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New story - The LOPER 
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Post New story - The LOPER
Hello. Many of you know me from the Games folder and the RP and others from the entertaining/boring/whatever you think Poems. However, I mostly write stories.

I've decided to put the latest in a series of stories I write up in here. It's connected to the other stories simply by being set in the same universe but, with the exception noted below, it's completely separate. Comments (positive preferably) are always welcome and constructive criticism is also useful. It's NOT pet friendly. Although I'll try to keep deadly violence to a minimum, it can happen, even in Star Trek...

The universe is full of various races. The Canines, the Humans, the Felines, the Micans, (Mice), the Celicans (Foxes), the Osirans (Lizards), the Rabbits (or Lapinians), the Raitchians (Rats) and other races. They all have their core worlds and their colonies. Each colony has its own defence forces and the major races have their own defence forces and access to telepaths. Among the differences in the races is their diet. A Rabbitoid of pure lineage can be killed by a simple piece of meat whereas the Celicans quite like eating still living fowl. (Rabbits within a few generations of a parent from another species can eat meat but, generally, don't.) Helping to keep the peace established after the Prey Wars – Where the Micans, Rabbits and Raitchians allied and fought the Celicans, Felines and Osirans to a standstill – is the United Security Council. They are the equivalent of a Federal entity, with their own cross species space force and civilian investigative authority, the IOC.

One of my first stories, Voyage of the Fauntleroy, is referenced in opening episodes with regards 'the creature' they found in a destroyed ship...

Amongst the major recent events (Well, fifteen or so years back) was the discovery of a Squirrel race, the Jondahl and a final colony of Wolves, once believed wiped out in a major war with the Celicans. A few of them have ventured away from their home-world to work in the U.S.C. as it rebuilds following a destructive war with an empire from beyond Council space that was engineered by forces on either side to try and gain advantage. They failed but the Council lost a large number of ships.

Commander Hawle, Captain of the Loper, a trade route patrol Frigate, applied for the captaincy of one of the new ships of the line and was turned down for the third time. He's a bit fed up and no longer as straight-laced a Commanding Officer as he was....

PIRATES

Snow fell across the north of Lappara on the fourteenth day of winter, freezing the Autumn blooms closed and layering the grass white underfoot. Music echoed in the twilight of the city of Ganra, sonic crystals flitting through the falling flakes and down the street from the sole lit building in the area, the 'Green Paw' tavern. Everything else was already locked up, being past closing time for warehouses and out of town shopping centres and the park for the tavern was full of cars, bikes and hover style vehicles that the Police liked to take an interest in in the hopes of catching the drink drivers. It served as a sign of intentions that, despite the cursory presence of the law searching for drink drivers refusing to use the auto-driver facilities of their vehicles, the Paw remained the most popular of taverns in the city limits amongst a certain class of business person. The relative proximity of U.S.C. base Samperdown and the commercial spaceport of Vayle saw fit to that. Entry to the Paw was, of course, unregulated, but the local Police knew better than to try to get any agents in there. It wasn't worth the hospital bills.


A battered new vehicle thumped past the patrol car on duty and turned towards the bar, making the officer in the car sit up and take notice. A cursory scan of the plate reported that it belonged to Champney Hagan, a Lappinean of Southern extraction with a decent size inheritance from an import/export business and an ability to spend it. No record. The Officer squinted at the open top vehicle as it parked up and the lights switched off. He was sure there was someone in the passenger seat but... he couldn't be s... there was. “By the stars,” he said as the figure blotted out half the lights from the bar. “Bodyguard,” he said aloud. “Gotta be a bodyguard.” He became self-conscious and looked around himself to confirm he was just talking to himself.


The ground cracked and crunched under the impact of mighty brown boots as Hagen stepped towards the tavern, his ears hung low and he moved with purpose as his Burman confederate fell into step with him. He sensed her scanning for incoming threats like some old vid-screen cyborg as the pair of them entered the warm interior and their breath evaporated in the orange light. Hagen felt like choking on the fumes that suddenly assailed his nostrils but he took a stand and swallowed them down as his companion ducked under the door frame. They strode confidently to the barkeep and Hagen ordered a double HeathWater for himself and a double Soda water for his companion. When they were delivered, he looked over the room as he adjusted his bandoleer strap and removed a bulky watch to check the time.


He counted fifteen in the bar. Various races held court here, smoking in one of the few legal places in the city and striking their deals over the games tables where a Raitchian, a Canine and a Celican were keeping themselves to themselves conspicuously and he turned his gaze from them as they looked his way and a Canine slipped onto the seat beside him.

“Bloody hell,” the Canine said, looking at the nautical coat and bandoleer, “I realise you live the life but I never thought...”

“Thought what?” Hagan replied, taking a shot from his drink in one go.

“The... the look?”

“Who the hell are you, anyhow?”

“I..I'm Gordy. I'm, um, supplying the goods?”

“Right. Of course you are. You thinking I'm a pirate, 'Gordy'?”

“Well, um, kinda?” The Canine looked around before lowering his voice. “My fear is that the Police might well.”

“Only a really stupid pirate would be caught dead looking like a pirate in public, 'Gordy'.” Hagan said with confidence. “So I can go about in plain view, looking like one and no-one gets that I am one. Even with the epaulettes. They just think it's fancy dress now cut the crap, Gordy. I've just finished hauling fifteen Osiran Muhrkra for the zoo here and, frankly, I'm not in the mood.”

“Bloody things stink like Lentil excrement stew,” the Burman muttered with a scowl.

“Thank you for that,” Hagan said simply. “Now, 'Gordy', what's this about?”

“Not here,” the Canine replied. “Back room.”


The pair followed him through to the bars back room, where an item of hardware was lying on the table. Hagan immediately recognised it for a Mark VIIbV pulse laser as Gordy closed the door. “Mark VII,” he said appreciatively. “The new model even?” He raised an eye ridge. “How?”
“Never you mind. Can you get five hundred of these out of the system?”

“It'll be hard to get these past customs,” the Burman said, checking out the weapon.

“I'm quite aware,” Hagan said. “It will all be factored in, don't you worry.” He guestured to Gordy. “Got her uses, this one, but planning's more up my street. I take it you can get these things TO us safely? To the warehouse?”

“We wouldn't be meeting if I couldn't!” Gordy snapped. “but I need to know YOU can deliver!”

“We wouldn't be here if WE couldn't,” Hagan replied, examining a piece of the barrel. “We were recommended, were we not?”

Gordy nodded and the Burman glanced to the door. “Heard something out there!”

“It'll be nothing.” Gordy claimed.

“It's never nothing!” The Burman marched to the door, opened it and looked out, closing it quickly. “Cops!” She spat before picking Gordy off the floor with one hand. “You were followed, you moron!”

Gordy squeaked and wheezed. “That's not possible,” he said, choking on the word 'not' as the Burman tightened her grip.

“Well it wasn't us,” Hagan claimed. “I know how to lose a tail.”

“I...” Gordy coughed a little blood as the Burman deepened her grip, a furious look on her face. “I teleported in.”

“Liar,” Hagan said. “Only the council base has that facility.”

“I...I work there... please...I...I can sh...show you.”

“Boss?” The Burman asked.

“Drop him.” The Rabbit drew his gun as the Burman released her pressure. The Canine grasped at his throat and gagged before tapping his teleport tag and fading away with a smile as Hagan blitzed a hole through his 'ghost'.

“That went well, Captain,” the Burman said, licking her fingers.

'Hagan' put his hand up for silence and pulled a communicator from his coat pocket. “Get all that, Groven?” He asked.

<<Certainly, Captain,>> said a voice. <<The camera in the bandoleer was a good plan.>>

'Hagan' was put to the back of his mind and the compliment ignored as Commander Hawle resumed his life. “Notify Samperdown IOC that their traitor's one Gordano Kaval of the maintenance division and the teleporter chief's in on it too.” He stepped over to the weapon and assembled it before handing it over to his companion. “Raven's on her way up with a new gun for checking by the armourer before being added to our weapons locker. Teleport her as soon as you've sent the information pack.”

<<Wilco, Captain.>>

Hawle paused for a second. “Stop calling me Captain, Groven. “They won't let me have the rank when I'm ground-bound and I don't appreciate butt kissing.”

<<Of course, boss,>> Groven's voice said as Raven vanished with a hum. Hawle walked through the bar, blanking the barman as he held out Hawle's dropped watch. He stepped out into the cold and pulled his coat around him before he headed back to his car and pulled out. “Call,” he instructed his carcom as the dash clock shifted to zero. “Police.” He waited until he was put through. “You should send someone out to the 'Green Paw',” he said as he drove down the highway, “I think someone's let off a grenade in there!” He gave his fake name and address and grinned as he thought of the stun gas fun he'd just unleashed in there.


Half an hour later, Commander Hawle stepped onto the bridge of his ship, the U.S.C. Loper, and sat in his captain's chair. “Aren't we cleared to leave yet?” He asked.

“It'll be soon, Captain,” Sarina Raven, his first officer replied. He let it go this time as he was now, technically, the Captain as he was back on the ship. And she could crush him against a bulkhead if she wanted. “You're not getting changed?”

He fingered the old fashioned outfit carefully. “Nah! It follows all the rules for the rank so what the heck!” He shrugged. “What can they do? Put me on shipping patrol?”

SUPPLY STATISTICS

Captain Hawle sat back in his chair and crossed his legs, enjoying the feeling of fabric his barely regulation boots gave him as they rubbed together in passing. He looked out at a sight that was beginning to annoy him now.

The metal frame of Lappara Spacedock constricted his view almost half as much as the planet he could see in the viewer. Lappara. His homeworld and the place he'd been imprisoned for the first twenty years of his life. With the advantages of teleport tech, there wasn't a single place of interest there that he'd not seen and it had taken him less than a year to reason that, if everyone had the same culture, everything occurred in much the same way wherever you went. There was nothing stimulating for him here and he'd jumped at the chance when a Council recruiting office had passed through his town. Sure there had been tears from his mother but she'd had the other ten kids to help her over that.

And now he was back here. Back at his old home with his unwanted new one. “Are we still here,” he asked, “and, if so, why?”

“We're still taking on supplies, Captain,” the human on navigation replied, “and Lappara control won't let us go until everything's checked out.” She glanced back to the Captain and he caught a flash of her smile, “they don't want a repeat of the Cobry incident.”

“Ah, yes.” He flipped a switch and put himself on shipwide communications. “All stations, text report in on supplies situation. First priority.” He waited on the reports and, after receiving the third input, contacted the galley. “Two thousand Celican breadsticks, Garvin?”

<<That's correct, sir.>>

“BREADsticks, right? Last time there was a typo and you nearly killed half the Lappinians on the ship.”

<<Indeed, sir. No bloodsticks this time.>>

“Make sure. Eat a few. Get Groal to have one if you can't stomach it.” Hawle flipped the line off and considered changing his lunch order. “Sciences...well, the science Room reports all in as do weapons, engineering, the fighter bay, security, the starwheel bar and...” He sighed. “Where's the report from computing.” He flicked the switch again. “Computing department. Where's your report?”

Two floors down, a young member of the Jondahl race looked up from the computer screen and was thankful he'd turned the sound off as his avatar on screen delivered a deathblow to the avatar of a teenage Lappinian on the planet below. Harvey, sometimes known as 'twitchy' by the crew due to his forever moving tail, finally got around to sending the report to the captain regarding the new equipment he'd received a few hours back and was now 'testing out'. He could access any local planet's Galnet systems invisibly now and, if anyone asked, that's what the game had proven. The room was dark but he liked it that way. Fewer people to see him and fewer for him to see. The captain didn't seem to give a chuff but there were many who didn't like his people over some... unpleasantness a decade or so back so he liked a little private space when his duties allowed. As for now, though? Time to get back to the tournament. “Now, Lady Astira,” he said to his avatar, “who's next for the thunderfoot decapitator?”


“If he's playing games again...” Hawles noted the incoming report and decided not to press it further. “OK,” he said as his 2nd Officer put himself in his chair. “Ready to go, Harper?”

“Have been since you got back, sir,” the Black and White Collian said simply.

“We'd have been long gone if that weather hadn't bunged up our supply runs.” Hawle looked over to the helm. “Get onto your boyfriend and get us clearance, Chapston.”

“He's not my boyfriend, sir,” Sarah Chapston replied, flicking on the interstellar comm and waiting for a reply.

“Thought you humes stuck together.”

“I promise you, he's a Lappinian, sir,” Chapston protested with a resigned air as the memory of repeated conversations came to mind.

“Not with that accent he isn't,” Hawle muttered.

“Flynn?” Chapston said as the local control operator replied. “This is U.S.C 424356 Loper; requesting permission to depart, over?”

<<Sure, Loper,>> a cultured but accented voice replied, <<maybe next time for that beer, eh? Lanes're clear. Cop ya later.>>

Chapston couldn't help but smile at the attitude of the Antipodean ideal that guy represented. It made a change from the normal, dour and formal responses.

Hawle could feel an electronic eye on him and turned to look at his second officer. “Can I help you, Lieutenant Grovan?”

The electric eye panned back up to join it's living compatriot in watching the Captain's face. “I don't like the new outfit, Captain. You look like a pirate.”

“I'm reclaiming the look, Grovan. If you don't like it? Tough.” Hawle crossed his arms and looked front. “We're still here, Chapston. You should know by now I don't like looking at that place. Make it go away.”

“Aye, sir.” The human's hands moved across her panel quickly, tapping icons and idents and pressing buttons.

Hawle watched her work, then moved his gaze to the viewer. He paid particular attention to the closest strut to the right on screen and gave a small sigh of relief as the shaft of metal pushed silently away from his ship. Give it a few minutes, he thought, and they'd be turning away from here on full burner to the outer system. He took a moment to access reports. “OK,” he decided, “we have reports of a missing freighter just outside the system. Might as well make a start there, I suppose. Chapston, put us on these co-ordinates as soon as we're clear, yeah?” Hawles tapped numbers into his armrest console and wiped it across to the helm.

“Aye, sir,” she replied, pushing the Loper clear of dock. “Estimating five hours at full burn.”

“Five hours it is. Sooner if you can. I'm going for Lunch.” He stood from his seat.

“It's two AM ship time,” Grovan said.

“Bloody space lag,” Hawles replied grumpily. “A sandwich, then.” He left the bridge as Grovan allowed himself a small smile.

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:04 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
Comments - preferably positive or constructive - are useful, good people. (also lets me know who's reading(!))

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:56 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
DRIFTING

Hawle stepped lightly through his ship, practically skipping on his way to the bridge. Decent food, a couple of hours sleep and two caffeine tablets had a way of popping sleep from his head. It cleared his ears and even seemed to make the world a little brighter. Possibly, he thought, a bit too bright. He focussed on his hand to make sure it wasn't blurred and paged engineering. “Lights on A deck passage three seem to be set way too high, Groal, are you wasting power on me?”

<<I wouldn't do that, Captain. There'd be no point.>> The voice sighed. <<I'll sort it in a few minutes.>>

“If you could please.”


“If you could please,” repeated a grease smudged Celican after he cut the line to the Captain. He shook his head and looked over the console. “Bloody Rabbit. As though I don't have enough to do keeping the engine working?” He looked at the readout screen and huffed. “Carrot boy's right,” he told his confederates in the bay, “feed to the illumination systems is ten percent over throughout the systems. Someone's reset the computer baseline.” He mused on it for a moment, then reset the system before getting back to work on the engines to correct a minor imbalance. An Engineers work is never done,” he told the others, “now keep those emitters lined up or we'll need to halve our speed and you know how grumpy I get at half speed, fellas! One of you might get ate!”

“He...he's kidding, isn't he?” A Mican engineer whispered to a Canine.

“I've never been stupid enough to find out,” the Canid replied.


“Oh,” Harvey Winsome said to himself as the lights outside his room dimmed, “they finally noticed, eh?” He clicked his tongue. “They really should have found that earlier. I suppose I could tell them but they'd just ask why I didn't tell them earlier. Oh, well.” He turned back to the computer. “Now, where are you, my little pain in the buttocks?” He slapped his computing goggles on and spun his way into the computer matrix, on the hunt for something he'd noticed on his last sweep. He reckoned he needed to report it if it was what he thought it was but he needed to be sure it was what he thought beforehand. No sense annoying the captain with wild speculation unless... Oh, there it was. From inside the VR landscape it looked like a squiggle of energy, a row of concentric circles crushed together and wound to dizzying infinity as Harvey cornered it at the end of a passageways of damaged program files and pulled his Malware destructor cannon to bear on his opponent. It fired a bolt of power at him and he shifted aside to fire on it. His shot hit it dead centre and held it in place so he could release a quarantine trap from his pack and slide it across the floor to stop under the Malware and activate it. The Malware bot fought against the suction but lost and fell into the quarantine zone. Harvey huffed and picked the trap up. “Another one bites the dust” he told himself. “”Now to find out who brought you in,” he said happily, following the trail of damage back to the source as he whirled the trap around in a circle.


