Galactic Battles: The Dark Menace: Chapter 7

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Sorry about that guys. Here’s the actual chapter 7.

VII

Training Begins

Date: Jan 6, 900 A.C.

__________________________________________

Caddie eased back in her seat, the tension of flying the freighter easing up. She turned to Savantone, “Do you think that– That Commander Grennet is killed?”

Savantone closed his eyes; his breathing slowed to a bare minimum, and he was silent for two minutes. Ivan began to grow impatient before Savantone finally opened his eyes again.

“I am unable to tell.”

Richard was about to put forth a comment when he noticed a spaceship zoom up behind them. “Enemy spaceship incoming!”

“I see it,” Caddie said, turning back to the pilot controls.

“Begin evasive action,” Savantone advised. “That is no ordinary pilot in there.”

“I would’ve done so anyway,” Caddie said, as she dived down past a barrage of blaster fire. “This old freighter has no shields. And the cannons it is equipped with would not make a dent in the weakest surface.”

Richard put a hand up against the roof to steady himself as the spaceship yawed sharply to the left. Then he grabbed onto a handhold as Caddie made a steep dive.

“I can’t keep this up for long,” Caddie warned, as their pursuer methodically shot one of their ailerons.

“There!” Richard exclaimed. “Land over there!”

“But that’s a junk pile!” Ivan argued.

“It doesn’t seem like we have much choice,” Caddie said, swerved for the junk pile, her sudden movement narrowly missing another chain of blaster fire.

The freighter shook violently as another round of blaster fire hit its rear. The hunting fighter dived steeply to avoid the debris it had dislodged from its quarry. Lining the right wing joint up with his sights, Draconian Vengance let loose another round of bullets. They tore into the fortisteel the wing was made of. Flames erupted from the gouge where fuel and circulatory conduits mixed with oxygen cable bundles had been torn.

“This is going to be one rough landing,” Caddie remarked, as they reentered Darthamoor’s atmosphere. The atmospheric shielding that the freighter had been equipped with was old and weak. An oppressive heat filled the cabin as flames streaked across the viewscreen.

Still their pursuer had not given up. The spaceship shook yet again as another torrent of cannon bolts put out both engines.

“At this rate, we’re not even going to make it to the surface.” Caddie told them grimly, rolling partially to let another volley of blaster fire speed past them.

Savantone closed his eyes and sat unmoving. Suddenly behind them appeared an enormous black cloud that began to spread rapidly.

“How is that going to help?” Ivan questioned Savantone. “Considering of course that you had something to do with that.”

“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t, but Caddie would know its purpose better than us.”

“That’s an electric storm. The supercharged molecules inside the cloud formation disrupt all sensors and the clouds themselves block out all sight. Also, flying a spaceship in the middle of that kind of storm is to beg for death. Any pilot at the Spaceship Academy could tell you about that. The electric current is just waiting for something to disturb it. The fast moving spaceship and the energy generated by its afterburners will direct the current into the spaceship; effectively overcharging all power systems and basically have the same neutralizing effect as an ion cannon.”

The storm began to expand rapidly, running close on the crashing ship’s heels.

“It seems that our weapon is turning against us,” Caddie ground out, trying desperately to raise their crashing trajectory as the storm rapidly closed in. The planet’s surface flew up towards them rapidly as the spaceship nosedived into a heap of junk, driving a deep furrow through it all.

When they had all recovered from the aftereffects of the crash landing, they soon found that the spaceship was surrounded by mechanoids.

“Surrender,” a metallic voice said, as the mech raised its weapon and blew away the remains of the viewscreen.

“Attack on my signal,” Richard said in a hushed whisper, unconsciously taking the position of leader.

“We can’t attack,” Ivan hissed. “We’re unarmed!”

“This is the exact reason I wouldn’t take you into battle back then Ivan, you don’t follow orders!”

“Wha–”

“Attack!”

Savantone, Caddie, Ivan, and Richard rushed forwards. Savantone drew his enerblade and cut down the closest two mechs while Caddie used her small blaster to take out some of the mechs farther back. While Caddie and Savantone were engaged with one of the mechanoids’ wings, another one engaged Ivan and Richard. Both split up the minute the mech opened fire, and, ducking and weaving, succeeded in arriving beside the mech. It turned to point its blaster at Ivan but before it could fire, Richard sneaked up behind it and locked its head in a headlock which he then used to disconnect its head from the rest of its torso.

Ivan stood there for a moment, stunned, but Richard’s voice brought him back into reality. “Ivan! Grab the gun, now!”

Ivan instantly bent down and picked up the dead mech’s blaster and fired at another mechanoid. Richard leaped forward, curling into a somersault as he removed the gun from the mech’s grasp. He then hid himself behind a piece of debris and began sniping down more mechs.

