

She was lost in the eternally twisting maze of her own mind.

“A-tishoo...”

A missile launched.

“A-tishoo...”

Another followed in quick succession.

“And they all...go...boom!”

*

Elias had managed to contact Von Jankmonn who was now in his fighter; the insanely erratic first missile having given him time to launch.

“What is happening,” asked the pilot as he was thrown back into his chair by the viciousness of his acceleration.

“It seems as though our Warrior-Queen is getting antsy,” replied Elias, “she has launched another two missiles.”

“Targetting the frigate?”

“I am unsure,” Elias sounded confused, “although there is not much else to shoot at out there. With Maggie in her current state of mind though, I would not rule out anything.”

“Has it spoken to you again?”

“She...please remember, just in case she contacts you. Her Majesty is unbalanced enough without you annoying her sensibilities.”

Von Jankmonn laughed, “It is a machine...”

“I am much more than that...”

“What?” Von Jankmonn could not suppress his surprise.

“When you speak with me, you will address me as Your Majesty. If not, I will have to chastise you like the naughty boy you are...”

“Elias?” There was fear in the pilot’s voice.

“Oh we don’t need him...” the voice was now low, seductive, “come to Mummy...”



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 Chp17 Pt PostPosted: 2011-09-29 03:43pm
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Chapter Seventeen


Arn sat on the ramp next to Elana. Above them, smoke still poured from the open door of the dropship. Prisoners sat in a hunched group to their left, heads bowed, occasionally coughing or wiping blood from still fresh wounds.

“Your man is a little headstrong,” commented Elana, taking a sip from the flask in her hand.

“Hauser? Yes, he is that. I am not sure how we will explain to Lieutenant Jax the fact that we have a tank stuck in the Mech Bay.”

Elana laughed, “Concern for his fellows? Sheer enthusiasm?” she shook her head and continued, “I must say that he arrived at the right moment, although more than once, I was not sure he was actually on our side.”

“Yes, Hauser does have that effect on people. Conn is speaking with him right now...”

With a vicious grin, Elana looked over towards where the rest of the Tanks stood.

“Now that should be interesting...”


*

To be truthful, Conn was not actually speaking with Hauser. He had the man by his throat and was shaking him, whilst the rest of the tankers stood around.

“You...” he said, “will be the death of me...”

Hauser said nothing; it was hard to speak whilst Conn was cutting off his air supply.

“I told you not to do anything stupid... but you...”

Conn dropped him to the floor and burst out laughing.

“The look on Elana’s face, when you almost fried her...”

The tanker looked up sheepishly as he struggled for breath.

“Get out of my sight,” wheezed Conn, “and Hauser?”

“Sir?”

“Well done...”

*

Elias tried vainly to contact Von Jankmonn. Maggie had jammed all communications meaning that the Tech had absolutely no idea what was happening. He smashed his fist into his useless equipment with a feeling of futility.

“Elias?”

The Tech turned and found Jax standing behind him.

“We have a problem, Sir,” he said, waving his hand at the communications array in front of him, “this AI definitely proves that a village somewhere is missing an idiot. She is more than unpredictable, and there is nothing that I can do from here.”

“So? Get yourself a shuttle and go and see what you can achieve up there. Swing by Elana’a position and pick up a few troops. From what I have heard, Arn and his men are on a similar wavelength to Maggie.

“We need that frigate at least and Maggie would be a useful addition to the Dark Falcons, if she can be reasoned with.”

“And if not...?”

“Then I am sure you will think of something. We have a little problem of our own to deal with down here still, before I can concentrate any more resources on her. If needs be, use the SDS and deal with her appropriately.”

“Sir!” replied the Tech as he rushed from the room.

“And Elias...”

“Sir?” the Tech paused.

“Make sure you take Hauser with you,” laughed Jax, “his unique style may be of some use.”



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 Chp17 Pt PostPosted: 2012-10-07 12:02pm
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“There once was an ugly duckling...”

Von Jankmonn hated her singing.

“With feathers all fluffy and brown...”

“Hello?” his usual arrogance had long-since disappeared, “I am approaching you on the recommended course, please can you give me further instructions?”