“How's space looking?” Hawle asked as he pushed himself down into his seat.

“Black and full of holes,” Raven said bitterly. “just like always, Captain.”

“Anything further from the freighter location?”

“Nothing from the Greymouse since 0300 hours, Captain,” Raven said, looking at her console. “Transporting five thousand tonnes of flour and grain to the Rapprach colony. They've had bad floods this year. Not to mention the snow. And the Grain weevils.”

“Regular catalogue of despair,” Hawle agreed, “makes them vulnerable. And pirates like that sort of cargo. Sells anywhere for good money.”

“Pirates don't usually hit this close to a system, though.”

Hawles rubbed his chin. “That's the part that's worrying me,” he said. He looked across the bridge to the helm station and the black Hared Human sitting there. “Can we see their last reported position yet, Ensign?”

The picture on the viewer changed from black with starspots to black with starspots in different places. “As close as we can get it, sir,” the human said. “We'll be able to tell more in five minutes.

“Scan the area, someone. See if you can pick up a trail.” He sat back and mused. They'd lost their last science officer to the explorer ship Kraksis and command, in their eternal wisdom, had told him he'd get one of the top graduates. In four months. So he had to make do with Doctor Jaques, who refused to leave the science room and probably slept in there and whoever could pinch hit up here. Generally that meant one of the Weapons officers at times like these. As it was, it was Ensign Cass who did the magics.

“There's a neutrino trail heading off at 196,260,10. Signs of weapons fire.”

“That's way off their scheduled route,” Raven informed Hawle, making him think of grandmothers and carrot growing. “Probably pirates took the ship over and hauled it away.”

“I'm not sure about that,” Cass replied, watching the screen. “There's no sign of another ship. The frequency of the energy blast matches the light defence weapons on the Greymouse.”

“I see the night course is paying off. Send the scans to Jaques. Get him to confirm them.”

Hawles turned to Raven. “If the freighter was firing...”

“What were they firing at?”

Hawles nodded as his thunder was stolen. “That's my concern, yeah.”

Chapston frowned at the screen in front of her and zoomed in on a small piece of debris she'd glimpsed reflecting the local sun. “What's that?” She asked, indicating the Grey and yellow piece of metal.

Raven pulled it up on her armrest screen and squinted at it. “I hate these stupid screens,” she complained, “they're too muffins and cookies small.”

Hawles chuckled. “It's either small screens or fifteen inch wide arm rests. Is that part of the hull?”

“It could well be. Get it aboard. Let Groal look it over.


Five minutes later, the Celican engineer stood underneath the fifteen foot diameter jagged chunk of hull and walked around one of the support struts keeping the five foot thick lump of metal and circuitry up safely. “We have score marks on the outside of the hull, Captain,” he said loudly.

<<Can you tell what caused them?>> Hawle replied from the bridge.

“I can take a pretty good guess, Captain,” Groal said, elevating himself on a platform so he could step on the outer hull. He looked at a splash of frozen red next to a curved blade trapped in the metal. “I'd need Doctor Barleycorn to verify but this looks a hell of a lot like a claw.”

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Fri Jun 27, 2014 10:38 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
HUNTERS

“Are you certain on this?” Hawle asked as he walked the small excuse for a medical bay and glanced at the ceramic cutting tools Doctor Barleycorn kept behind a glass panel.

The large blackfur mouse pulled the file up on her computer and bade him look. “I compared the results with anything on our records and got nothing,” she said, indicating the Keratin claw on the nearest bed. “I got no matches. So I contacted Central Medical and got a file so restricted I had to contact an Admiral to gain access.”

Hawle fixed his gaze on her. His jaw set and he looked ready to fight. “You went over my head?”

“More around the side,” Barleycorn said. “I know the Admiral and you don't. So you'd have needed me to call him anyhow. Would you like to know what the report says or do you want to be outraged for longer?”

“How do you have hold..?” He waved a hand dismissively. “Never mind. What did the report say?”

Barleycorn took a breath and read the details. “Roughly two decades ago, a ship called the Fauntleroy? Their doctor made details on a creature. A 'living weapon' before the phrase came to more common use. The thing could withstand the pressures of space by virtue of not breathing, it had thick, chitinous, armour that reflected attacks both physical and mental and its claws could rend flesh as easily as it could hull plating and it can operate flawlessly in zero gravity.”

“How'd they take it down eighteen years ago?” a new voice asked. The pair looked to the doorway where a middle aged Rabbit dressed in grey was leaning on the frame with her arms crossed.

“Being as you know the exact length of time I'm guessing you already know,” Barleycorn said, gesturing to the newcomer with a stylus. “The thing's invulnerable from outside but not so much from inside. It still took three blasts from a Laser shotgun to kill it.”

“Good job we have one of those aboard ship, isn't it?” The Captain grinned at his security chief. “You thought I wouldn't notice it hiding among the supply lists, Jaqui?”

“Oh,” the Security Chief said innocently, “you mean my dads old shotgun? I'll have to make sure it works.”

“Make sure in safety, Chief. And get it ready. If it took a shotgun to take it then, it might do now.”


Ten hours passed as the Loper chased down the Greymouse, the Cruiser's powerful engines eating into the freighters lead by the second until it came upon the ship drifting in space. Scans indicated the engines were dead and life support down aboard the vessel. Hawle didn't really need to read the logs for that, though, as he could see the scars and holes on the outer hull, even against the sun behind it. “You reckon they were trying to put themselves in the sun?” Raven asked.

Hawle shrugged. “Who can tell? Problem is we can't leave that thing in there.” He put his lower muzzle in the palm of his hand. “Anyone else who comes this way would be fair prey and WE can't stand watch over it forever. The Council can send a special team to kill it but that'd take a week.”

“Blow the ship?”

“That's Plan B,” Hawle admitted. “But that thing can survive in space. Who's to say it can't survive the explosion.”


The place was silent for the arrival, by teleport beam, of Jaqui Pangal and her four security operatives in sealed armour. She pulled up her main weapon, a double barreled energy cannon with notable nicks and dents along the barrels. She pushed aside a corpse that hung in the void and it slid away from them, splitting nearly in two along a line of crystal blood. “Throw up in your helmets and you're as good as dead,” she warned her people. “Stay close and keep your scanners primed.” She found herself silently hoping that the sensors now were better than the sensors then as they'd not been able to pick up the creature and the Chief on that ship had just survived the encounter because the thing had tried to bit his whole arm off when he had a gun attached to it. She wasn't fond enough of Barleycorn to have the halfbreed operate on her unless needed. “Stay close,” she repeated as she led the way to the bridge, magnetic boots clomping along quietly on the floor as lights shone to the fore and up into the torn hull.

“It fairly ripped the drok out of this place,” one of her team said.

“Cut the chat, we don't need commentary Raston,” Pangal warned, opening a panel net to a sealed bulkhead door. She pulled a tube and a 'T'-shaped piece of metal out, inserted the metal into the tube and began pumping the contraption up and down to open the door manually. After a moment of pumping, the door unsealed enough to be physically forced open and the group stepped into the hallway between the storage bays and the bridge. Lights burned across a lot of bare metal and nothing as silence hung over the scene. The team barely breathed loudly as they moved along, sweeping their beams nervously as they passed by another body in the air. This one had asphyxiated; enlarged eyes and protruding tongue proving evident of that. “It's here somewhere,” she muttered. Nothing was showing on her scanner but she knew the crew had tried to seal it in this area. The plan hadn't worked. One look up told her that. The thing had simply gone back through the hull. They'd even tried shooting it off and that hadn't worked. All it had done was knock a claw off. If that was what it took to even slightly injure this thing from outside...


The team turned into the main cargo bay and looked over a mountain of grain that hung in its place without any grain having direct contact with any other. They just hung there in front of them, undisturbed and unbothered. Pangal turned to leave as the thing probably wasn't... She stopped as she looked at the claw marks up the wall and followed the trail up the wall and onto the ceiling. She followed the track marks across the ceiling until they stopped halfway across. “Not good,” she said bitterly, readying her weapon as the black skinned, red eyed, creature exploded through the mountain bearing claws and teeth.

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Sun Jun 29, 2014 3:33 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
WARRIORS

It whispered past her head and she noted the icon in her helmet for Errolby flashed, shivered and died on her even before she could turn around. She saw the arm slowly hovering away from the figure as it fell back away from her, putting globules of blood into the void. Troop three – Galton, she reasoned, blasted energy after it as it made an exit through the door beyond and vaulted off the wall, heading toward the bridge. She gritted her teeth and led the pursuit as she heard someone say they couldn't leave Errolby. “Then you'll be just as dead as he is if that thing catches you...” The creature appeared and Pangal fired. Even as an energy cannon, the shotgun had something of a recoil as cooling cylinders charged and released to chill the fusion generators that added to the power. Even as she took a half step back, the creature sprung and took both barrels to the head. The forward motion of the energy blast overwhelmed its forward motion and it fell awkwardly to the floor on its back, kicked out in hope of catching someone with it's claws and flipped quickly to its feet before flicking it's eyes between Pangal and her guards for an instant as the guards fired on it. It seemed more worried now, the Chief noted. It knew they could hurt it somehow and it was guarding now as they fired. It bared its teeth and Pangal readied herself for the chance she'd been waiting for. It sprang again at the guards and Pangal twisted out of its way and fired. The blast impacted on the creatures shining flank as it went past. It landed side on on one of her guards and its claws cut through the guards armour, tearing up his face as is worked out who had the most powerful gun and hissed at her. That was the opening she'd been waiting for and she fired both barrels into the gap between its teeth. From this angle she wasn't likely to score a direct hit on the brain, she knew, but she needed to hurt this creature now casting a black shadow in the middle of sprays of red. The shots blasted and shredded the creatures' lower mouth and throat and the Chief was sure she heard it scream. As its mouth dropped open further, Galton dropped slowly to his knees and aimed upwards with his blaster as it turned towards him. One shot splashed against its teeth but the second went inside, inflicting damage to the creature so it dropped to the floor. Pangal stood in close and it waved at her weakly with a claw. “Could be just stunned,” she said, instructing Galton to lift the creatures head. “Careful,” she advised as she pushed the barrel of her upside down shotgun into the thing's mouth. She could see it scrabbling weakly on the floor plates and her dead trooper. She pulled the triggers and felt the backlash again as the creature jerked and lay still. She breathed heavily and put her hand to a bulkhead to steady herself. “Let's get to the communications system,” she said. “See if it's operational.”

<<Right,>> Galton replied hesitantly, standing shakily as the adrenaline rush receded.


One of the problems with the current combat suit supplied to patrol route vessels was the lack of ship-to-ship communications as standard. They were the cheapest suits for that reason and, by the time it was noted that range communications was needed, the company had sorted out the 'optional update' and charged for it again. Pangal hoped some idiot in procurement had been fired for that. She tried her system anyway. “Pangal to Loper, come please, over.”

<<Loper h..e,>> Chapston replied, her voice hissing through audio static. <<Putting y.u onto t.. ...tin.>>

She waited until Hawle came on the line to tell him the communications suite was worse than useless and she hated that she agreed with him.

<<Re..rt anyway, C..ef.>>

“We have two dead and we have killed the creature. Lock on to us and beam us back, would you?”

<<Co..ir..d. St..d by. Br..g it ba.. with you.>>

She cut the line. “Hell,” she said bitterly. “Grab the thing, Galton,” she instructed, “we're taking it with us.


Pangal and Hawles stood on opposite sides of two capsules as they lay outside the launch station. The chief growled at him as he readied a book. “Was it worth it?” She demanded. “Two dead for no muffins and cookies reason at all!”

“There was a reason,” Hawle responded hollowly as the capsuled began to move towards their launch stations. “According to Doctor Jaques, that thing was eating tiny amounts of grain and the crew, even though they were exposed to space. It could have lived there for ages until another ship came by with no clue as to what was in there. They died to save others, Jaqui. It'll say that, I'll make sure of it. One minor good thing has come out of this, though.”

“What's that?” Pangal didn't look as though she believed anything good could possibly come out of this.

Hawles thought she was probably right but he'd made the best of it. “I spoke to the Captain of the Celican Science Vessel Narravokal. They're going to take the creature carcass off us and do a full 'rip-apart' – their word, not mine – on it.”

“Not a U.S.C. vessel?”

“None in the area. But the Narravokal got some of the old, clunkier, security suits. They'll give us them in return for the creature.”

Pangal goggled at him, her mouth hanging open. “You did a deal? With Celicans?”

Hawle took on a bitter look and averted his gaze. “Can't always choose who you do deals with,” he said bitterly.

“You did a deal?”

Hawle looked exasperated. “So?” he asked, spreading his arms. “Not 'by the book'? The book got us this battle armour and see where that got us? The old stuff's better and I just got us a supply of it whilst getting that bloody thing off the ship two days faster than if we took it to Beqwal Research Labs which, by the way, is distinctly off our patrol path and why the hell am I defending myself on this? Decision's made and I think it was correct. Can you cope with that?” He stared at her.

Pangal thought about it for a moment before slowly nodding as the capsules slid into the launchers. “You did what you could,” she agreed. “Pity the price is too high.”

“Tell me about it, Hawles muttered before opening the book. “We commit these bodies to the deep from which we came,” he intoned, “to join with their ancestors in the celestial fields where there is no need for predation or pain or suffering. They are headed to a greater place than we can know and their passing leaves a wound in the universe that can only be healed by the new-coming generation living up to what has gone before. We are lesser for their loss and our memory greater for their presence there. We will miss them.” He pressed a button and two sections of the wall slid open and admitted the capsules. The room shook slightly as they ejected into space. Hawles activated his comms. “Hawle to Raven.”

<<Raven here.>>

“I don't want anyone looting the Greymouse. Barleycorn's got the crew in her morgue so obliterate that thing. Now.”

“When did Barleycorn get the crew?”

“When you were writing your reports I went over and tagged them.” He raised a hand to stop her protest. “Not by the book, I know but I respect my crew above any book. I respect them and I'll do my damnedest to bring the crew back, alive or dead...” He looked uneasily at the empty tubes. “...Unless they've requested other departure arrangements. I'm extending that to any other crews we can hold. Least I can do for them.”

Pangal looked surprised. “I wasn't going to say anything in argument, Captain! In fact, I agree with you.”

“Really?” Hawle looked surprised. “Well, um, good.” At that, he headed back to the bridge as the Loper's pulse cannons devastated the freighter in front of them.

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Mon Jun 30, 2014 3:44 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
This is looking great! I look forward to reading more!

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Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:03 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
Thanks, Hla.

I got a bit bored of doing 'by the books' types so I decided that, this story, the book should just about be visible in the corner. Under a pile of other books. With a potted plant on top.

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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
ONWARD

Hawle stood in the small science room and looked over the vast array of samples and test tubes filled with various fluids as the toilet flushed in one of the side rooms. The occupant sidled out, doing up his trousers as he came. “Want a burrito?” He asked, opening the second door and entering his living room.

“No,” Hawle replied, “I'd rather gather an insight into this thing before my ears fall off with age. What have you discovered so far, oh shut-in genius?”

“I've learnt that you have no patience,” the portly Mican said as he returned to the science room, “and no fashion sense.” He looked down at the flop-topped boots and baggy trousers the captain was wearing.

“I'll have you know that retro is back in these days, Professor, and other bridge staff are copying it. Can we get back to the dead thing?”

“After I've finished insulting the military mind that says 'if the Captain does it, I have to', fine.” The Mican chomphed on the Burrito, spilling tomato sauce and a chunk of Chicken on the floor. “I'll pick that up in a moment.” He stepped over to one of the computer consoles and switched it on. “The thing's skin is impenetrable to everything we have here and probably up to a monobeam cutter. Its respitory system is incredibly efficient, recycling everything with virtually no redundant systems. From what I can tell from the blood samples, it can put itself into near stasis to survive the rigours of space. It can seal every orifice – and I do mean every orifice – for travel purposes.” He finished the Burrito and licked his fingers.

“I can't believe you're still single,” Hawle said with a shake of the head.