Five minutes later, all the mechs lay on the ground; occasional sparks leaping out from severed wires. “That seems to be all of them,” Richard said to Savantone, as the aged man sheathed his enerblade.

“We have to move, quickly,” Caddie commented. “There is no way that at least one of those mechs didn’t call for reinforcements.”

“Well, then, what are we waiting for?” Ivan asked. “Let’s go!”

“Wait, not so fast,” Savantone said, raising a hand. “We have no idea where our enemies are coming from. If we run off in a random direction, we’re most likely to get caught; we must have a plan.”

“What sort of plan?” Ivan asked.

“A plan that will get us past all the mech patrols without us getting detected.”

“How do we know where the mech patrols are?”

“I managed to salvage some scanners and the radar from our crash,” Caddie put in. “We could use those to search for mechs.”

“Good. Quickly, set them up. We have to hurry if we are to be in time.”

It did not take long for Caddie to assemble the scanners; the assembly skills she had developed in fighter pilot training assisting her greatly. Then, reading off the positions of their enemies, they planned a route which would take them past all the patrols to the extra spaceship that Richard asserted was there.

True enough, when they arrived, a sleek transport lay waiting there. However, it was surrounded by several mechs who seemed to be guarding it.

“Not another battle,” Ivan groaned.

“I thought you liked fighting,” Richard quipped.

“Yes, but not without a weapon.”

“You mean to say you don’t have the mech blaster you took?”

“Well, I figured we wouldn’t be needing it anymore.”

“What? You mean to say– Ah, never mind. Here, take mine, and shoot another mech for me so I can take its blaster.”

However, before any of them were able to put the plan into action, there was a loud commotion, and suddenly blaster bolts coursed their way through the air. Several mechs were shot down while others were hard hit; though their armor protected them from the greater part of the blast. These were the more advanced mechs, and they at once flipped, or somersaulted into hiding.

“Who’s shooting?” Caddie asked in a hushed whisper. “Those blaster bolts don’t look like the blaster bolts of your people.”

“How can you tell?” Richard inquired.

“I’m military personnel, of course I can tell.”

“They are from the weapons of the Southerners,” Ivan said in a disdainful tone. “Now we shall see what they are really made of.”

“No matter any of you say, don’t you think its time we joined the battle?” Richard asked.

Savantone laid a restraining hand on his arm. “Don’t rush into fights; there is only one way you will live past this war.”

“Then you think there will be war.”

“I say nothing, but I agree that it seems unavoidable, though who the enemy could be and why he should be attacking the Galactic Regime are questions beyond my understanding.

“See, they are being pushed back. Now is the time to join the battle.”

At this, they all rushed around the piece of debris they had been hiding behind and attacked the mechs, Ivan and Richard repeating the same tactic that had served them so well in the last two battles. Surprised, and attacked on two fronts, the mechanoids did not stand a chance, and were soon nothing but sparking circuit boards.

Immediately after, they were surrounded by a motley assembly of people carrying any kind of projectile firing weapon.

“What do you seek here, Northerners?” One who appeared to be their leader spoke out.

“We are looking for transportation and were hoping that you might let us the use of your spaceship.” Richard said, just before Ivan would have interjected.

“You wouldn’t need ours if you hadn’t lost yours, why should I let you take our most treasured belonging to its doom?”

“We have a first class Galactic Regime pilot here with us. She’ll do the job.”

“And what do we make of the status of your resistance?”

“Crushed. We were defeated. I wish you a better outcome. I fear the enmity between our peoples has gone on for too long. We live on the same planet. We should be fighting side by side against the unlawful invader who seeks to claim our lands. I go now to lay my plea before the government board of the Galactic Regime. Hopefully they can afford to send reinforcements here.”

“Take our spaceship, and hurry. I do not think my men will be able to hold out long against a prolonged war. We are agricultural people, not soldiers. But I am keeping you. Go now, and may the goodwill of all our people go with you.”

“Thank you. I won’t forget it.” By this time, Savantone and the rest had already boarded the spaceship and all that was left for Richard to step into the spaceship. There were so many words of encouragement and advice that Richard wanted to give the brave rebel leader, but the boarding ramp was already closing, and he had to swallow the words and board the plane.

“Don’t worry Richard,” Caddie said, as she flew the spaceship away from the planet. “They can take care of themselves.”

Richard said nothing.

This time they were undisturbed in their flight and arrived at the headquarters of the Galactic Regime without incident. Savantone instantly went off to arrange for a viewing between Richard and the head of the Galactic Regime– For at his father’s death, Richard had become the head of Darthamoor and the safety of the planet and its people was now his responsibility.