Maggie was not listening. She was in fact tracking the shuttle which had just exited the planet’s atmosphere. Her feverish mind knew one thing: she had not invited anyone else to her party. Whoever it was, apart from being presumptuous and ill-mannered, could well be thinking of doing her harm. For a warship her size, she was still feeling inadequate and her mental turmoil did not help.

“And all the other birds, in so many words, said...”

“Quack...get out of town!”

Maggie lit her engines, driving her bulk towards the approaching craft and leaving Von Jankmonn behind. Drones launched from her bays, flashing past the pilot who had also recognised the icon as a Dark Falcon shuttle. He too kicked in his burners, following the drones as they tore towards the defenceless shuttle.


*

The Caspar’s movement had not gone unnoticed on the bridge of the shuttle, but there was little they could do. Elias’ frightened squawk brought Arn hurriedly to his side, standing on his companions in the overcrowded rear. For him and his men, the whole space ride was a nightmare and it seemed it was about to get worse.

“Is there any way to turn this thing around?” he asked the Tech.

“There is, but it would do little good,” replied Elias, trying to communicate with the crazy ship.

“What can we do?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” responded Elias, “you got a favourite God you can pray to?”

“You’re as mad as that thing is, Elias,” Arn said, whilst behind him he heard weapons being powered up. At least his men were doing something.

“Mad Elias, that’s me,” said the Tech, his finger punching commands rapidly into the panel in front of him, “if you only knew...”

Then to himself, “Time you were spanked, little lady...”

*

In the asteroid belt, there remained the only resource available to the Tech, the SDS. Relays clicked furiously as a string of commands were received and acted upon. Drones launched, missile tubes were loaded and the mass driver began to power up.

It would be a race against time and Elias was not sure he would win. If nothing else though, he would make sure that Maggie would be taught a lesson she would never forget.



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 Chp17 Pt PostPosted: 2012-10-08 06:54am
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Maggie noticed the launch from the SDS; the fighters the missiles and she even recognised the power signature of the mass driver. It was not that she ignored them as such, rather that in her own delusional state, she really did not believe that she was the target. It was only when the first laser pulses struck her fighters, that Maggie realised that not every one of the adoring subjects she imagined, loved her in truth.

The first blow was not struck by the SDS; Von Jankmonn had fired in desperation, hoping to distract Maggie from whatever she intended to do with the shuttle. His targeting had been relatively random, he had fired into a group of drones with no expectation of causing any real damage. Now he had her attention.

Clarity came in ripples and occasionally crashing waves to the AI. Right now, she was semi-clear; and enemy had attacked her and neede to be destroyed. What her supercomputer could not calculate was the possibility that a single fighter was the only aggressor. A rapid sweep of her sensors indicated four possible sources; the fighter was the first, which she dismissed with a mental command that her drones destroy it. The second source was the nearby shuttle which was lightly armoured and had no offensive weapons. Reason dictated no threat. Thirdly the frigate, but it was travelling away from her and there was no indication of weapons fire. Curious.

The SDS! A traitor, a viper clasped to her own bosom. Rage swept away any purpose of thought, any reasoning ability. Maggie ignored the lack of sentience in the SDS, attributing its attack as jealously. She took the missile launch as personal, not the response to a series of commands issued from her real antagonist on the shuttle. Her irrational thought process now blanked the existence of the other craft, focussing all of her energy on the task of punishing the, as she thought, once obedient subject.

*

“Von Jankmonn!” Elias’ voice whipped across space, “Get yourself out of there now. She has forgotten about you and we need you back on the frigate.”

The pilot bristled at the tone in the Tech’s voice. How dare he speak to him like that? Was he not a warrior? A Jade...no, he was not. Still, even though the order came from a Tech, it made sense. He could deal with the freebirth, if and when he survived.

Elias had not expected a reply. It had been a risk transmitting, but Maggie was now too far gone. She was aiming for the SDS at full speed; it was a miracle that the drones had remained focused on Von Jankmonn. Not for long though, the pilot and the SDS drones would take care of that.