“I have trouble making connections,” Jaques admitted. “I'll forward on details to the Celicans and the USC medical facilities. I understand it killed people?”

“At least six.”

“What a horrible Universe we live in.”

I live in the universe, Professor, you never leave this room. You don't see the glories, we just send you the bad parts.”

“The universe is full of communicable diseases, Captain. I'm only here because I'm better in small spaces. No pun intended.”

“Didn't hear a pun.” Hawle remarked, heading for the exit before the smell got to him. He wasn't quite a pureblood so the eating of meat wouldn't kill him but he still loathed the smells and had to fight a severe gag reflex every time he was in close communion to the shredded, torn and cooked carcasses of meat animals. That, he knew, was one of the reasons he wasn't fond of Celicans. At least the others had the decency to kill their food first. Celicans had purposely bred Chickens and other small mammals that they 'snapped' at table and Hawle was thankful he only had one or two on board as they could use the sub galley.

“Captain on the bridge,” Raven snapped as Hawle stepped onto the familiar deck plating behind her.

“That I am, Commander,” he replied as he stepped around her to his seat. “Report, please.”

He looked forward at the vast, star-drenched, expanse of nothingness that lay in front of him and wondered where else those things might be lying in wait out there. Silent and deadly and waiting for people to turn off their shields off and let them in. He considered that as Raven told him of the latest crew updates and the connect time with the Celican vessel – just after their lunch, a timing he really didn't relish – and the latest news he'd missed by not tuning into the Gal-Net News Network over the past few hours. “What was that about the Jewel of Tara?” he asked, dragging himself back to the situation at hand.

“Raitchian traders took part in a bit of piracy. They stole the Jewel.”

“They stole it?” Hawle marvelled at the audacity. “How the heck does one steal a twenty foot tall jade Monolith?” he shook his head. “Gotta give them points for the audacity. I take it the local Canine colonies have already expressed an interest?”

“Not officially but the Mican colonial forces have requested back up to block any attempts at 'repatriation' of the colony now that the Jewel has gone. How close are we to Tara?”

Raven tapped a few icons on her computer and analysed the results readout. “Fifteen hours at best speed.”

Hawle sighed and tapped his teeth with his claws as he rested his elbow on the armrest. “Helm,” he ordered, “set course for Tara. Notify the Celican ship of our change of route and tell Command that we're off to wave the flag and see if we can find them some thieves.”

“Aye, aye, cap'n,” Chapston said, setting the new heading as the communications officer sent the news to Command.

“I'm not a pirate, Human, or you'd be walking into the core for insubordination, wouldn't ye?”

“Pirates are not a joking matter, Captain,” Raven warned.

“I know that, Sarina. I'm always serious about my job. You should know that.”

“I do,” she growled. “I just wish you were professional about how you do it!”

Hawle looked at her sharply. “Being professional about how I did the job hasn't got me anywhere, has it? So now I do the job and have some fun too.”

“So long as you recall where the fun ends and the work begins.”

Hawle snorted, but didn't raise his voice. “So long as you remember where jocular talk ends and insubordination begins, eh, Raven?”

The Burman swallowed hard, the concern showing in her face as she cooled down. “Aye, sir.”

Hawle patted her on the arm. “Don't worry about it, Commander. Occasionally I'm gonna need the boot up the butt and that's one of the reasons I asked for you.”

“What's the others?”

“You have to ask? After you picked that guy up at the bar with one hand?”

“Oh, right, that.” She allowed herself the vestige of a smile. “Can I do that again soon?” She saw his raised eye-ridge. “It... combats stress,” she explained quickly.

“Good plan. Oh, Chapston? You've been on duty eighteen hours. Go hit the rack, eat some of that... stuff you guys call food and hit a rack for six. Dismissed.”

“But...” Chapston thought about protesting but reconsidered. “Yes, sir.” She left her station and Hawle took over until her relief came by.

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Tue Jul 01, 2014 4:19 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
Well Welsh, I have a few suggestions for you. You can count this all under 'constructive criticism.'

First: That little rant of information we needed before the story started. Specifically this:
Welsh Halfwit wrote:
Amongst the major recent events (Well, fifteen or so years back) was the discovery of a Squirrel race, the Jondahl and a final colony of Wolves, once believed wiped out in a major war with the Celicans. A few of them have ventured away from their home-world to work in the U.S.C. as it rebuilds following a destructive war with an empire from beyond Council space that was engineered by forces on either side to try and gain advantage. They failed but the Council lost a large number of ships.

Commander Hawle, Captain of the Loper, a trade route patrol Frigate, applied for the captaincy of one of the new ships of the line and was turned down for the third time. He's a bit fed up and no longer as straight-laced a Commanding Officer as he was....

Now I am not familiar with Star Treck, so I really don't know for sure, but these paragraphs seem to be explaining details of the circumstances of your story, not things that people who don't know the series would need to know. If all of this is stuff that people who watch the show would know without you explaining, you can ignore this comment I'm about to make, but I've always found it best to not just give a major info dump like that. You're better off letting everything come to light in the story itself somehow, not some note before it. There are many ways to do so, and it can really go a long way to adding depth to a story if you do it right.

Second: I read up to SUPPLY STATISTICS on your first post/chapter/whatever you're calling them. I had a hard time clearly picturing what was going on in my head. I think most of that comes from you trying to focus on exactly what the characters are doing and saying, but you aren't letting little details from the environment make their way in and you're rushing it all. Like here:
Welsh Halfwit wrote:
The pair followed him through to the bars back room, where an item of hardware was lying on the table. Hagan immediately recognised it for a Mark VIIbV pulse laser as Gordy closed the door. “Mark VII,” he said appreciatively. “The new model even?” He raised an eye ridge. “How?”
“Never you mind. Can you get five hundred of these out of the system?”

I know nothing about this room. Is there a back door? Skylight? Are their crates of stuff everywhere and it's a mess, or is it pretty empty? Maybe Hagan can make a few observations about the room when he walked in.
"As Gordy closed the door, Hagan noticed there was actually very little in the admittedly large room. Judging by the overhead doors, he assumed this was probably more of an unloading dock where trucks carrying less than legal cargo could do so in privacy. He turned around just in time to see Gordy pull a Mark VIIbV pulse laser out from behind one of the crates that was by the door.
We get an idea for the room now. We know more than just the fact that it has a table in it. You don't have to be specific in the size like "it was 48 feet long and 100 feet wide", just enough description that the reader fills in the gaps.

And third: There are a few errors in this story and I think you would benefit greatly from a proofreader. I saw a few places that needed commas, and even a few sentences that should have really been split up. It wasn't bad, especially if you didn't go back and look at it after you wrote it. Things like that are to be expected when writing something like this, it's just a matter of going back and catching them. Whether you do it yourself or have someone do it for you.

Well, that's my advice. While it's true the first two are really more my opinion than anything -- especially the first -- the second one is very common advice given to writers. So I would suggest that, at the very least, you look into that one a bit more.

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Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:03 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
The good thing about asking for constructive critisism is that, sometimes, you get it. If you have to explain something it helps you think harder on how to avoid the problem the next time around.

On the first thing you picked up on, one of the characters in the story is one of the Jondahl race and I felt a need to explain why he's the only Squirrel on the ship and, possibly, in the story. The second half of it, though, you are entirely correct on. That part I should have removed as entirely superfluous.

As for the second part, there are times I can be rather short on description as I'm more of a dialogue animal than I am a picture painter. Most of the time I put in enough to serve the situation whilst allowing the imagination to fill in the blanks but I should have referred to this room as being an enclosed, internal, one. It's just a back room in a bar, though, and may never be seen again.

And the proof-reading? I could stand to read things through again myself at times, I admit. I can't afford for anyone professional to do it, though, and I'd probably not ask a friend. But I'll continue to work on improving, Jeff. Thanks for the assist.

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Wed Jul 02, 2014 12:38 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
Welsh Halfwit wrote:
As for the second part, there are times I can be rather short on description as I'm more of a dialogue animal than I am a picture painter. Most of the time I put in enough to serve the situation whilst allowing the imagination to fill in the blanks but I should have referred to this room as being an enclosed, internal, one. It's just a back room in a bar, though, and may never be seen again.

This point from Jeff is something I've touched on with you before. While your dialogue and characterisation are fantastic, your descriptions are a little lacking, as you yourself pointed out. There's nothing wrong with being better at dialogue than pictures but without sufficient description, it's like watching a TV show with the picture turned off. You can get a pretty good idea of what's happening but you can't really visualise it. Characterisation and dialogue are good but on their own they can't really convey a story enough to really help the reader understand it. Even though, as you said, the back room may not be an important setting, it's still important to give at least some description of it. It's not going to detract from your characterisation - rather, it'll enhance and support it. They way in which characters interact with their environment can tell you a lot about a person and in providing those aspects of characterisation you can provide a lot of detail, even indirectly about your setting.
I'd advise doing some reading and looking at how other writers show the environment. Another exercise that may help is to write some small descriptive pieces. Pick a scene or setting and write down everything you can think of about the environment. Be as detailed as you can and don't worry about the characters or dialogue, just tell the reader what you can hear, see, smell and feel. It doesn't even have to make sense or form a plot. Just get it all down. This is a good way to practise using descriptive language and if you do this from a couple of settings in your stories you can use the information you come up with to wok the extra description into your writing.
I think that the extra description will really give your writing a lift and make it much more relatable and understandable.

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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
DOWNTIME

Chapston took the stairs down to the tiny on-board ships tailor on 'C' deck and rapped on the door. It opened after a moment and she let herself into the cabin to be looked over by the elderly Feline with the horn-rim glasses. “I'm going to take a guess,” she said as she looked over Chapston and dumped a box of fabrics onto her working room sofa, “you're here for a more piratical look to your outfit?”

Chapston nodded. “It does seem to be all the rage at the moment,” she agreed.

The old Feline tutted, wrapped a measuring tape around the back of her neck and pointed a ruler at the human. “It's that dratted captain has done it, isn't it?” She tossed the ruler aside and began running the tape around the human figure. “Him and his theme. I'm going to have to order reams of new material when we finally get to Larrous and I'm going to charge it to him!”

Chapston allowed herself a small smile as she considered this was still better than replicated clothes. With so many corporations in operation, Replicated clothes were only allowed to last for twenty-four hours so it kept tailor's and laundry's in business on every ship in the fleet to repair and replace clothes to maintain the crew. A thankless task, Chapston thought, and not one she'd like to do, judging by the array of computerised sewing machines at the back of the room, next to the sink and coffee machine. Live here, work here Chapston told herself.

“The only ones I'm not expecting to change at some point are the Celicans,” the Tailor added as she raised her eyes to the ceiling just above them and clasped her hands together. “Bless them and their love of minimal clothing.” She tapped Chapstons' nose with a finger and the Human wondered what that had to do with measuring her up. “Never thought I'd say that about Celicans,” the Tailor admitted, putting a finger-tip to her lower lip. “I'm thinking... the same style of jacket as his nibbles – don't tell him I called him that – but lighter in tone...”

“Don't forget the...”

“...White etching to denote your rank, yes, yes, yes. I do know, you know? What sort of trousers would you prefer?”

“Oh, nothing formal in colour or... what about Arctic Camo? I've always liked that sort of thing.”

“Oh, grief,” the old tailor complained, “yet another reel of fabric I need to break open! And the hardest. Why can't you lot be happy with blue?”

“It's boring.”

“It's uniform, of course it's boring! Have you ever seen one that wasn't?” The tailor stepped over to her computer and pulled up images of the design. “That do you?” Chapston nodded. “Good,” the tailor said. “Five hours. It would be four but I need to adjust for the disgraceful lack of a tailhole. Honestly, when will you Humans learn style?”

“When we get something to stick through the holes, Miss Hoyle.” Sarah gave the old girl a smile and exited for the mess hall.

“I don't get paid enough for this,” the tailor complained before rolling her eyes. “Who am I kidding? I don't see the money I do get paid!”


Even at this hour the Mess Hall was open and serving and she moved through the bustle to the front, behind a Canid pilot and tried not to listen in to his conversation. She didn't understand much of what he complained about anyway. She reached the front, accepted a plate of what passed for Spaghetti Bolognese or – rather – Hvrissa Straws with Meat Sauce from the Mican ranges. For afters, she took a Lemonade Cheesecake from a chef who liked to make Human dishes but wasn't quite sure how to do it. It was one of the few foods that got up her nose and the thought made her laugh. It also made her wonder where David was now. Food often did that as he sure could cook. Couldn't do anything else though so it had ended as her family had claimed and she'd left home, the city, the planet... Food wasn't one of her happier times and the only thing she was largely thankful for was the Celicans eating in a different room. The number of times she'd seen them walking around with feathers stuck to their faces... She shook the thought away and took a seat slightly apart from everyone else. The better, she thought, to watch people from. People just getting along, despite their differences and arguments and history. A canteen, it seemed, was emblematic of the hope the council was trying to promote. A universe at peace? She scoffed. It hardly seemed possible at times.

“This seat free?” Doctor Barleycorn stood to one side and nodded at the empty chair opposite.

Chapston looked around at the half empty hall and stirred her straws with a fork. “Amongst so many others,” she said.

“True,” the Doctor replied, taking the seat anyhow, “but I get fed up of seeing you in here, eating alone. Figured I'd try to make an impression.” The Blackfur took a bite of her Felkarmeat steak and chewed it.

Chapston thought about it and how the Doctor's steak was obviously tough and gave a small chuckle. She couldn't fault the ra...uh, the mouse... for the attempt and she appreciated it. “How's things in sickbay, Doctor?” She asked, by way of a conversation opener.

“Oh, going fine, going fine.” Barleycorn replied non-committally, adding a condiment to her steak. “And you can call me Night when I'm not on duty.”

Chapston looked at her wryly and didn't voice that she knew why the parents had chosen that name. “I'm Sarah. When off-duty.”

“Nice to meetcha properly. What accent is that?” She asked. “I know it, I'm sure...”

“West of England,” Chapston confessed, her face flushing slightly as she found out she'd not killed the accent fully. “Bristol. You've probably never heard of it.”

“On the contrary,” Barleycorn said, slapping the table as she grinned. “I once took part in a species exchange and ended up at the Uni there to study human anatomy for a semester under Professor Kirrin!” She put her muzzle into the palm of her upturned hand. “You know, I remember this bar on Whiteladies... The Anchor?”

Chapston clapped her hands and spattered herself with meat juice. “The Barmouse with the prehensile tail!” She laughed at the memory.

“Mixing three cocktails at once and trying to date every female he saw.” Barleycorn sniffed. “He was quite something.”

“Not really,” Chapston said, wiggling her eyebrows. Barleycorn nearly choked on her food at that. “Relax,” she added with a smile, “I heard it from a friend.” She suddenly realised the other conversations had stopped and people were looking at them. She laughed again.


Chapston left Mess hall in a better mood than she'd been in when she went in and hummed her way to her rack and sleep.



The clothes were there when she woke up, along with a note that stipulated she'd better not rip anything in the near future and she was halfway through pulling on her impressive new boots when her communicator chimed. <<All bridge officers to your posts,>> said the Captain's voice and she hurried out of the room, still tying up her laces.

((So it's known, this part was written a few weeks back. I have adjusted it in places to show I've listened to what was said. Future parts may be edited similarly.))

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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
FIRST SHOT

Chapston stepped onto the bridge and relieved the Mican sitting her station of the duties so the Mican could return to comms control. She looked out on space and saw, amidst the pricks of light, an squat, angular, vessel pushing away from them at its best speed. If she wasn't mistaken it was a Raitchian Navrino class freighter but she couldn't recollect the exact model. Perhaps she needed to check the readings. Later, she decided. “Orders, sir?”

Hawle crossed his legs and sat back. “They've stolen the Jewel of Tara, Ensign. We're trying to stop them getting away. Lay in a pursuit course and make us faster than they are.”

“Aye, sir.” Her fingers flew around her panel, setting co-ordinates and approach paths to catch the errant vessel and boosting power to the engines.

“What are you planning to do once we catch them?” Raven asked.

“Well, I was thinking of asking them nicely if they'd send the Jewel over to us. Then I was thinking of arresting the thieves. If that doesn't work? I was thinking of transporting you over to ask them personally.”

“I like plan B,” Raven agreed.


The engines cranking up always gave Karvalan 'Karla' Groal a sense on immense pride. Sure there were other people involved in the maintenance – power relay specialists, welders, plasma specialists and general techs – thirteen people in all – but HE was the lynch-pin that ruled the roost. He kept them honest and kept the ship running and dealt with everything engine based at least three times a day. There wasn't one plate in the engine casing he didn't know or one circuit he hadn't buffed or replaced somewhere along the way. “Hear that?” He asked the Raitchian standing to his left.