Meanwhile, Caddie led them to the visitor suites where they were told to rest and wait for the outcome of Savantone’s talk. Then, leaving them alone, Caddie left to report to her military division.

Richard had held up bravely while he was with everybody else, but the second he was alone, he broke down. The responsibility had caught him unaware, and the load was crushing. He was now governor, and any choices he made here would affect everything pertaining to Darthamoor. It was a terrible responsibility. Added to this were the deaths of many of those close to him and this had severely shaken him.

Three hours later, there was a gentle knock on his door. Richard instantly stood up and taking several long deep breaths calmed himself. Then he opened the door. A com stood in the doorway. He instantly saluted and clapped his heels together smartly so that the clack of his armor echoed down the hall.

“Yes?” Richard asked.

“You are to follow me and present your case to the Head.” The com said, as he turned and walked briskly and smartly down the passage.

Richard followed, brushing his clothes and straightening any wrinkles as best as he could. The com led Richard all the way to a circular door which was guarded by two more coms who saluted sharply as Richard stepped forward.

Richard’s guide walked to a projector mounted in the wall and waving his hand across it, caused a virtual keyboard to be projected in the air. He pressed several keys and the door twisted open to reveal an enormous array of float chairs placed in a sort of stadium arrangement.

Richard stepped onto one of those float chairs and sat waiting. The center was currently taken by the Supreme Dictent’s float chair. He was making a welcome speech for Richard and at the end of it he raised his left hand in Richard’s direction.

Blood flooded Richard’s mind and his heartbeat so loud he felt that everybody could hear it. Butterflies flitted in his stomach. He knew what the Dictent’s hand sign meant. He had seen his father do this so many times before. He was to go forward, but it was several seconds before he gained control over his nervousness to press the control board.

When he had reached the center of the room he stopped. He looked around, then began as he had heard his father begin so many times:

“Greetings, Head of the Galactic Regime. I thank you for allowing me to be present before you all this day. I have a grave case to place before you today: My planet, Darthamoor, has been invaded. It is blockaded by unknown enemy spaceships and the mech occupation is spreading daily. Innocent people are dying and I come before you to crave for your help.”

“What do you ask us to do?” The Dictent asked, not unkindly.

“I ask for relief from the Galactic Regime. The people are making a strong resistance but they are gradually being crushed. We need assistance. We were hoping that the Galactic Regime would be able to spare some coms to come back with me and deliver my planet from the occupation.”

“Describe this enemy for us.”

“Their technology is very advanced. They are using unknown types of mechs who are definitely more advanced than any previous versions. Their methods are brutal, any resistance is crushed. Also, with them was a hideous creature who also used an enerblade.”

The Dictent sighed. “We have already had an encounter with the unknown enemy you speak of. They are extremely powerful. We have not gained a chance to estimate their forces, but they certainly have many soldiers. I fear that we will be unable to weaken our defenses here to help you.”

A murmur of agreement went across the group at this and Richard felt his heart drop to his feet, but he kept an expressionless face. Then a voice called from the multitude. “Requesting permission to speak.”

“Come forth, Senator Westerbridge.”

“I feel strongly that we should send succor to the people of Darthamoor. By abandoning them, it would be an act of weakness, and may put doubt into the hearts of people we are supposed to protect. This could lead to disastrous consequences for the Galactic Regime.” The senator said, as her float chair moved forwards.

Richard looked at her gratefully. He had no grasp of politics and that she should have come up with such an argument seemed to him a perfect miracle.

“You put forth a very strong argument senator. Yet, were we to send forth the troopers to battle against those who invade Darthamoor, and Gorthormer is taken, that would be an even greater sign of weakness added with the fact that most everything we own would be lost. I am afraid we still cannot recant.” The Supreme Dictent said, with genuine sorrow in his voice.

Richard’s heart sank again, but he said in a perfectly level voice: “I thank you all for hearing my case and regret deeply that there is nothing you can do. I take my leave now.”

So saying, Richard returned his float chair to its position and left through the door. He heard footsteps echoing his and turned around to see who happened to be following him.

It was Senator Westerbridge, and she hurried forward as he paused to ask what she wanted. She stopped in front of him and at his inquiring gaze, she spoke out:

“I’d just like you to know what a shame I think it is that the Head would not grant you what you wanted and have come to offer my deepest consolation. I’m Jennifer by the way, and you are?”

“Richard. Now Richard-Homling-with-a-big-problem. I came here to get help for my people, to send them succor, and I cannot return till I have done that. Yet I do not see how to get the Head to change its mind. Also, I’d like to thank you for speaking up for me just now.”

“That was nothing, it’s my job. I’m trained to argue for the cause I believe is right. What will you do now?”