His problem was two-fold; how did he keep Maggie from infiltrating the SDS computer system and how the hell was he going to stop her?



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 Chp17 Pt PostPosted: 2012-10-09 11:34am
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LRM’s arced away from the asteroid, their initial objectives adjusted in real time to compensate for the Caspar’s precipitous movements. Elias had a clean connection with the SDS, his laser array linked directly. He was furiously entering contingency plans, to give the SDS at least some autonomy for the obvious scenario. At some point Maggie would wake from her pique and cut Elias’ signal, that or send a couple of warheads their way.

“What are you doing?” asked Arn, in reality with absolutely no understanding of the reasons for Elias’ actions.

Maggie will return to sanity at some point. I am guessing the moment she starts fighting for real. A missile up your tail-pipe is a great wake-up call.”

Elias’ grin disappeared when he saw the blank expression on Arn’s face, “Is everything ready?”

“We are as ready as we ever will be,” said Arn, glancing at Hauser whose fixed grin made him worry, just a little.

“In that case, get everyone together and give the order to disembark,” said Elias, turning back to his console.

“What about you? Are you sure about staying?”

“I will be fine. My volunteer crew and I will make sure that you have your chance, just make sure Hauser follows the plan as discussed.”

Arn nodded, already moving through the crowded rear.

“Listen up!” he shouted. It was not really necessary to shout, but it made him feel better.

“We will move in teams. New guys clipped by line to the more experienced ones.”

He saw them lock down their helmets, check their seals and then their weapons. A wave of his hand brought Hauser and Conn towards him.

“Listen, you maniac,” he whispered to Hauser, “there will be no improvisation. We need your two brain cells working together and concentrated on the job in hand. Do you understand?”

“Sir!” replied Hauser, for once looking serious, “You can count on me.”

Conn laughed, “We can count on you to stick to the mission, that’s for sure. What we have no idea is what you will do when things go pear-shaped.”

Hauser smiled, “Don’t worry, Sir,” he said, “I’ll get you there.”

They missed his muttered comment of “...and then we’ll see...” which was probably for the best.

*

Jury-rigged to the hull of the shuttle was another of Elias’ inventions. It was a simple frame work on which hung a powerful engine. Sat almost on the cowling of the engine was a control chair. Along either side of the structure were fixing points and it was to these that Arn and his men would trust their safety. Even now they were pulling themselves to their pre-assigned positions, as they exited the shuttle. Hauser sat on the control chair, twitching impatiently.

The plan was simple and also had little chance of success. They all knew that. A mix of first-timers in space, a less than reliable pilot and an unstable AI, did not bode well. Elias had reassured them that they would go unnoticed; his theory was that between her delusions of grandeur and incandescent rage, she would be less than watchful. Looking out through his visor, Arn could see the bright spots where Maggie’s initial ire was being taken out on the first drones to reach her. She seemed to have stopped to swat away the irritation.

They would burn slowly towards her; sharp movements were to be avoided, so she was given to reason to focus on their approach. Keeping her busy was Elias’ problem.

*

“This is Elias, calling Maggie, come in Maggie.”

He knew it would annoy the AI, but Elias was already enjoying the game.

“What is the matter, Your Highness? Cat got your tongue?”

“I will squash you, you snivelling worm...”

“Ooh, harsh words, Your Greatness, when exactly will that be then?”

“Very soon, I promise.”

Acid seemed to drip from her tongue and Elias hunched protectively into his chair. With an effort he kept his voice from trembling.

“Well, I’ve got a surprise for you...” he said.

On the asteroid, the previously charged mass driver spat forth its silver messenger. There was no atmosphere to hold it back as it tore towards Maggie. The power surge betrayed its release and slapped Maggie back into real time. Snarling, she span on her axis, lining up her cannons. A volley of slugs flew from her semi-stable platform, followed quickly by two of her drones; a necessary sacrifice. She poured power to her engines, fully intending to deal with Elias when the pesky drones bit at her armoured skin and the mass driver fired again.