“Hear what, sir?” Zayle asked, twisting his ears around to see if he could locate this errant sound Groal was going on about.

“The sounds of a perfectly functioning engine, Zayle.” Groal enthused, “perfectly calibrated and maintained, without need for repairs. It's a moment to remember.”

“Why so?”

“Ah, I forgot you're new here.” He chuckled slightly. “Let me tell you, it won't be pristine by the end of the patrol. We're going to be running smack into bad guys and other devastation on a daily basis.” He gestured to the engine. “This beauty'll have more cuts and bruises than a Mican in a Canine Street-fight den.”

“Should I take a photo?”

Groal put his arm around the back of Zayle and almost crushed him with a reassuring hug as the engine lights strobed rhythmically. “Hell, no. It'll just make you miserable in recollection.”


“Good, Winsome,” Hawles said into his comm-unit, “take what you can from their computers.” He ended the call and looked at his prey on the screen. “Are we within weapons range?”

“Confirmed, sir,” Grovan said.

“Fine.” Hawle nodded. “Hail them, would you?”

“They're not responding,” the communications officer said.

“Wasn't expecting them to,” Hawle admitted. “Send this. This is Commander Aldair Hawle of the U.S.C. Patrol Frigate Loper to the Agnosa. You're wanted for the theft of the Jewel of Tara. Heave to and prepare to be boarded.”

“They're boosting their speed, sir.”

“OK, Heave to and prepare to be boarded or we'll cripple your ship and arrest the survivors. Up to you, guys.” He indicated the weapons officers to power up. “You have three seconds to comply.” He instructed the comms officer to cut the line, confessed to an unimpressed Grovan that he'd always wanted to say that and told his weapons officers to fire.

Twin blasts of energy shot from the forward cannons and impacted the Freighter's shields, sparking yellow on the impact points and advising the Loper's crew of the illegal shield modifications the Raitchians had put in place. “Let's be a pain in their backside, shall we?” Hawle asked Grovan. “Put a torpedo up their tailpipe, would you?”

“Aye, sir,” Grovan replied, “it will take our stock below thirty.”

“I can count. Make sure you don't miss, would you?”

Grovan took command of the launch systems and fired. Since the War in the Patch had depleted the number of ships, the Council had decided to up the fire power of her smaller vessels with ship to ship missile launchers and Grovan had been the most proficient in all the tests. This was the first hostile test since installation so the Canine narrowed his eyes at the display and poked his tongue out of the side of his mouth as he pressed the firing stud, vaulting the missile from its launch tube and thundering it across space to detonate on the rear shields. The ship bucked and rocked on screen before falling still. “Smack their engines, Gunnies.”

Hawle looked his second officer in the eye. “You're getting as flippant as I am,” he said as Gunny fired her allotted cannons on target.

“Sorry, sir. Won't happen again.”

“Wish it would,” Hawle mused as he thought of how his officer needed a sense of humour. “Take a security team over there, arrest the lot of them and search that ship from top to bottom.”

“On it!” Grovan swept from his seat and the bridge, his tail a blur of colour behind him.

“He seems eager,” Raven grumbled as the second officer vanished down the passageway and called security.

“Give a dog a bone,” Hawle mused. He glanced at Chapston as she groaned. “You in pain, Ensign?”

“No, sir.” The Human replied. “Just a yawn. Sorry, sir.”

“Too right,” he sniffed.

“The away team's beam-boarding now,” Raven advised.

“Sir,” Chapston said, “we have three vessels moving on an intercept course.” She glanced at the readouts for confirmation. “They're Canine cruisers, sir.”

“They're hailing us and the freighter,” the Mican comms officer claimed. “They're demanding the jewel.”

“Send back the fact that we are going to return the stolen property to Tara,” Hawle replied idly. “And we don't need their help.” He turned to Raven. “You're a qualified fighter pilot, aren't you?”

“I am.”

“We're down a lead pilot. I think we need to go to launch stations.” He put his mouth behind his fingers. “I think we're about to have visitors to tea.”

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

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Thu Jul 03, 2014 2:30 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
RUNNING OUT OF TIME

“They're about half an hour out,” Chapston advised as she kept an eye on the approaching ships.

“Signal command,” Hawle advised his communications officer casually. “See if they can send us any back up.”

“Acknowledged,” the officer said simply, before turning to her console.

“The Lancer should be in the area,” Hawle advised Raven, “but I doubt they'll be close enough.”


On the Raitchian ship, the quiet of the cargo bay was cut in to with the screech of arrival as the Loper's second officer arrived with the security troop and made for the command deck. He looked around the spacious bay and had the distinct mipression it hadn't been this empty long. There was something about the smell... He led his team upwards, looked left and right in the purple silence and, after his electronic eye had adjusted, fired into the distance. A figure holding a weapon toppled forward onto its face and lay still from the effect of the stun blast. “Fan out,” he ordered, “and be careful. Looks like they're not happy to see us.” He made his way over to the fallen Raitchian and slapped a transport tag on him before picking up the fallen gun. “There should be four more according to the crew manifest,” he advised. “I want them all accounted for, dead or alive.” The fallen figure vanished in a hail of starlight headed for the Loper's brig and Groven led the group forward again, his electronic eye scouting for a light switch as they went.


“Welcome aboard,” Pangal told her new boarder as he materialized fully four feet above the ground in his prone position and dropped to the floor. “Hell, Groven,” she spat, “you keep doing this!” She slapped her comm. “Pangal to Barleycorn, got you a patient in the brig.”

<<On my way.>>

The chief cut the link and tapped a new one. “Pangal to Hawles.”

<<Go, Pangal.>> Hawles voice said.

“Groven's done it again. Sent me another unconscious one without resetting the height level.”

<<I'll have a word later, Jaqui. Things may be about to get a bit hairy here. Out.>>

Hawles cut the line as Barleycorn entered the security office with her kit. With a sigh, Pangal opened the door and let the Doctor into the cell to treat the wounded individual. She ran a scanner over the figure and rested his head on a mini-pillow from her bag. She reckoned it was better than him lying in his own blood after all. “Looks like he concussed one,” she remarked at length. “I'll get him to the medical bay.”

“I'll send one of my people to assist you,” Pangal said as Barleycorn summoned a stretcher, “And to cuff this scum.”


“Right,” Groven said to the assembled bridge crew as his security kept them covered. “Which one of you is the Captain?”

One of the taller Raitchians stepped forward. “Captain Graybe, at your service.”

Groven looked him over. “Not likely. Raitchians captains aren't normally so... quick to stand up.” He looked past at the other four officers. “Means you're the guy I can ask who the real captain is, though. It'd go better for you if you point the right one out. The judge would see it as co-operation, I'm sure.”

The officer cast a glance over to one of the others and Groven slapped the officer with a tag. “Tell the Chief all you know and you'll be treated well. Lie to her and you'll deal with me.” He punched the tag hard to activate it and strode over to the captain. “Up,” he ordered.

“What's this ab...” the Captain began.

“It's about the theft of the Jewel,” Groven snapped, poking the Captain in the chest. “It's you lot in a whole pile of the effluent.”

“What jewel,” the Captain grinned, letting his yellow teeth show as his breath curled Groven's nose. “We have no 'jewel' in our cargo. You would have seen it on your way up, yes?”

Groven breathed hot in his face. “We'll establish that truth later. You've also lied on your crew manifest – three of them don't seem to be on it – and ran when ordered to stop by a U.S.C. ship. When we check, do you think we'll find other warrants from other colonies?”

“How dare you..?”

“Aw, shut up!” He turned to the others he'd brought with him. “Maukin and Baynes, keep these gits here. The rest of you? Let's tear this thing apart.” He stomped towards the door but stopped and turned to the two Feline guards he was leaving. “If they try anything, you have my permission to shoot them as many times as you like.”


He headed straight back to the cargo bay and descended down to the deck. “For a merchant,” he said sharply as he looked over the largely empty bay, “they don't seem to have a lot of stuff, do they? In fact,” he noted, “they seem to have within the automobile all. Bit odd as they, apparently, had a load of other stuff from Tara as well as the Jewel. Rugs from the fabricants, spices from the west, a fair bit of ore and minerals to trade on Creganta Colony according to their manifest. So where is it all?”


“According to the Captain they were attacked by pirates some fifteen minutes before we arrived,” Groven reported back over the ship radio.

<<Do you believe them?>> Hawle asked.

“Not a word of it.”

<<Then issue them a summons to attend Stationhouse 14 for maintenance and courts. They'll have three weeks to appear. We keep the one you stunned on weapons charges and the other one's helping with enquiries. Get back over here.>>


Groven stomped back onto the bridge of the Loper and forced himself into his seat. “You gave up too early captain.”

“Oh, rarely. Whilst you were distracting them, Winsome was infiltrating all their computer systems, including navigation and the logs. Apparently there are Feline's involved in all this. They paid for the Jewel to be lifted.”

Raven grumbled. “NOT my people before you say it. More against me than you, probably,” she added, rubbing the black section of her fur as she said it.

“Oh, put our shields up and ready weapons, would you? Those Canines aren't stopping for politeness. Let's see if they stop when we tell them. Hail them.” He waited until the Comms officer nodded before he talked again. “This is Commander Hawle, Captain of the U.S.C. Frigate Loper again. The Jewel isn't here. Your presence isn't required. Go back to your space. Now. If you attempt to fire on this ship or the freighter we will return fire. Don't make us. We intend to locate the Jewel and return it and we do NOT support your claim to the colony of Tara!” He was almost shouting now, just holding himself in. “Any attempt to take the colony due to this manner of theft will be regarded as illegal and we will open fire on any Canine vessel attacking Tara. Send that message to Admiral Chegwiddick and tell him Commander Hawle said the second time's the charm!” He indicated that the line should be dropped before he turned to Groven. “I go back with the Admiral.”

“Good history?”

“Not really. I helped put his son away for ten years for murder. The prosecution had trouble with 'daddy' all the way. He seemed to respect my stance though. Especially when I found one or two things on his past service and refused to use them...”

“We have a communication coming in from Canis, sir,” the Comms officer said.

Hawle blinked. “Bloody hell, that was fast. Put him on.”

The screen lit up with the image of an extremely annoyed Alsace Canid. <<You have four days,>> the voice snapped, <<then release what you like, bunny.>> The line broke off.

“Let's not waste it,” Hawle remarked. “Let's...” His line was cut off by an incoming volley of fire from the incoming ships. “Battle stations.” He gritted his teeth. “The local governor must have over-ridden the Admiral. Lock weapons and fire!”

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

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Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:52 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
BATTLE POSITIONS

“Thirty degrees to Starboard and down bubble 9 degrees, Chapston,” Hawle ordered as the Loper closed the distance between herself and the incoming Canine ships. “Concentrate fire on the left flank ship. Let's see if we can cut the odds from three to two.” He sat back and appeared to relax as the ship shook slightly from the impacts on the shields. “Turn the alert lights off, would you?” Raven snarled and stabbed at a button to turn the lights back to normal from the red tint that had dominated the room. Across the bridge, Chapston entered the new attack vector and the Captain felt the shift as the starboard engine reduced power and the effect pushed the ship onto its new heading, giving it a better angle of fire on the Canine vessel, a chance Ensign Cass took pleasure in. She pile-drove shots from the forward pulse cannons onto the enemy ships' shields. Hawle watched them spark and glow on the screen and consulted his armrest panel to see the Canine ships shields were down twenty percent from the burst. “Launch fighters,” he added and Raven relayed the order.

Near the other end of the ship a security bulkhead opened onto a launch bay to reveal ten long nose, swept wing, fighter craft. The new mark 8 Star-lance fighters possessed dual pulse cannons, not on the scale of the frigates but more dangerous on the pinpoint damage. The ships powered through the atmosphere shield, looped around and below their parent ship and entered into the combat.

“You see?” Groal announced, throwing his hands into the air as the first damage reports came in. “I told you. The ship never blooming well comes back from patrol intact!” He consulted the read outs from the various points on the ship. The consoles were largely surge protected now, minimizing the chance of a blow out into anyone's face, but that still left miles of circuitry and metal that could twist and break at any second. Looking at the read outs, he could minimise things by... “Libric and Jazz, a readout relay's blown on B deck, section five. Get it fixed before half the navigation system falls over. Kafla, I'm getting reports of temperatures reaching fifty C in the medbay. Go sort it out. Now.” The engineers hurried off to their assigned stations as Pangal's security team moved into engineering. Groal never liked having armed troops in his domain but he knew the nature of things in combat. If you could board a ship via transporter, one of the obvious places to attack was the central engineering station. It was why he kept a stun gun close to hand. He held the console tight as the ship rocked and he analysed the readouts. The shield power, he noted, was down ten percent. He grinned. “Odds are three to one,” he told himself with pleasure, “but we have the technology on them.” He grimaced as the ship shook suddenly. “Provided we stop them hitting us, of course,” he added worriedly as he looked at the ceiling. He got to work with his console, manipulating a fluid run to bypass a damaged system on its way to the concussion cannon cooling systems.

“Times like this I'm glad I'm not a chief on one of the bigger ships,” Pangal muttered as she organised her troop on the causeway to the bridge. On those ships security had to cover shops, personal quarters and even the occasional school in addition to critical areas. Here she just had Engineering, Medbay, the cargo/fighter bay and the bridge to watch over. Suited her fine. “None get past us or we'll never hear the end of it from that Burman Rat,” she called, meaning Raven. They braced as the gravity systems were pushed again, the ship swooping around to starboard and pushing them down slightly. They heard the thrumming pulse of the plasma cannons around them.

“The lateral shields are failing on target, sir!” Cass called. “Instructions on targetting?”
Hawle pondered this for a second. “Engines and weapons, Gunny. Use your initiative; we're busy! Bring us around to 127 mark 015 in ten seconds, Chapston, so we get in behind the next target!”

After telling her to use her initiative, 'Gunny' Cass licked her thin lips and turned her sharp eyes back onto her screen. It took her barely a second to focus totally on the matter at hand and fire all the plasma cannons – two on the starboard side of the ship and two the port – on her victim. She watched as the powerful bolts shattered the hull just off the engines and she could see the power lines fluctuate and fires ripple across the wound she'd just inflicted before extinguishing in space. Then the entire engine housing split off from the rest of the ship and fell away, leaving the forward three quarters to tumble forward.

“I'm not paying for that,” Hawle declared as the ship shifted angles. “I told you to use your initiative, not break the ship in two.”

“Good shooting though,” Raven added.

“Was, wasn't it?” Hawle nodded. “Next time crippling shots, Gunny.” He braced as the ship took a fusillade of incoming fire. “They're co-ordinating now, are they? They might do some real damage.” He checked his system and noticed they were, indeed, trying to penetrate one particular shield zone. “I'm really glad these ships are colonial; not Canine Defence Force,” he said. “CDF'd have us bleeding by now. Do your thing, Gunny,” he ordered and Cass took her shot when the Frigate tight turned onto the tail of the second ship. The shot skimmed the shields of her target and the Captain pulled up sensor scans of the broken ship. He noted the life signs and hoped he'd be able to teleport the occupants out, given a clear moment. He braced as something exploded behind him.

Engineer Kafla cut the power feed to the relay he'd been working on just too late and the wall to one side of him rippled, warped and burst, fire and shrapnel sprinkled the hallway opposite and Kafla. He cried out in pain as pieces peppered his arm and face, the worst slicing through his muzzle and clipping the edge of his tongue. He whined but kept at his work as the area began to fill with the released gases, choking out the atmosphere. He rerouted systems manually, swallowing his own blood and feeling the pain of wounded fingers, until the breach was sealed and the flow shifted down a different route. He staggered across the wound, keeping clear from the sparking conduit, and tried to enter the medbay. The door didn't open. He strained as best he could on the screen door but it took the efforts on Barleycorn and her nurses on the other side to crack the seal and pull him in.

“Get him up on the surgery bed,” Barleycorn ordered. “I need to get to work now.”


“Try hailing them again.” Hawle ordered. “Perhaps they'll stand down to rescue their comrades.”

“I'm getting a new ship coming in,” Chapston reported. “Idents mark it as... A C.D.F. destroyer!”

“Oh crap,” Hawle said simply.

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

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Fri Jul 11, 2014 2:37 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
CANINE RELATIONS

The CDF ship moved in closer, readying weapons as it came, with Hawle watching it carefully and contemplating eventualities. “Keep us focussed on the Colonials,” he ordered.