“Honestly I don’t know how else I can serve my people than remaining here in the senate and continuing to plead their cause. I could return to lead them against the invader, but that would simply be leading them to their doom.”

“Have you considered becoming a Defen?”

Richard was obviously quite taken aback by this idea, and seemed to ponder it for a moment. Then he continued.

“I was under the impression that Defen are locked by a series of rules, and that they have to go wherever they are ordered. Not only that, but doesn’t becoming a Defen take years of practice and training? Darthamoor would have been lost by that time.”

“I can answer your question. Becoming a Defen is the matter of a moment, however, there is much more behind it. As for the physical training, I doubt that will take long. But for more information you should probably visit Savantone. I must go now, there is another hearing soon. I hope that my sorry assistance may have helped.” And turning around, Jennifer reentered the room she had left, without giving Richard a chance to thank her.

Richard had no idea where to find Savantone, so he just wandered aimlessly around the base. That is, until he met Savantone in one of the smaller corridors. The old man hobbled hurriedly over to him the instant he saw Richard, and seizing his hand, almost dragged Richard along. All the time muttering that: “Time was short.”

“Um, excuse me sir,” Richard said, quite startled by Savantone’s sudden actions. “I wish to talk to you about–”

“Hush boy!” Savantone said, as they rounded yet another corner. “If any of your lessons in becoming a Defen is important, it is that of silence. You must first learn to hear, before you can learn to speak.”

There were many things Richard would have liked to say, but Savantone had quieted him. Somehow the old man knew of his intention to become a Defen. How, he could not have figured out had his life depended on it.

Finally Savantone stopped in a small room and sat down in a chair, turning another one to face him and motioning for Richard to sit down. As the latter did so, he noticed that though he had been traveling at a very fast speed, Savantone seemed barely winded, while he himself could not stop his breath from being heard every now and then.

“So–” Richard began, but Savantone instantly motioned for him to be silent.

Richard, being who he was, decided that, even though he had not planned it, it would be best if he listened to the aged man. But Savantone said nothing. Instead, he looked at Richard long and hard. He looked into Richard’s eyes, so piercingly, that Richard felt as if his thoughts were an open book.

In fact, Savantone did not speak for so long that Richard started when the short question burst out from Savantone, like a rapid burst of gun fire that halts suddenly. Richard was so startled that the question had to be repeated before he heard it clearly.

“How far are you willing to go boy?”

“Um…” Was all that Richard could manage. He had no idea what Savantone meant, and looked helplessly at the figure who sat in the chair opposite him.

“Well? You know what I’m talking about. Don’t give me that look. How far are you willing to go to save Darthamoor and the whole galaxy for that matter?”

“I only want to save Darthamoor,” Richard said hastily, thinking that Savantone had made some mistake. “The rest of the galaxy is the Galactic Regime’s problem.”

“Shirking off responsibility,” Savantone said to himself, as if making a mental note. “Well then, how far will you go to save Darthamoor?”

“I would give my life!” Richard said, sitting forward eagerly.

“It will cost you a lot more than your life boy.”

Richard was instantly puzzled. What could be valued more than life?

“Yes, it will cost you much more than your life. It will cost you friends, relationships, home, love, everything that you know. It may even cost you your heart. Are you ready to go that far boy?”

“Yes!” Richard said, not really paying attention to anything Savantone had just said.

“Impetuous,” Savantone said to himself again. “How long will you devote to learning to become a Defen?”

“Jennifer said that becoming a Defen was a thing of an instant.”

“Ah, yes, but learning to be a Defen is not of an instant.”

“Well, I can’t devote much more than a year.” Richard said dubiously, new doubts arising.

“Impatient– Do you have any relations left?’

“Only my brother and my sister. The rest all died.”

“Saddened– Do you wish revenge?”

“Yes!” Richard said, his eyes flashing with a raging fire.

“No!” Savantone said, leaping to his feet and shouting, his voice sounding like the roaring of a thousand thunders. This startled Richard so much that he fell back into the chair he had just stood up from in his excitement.

Savantone instantly calmed down. “Tell me what the goal of a Defen is.”

Richard, still frightened by what he had just witnessed, stuttered uncertainly. “T– To defend the weak, help the poor, save those in suffering, and exterminate their enemies?”

Savantone sighed and his head fell into his hands. “Listen,” he said so gently that his previous roar seemed an impossibility. “We Defen are all that remain of an ancient order. A Defen’s goal is not to defend the weak, help the poor, save those in suffering, or exterminate their enemies. Rather, a Defen’s first and foremost duty is to love.”

Richard was taken aback yet again.

“W– What?”

“That is enough for a first lesson. Go now.”

And that was the beginning of Richard’s training as a Defen. His brother, Ivan, too also began training, though under a different Defen.

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