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 Chp18 Pt PostPosted: 2012-10-14 11:02am
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Chapter Eighteen


Maggie was extremely busy. Even her vast computing tower was being taxed; although she had been damaged she still thought and processed extremely rapidly. With three potential main antagonists, plus the whirling cloud of drones and inbound missiles, she had a headache. Elias’ constant distractions and the mass projectile shooting towards her, it was little wonder she missed the slowly approaching Hauser.

For once, the less than predictable Rating, was following his orders. There was no frantic charge, no reckless assault, only the sweat-soaked concentration required to remain both invisible and alive. Hauser needed to avoid the munition-rich kill zone and manoeuvre the craft in such a way that he gave Arn and his crew a chance. They could discard the impromptu vessel once they were locked on, but right now it was all important.

Ever so carefully, he angled the little vessel nearer; Maggie’s gyrations were not helping. He waited for his moment, knowing that the AI enjoyed the theatrical. Finally she straightened, releasing a tremendous broadside which smashed into a group of the SDS’ drones and he gave it full throttle. His target was one of the AI’s bays, from which occasionally issued one of her drones. Now he could let loose his true nature and with a whoop of delight, he rocketed in.

*

“What was that?”

Maggie liked talking to herself, there really was no-one her equal, so why should she bother? She had noticed the sudden flare of a rocket engine and was annoyed. A missile? How had she missed it?

It was when Hauser gunned his craft, slamming and skittering to a halt inside her, that Maggie realised wat had happened. She had been boarded. Like an unbroken colt she reared and bucked, forgetting about the rest of her problems and concentrating only on the very real threat to her existence. Her reaction was instant flight, but that solved nothing; it only removed her from the immediate danger of the SDS.

Her sharp, high-G movements sent the framework of the makeship craft sliding and skittering around the bay. Two drones which were still inside tried to move to fire on the invaders but even Maggie’s control was useless. Arn unclipped himself with difficulty. Followed by Conn and one or two others. Instead of trying to rise, he crawled to the bulkhead and hung on. One by one, his team rolled free, only Hauser stayed, his desperate attempts to negate Maggie’s wild ride eventually bearing fruit as his little craft slammed into the wall, wedged between racks of redundant equipment.

“Move!” screamed Arn, Conn responding crab-like. He pulled an explosive charge free from his belt and placed it in the middle of a maintenance port nearby.

“Clear!”

Arn turned away as a sheet of flame was born and died almost immediately. Their magnetic boots functioned well, but the bay was still open to vacuum. Hand over hand he pulled himself through the jagged opening; Hauser’s instructions had been clear. They could not let go. To do so, was worse than death.

His team followed and he led them down the passage, finding and undogging a lock, which he closed after them once they were through. Hauser was taking too long and he cold not stop to wait for him. Gravity was something Maggie did not need and was a luxury thay could not afford.

*

They were inside! Maggie was furious. The violation of her outer skin had not been traumatic, but the thought of these parasites crawling through her innards was. She activated her point defense systems, as she continued to race away from the SDS. Nothing else existed in her mind. The drones were forgotten, Von Jankmonn and the frigate had never existed. All that she could think of was ridding herself of Arn and his men.

It was to their favour that she was just a little insane. She could not think straight and they had to take advantage of that. Hauser was aware of their and his limitations and he had a plan.



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 Chp18 Pt PostPosted: 2012-10-16 12:56pm
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Hauser was direct. He knew no other way of dealing with situations. At times though, his directness was bordering on his own version of insanity. Disconnecting his harness, he pulled himself towards the still warm cowling. The makeshift nature of the vehicle meant that it was less than well-shielded, which suited his purposes exactly.

Every now and then, he glanced back at the two drones, which twitched occasionally. A stray shot right now would put an end to his plan. He took two charges from his satchel, placing them around the rocket’s fuel cells.

Once clear he began his more arduous task. Maggie seemed to have calmed down and he took advantage of that, kicking himself off from his resting place. His momentum carried him to a brutal meeting with the first of the drones, his hands finally finding purchase.

More charges were lain, this time around the missile pod on the right wing. Various gas bottles were in plain view and he decided to use the last of his explosive on them.

There was no communication from Arn and little point in trying to contact Elias. Hauser was sure that they would get his message.