“You'd be better off intercepting that destroyer, wouldn't we?” Raven asked.

“Nice mixing of pronouns,” Hawle muttered. “The Colonials are firing on us and the Destroyer isn't yet. Focus on the first enemy first. Besides...”

“The Destroyer is hailing, sir.”

Hawle breathed out slightly. “Lets see what the C.D.F. has to say, shall we?” He crossed his legs and indicated he was ready to receive the signal.


The figure of a distinguished Danian appeared near ten feet in height on the screen and huffed. <<I am Captain Salwick. Stand down your attack, Rabbit.>>

“Direct and to the point,” Hawle replied. “My reply should be the same. No. Your people fired first on ourselves and a stricken vessel. We are defending ourselves. They stand down first. Then we shall. Then we talk. Commander Hawle is the name.”

He cut the link before the Canine Captain could say anything else and waited...


A few seconds later, in which comms picked up several terse conversations between the colonials and the C.D.F. ship, the colonial ships stopped firing and Hawles ordered Cass to cease fire as well before Salwick called again. <<Now we talk.>>

“Do you need assistance rescuing the crew of the crippled ship?”

<<YOU crippled it...>>

Hawle could see the Canine Captain fight to get himself back under control and he watched the throat move up and down.

<<But you can assist if you like, Commander. Then you'll come over to my ship and we'll talk things over.>>

Hawle shook his head. “I'll not step foot on a Canine vessel right now, Captain, and I'm not in your service. You can come over here. You'll be safe.”

<<How do you figure that?>>

“One. I have no intent of hurting you. Two. You have 500 people and five times the fire-power. You really think I intend to try harm in these circumstances?”

<<Fair enough.>>


Hawle and Raven, flanked by some of Pangals' guards, stood as reception to the Captain of the Canine vessel as the shuttle sighed into the bay next to the crews servicing the Starlancer fighters and the door hissed open. It turned into a set of steps as it circled to the floor and two Canid guards stepped out and down to allow their Commander to exit and he took a look around before he stepped down and Hawle stepped forward after saluting with a hand out.

“Welcome aboard the Loper, Captain Salwick.”

The Canine accepted the hand with a growl. “I wish it was under better circumstances, Commander.”

“So do I. This is a dangerous situation, Commander. A lot of lives are at stake.”

“Here and on Tara,” Hawle agreed. “We have a lead on the location of the jewel, though.”

“We should discuss it in your office,” Salwick stated. Hawle agreed and led the canine out.


Pangal sat across the table from the Raitchian and mused on what to say next to get the sullen individual to co-operate. “You know, I normally like proving Grovan wrong but he said you were a smart one who'd like a lighter sentence and could be relied on for information. The sullen thing's not doing you much good, is it? So why not give us a hand? We DID just save your former shipmates from a certain death, you know?”

“They'd probably be better off if you'd let them be shot down,” the Pirate claimed. “I certainly would have been.” He looked up at her and let her see the shadows of worry in his eyes. “I need the sort of deal that keeps me out of prison now.”

“You want the explosive tag?” Pangal asked with surprise. “You want to be fitted with an ankle tag that will blow your foot off if you try to remove it?”

“House arrest on an armed ship or public prison with a lot of people you informed on?”

Pangal nodded. “I take your point. I'll run it by the Captain and see what he says. We'll need something as leverage though. And a name to put on the tag. Preferably your real one.”

“I can tell you this:- The Feline's might not have picked it up yet, y'know? They want deniability so we had to leave it in a safe place. Sort the deal and I might recall where that is.”

“Huh.” Pangal left the room and locked it.


“Understood,” Hawle said in response to a commcall from Winsome, “I'll get us underway shortly.” He cut the line and turned to the Canine sat on the other side of his small, cluttered, desk. “You don't mind, do you?”

“Not at all,” Captain Salwick replied, “thank you for asking. After the act of course.”

“They know I'm in a meeting hence any calls have to be important. Now. How many were lost in that fight?”

“Twelve aboard the destroyed Frigate. Several wounded on the other ships. Yours?”

“Three wounded, one seriously. We had assurances from Admiral Chegwiddick that...”

The Captain cut him off. “I know,” he said, “we were called when the governor ignored his call. Put it this way. They owe you an apology.”

“Ah,” Hawle waved a hand dismissively. “Forget it. I don't care for apologies. They were doing what they were told and the one guy who really should apologise will never mean it. I'll let your people deal with him without getting the full council involved. I just want to get underway and stop a small local war. My computer guy's given us the co-ordinates we need and...” He stopped as Pangal chimed her arrival on his door. “What is it, Chief?” he asked before muttering that it had better be important.

“Prisoner wants the tag deal. He's offering the co-ordinates of the Jewel as proof of intent.”

“We don't need it,” Hawle replied, “Winsome's got the location from their compu... No, wait.” Hawle considered. “Tag him. We'll then find out if he gives us the same location. If he does, we can work with that. If he doesn't? I'll let you take him with the others, Captain Salwick.”

“Oh, so I'm taking them, am I?” Salwick said, raising an eye ridge.

“You have more room in your brig,” Pangal remarked, from behind the Captains back, before getting a warning glance from Hawle.

“I imagine I have,” Salwick retorted. “It's customary to be in the eyeline of the person you're talking to, Chief.”

Pangal moved into sight and Salwick nodded as she apologised. “I'll let you get on with it while our lot clean up the mess.” He stood up. “Commander,” he said, not waiting for a response before heading out.

“There's one for the diplomats,” Hawle muttered, before noting Pangal wasn't moving. “Was there something else, Chief?”

Pangal sighed and slapped a pad onto the table. “Medical report,” she said. “The guy Grovan teleported over. A few feet up. After stunning him.”

“You told me about that.”

“His injuries are quite severe. Not from the stun but from the fall. A double break in the left arm, a fractured rib, severe concussion and minor internal injuries. Sir...”

“I don't like it when you call me 'sir',” Hawle said, trying to look busy, “It means bad things.”

She nodded. “In effect, Grovan has assaulted a prisoner.”

Hawle put his head in his hands.

_________________
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
PICK UP

“So,” Hawle asked, walking onto the command deck with a slice of cake on a plate, “what exactly do we have here?” He lifted the fork to his mouth as he looked out on a small metal sphere, about a hundred yards in radius as it hung in space. He chewed his food as he sat in his chair.

“I thought there were rules about eating on the bridge,” Grovan said with a smirk.

“My ship, my rules,” Hawle said, glaring at him. “Just like there are rules about assaulting prisoners.”

“I've apologised for that.”

Hawle huffed. “My office. Now. Chapston, you have the bridge.” He pulled himself from the chair, with his cake, and took it to the small office he occupied behind the bridge. He sat down and looked up as Grovan moved for the other chair. “Remain standing. This is a dressing down, not a discussion.”

“I put it all in my report,” Grovan started. “I admitted my mistake...”

“It's a mistake you've made three times!” Hawle shouted. “I can't excuse you this one! This one ended with the recipient in traction, for god's sake! You KEEP forgetting to adjust the settings on the transport tag to compensate for those lying on the floor! You do it so blasted often that I know you're doing it deliberately and, thus, I have to take action! I have to decide if I can deal with you myself or if I need to arrange a court-martial! Now, you can either answer to ME or to an official court! Which would you prefer?” He glowered at his second officer. “Your turn.”

Grovan twitched at the anger he could hear in Hawle's voice. He'd never heard the Commander like this before. He took a moment to gather his thoughts and nerves. “What's in my file, sir, is that the transport I was on when I was fifteen was attacked by pirates. They killed and slaughtered the crew and the passengers, stopping only when a Council Clipper ship chanced on the situation and intervened.” He hissed. “What's NOT in the file is that I was face to face with one of them at the time. I was...” He shook with emotion. “I was pulled out from where I was hiding and... and the I love you was going to shoot me straight in the face! He had his finger on the trigger when they teleported him out! And I just... stood there. I stood there and did nothing!” He clenched and opened his fists rhythmically.

“And you never went to therapy?”

Grovan slapped the table. “It wasn't needed!”

“I think we've pretty much established that it was,” Hawle replied languidly before eating another piece of cake. “My judgement has to be this. I'm booking you in for therapy sessions when we reach Raitche – which you WILL take – and confining you to the ship until then.”

“But...”

Hawle silenced him. “If I can't trust you to lead the boarding teams I can't put you in such situations. I get the feeling I can trust you with the lives on this ship. Any further action will be reliant on the therapists report.” He tapped the details into the computer before looking up at Grovan and pointing at him with the fork. “Are we clear on that?”

“Sir!” Grovan replied as Hawle finished his cake and stood up, leaving the plate and fork on the table.

“Judgement of the Captains court has been entered,” Hawle said, striding past the Canine, “so let's go resume what we were doing, OK?”

Grovan nodded mutely and followed.


“It's a locker,” Winsome explained, blinking as he stepped from the passage and took in the brightness of the bridge. “A small storage area the pirates can access and access and leave things in for pick-up later. They fit in cargo bays and can be beamed out by Transporters. It's almost undetectable unless you know where to look for it...”

“And that's generally only known to those who dropped them and those meant to pick them up.” Hawle looked at the young Jondahl as he started operating the communications console, ignoring the officer's protestations. “Who were you looking to impress with that bit of knowledge?”

The Squirrel shrugged. “No-one,” he admitted, glancing up at the screen, “just setting the scene. I'm trying to run my computers through the communications console to crack the command codes for us to bring it aboard.”

“I wondered why you were up here. I take it our guest didn't know?”

Winsome shook his head. “Nah. Wasn't in there or in the downloaded memory. Probably only the Captain and the buyer know it. Shame the C.D.F. took him. If we use the wrong code too many times it detonates...” Winsome lifted his head. “You know that, of course you do. Sorry, I'm too used to spending all my time alone. I talk to myself.”

“We noticed,” Hawle muttered “Any progress?”

“Well,” Winsome said happily, “nothing's blown up yet.” He worked around the Comms officer and, at one point, had his arms on either side of her head and his head quite close to hers.

“Sir,” she asked, “permission to bite the Computer specialist?”

“Denied, Martine,” Hawle replied, “we need him able to concentrate. Your fangs in his arm might distract him.”

“Done!” Winsome said, standing tall and putting his arms in the air above his head.

“You're expecting applause, Harvey?” Hawle tapped his communicator. “Hawle to Yalla and Groal. Teleport that thing to cargo bay two in fifteen seconds, Yalla,” he told the teleport control chief. “You ready to receive, Groal?”

<<Been ready for five minutes,>> The Celican replied from the passage outside bay two. <<Send it first class, will you?>>

“I'll attach a postman,” Hawle said. “Just get that jewel out in one piece. We're running low on time.”


Groal pushed the captured Raitchian in front of him up to the entry point. The prisoner's tag on the ankle of the captured Pirate bleeped twice and, to the prisoners relief, didn't detonate. “My proximity, prey,” Groal taunted, “If I'm in ten paces you don't lose the leg.”

“Then, err, stay close, yeah?”

“Oh, not too close,” Groal grinned, making the prisoner feel ill at ease as Groal's teeth glinted wetly in the gap between lips. “After all, the entry coder could be birdie trapped, yeah?”

“Zacharin Fontny,” the Raitchian said in conversation.

“What?”

“The name I want on my headstone if this doesn't go well.”

Groal raised his eyes to the ceiling and snarled. “Just open it, Rat.”


<<We have the Jewel,>> Groal reported to the bridge, <<as well as a lot of other things the bubblegum-munchers stole.>>

“Tally it up and get it out of the container. Put a note in there to the extent that we called but they weren't in so they're free and send that thing back out to space.”

<<Aye...um... aye, sir,>> Replied a confused sounding Groal.


“Got a ship coming in on an intercept vector,” Chapston said, turning towards Hawle as He cut his commline.

“Registers as Feline but it's got an odd silhouette.” Chapston looked from board to board.

“She's scanning us...”

“Block their scan!” Hawle demanded. “Chapston, get us on course for Tara. Maximum speed!”

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:28 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
RUNNING FOR HOME

Groal gripped the guard rail tightly and felt the shaking of the deck and the walls through his boots and his hands as he grit his teeth and watched the engines glow hot. The read-outs pushed into the top ten percent and the engineering staff worked to keep the coolant pumping to stop the engines overloading. He panted in the heat before slugging back the contents of a small tumbler of water before shifting down to lie on his back under the engines, using his tools to keep the plates in working condition. “How long,” he asked himself hoarsely, “is this going to go on?”


Chapston took an anxious look at the readout as the Loper tunnelled its way through hyperspace, the black and green curled walls of the tunnel seeming particularly ominous this time as the Feline vessel kept pace with them at the top end of the speedometer. Hyperspace velocity 5 made the frigate one of the fastest ships in the sector but she had a sneaking suspicion the Felines had a faster ship. “They're still gaining on us, sir,” she advised Hawle.

“Figured they would be, Chapston, they're in a top of the line ship but it doesn't matter. We're near destination anyhow. Slam the breaks on in thirty seconds, would you?” He tapped his comm. “General call,” he said, activating the P.A. “Prepare for emergency deceleration in twenty seconds.”


“Get them in the stasis cubicles!” Barleycorn shouted, pushing her most recent patient into one of the lockers,, turning him upright and slamming the door as the Nurses did the same with the second patient. The Doctor hoped that everything small and sharp was strapped down securely as she sat in her chair and strapped in with a second remaining.


Winsome whined and carried out a flash save on everything he was doing. He slipped the drive out into his hand and engaged the fast shut-down before turning his chair around and snapping the straps on.


“Oh, I hate this!” Groal exclaimed as he pushed himself out of the pit and scrambled for the nearest wall handles as the computer counted down the seconds patiently until it reached zero. He gritted his teeth as the engines cut out faster than they were normally designed to do and, just for a second before the momentum dampeners cut in, the pressure was incredible, feeling as though the front half wanted to meld with the rear of the body and the tongue tried to round itself down into the throat. Talking was impossible as the skin threatened to split around the muzzle and every muscle screamed dislocation. Then the opposite as the effect ceased and his body tried it's hardest to slam him into the wall. He just about managed to pull up short, his muscles screaming at him in pain. He released his grip and called for a damage and casualty report before reporting in.


“Getting minor casualty reports from around the ship,” Raven reported, “and I'm sure Groal put in some Celican profanities.”

“I'll tell him to shut up later,” Hawle said, straightening up his chair as Gunny was treated for smacking her head into her console. “Put us on course for the Mican fleet, Chapston. Comms, tell then we have the jewel and are returning it.”

“Won't the Felines have something to say about that, sir?” Chapston asked as she turned the ship around to face Tara and the assembled Colonial fleet of Mican ships.

“Probably not,” Hawle said. “First off they were going faster than us so it's going to take them longer to stop. Secondly they might notice fifty or so armed ships and decide they can't win and just keep on going.”


Hawle waited, tapping his finger claws on the armrest as the Loper pushed through the Mican lines. The ships were letting them through and the Canine ships were keeping a tight watch on things from further off The Feline was out there; he could sense it. Waiting for its chance to strike... “Any news from the planet?”

“Nothing as of yet, Captain,” the Comms officer replied before putting a hand up. “Hang on,” she added, “getting something now. Sir.”

“On screen.” Hawle ordered.

The figure of a smaller Mican popped up and spoke plainly. <<Midnight Moon, Minister of Cultural Affairs for Tara Colony. You are Commander Hawle?>>

“Indeed I am, Ma'am.”

<<Why are you dressed like a Pirate?>>

“It's historical Council and I happen to prefer it.”

<<Formal would be better for the reception after the Jewel is returned.>>

Hawle waved a hand. “I'm not really one for ceremonies...”

<<The Council is, though,>> Minister Moon replied, <<and, as you've upset the Canines it may be an idea to...>>

“You have a Canine consulate on Tara, I recall. I will attend if the consulate officer is permitted to attend, I will.” He held a hand up as she opened her mouth to protest. “You are totally correct in me wanting good publicity but having the Canine Consul there – or publicly inviting at least – will make it quite obvious we're helping maintain the status quo and not picking sides, wouldn't you say?”

Minister Moon swallowed. <<Every peace needs a first move,>> she admitted before glowering at him. <<This can be the Taran administrations' first move, yes? I'll make the offer and I'll see you in the citadel in FULL dress uniform. Today's full dress uniform, Commander.>>

“I think she likes me,” Hawle confided to Raven after the screen cut back to the planet-scape.

