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|A tale of intrige and backstabbing. There's not a whole lot of meat yet, but it'll be moving quicker soon. I'm always looking for comments or critiques on all my writing, as harsh or gentle as you feel comfortable making.||
Aamir stood on the deck, helmet under his arm and glanced around. Raphael and Sarah stood together watching him, making a stark contrast to each other. The first was a small compact man, with sprazzled whiskers and a glint in his eye. Sarah was a full head taller than him. She also moved with a dancers grace, which was fitting, as she was- at least when she wasn't otherwise occupied being a crack pilot for the Gamma Unit. Nelson crouched in the back slowly, carefully and above all, throughly running the last check on the suits. Aamir nodded, they may have to launch at half strength this run, but they would do well.
Behind him rest the XG-586s. They were sleek and new, no battle scars yet to mar their hulls. They looked strange, like elongated pyramids laid on their sides. The XGs also had what Aamir could only think of as wings. That's what they looked like, appendages of some beast that couldn't even get off it's own gravity well. The "wings" of the XGs were more maneuverable than their animal counterparts and the brass had assured Aamir that they would provide a huge boost in combat agility with the thrusters mounted on them. Aamir remained skeptical. They seemed like fragile targets to him. He shrugged, no one had asked him and this mission was to determine just that, anyhow. A small raid would help the effort, yes, but this mission would make or break the commission of the XG-586 into the Navy. He looked back at them again. Engineers swarmed the fighters. There was a calm hurry surrounding them, almost visible in it's intensity, as they checked and double checked the ships for their maiden flight. "Alright, this is what we've been training for. We'll nip in, hit them hard and hightail it back here. No fancy stuff. We'll give the brains their data, cause some damage and," he grinned, "Teach those dogs to fear Unit Gamma." That got a few smirks from both pilots and engineering crew." They were calm, confident and ready. This would work after all. Aamir shook his head and got back to business. "So, what are you lot still standing about for?" he called as he adjusted his own helmet and headed toward his bay.
Shortly Sarah intoned, "All checks returning normal," completing the last of the tedious, but necessary ritual. Aamir radioed final clearance and the squad taxied toward the drop zone. As his XG-586 rolled off the edge, Aamir felt the familiar downward lurch in his stomach. He knew it was just standard gravity to zero gravity, but he wondered if he'd ever get used to it.
"Gee 4, clear of her?" questioned Aamir. G4 was the last out, as soon as Raphael was away, they could start this for real. Raphael's reply was cut short as Aamir noticed a vibration coming from his fighter. "Anyone else reading turbulence?"
Pain. Aamir gasped for breath as a sudden agony sledge hammered his side. The vibrations got more and more violent with each moment. Worried voices came through the com but they were fuzzy. Far away. He wrestled with the controls and cursed profusely. Another wave hit him. This one socked him in the gut and blasted the air out of his lungs. He lay limply in the chair, desperately trying to suck in some air. Fighting to stay conscious as black swam at the edges of his vision, Aamir turned the XG about. He was headed back to the dock when he finally slid into the darkness.
"Get up, you useless sack of meat or I'll give you another one. You aren't paid to sleep," growled a deep voice. Aamir ventured to open an eye. He saw the metal plating of station flooring. He vaguely remembered lying down there and taking the liberty of a quick rest. Further lay cargo boxes of all shapes and sizes piled precariously on top of one another. Most importantly, he saw the legs and feet of a rather large and angry man, the foreman, his brain supplied. He then noticed one of those large feet was aiming a kick to his head. Aamir rolled, causing the blow to only graze his shoulder. "Get your lazy," the foreman paused a moment to plant another foot into Aamir's crumpled form, "slovenly," another kick, "good for nothing," and another, "grounder body up off the floor and start hauling cargo." With that he stormed off and Aamir sat up warily, running mental checks for serious injury.
"From flight captain to freight hauler in seconds. Well, life sucks and then you die," Aamir murmured to himself.
* * *
Triston straightened out his tunic. He wore a fine suit, dark and complementary to his fair skin. It was crisp and long, slightly exaggerating his own tall frame, as was the current trend, and designed by Marli, the finest tailor in the sector. One of his standing could hardly be seen in less. While this might be the peak of fashion, it also itched. Triston scratched lazily, knowing it wouldn't solve the problem. Either problem. His main problem was these biannual tours to the colonies. Who cares if it's traditional? His father and his before him might have done it, but they were stuffy men who locked themselves away in offices surrounded by naught but regulation and finances to keep them company. That's no way for a ruler to live. Besides, all these governors ever say was that all is well and how great life on Planet Mundane is. Then he would be forced to eat sub-standard, local food with a smile on his face and converse with those who insist on wearing terribly outdated, gaudy clothing and don't even know the latest gossip from court. He sighed, with privilege comes responsibility, with responsibility, privilege. In the end though, it seems to blur into one large mess of paperwork and political tours. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. One last appraising look and he left his cabin.