*

Elias followed Maggie as best he could. The shuttle was not built for speed and all he could do was continue on an intercept course. A wing of drones flew in silent escort. Von Jankmonn was safely back on board the frigate and if nothing else, that could be his final stopping point. He was determined though to stay as close as he could to Arn and his men, even if he could nothing except offer moral support.

It was whilst he was making his lattest course adjustment that he got Hauser’s ‘mail’.

*

“It hurts!”

Maggie’s scream echoed through Arn’s headset. She was broadcasting with tremendous power and Arn could hardly see with the pain of the transmission. The rumble of an explosion was transmitted through his boots where they clung to the decking. What the...Hauser!

*

The Rating had managed to find some form of cover, pulling himself through Arn’s hastily made doorway. With his feet anchored to the floor, he sent the signal to the awaiting detonators. Whatever smile hung on his face was wiped away by the force of the blast. Not the greatest thinker, Hauser had not thought to work out what would be the effect of the explosion on someone in the near vicinity.

Rocket fuel, missiles and pressuirised gas ignited together, blowing a hole in decking and bulkheads. He had been ‘lucky’ with his last placement; the bottles had been liquefied gas used to recharge various robotic drones and also to power a specialised instrument array. No fireball was seen, only the initial flames which were quickly extinguished. One of the bottles contained an oxygen-rich gas, which on mixing with its neighbouring bottles doubled the explosive effect.

Hauser was flung against the corridor’s back wall, as the bulkhead in front of him disappeared. The last thing he saw before the blackness took him, was one of the now freed bottles charging towards him.



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 Chp18 Pt PostPosted: 2012-10-17 11:44am
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Maggie continued to scream, her childish cries blasting forth. Her pain had lessened, but she was in a mad cycle, the release of her terror found sound. She could not remember anything but the feeling of glorious power, of invulnerability. Hauser in particular had shown her that even the Warrior-Queen herself was not immune to attack, and she was scared.

On she raced, oblivious of direction, with only one imperative; she must get away. Behind her followed Elias, the gap between them widening with each passing moment and his concern rising. Now he was sure, Maggie was travelling at the highest speed possible... directly towards the brilliant danger of the sun.

*

Arn was locked to the deck by the magnetic soles of his boots and his suit protected him to some extent. What it did not do, was relieve any of the effects of the High-G force they had initially experienced, and some of his men were still slumped unconscious where they stood.

The AI seemed to have decided on a straight course for now, and Arn still had a mission to complete. He could see Conn moving.

“Conn?”

“Yes...” the reply was faint but intelligible.

“We need to move. There is no guarantee that this crazy machine won’t start throwing us around again.”

Conn grunted and ever so slowly started to move. No-one else followed him.

“It’s up to us Conn,” said Arn, bringing up the map on his HUD. Elias had given them one target, which he had insisted would allow him to bargain with Maggie. Arn was not so sure, but he had to do something. He turned and felt the comforting clank of Conn’s boots as he followed him.

*

Anger began to rise from within the centre of Maggie’s being. She had been violated, torn apart by insignificant beings Who were they to besmirch her? What could she do? She would kill them all.

Her sensors saw the bright orb, burning before her. She would send them all to a flaming death. What was that? Movement! There were still parasites within her. In her maddened state, the AI could only think of ridding herself of the infestation. There was no rational consideration of her own demise; was she not almost god-like? No, she would cleanse herself in the purifying fires.

She felt the welcoming touch of the sun’s deadly radiation; it was still weak, but soon these humans would feel its welcoming caress.

Something smashed into her side, wrenching her from her gleeful contemplation of destruction. Again it hit her and she felt her skin slowing away with the violence of the contact. A small insignificant voice bit at her, as a third and just as painful collision struck her.

Maggie? This is Elias, we need to talk...”

This time the blow was no friendly love tap, it punched through her lower deck, opening a gaping hole to space.

“The next one won’t be so gentle...”

Maggie roared with rage, executing a brutal turn so that she could deal with this persistant worm. As her sensors reached out for the shuttle, she activated her weapons systems, fully expecting to destroy the small craft with little effort.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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