“I think she'd like to rip your ears off and beat you to death with them,” Raven replied.

Hawle sat back and looked at her in mock horror. “You really think so?” He sighed. “Well, we'll find out in a few hours, won't we? Arrange the relocation of the jewel to where it was nicked from and make sure your uniform's fully cleaned.”

“Right, I... MY uniform?” She looked at him, anger showing both in her eyes and her voice.

“My second officer is both under house arrest and a Canine as well. My Chief Engineer is a Celican, I can't take an Ensign down – no offence meant – the Chief's as subtle as a Torpedo at an anti war rally and these functions need two officers. So you're coming.” After all, he thought, if I have to suffer...

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Fri Jul 18, 2014 11:23 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
This next part comments on a missing relative of a local council official. The 'missing' character, Harvest Moon, is currently appearing in stories at the crosstimecafe and has fallen through a dimensional portal (their reality has them, not mine) to get there and can't get back.

THE RECEPTION

Hawle brushed down his blue formal uniform and pulled a face as he pulled the seat of his trousers down for comfort as they stood outside two ornate doors that stretched a full fifteen feet from the floor to a tapered top in a marble effect building that stood three storeys tall and yet still seemed taller than the buildings around it. It also seemed a lot finer to him, with the surrounding buildings being made of brick now fading with age. Expansion into the construction industry had brought money into the colonial purse several years ago with several large companies now basing their local headquarters here. Several other local dignitaries had already arrived and been admitted and Hawle had the odd idea that it was something to do with Midnight Moon holding a grudge. “Isn't it strange how the finest buildings in a colony always tend to belong to the Council?”

“Not really,” Raven replied, looking down at him, “the top predators get the most kills and, thus, the best homes. Councils control who kills what so they need everyone to look up to them. Hence the best building.”

Hawle put a finger under his shirt collar and pulled to free trapped fur. “I never took you for a philosopher.”

“I can talk crud when I want to,” Raven claimed, “my grandfather saw to that.” She scratched the black patch of fur he'd made part of her gene code and noted Hawle avoided the question again. “By surprise,” she said lightly, “his dying wish.”

“Oh,” Hawle replied, wondering how she'd got to that from the question that had been forming in his mind. The one about how long they would have to stay.


The door opened and Midnight Moon stepped forward, stopping at the top of the steps. “Commander Aldair Hawle and Commander Sarina Raven?”

“That is us,” Hawle replied, stepping up to shake her hand. “I'm pleased to be here.”

“There's little point lying, Commander,” the harvest-mouse said with a half-smile, “I know people much better at it than you.”

“I suppose you would, being in politics,” Raven grumped, ignoring the offered hand until surreptitiously ordered to by Hawle.

“There's a camera drone hanging around the second floor window,” he muttered, twisting an ear to point up to the drone. “Shake the hand for the press, Raven.”

“Quite a... grip you have there,” Midnight said as Raven gripped her hand tight.

“Ixnay on the crushingay,” Hawle warned from the side of his mouth and Raven released her hold and let her grin drop. “Are we now permitted entry to the hallowed portals?” Hawle asked.

“Of course,” Midnight said, standing aside and allowing them entry to the building.


Raven stepped into the building before her Commander and squeezed her way through the metal detector, which pinged on her weapon.

“Don't get many Burmans here, I take it,” Hawle asked their host.

“This isn't a multi-cultural world, Commander, it's mainly Micans with a small percentage of Canids. That's how we like it.” Her comm trilled. “Excuse me, Commander, I should probably take this. It's intergalactic.” She stepped into an alcove and talked with someone called Marrow about someone who was, apparently, missing. “You know him,” she said eventually, “he'll be off hunting bounty. Again. He's been out of contact for years at a time. It's nothing to worry about. Let the Caldera Sheriff do their job. It's not like he cares for us.” She cut the link off. “Family matters,” she said in explanation, before escorting them into the main hall.


Several hours later, Doctor Barleycorn spun around at the sound of her medbay door opening. Commander Hawle staggered in, his jacket collars akimbo, his head fur dishevelled, his left shirt sleeve torn and his boot laces untied. “Good gravy, what the hell happened to you?” She said, stooping to catch him before he hit the floor.

Hawle chuckled and swung an arm as Barleycorn got him up onto the nearest bed. “Four hours of booooring people and sch...stones, Doctor,” he slurred, “I had to schtop Rav'n killing at least one politishian so I got her tew a bar after and...”

“Not the Renegade?” Barleycorn screwed her eyes tight. “Please tell me you didn't go...”

“THE RENEGADE!” Hawle hicced, swinging his arm again “I drank their main guy under th' table an' Raven won a pit fight! Shesh hap..<hik>...happy!”

“And you're halfway to alcohol poisoning according to this,” Barleycorn warned after running a sensor over him. “I'll sort out a detox for you in a moment.” She shifted him onto his side and took several pills from the nearest dispenser before making Hawle swallow one. “It'll help sober you up fast,” she said, shortly before he curled up into a ball and whimpered. “Of course,” she added, “it gets you into the hangover stage pretty much immediately. I'd have warned you but you're too drunk to have heard.”

“I'd have tried,” Hawle moaned.

Barleycorn pulled a sheet over him. “Next pill's in two hours, Commander. Stay put.” She sat behind her desk and started playing Computer Solitaire to pass the time while both her current patients slept. After a half hour had passed, she called Grovan.


“Bridge here, Doctor,” the Canine said, confused as to why medbay was calling. “What's the matter?”

<<The Commander and Raven have been to the Renegade in their off-duty hours>>

“Understood, Doctor. We'll be well underway before the local newsvids hit.” He cut the line and pulled up the files. “Put us on course for the Celican vessel we're supposed to be meeting, helm, and request clearance to depart from Tara control.”

“Aye, sir.” The helm officer replied.

“I wonder what happens next,” Grovan mused.


“They're not responding to hails, Captain,” Chapston advised as the Loper closed in on the Celican science vessel. Fourteen hours had passed and, although still bleary eyed, Hawle was up and running again. He still felt ill though. Sick to his boots in fact.

“Well, let's go in closer and send again. See what we can find out.”

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Fri Jul 25, 2014 1:35 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
COLD

“Close to within 500 kilometres,” Hawle ordered as the Celican ship sat in front of them just floated there. “Gunny, do a lifesigns scan. Jista, try to lock on to wristcoms as they're not responding to intership.”

“I was wondering why we were going in so close,” Raven muttered.

Hawle tapped his wrist comm. “Hawle to Pangal, you ready to go?”

<<Suited, booted and ready when you are, Captain,>> The female Rabbit said over the comms. <<Any signals from over there?>>

Hawle looked to Gunny as she operated the science scan and reported back that there were a bunch of heat signatures coming from what appeared to be the middle of the ship.

“We'll teleport you close to the centre of the ship,” Hawle advised Pangal. “There's lifesigns there.”

“They're fading,” Gunny warned.

“Apparently they're fading. So work fast! Transport in five seconds.”


Pangal shut the communicator off and headed to the transport pad with the rest of her troop, clumping up the step in the heavy, sealed, suits and turning to face the transport chief as he hit the button...


...the turn finished as Pangal came face to face with a wall. She activated the scanner on her suit arm and interfaced with the ship computer using her U.S.C. security codes. Even on a Celican ship, it opened up certain privileges like ship schematics. “OK,” she said. “I've located our life signs in the...” she sucked in a breath. “In the cold store! Rallow, you and Jesta get to command and get the power on, the rest? With me!” She took off at the best pace the suit would allow, her powerful leg muscles straining against the restraints of the suit. She sprang left at the first turning and up the stairs to the next level to swing around and head to the canteen. To get there from where she was she had to run through the chicken farm and she crunched numerous loosely strewn and uncollected eggs before she came across the shot body of the Farm controller. She unholstered her weapon. “Pangal to all guards,” she said, “be on alert. We have a body here, killed by unfriendly fire.”

<<Affirmative,>> one of the others replied. Her suit sensors said it had been Rallow. She noted the breathable atmosphere denoted both by her suit and the fact the Chickens were still alive. They crossed into the canteen and Pangal baulked at the dried and flaked blood of the countless victim chickens who'd been stretched, strangled and exsanguinated or just torn apart alive in here. Celicans prefer live meat but, in case of needing to transport other races, the cooks kept a supply of frozen meats and specially frozen vegetables in large stores and it was here that Pangal was headed as a voice broke over her comms system.

<<Hawle t... ...gal,>> the voice said in scratchy tones. <<can y.. hear me?>>

He's right on the edge of comms range, the Chief realised. Wrist comms and the ones on these suits had a 500 kilometre range as it went and needed a booster system or booster satellite to get further. On a planet, surrounded as most were, by communications satellites? No problem. In space the ship systems tended to boost range but that depended on them being on and this ships' booster obviously wasn't. So this would have to do. “I hear you, Captain,” she replied as she approached a large door held shut by a hefty bar through the lock. “I'm sending the schematics of this place. We need Barleycorn and her thermal units here asap. The life-signs are in the freezer.”

Static was her answer. She didn't even know if the message had got through but it didn't matter. She pushed the bar up but it barely moved so she ordered one of her group to assist. Even through the suit she could feel the cold of the metal and glanced at the temperature gauge. Minus twenty. How long had they been in here? She noted her appreciation for Celican hardiness had gone up as they pulled the bar free and she pulled at the door.


It cracked as her pull broke the sheen of ice that had formed across the door and she indicated the others should be weapon ready. They spun around as something glowed behind them and almost shot Barleycorn before she put her hands up with the rest of her staff.

“Hey,” the Mican protested as the guns lowered, “you called us!”

“Did indeed,” Pangal admitted. “You may have patients in here.” She indicated the medical team to step back and pulled the door fully open.


They stepped in on a white nightmare. Amongst the frozen meats and hamburgers there were over twenty of the Celican crew huddled together, barely breathing in winter jackets that further confused Pangal. Generally Celicans had to be forced to wear anything more than shorts but this lot were all in their version of bad weather gear. She reached out and touched one of the outer Celican's whiskers. It snapped off, bringing a faint jerk of pain from eyelids frozen shut and Pangal let the Doctor's team in to take the figure out. Pangal made her way to the centre of the mass, recognising this for what it was. A huddle of protection. Even in their winter gear they'd not expected to live long but they'd known the Loper was on its way so they put what they wanted to survive most in the middle and provided warmth for it. She stopped and stooped next to a small shivering figure and reached out to push the hood back. The figure moaned and juddered as she revealed the white furred head of a youngster. A Polar Fox youngster who, shivering heavily, looked up into her faceplate. She'd known Celicans kept Polars on their ships in case of outbreaks of the killer Flu, to which Polar Blood antigens were the only known natural cure but not this age, surely? He managed to raise his arms and Pangal picked him up and carried him out to wrap him in heat sheets, just as her people and Barleycorn's were doing. Hers were able to move faster, the thermal circuits doing more than medical thermal gloves ever could. Even so, it took nearly fifteen minutes work to lift everyone clear.


With the door to the freezer shut, Barleycorn handed Pangal a still mineral drink and swizzled it. Pangal put her helmet aside and took it to the young Polar. He looked scared and still juddered. “Hi,” she said, offering him the drink, “I'm Jaqui.”

He shook his head – or Pangal thought he did anyhow.

“You need to drink this, sweetie,” she said. “It's full of things meant to help. Look.” She took a sip of the drink and then proceeded to help him drink the drink when she thought she could see the ghost of a nod. “You're quite safe now,” she said consolingly. “I'm a security chief and no-one's going to hurt you.”

His shaking hand reached up with agonised slowness and touched her left ear.

“Did you see who did it?” Pangal asked gently. This time she was certain of the nod.

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
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Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:40 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
COLD

“Close to within 500 kilometres,” Hawle ordered as the Celican ship sat in front of them just floated there. “Gunny, do a lifesigns scan. Jista, try to lock on to wristcoms as they're not responding to intership.”

“I was wondering why we were going in so close,” Raven muttered.

Hawle tapped his wrist comm. “Hawle to Pangal, you ready to go?”

<<Suited, booted and ready when you are, Captain,>> The female Rabbit said over the comms. <<Any signals from over there?>>

Hawle looked to Gunny as she operated the science scan and reported back that there were a bunch of heat signatures coming from what appeared to be the middle of the ship.

“We'll teleport you close to the centre of the ship,” Hawle advised Pangal. “There's lifesigns there.”

“They're fading,” Gunny warned.

“Apparently they're fading. So work fast! Transport in five seconds.”


Pangal shut the communicator off and headed to the transport pad with the rest of her troop, clumping up the step in the heavy, sealed, suits and turned to face the transport chief as he hit the button...


...the turn finished as Pangal came face to face with a wall. She activated the scanner on her suit arm and interfaced with the ship computer using her U.S.C. security codes. Even on a Celican ship, it opened up certain privileges like ship schematics. “OK,” she said. “I've located our life signs in the...” she sucked in a breath. “In the cold store! Rallow, you and Jesta get to command and get the power on, the rest? With me!” She took off at the best pace the suit would allow, her powerful leg muscles straining against the restraints of the suit. She sprang left at the first turning and up the stairs to the next level to swing around and head to the canteen. To get there from where she was she had to run through the chicken farm and she crunched numerous loosely strewn and uncollected eggs before she came across the shot body of the Farm controller. She unholstered her weapon. “Pangal to all guards,” she said, “be on alert. We have a body here, killed by unfriendly fire.”

<<Affirmative,>> one of the others replied. Her suit sensors said it had been Rallow. She noted the breathable atmosphere denoted both by her suit and the fact the Chickens were still alive. They crossed into the canteen and Pangal baulked at the dried and flaked blood of the countless victim chickens who'd been stretched, strangled and exsanguinated or just torn apart alive in here. Celicans prefer live meat but, in case of needing to transport other races, the cooks kept a supply of frozen meats and specially frozen vegetables in large stores and it was here that Pangal was headed as a voice broke over her comms system.

<<Hawle t... ...gal,>> the voice said in scratchy tones. <<can y.. hear me?>>

He's right on the edge of comms range, the Chief realised. Wrist comms and the ones on these suits had a 500 kilometre range as it went and needed a booster system or booster satellite to get further. On a planet, surrounded as most were, by communications satellites? No problem. In space the ship systems tended to boost range but that depended on them being on and this ships' booster obviously wasn't. So this would have to do. “I hear you, Captain,” she replied as she approached a large door held shut by a hefty bar through the lock. “I'm sending the schematics of this place. We need Barleycorn and her thermal units here asap. The life-signs are in the freezer.”

Static was her answer. She didn't even know if the message had got through but it didn't matter. She pushed the bar up but it barely moved so she ordered one of her group to assist. Even through the suit she could feel the cold of the metal and glanced at the temperature gauge. Minus twenty. How long had they been in here? She noted her appreciation for Celican hardiness had gone up as they pulled the bar free and she pulled at the door.


It cracked as her pull broke the sheen of ice that had formed across the door and she indicated the others should be weapon ready. They spun around as something glowed behind them and almost shot Barleycorn before she put her hands up with the rest of her staff.

“Hey,” the Mican protested as the guns lowered, “you called us!”

“Did indeed,” Pangal admitted. “You may have patients in here.” She indicated the medical team to step back and pulled the door fully open.


They stepped in on a white nightmare. Amongst the frozen meats and hamburgers there were over twenty of the Celican crew huddled together, barely breathing in winter jackets that further confused Pangal. Generally Celicans had to be forced to wear anything more than shorts but this lot were all in their version of bad weather gear. She reached out and touched one of the outer Celican's whiskers. It snapped off, bringing a faint jerk of pain from eyelids frozen shut and Pangal let the Doctor's team in to take the figure out. Pangal made her way to the centre of the mass, recognising this for what it was. A huddle of protection. Even in their winter gear they'd not expected to live long but they'd known the Loper was on its way so they put what they wanted to survive most in the middle and provided warmth for it. She stopped and stooped next to a small shivering figure and reached out to push the hood back. The figure moaned and juddered as she revealed the white furred head of a youngster. A Polar Fox youngster who, shivering heavily, looked up into her faceplate. She'd known Celicans kept Polars on their ships in case of outbreaks of the killer Flu, to which Polar Blood antigens were the only known natural cure but not this age, surely? He managed to raise his arms and Pangal picked him up and carried him out to wrap him in heat sheets, just as her people and Barleycorn's were doing. Hers were able to move faster, the thermal circuits doing more than medical thermal gloves ever could. Even so, it took nearly fifteen minutes work to lift everyone clear.