As he left, he nearly knocked over Lt. Felix Salth who had been standing at his door. In an instant, the fresh-faced young man snapped to attention, ram-rod straight, crisp as could be and as green as a fine spring morning. Triston looked over the man. After a while, when it was clear he had no intentions of taking the initative, Triston asked, "Well?"
"Err, sir! I mean, permission to report, sir!" Salth said, almost visibly stumbling over his words.
Triston nodded his accent and as the silence that followed settling, he sighed, "Permission granted."
Salth looked relieved and continued, "Commander Millo has requested your presence on the bridge, sir!" Felix, message delivered turned sharply and began to move away. He soon stopped short, seeming to remember something. Felix turned about face, once again facing in Triston's direction. He threw a quick salute and intoned, "Request permission to leave, sir!"
Hiding a smile, toyed momentarily with the idea of saying "no". It might entertain him for a short while, watching the duress of this sod. He was, however, in a charitable mood and simply said, "Permission granted." Mulling over what the commander could want, he stopped by cafeteria for some lunch first. Rank does, after all, still afford some luxury.
* * *
Scowling, Commander Erin Millo prowled on the bridge. The ship had a recent upgrade, and as a result, living space was cramped and the bridge was no exception. It was almost as is they made up extra cubeage to plug it all into. But no, that wasn't possible- if they had, it wouldn't be nearly as crowded. A rehaul on Environmental was something that was desperately needed, had a boost to the engines and the electrical system upgrade didn't hurt matters either. Still, it all took room and on the bridge officers were elbow to elbow, jostling for room. One mistake, and here she is, shuttling aristocrats about. She wasn't sure who she upset but Erin was positive this was the brunt of someone's wrath, someone high up and with a wicked sense for retribution. Escorting Triston Ab'Ador was an "honor" she would gladly have done without. He was shallow and petty with no real skills to speak of- and not just shipboard. As far as she was concerned he was a waste of precious space and obnoxiously underfoot. Where was he anyhow? The rich seem to think time has no meaning for them, but one such as herself couldn't afford to be too picky of employers.
She paused and wondered if Salth actually managed to get through his protocol and deliver the message this time. Salth's encyclopedic knowledge of all rules, regulations and fine print was nearly as impressive as the headaches he caused putting it to good employ. It made the crew jumpy and more concerned with textbook procedure than doing their jobs. Not that procedure is bad, it is there for a reason after all- at least usually. Tensions were ranging high though and it was one more thing Millo really didn't need and one, given it's nature, that was difficult to address.
Tempers had been running hot lately. There'd been arguments and more than a few not-quite scuffles. Ordinary enough in minimal numbers, but there was too many. Plus there was a feel of an underlying...something, Erin wasn't quite sure what. She wished she could mark it down as a sign of too little privacy. With the refittings and Triston and his entourage, rooms were short and every room was bunked to double normal capacity. It was only a short trip though, routine, short and nearly complete with the promise of shore leave at the end.
"Commander!" a voice called. Millo gratefully let that train of thought die. She turned to acknowledge the speaker, Triston, just as he continued. "You rang?" he sneered, voice full of irony. With that, there was a subtle shift in the air as the crew stopped and discretely watched for the impending clash of the powers-that-be.
"Almost two standards ago. Where were you?" Erin asked, cold and calm.
"WHAT? Am I one of your crew to be ordered as you please? You say 'jump' and I ask how high when I'm up there?" he bellowed, his face contorted into a fierce snarl.
What he paused to take a breath, Erin cut in smoothly, "Yes, simply. I assure you that jumping is not on the agenda, however, as long as you are on my ship, you will follow my commands. If I request an audience, I expect you here in a timely manner."
"Your ship? YOUR ship?! Who do you think paid for this hulk of junk? I own this!" Triston bellowed, his hands clenched into tight fists at his sides.
Erin raised an eyebrow at that. "Are you trying to imply that you spent your own, good money for a large piece of junk?" she inquired. She heard a few chuckles around the bridge. Triston's face went red- from anger or shame, Millo couldn't tell- and shot glares at the offending crewmen, swiftly bringing about a resounding silence. He was about to bray another indignant protest when Millo cut him off. "That is neither here, nor there, however. You did not commission this ship, it is not yours. It is a Navy ship and I am a Navy Commander. I expect and require all respect and duties due to the rank, if not to me. Now, I called you up as we will be docking at Datnak station in eight standards and there were choices to be made as to your stay. I say were because they have already been made. We waited for you to grace us with your presence but as you dallied too long, we made arrangements without your input. Before you ask, no, they won't be changed. I suggest you review them. In your quarters and away from here before you dig yourself in further."
With his defeat, Triston turned sharply and left, seething with self-righteous fury. Erin smiled inwardly. Damn, that felt good.
* * *
Triston fumed silently. He had considered changing into sub par clothing for this official visit just to spite them. He had decided such a move was beneath one of his class and breeding- besides which, he found it highly unlikely that such an action would be understood and construed as the insult it was by these cultural savages.
|Shadow- Part 2||Shadow of a Past life-First section|
|Shadow-Part Four||Shadow-Part 5|