With the door to the freezer shut, Barleycorn handed Pangal a still mineral drink and swizzled it. Pangal put her helmet aside and took it to the young Polar. He looked scared and still juddered. “Hi,” she said, offering him the drink, “I'm Jaqui.”

He shook his head – or Pangal thought he did anyhow.

“You need to drink this, sweetie,” she said. “It's full of things meant to help. Look.” She took a sip of the drink and then proceeded to help him drink the drink when she thought she could see the ghost of a nod. “You're quite safe now,” she said consolingly. “I'm a security chief and no-one's going to hurt you.”

His shaking hand reached up with agonised slowness and touched her left ear.

“Did you see who did it?” Pangal asked gently. This time she was certain of the nod.

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Sun Aug 03, 2014 11:17 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
For those who've not been on the art thread, here's something the brilliant Hukley cooked up.

Left to Right.

Grovan, Raven, Hawle, Chapston and Groal.

Image

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Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:18 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
SHIPBOARD

“Has he managed to tell you anything yet?” Raven asked, stepping past the still frozen body of a Celican scientist in the medical bay of the Celican ship. She looked around and considered that her younger self would have been amazed to know she'd be upset about standing among this many dead and wounded Celicans. Growing up on a colony world she had plenty of reasons to hate the Foxes. Sure, both races were members of the United Security Council but, outside of the central worlds, old enmities raised their heads on regular occasions. Imagined slights and territorial disputes gave way to armed conflicts that usually resulted in the Council coming in, slapping both sides and eliciting barely meant apologies from whoever was to blame. Usually they added deals to paper the cracks and these only fell through after the Council wandered off to the next problem someone else was having. Strange that. She'd seen enough small scale wars before joining the Council and she'd forced herself to restrain herself since she got to the academy, especially since she'd been lucky to see a second day. If that Celican had prosecuted for her breaking his jaw after he said 'hello'... She still called him on occasions, just to touch base with a friendly enemy. And now...

“Nothing as of yet,” Pangal replied, breaking Raven's reverie. “Polars can take minus 40 for the best part of a day but they were in there for quite a while. Barleycorn's doing what she can to save the survivors but they're all normal Celicans. They're touch and go.” Pangal sighed and her left ear dropped. “And most of them will probably go.” She looked around. “Has Groal managed to get communications back online?”

Raven shrugged her impressive shoulders. “Not a clue.”


“I don't like this,” Hawle muttered as he watched the science ship on screen. The complexity of it bugged him. Who would board a science vessel, kill at least fifteen of the crew and only trap the others rather than blow the ship to bits? Something about this was tickling his anxiety bone. “Gunny,” he ordered, “do a passive scan for traces of any...” He paused as he looked at her chewing her lip. “Let me guess,” he continued, “your evening courses haven't covered passive scans yet?” He shook his head. “By Laprina, I need a full-time Science Officer who can leave his room. I'll do it.” He stepped over and began the scan.


“Someone's removed half the power boards,” Groal said, stooping next to an open panel and examining what should be there and casually wasn't. Circuit boards had been removed from motherboards and needed replacing. “I have some spares,” he admitted. “I'll fit them now.” He pulled his toolbox over and selected a power board from it. He blew some micro dust off it and examined it. “Should take the load for a few hours,” he told himself verbally. He pushed it into place and looked for the next board.


“I really don't want to be here,” Winsome told his guard as he worked on the Celican ship's main computer banks. He hurried from the control room, forcing the other to follow him quickly as he loped quickly through the ship, dropping down a level and continuing to a locked door. “muffins and cookies,” he said as he looked at the locked door. “Coded lock.”

“What's so important?” The guard puffed as he caught up.

“The attackers wiped the primary memory and the back up but Celican ships tend to have a secondary back up.” He tapped the door. “It's in there. If I can get in, I can reboot the main memory but...” He sighed and slapped his hands together. “We need to get to the medical centre.”


“Chapston,” Hawle said as he looked into the scanner. “Do you have today's deployment records for all the races?”

Chapston started in surprise, ruffling her long hair before twisting to find the read-out on computer. On the trade lanes, the records were filled out daily for most ships, with all the trade ships and some battle craft putting in their start and estimated finish points. It was never considered totally accurate but provided a guide to work from. “Aye, sir,” she said.

“Send it over to Comms. I want you to estimate the approximate position of a Celican vessel – you choose whichever you need – and send an information bullet on a narrow band to that location. Send our location, what we've found and a request for help from the Celican navy.”

“Can I ask why, sir?” Grovan asked.

“I have this annoying feeling they only broke off the attack when they knew we were coming,” Hawle said, “and that they didn't find what they were looking for.”

“What's that?”

“Either something they left over there or the thing in our morgue. Don't forget they were supposed to have it by now.”

“We should leave.”

“We've been here a while and they've not returned. Tells me it's more likely it's something they may be expecting us to find. Or do... I just ordered a message sent on a tight, narrow beam so no-one else could pick it up. What if the Celican ship is supposed to send a message when the comms are back online?”

Grovan slapped his comm. “Grovan to Groal! Do NOT activate communications! Possible sabotage of the system!”


“I hear you, Commander,” Groal said without activating his line. “I make sure the systems disconnected before I started work. I'm not a frikking amateur!” He slapped the comm. “Understood, sir,” he said, before cutting the link.

Winsome stepped into the medical bay and looked around at the still living Celicans. None of them could move much, although some could now move their eyes and fingers and it was one of these that the young Squirrel stepped up to. He looked at the figure and the Celicans eyes widened for a moment.

“What the..?” Barleycorn fumed when she saw him. She stepped quickly to the situation. “Get away from him you little sod!”

“He knows he's dying,” Winsome said evenly.

“I don't care! You have NO rights to invade anyone's thoughts without permission or a warrant and you bloody know it! I hope it was worth it, robbing a dying person of their dignity!”

Winsome glared at her. “Don't you know what he had to say? What his last request was? His thoughts aren't for himself.”

Barleycorn loomed over him before bowing slightly to glare into his face with near unbridled hostility. “MY job is to save them if I can and make them comfortable if they can't, child. If the information's to do with that, fine. If not?” She raised her voice sharply. “Tell it to Pangal!”

“Tell me what?” Pangal asked from the doorway.

“His thoughts,” Winsome said, gesturing to the officer. “An access code I needed and a phrase. Protect the child, he said. Protect the child.”

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
SPEED OF RESCUE

“What in the name of Hassanna's sacred salad is so important about this Polar Cub?” Hawle demanded, looking down at the still shivering boy in the medbay. Barleycorn had sent him back to the caring supervision of the nurse she'd left on station in the Loper and they'd raised the heat a few degrees to help him warm up. “Winsome says there's nothing about him on the crew roster and there's nothing that would make a child worth all this.”

“Never had a kid, have you, Captain?”

Hawle looked at Grovan as the second officer looked in. “There's nothing worth more,” he added sombrely. “Those Celican's were heroes and should be remembered as such. Those that died and the ones who survived. Now,” he added, “if you'll excuse me?” Without waiting on orders, Grovan opened the door and stepped in, shutting it behind him. His face changed as he put on a smile and used a happier tone of voice. “Heya, champ,” he said in greeting to the Cub before he knelt to put himself in the boys eyeline. “I'm Harper.” He put a hand on the boys' cold shoulder. “Can you tell me your name?”

“R-R-R_Roganie,” the youth said.

“Well, Rogan,” Grovan asked softly, dropping the characteristically redundant last few letters of the boy's given name, “do you know where you are?”

The cub looked around shakily. “It...it's a bright place. W...white I think?” He chattered with the lilting 'r' customary to the Polars that enabled 'bright' to rhyme even more perfectly with 'white'. “With...with a C-cat nurse – who doesn't smell as bad as Mom said they would...”

“Charmer,” muttered the nurse, before flicking a smile the youngsters' way.

“...a Canine – that's you – and a Rabbity who doesn't want to come in.”

“He's the Captain, believe it or not,” Grovan admitted. “Well, Commander anyhow.”

Rogan looked around again, then up at the recessed lights in the ceiling. “This is a Council ship?”

“It is,” Grovan said, “a patrol ship called the Loper.” Grovan took a breath and chose how to broach the next subject, “Can you tell me what happened?” He put a hand on Rogans. “You're safe.”

“Th...they came f..for me and... something else.” Rogan stammered. “I...I... The Commander t-told me to hide in the f-freezer as th-they wouldn't look for me there.” He screwed his eyes shut. “They weren't supposed to put the others in there!” He wailed. “They couldn't find the other thing so they got really mad and...” He broke into tears and Grovan held him as, outside the door, Hawle turned away and tapped his comm.

“Hawle to Raven and Pangal. Get all the survivors back here. We have to leave now if not sooner.”

<<What's the problem, Captain?>> Raven's voice cut clear through the void from the Celican vessel.

“Let's just say we're in double trouble and leave it at...” He paused as his comm double beeped. “Hang on.” He pressed a second button on the communicator. “Hawle here.”

<<Chapston here, Captain. We have a ship coming in. It's about thirty minutes out at current speed. Ident marks it as an Equinna vessel.>>

“Equinna?” Hawle repeated, his ears standing up. “Horseheads? Wasn't expecting them. Keep an eye on them,” he added, “tell me if they increase speed.” He pressed the button again and was reconnected with his first call. “Company's coming,” he warned. “an Equinna vessel is thirty minutes out.”

<<Can we outrun them?>> Pangal's voice this time.

“They're capable of higher speed than we are,” Hawle mentioned, “so we can outrun them only if we have a head-start, people. Get a shift on!” He cut the line and headed for the bridge. He considered calling Grovan but thought it was better he stayed where he was for now. The Kid seemed to have bonded with him. “Point us away from the Equinna ship,” he ordered as he arrived and moved to his seat.

“I can't do that quickly without risking disrupting the transport locks, sir. I'll synchronise with the transport Chief.”

“Do so. I want out of here...”


“I'm almost done with the download,” Winsome said, flapping his hand to keep his guard back as he played with the secondary back-up systems. Without being able to transmit the information over the comms to his home system he was copying them all to a large memory container he'd brought with him and was using the terminal to better assist the speed of the transition. “This isn't going quick enough,” he complained.

“But we are,” the guard replied. “My orders are to get you back to the ship as soon as I can. Take what you can and let's go.”

“One minute,” Winsome said.

“Thirty seconds. Get that thing out or I'll pick you up and carry you.”

“Oh, like...”

A strong voice cut across him. “If HE carries you out,” Raven said, it'll be with your stomach over his shoulder. If I do it it'll be with my hand around your neck!”

“Done,” Winsome said, pulling the memory board out. “Nice to see you again, Commander,” he said, turning to face her for the first time.

“Suck it up, Squirrel. Get gone.”

“Going, going....” he said as he headed down the passage for the transport point and went around the corner. He poked his head back into view. “...gone!” He went again.

“Frikking loon,” Raven said.


“Twenty minutes,” Hawle said as Raven took her seat. “Twenty minutes to transport everyone out. It's... it's not acceptable. We've got a very large ship bearing down on us!”

“I know,” Raven replied, “Groal had to keep re-routing the power. They'd done something to the power links. He came over last.”

“Set a course and get us the hell out of here before that ship arrives, Chapston! I have no wish to be made into hay today!”

Chapston complied and the ship began to move away from the Celican ship at best speed with the additional crew.

And something arrived in the secondary hold.

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

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Fri Aug 22, 2014 2:45 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
Love the story so far. Hope that I can see more soon!


Fri Aug 22, 2014 3:35 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
Pushing the PG here, possibly... But Violence tends to do that.

HORSING AROUND

“He's pushing the sodding envelope again, isn't he?” Mican engineer Raisin Berwick asked as he patched a coolant leak, “so soon after last time.”

“We're being chased by an Equinna battleship, Berwick,” Groal replied as he lifted a pipe clear of the wall and attached a new section to bridge a break. “If he doesn't get us to Station Alderney before they catch us there won't be enough left to put in an envelope! Now stop perfectly wonderful person and...” he paused as he heard a whining sound near him and threw himself away from the wall, pulling Raisin with him, as another section of pipe blew out. “Fix one section and another blows out?” He moved to the new section and started cutting with his laser torch. “There's something about this,” he admitted. “why's this section even on anyhow? It should have shut down at the leak by the power control room.” He let the section drop and took the steam generated by the power core coolant full in the face. His fur glued to the skin and he was thankful for the protective facemask and even the heat-proof gloves he had on as he caught the dropping chunk of hot metal. It burned and scorched his arms but he managed to avoid real damage and got to work on setting the new piece in place before he called in. “Groal to Malvik, you wanna start doing your job, girl?”


Winsome watched as the information danced in front of him. He didn't feel the deck moving underneath his feet nor hear the groaning and straining of the metalwork around and above him as he concentrated. The occasional flicker of lights and screen was nothing new to him at this speed but he had his concerns today. The presence of Equinna tended to make the youngster paranoid. Then again, most things that stood almost seven and a half feet tall with three hundred pounds of strength that could strangle you using just their pinkie and what some called the ring finger made him paranoid. And the flickering of lights was getting worse. He scanned the systems for anomalies and, on finding a few, set the computer to fight them whilst he found out what was going on. Normally he'd call security but the Power Control Room was just next door so...


...He stopped in the doorway. The nice Canine, the one he'd been sorta planning to ask if she'd have a meal with him? The look on her half a face told him she'd never eat again. A powerful physical attack had crushed it and he wavered, tapping his comm but saying nothing as he looked at the Equinna who'd broken her and her team.


Muscles glistened under sweat slicked fur as the horsehead raised his speckled head to look at the newcomer. A scowl formed on his face, drawing back the skin on teeth cut with fresh blood and gore as his ears flicked the ceiling bulkhead. He stepped towards Winsome. “I wonder what Squirrel meat tastes like?”


Winsome gulped and ran.


The Equinna charged after him, crashing through the doorway as he went, realizing that the element of surprise was gone if the Squirrel got away anyhow. He caught up to him in the Computer bay, just missing as Winsome jumped for his life onto the tallest of his consoles and leapt for freedom over the Horse head. He caught the Squirrel's foot and swung him, full force, into the bulkhead before throwing him into the computer banks. He watched as, stunned, Winsome fell from the sparking consoles and tried to get up. The Equinna picked him up by the shirt and threw him into the closest wall. Winsome tried to respond by pulling his gun but the Horse cracked it out of his hand, breaking his arm at the same time. Winsome looked on the edge of blacking out now so the Equinna picked him up by the throat and squeezed until it all ended.


No sooner had that happened than he was propelled away from his latest victim. He cracked into the back wall and felt blood trickle into his mouth. A chipped tooth, perhaps. He pushed away and turned around, swinging a heavy fist which Raven ducked before powering a fist up under his ribcage, driving some of the breath from his powerful frame. He grasped her outstretched arm and smacked a fist into her face before the muscular feline freed herself with a kick to the side of his knee. He gripped her shoulders and attempted to throw her onto Winsome's body but she twisted aside, rolled off the sparking consoles and dropped to a crouching position before pouncing back into her foes' midriff and raking his stomach with her claws. He back handed her and heard her jaw crack as her head jerked away from impact. He tried to make it past her to the door and made it as claws raked down his back, unzipping his skin even as he tried to hold his insides in with his other hand. He had a mission to do. He.. had to complete the mission. He had to stop this ship. He'd... been left behind to... sabotage the ship if... it tried to get away. It was why he'd hidden himself in the Celican ship's hold. His Captain had... He lost his train of thought as Raven tackled him again, propelling him to the ground before he put a massive elbow into her face. She pulled him up in a stranglehold but he put his feet to the bulkhead and pushed backwards to slam her into the solid state window and tried to grind her face into the ultra-hard surface.


“So,” Raven asked, “what's our friend doing now?” She looked at the Equinna as he stood, stock still, in the Power Control Room and stared vacantly into space.

“Well,” Winsome said, not looking at her as he talked, “at this moment he's killed me and is fighting you in the outer hull whilst wondering how come security hasn't come running. He's trying to get back to the Power room. He's trying to drop the power.”

“Slowing us down so his friends can catch us,” Raven said to the young psychic, “or kill the ship engines altogether.”

“What are you going to do with him?”

“Well we can't imprison him. He's too powerful if anything happens. How's his fight going?”

“He's winning. Just about.”

“I better give myself a hand then, hadn't I?” She drew her weapon and shot him in the stomach before tapping her comm. “Raven to Barleycorn. Medical emergency in the Power Control Room.” She considered kicking the moaning Equinna as he came back to his senses with the hole in his stomach. His blood pooled with that of his victims. “Put him in the stasis cubicle, Doctor,” she ordered.

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

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Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:05 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
THROWING STONES


“It's getting really hot in here,” Berwick complained after he quaffed a bottle of water in two gulps.

“Pardon?” Groal shouted over the noise of the engine that now filled the room with its' huge hum. “I can't hear you whinge over this work I'm trying to do, Berwick!”

“Ha, bloody ha!” Berwick retorted before he recalibrated the systems – again – to keep things running. Others were doing their part, sure but why, the Mican wondered, did the Orange furred git keep making him his partner in maintenance? Didn't he trust him on his own? Bloody cheek. He'd been an engineer or an engineer's mate on Mican ships and Council since he was twelve and he knew them to be far more exacting than Celican ships. As his old Captain had said 'a ship needs an engine to run when it's the prey and to hunt when it's the predator.


“We have about half an hour before they catch up,” Chaptson said, holding tight to her console to stop from rocking too hard.

“I estimate forty-five based on speeds,” Hawle replied.

“In thirty minutes,” Chapston called back, whilst mopping her brow, “our engines blow!”

“Pessimist!” Hawle grumbled and looked over the maps of real space. “That Celican has his pride! He's not going to let the engine blow!” He mock sighed. “Oh, very well! Bring us out of Hyper in four minutes and five seconds. From... Now!”

Chapston programmed the safe deceleration curve and wondered why she needed to be so precise.

“About fifty years ago,” Hawle explained without waiting for the question, “a Canine mining team drilled into one of the planets around here. Something,” he added, “went a bit rooster eyed and, all of a sudden, there was one less planet and one more field of asteroids big enough to pulverize any flotilla of ships dumb enough to go in there.”

“Sir?” Grovan asked politely. “Are you giving me permission to call you dumb?”

Hawle considered for a second before pointing at him. “No but I see what you did there. I might think you were developing a sense of humour.”

“You know me better than that, Captain,” Grovan smirked, “I just appreciate the chance to call you dumb.”

“I thought that's what your reports were for?”


Working general duties in a frigate's mess wasn't what Fontny had thought he'd get for selling out his comrades. The Raitchian had hoped he'd get something in maintenance or a station up on the bridge where he could earn his freedom over a shorter period of time. Now, though, as he schlepped water by the barrel from the canteen to all the departments, he was really regretting it. Apparently it was needed, the cook had said. Apparently the machines were off-line as the ship was falling apart. Why was the cook still back there in the kitchen, then? Why was he the one shifting twenty litre bottles of water to sickbay and the bridge after the starwheel bar, engineering and the fighter pilot station? It wasn't fair, was it? He'd complain about it later, you just see if he didn't.

“Oi, convict!” shouted a voice to his left. He looked and saw it was the Doe who ruled security. “get your tumblebumble in here!” He sighed and pulled the bottles behind him. “Situation like this,” he heard her say, “I can't risk you running around.” She nodded to a cell.

“Oh, thank the gods,” she heard him moan as he left the bottles behind and staggered in to sit down. Pangal opened one of the bottles and took a drink.


The ship pulled itself back into normal space and, in front of her, Chapston could see a field of rocks bigger than the ship slowly pushing away from what had once been a planetary core.

“Shields up,” Hawle ordered and Chapston complied as the radiation detector began to rise steadily. The shields snapped on and the detector dropped back to normal. She adjusted course and took the frigate into the field. “Your discretion, Chappers,” Hawle said.


“Right,” Groal snapped as the noise whined down. “We could have a day or we could have a minute. “Fire up the liquid nitrogen to cool the works, get power back to the secondary systems and get the patches on.” That said, he headed down to the engine.

“Why don't we use the nitrogen all the time?” Engineer Merriman asked Berwick.

“Too unstable to use under high stress,” Berwick retorted, releasing a small amount into the system. “Get it wrong and you freeze the pipe rather than just cool what goes through it. Where did you get your degree, Quack tech?”

“I'm a computer tech on secondment as I took the extension classes.”

“Night school. Great. Computer tech, eh?” He tapped the monitor. “Use your computing degree,” he said as he grabbed his tools. “We have a leak, I need to fiud it. You watch that monitor and tell me if the temperature starts to rise.”

The Canine grumbled.


“I'd swear some of those chunks still have houses on them,” Gunny said softly as the frigate sailed under a chunk of planet. The shields sparked as tiny chunks impacted on them and disintegrated or deflected away. They were some twenty thousand kilometres from where they had entered and long range sensors were failing, distorted to irrelevance by the effect of the radiation.

Even so, Hawle guessed the Equinna had arrived. An energy bolt had sought out the ship, screeching past some five hundred kilometres to port as Chapston realigned the ship to put a cluster of large rocks between the two ships. Hawle turned on the aft view and saw the Equinna ship beginning to enter the field. “Can we mine this field,” he wondered.

“Unlikely,” Grovan said. “They're too close. However, we are more manoeuvrable than they are, sir.” He grinned.


A moment later, and against her better judgement, Chapston spun the ship tight around it's axis. Before she'd even got her breath back, Grovan had launched torpedoes in the direction of the Equinna ship. Three of them, left, right and centre. He let the two outer missiles appear to be drifting off target when the only one he wasn't controlling was the one heading directly at the ship. He knew they'd concentrate on that one and they did, detonating it with a photon burst well before it hit them. The other two they couldn't hit so easily as they were behind the cover of two large asteroids now.


The missiles impacted the asteroids, blowing through them and propelling the disintegrating chunks towards the Equinna ship as it was in their arc of flight. The ship realised the danger and fired but two large chunks, both five kilometres in length, crashed onto the energy fields and pushed inwards, trying to break the protective barrier.


Hawle watched the battle play out and the Equinna ship came through the attack but, even from here, he could see she'd been wounded by the incident. Her engines were flickering and her shields, according to Gunny, were down.

“How's her weapons?” Hawle asked.

“I, um...” Gunny raised her hands. “I can't tell.”

“Then we go nowhere near them. Chapston, turn us around and get us out of here.”

“Aye, sir.”

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

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Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:48 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
I just read through this and I must say that I like it a whole lot. You are a great writer!


Tue Sep 09, 2014 8:01 pm
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
Thanks, Dayz.

COMM-LINKS

<<What the hell are you wearing, Commander?>>

The unspoken accusation through the vid-link from the Mican Admiral annoyed Hawle and he shifted his position in front of the screen. “A classic costume,” he stated defensively, “as is my right.”

The Admiral tapped his desk in obvious irritation. <<Some would say that the uniform is one of the most important parts in the career of any officer. It represents the Council visibly and shows our strength.>>

“I do hope you are not one who would say that, Admiral. But I take it you are not calling me to discuss my sartorial image. This would be about our dead guest?”

The Admiral scowled. <<No, it is not! Don't be presumptuous! It's about the Celican boy.>>

Hawle sat up slightly and attempted to look contrite. His left ear bent over. “What of him, sir?”

<<He's the son of the Polar Celican High Minister. The Celicans were taking him home from his school on Canis. With things as they are between the Celicans and the Polars at the moment, the passage was an olive branch from the Celicans. Now it becomes our millstone, Commander.>> He sneered. <<Or, rather, yours. He likes your second officer and he called his mother to tell her he wanted to travel on the Loper. You're going to Celica, Hawle.>>

Hawle moaned. “There's no way of getting out of this, is there, sir?”

<<Only by not doing your job, Commander. Screw this up and you've no chance of a Captaincy.>>

If the Admiral hoped that jibe would inspire Hawle back into line he quickly guessed it hadn't worked as Hawle bared his teeth and narrowed his eyes. “I'll do it because it's my duty, sir,” he said simply. “As for a Captaincy? I gave up on that the last time I was turned down for it, sir. Now, if you have nothing else, I need to go and tell my crew that all the shore leave with their families on Raitche has been cancelled.” He reached forward

<<You are not dismissed, Commander!>>

Hawle sat back.

<<Who the devil do you think you are, talking to me like that? You're on the brink of insubordination!>>

“I do apologise,” Hawle said, feigning contrition with some success. “I assure you that my attitude will never impinge on my professionalism when it comes to getting the work done.”

<<Granted,>> the Admiral admitted gruffly. <<You've taken on a number of challenges over the last few months and come through them so I can accept that but something has changed in you recently. You never used to be so... argumentative.>>

Hawle shrugged. “I've given up on promotion, sir.” He sucked in a breath. “I suppose it means I'm now freer to say if I think a decision is wrong or stupid. But I still have loyalty to the Council that means I will always fight to defend it and I have the honour and duty of being the leader of this crew. I intend to always be serious about my duty, sir.”

The Admiral allowed himself a tight smile as he recognised the line from an old Vid-show. <<But not necessarily in how you carry out that duty? All right, Commander. You get a little rope.>> The hint of lightness vanished from his tone. <<DON'T hang yourself with it!>> The link snapped to black.

Hawle sat back and whistled before slapping his hands on the table. “Got away with that,” he declared. “Barely.” He tapped his comm. “Hawle to Barleycorn.”

<<Barleycorn here, Captain.>>

“Rogan is still with you, yes? With the other Celicans?”

<<He's not left them, Captain. They're still in a bad way and he's not going anywhere.>>

Hawle shifted around and put his feet up on the desk. “How did he get to call his mommy, the High Minister of the Polars, from Sickbay? He'd need a command code for that sort of thing. Did you make the call by any chance?”

<<He just wanted to.. to call his mother. I didn't see a problem with it.>>

Hawle thought through a number of replies about how much trouble they could now be in and what he really thought but, in the end, he merely sighed. “No,” he stated, “you did nothing wrong Doctor.” He cut the line and turned on his little desk computer to work out the best course to Celica as he got himself a Spiced Coffee from the replicator. He looked at the rather annoying timeframe of three days, seventeen hours at Hyperspace velocity three and sipped his drink. “Oh,” he sighed, “for five minutes in a holoroom field... Or a bed. Or a bed in a field. Nerts.” He tapped the comm again. “Hawle to Raven.”

<<Raven here,>> replied the Burman from the bridge.

“Tell Chapston to set course for Celica. Velocity three authorised. Oh, put us to Blue alert.”

<<For how long?>>

“Until we either get to Celica or get pounced on by Equinna.”


There was a tinkling at the door and Hawle groaned. He'd set the course and Raven was in control, his drink was almost drunk and he could have been relaxing but no. Someone had tinkled. “Yes?” He said irritably.

The door opened and Hawle gritted his teeth as his space was invaded by the birdie trapped Raitchian, Balblair. He watched warily as the Raitchian shifted uneasily around the table. “What is it you want, convict?” He asked.

“Um, well, it's just..,” the Raitchian stammered, gesturing around him. “I, er, don't know if you know but...”

“I'll never know if you don't spit it out, Balblair.”

“The, um, the... the boy, sir. The, um, polar boy?”

“Son of the high minister. I know.” He sat forward and pointed at the Rat. “And don't you even think...”

“No! No, sir. I... I wouldn't. But, um, other's might?” He almost pulled off a grin. Almost.

“Others might what?”

“Try to grab him, sir. There... there's a price on his head. For... for capture. It's... it's thirty million credits, sir.”

Hawle sat forward. Then he tapped his comm again. “Hawle to Raven.” He waited until she replied. “Step that blue alert up to yellow, would you? It seems we have the equivalent of a winning lottery ticket onboard and naughty people might try to collect.”

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Tue Sep 16, 2014 11:11 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
This looks really wonderful! I hope that you can continue to right even more!


Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:15 am
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Post Re: New story - The LOPER
MOVING TO STATION

Hawle sat in his chair again and faced front as he spoke. “Watch out for Subspace eddys, disruption pulses, precision mines, all that sort of thing, Chapston.”

“Aye, sir,” the human replied, rolling her eyes as she felt his boring into the back of her head. She knew all this. She knew how to play the game and what to watch for on the route to Celica. Hopefully it would be a boring day. Hopefully... She looked at the console. “We have a problem,” she announced as the dials started to drop, “we're losing propulsion power.”

“What?” Hawle sputtered, sitting forward in his seat and unconsciously mimicking Raven in the way she grasped hold of the arm rests. “Explain!”

<<Groal to Bridge!>> The Celican chief of engineering said loudly over the comms and Hawle had the strange impression the call and the situation were linked as he tapped his comm to reply.

“What's up, Groal?” Hawle demanded as the ship dropped to velocity two. “I take it it has something to do with the slowing speed?”


Groal stood amongst a sea of steam that threatened to drench his fur as he replied over their hiss. “The pipe patches to the engines are beginning to fail, Commander!” He called out to a number of his subordinates and instructed them on duties before he spoke to the bridge again. “We can patch it again if we drop out of hyper velocity but, frankly, sir..?”

<<Frankly what?>>

“We're running out of spares already, Commander. We've been in more hit and run – hit and run really fast, even – encounters over the last week or so than in the prior six months. We need a restock, sir.”

<<When we get to Celica we can...>

Groal snarled, and narrowed his eyes as he heard the Commander. Typical prey, he told himself, always looking to run for home. “No, Commander,” he said with absolute authority in his tone, “NOW. If we have any encounters with an enemy between here and there, I cannot guarantee I can keep the engines running!” He stepped clear of the engines and caught a towel from one of the others that he used to dab himself dry. Were his ears drooping? “There's a station nearby, I think?”

<<You HAVE to be kidding!>>

Groal looked up and balled his hands into fists. “I never kid about the engines, Commander! We won't need to stop long. Half an hour to load supplies and get the repairs underway.”

<<IF things run to plan. Which they probably won't!>>


Hawle slapped his comm off with irritation and winced, waving his hand to lessen the stinging. “Get us to Coverrian station, Chapston. Best available speed. Comms, contact the station and tell them what we need.”

“I don't know what we need, sir,” Comms replied.

Hawle tapped the comm again. “Hawle to Groal. Make a list of what you need and send it to comms for forwarding.”

<<Will do.>>


Five hours passed, full of stopping and starting and uneven speed but eventually the ship came into visual range of an old trading post station that acted as the midway point between Celican and Lappinian space. It resembled nothing more than a white metal spinning top in space with the command and control base located on a bulb on top of the central shaft. A transmitter pulsed on top of the silent facility as Chapston began docking procedures. “We're cleared for station five, sir,” she announced, “between the Raitcian freighter Rat Munis and the Canine heavy transit Sibbly.”

“Right. Watch them carefully.”


Pangal was also watching the two civilian ships carefully on the station logs. They'd both arrived together, apparently, and both the captains had been disciplined by the station security chief for raucous behaviour. They were her two worries as they were the only ones to have arrived here in the last few hours and they'd both made speed to get here. There had even been trouble at docking. She didn't trust them in the slightest. She looked up at her staff. “Marraby and Kelk,” she decided, pointing at the Mican and the Erminean in turn, “take the airlock. Galton, you and Sarron watch the teleport room. Everyone else get to your stations.”

“And where will you be?” Galton asked before remembering to stand to attention.

Pangal's ears pricked up at the hint of insubordination. “My place,” she instructed sharply, “is with the boy. I'll be standing over him, blaster drawn and ready to put down any threats that come his way. If that's all right with you, Galton? It is? Oh, good!” She grinned her sarcasm at him. “Why are you still here?” She furrowed her brow in thought. “Oh, right! Dismissed!” She stood up as they left, unclipped her holster button and headed out the door to go to the medical bay.


Fifteen thousand kilometres stood between the ship and the station now as Chapston gently manoeuvred the ship towards her allotted docking port. “Docking in two mi... Hang on a moment,” Chapston said, “the Raitchian freighter and the Canid are both uncoupling from the station.”

Hawle sat up. “Put us on yellow alert,” he ordered and his eyes flicked to the yellow band of light now striping its way around the bridge and other wall panels on the ship. “Are those freighters armed?”

“They are, Captain,” Raven assured him after checking the readouts. “Both are registered as having two medium plasma cannons and a hull mounted pivot phase cannon.”

“Shields up,” Hawle commanded, relaxing as the yellow tinted shield flicked on around the ship.

“They're coming about,” Chapston warned. “They're still within the station shield perimeter.”

“Ready weapons.”

The crew watched the two freighters turn in a graceful arc after leaving station keeping. Then the opened fire.

“What the hell...” Hawle asked as the two freighters tried to kill each other.

_________________
The Avatar is Commander Hawle of The Loper. He appreciates Hukley as an Artist. As do I.

Kilo - 2-8-3-9-10-2-5
Kilo
Leslie – 4-6-4-5-6-9-7
Leslie


Mon Sep 22, 2014 11:10 am
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