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Encounter with the Enemy
Date: Feb 6, 900 A.C.
After Richard came back from his first mission, he began involving himself in politics. He was trying to get the Galactic Regime to send supplies, if they would not send troops, to Darthamoor. So far, his efforts had been met with moderate success, but the strain of politics was getting to him.
Richard was not a politician. He was a straightforward get-to-the-point type, and elaborate speeches along with embellished orations were definitely not part of his repertoire. As such, he found such events tiresome, and longed for some sort of adventure.
Multiple times Richard had visited Savantone, asking over and over if there was naught he could be assigned to do, but there was nothing for a Defen of Richard’s experience, and he had to content himself with idling.
In the meantime, tensions had begun to arise between Richard and Ivan. Richard’s early graduation to Defen had always been a sore point with Ivan, and the fifteen year old found himself feeling jealous. Ivan was careful not to let his emotions show though, for he knew that jealousy was something that was not permitted in a Defen.
However, when Ivan was sparring with his trainer, he unleashed all his pent up bitterness and envy with whirling strokes and powerful cuts. The Defen training Ivan, a man by the name of And-Son, seemed to encourage this style of fighting, though this was only when there were no other Defen around.
Ivan’s jealousy made him wish to better his brother. As such, he began an intensive study of enerblade arts. He found that Padalin, the eight art, suited his style of hack and slash fighting extremely well. However, realizing that he lacked defense using that art, he also began learning the twelfth art, Shockwave.
And-Son urged Ivan’s study of combat, telling him that a Defen who could not fight was useless, and that there was no point to devote oneself half-heartedly to something.
Richard had not been neglecting his weapon studies either. As he found time hung heavily on his hands, Richard decided that he may as well improve his fighting. He recalled what Elle has said, and began studying Collosum and the Collosum armbreaker.
Richard also found himself intrigued by Repaarte. The smooth and flowing motion of that art really bonded with him, and the encouraged calm and peace of mind that the enerblade art brought with it helped to relax him after a stressful day of politics.
Richard’s interest in Repaarte also brought him in contact with the unarmed style of combat Janyo, twenty-first on the list of enerblade arts, though technically the only place the enerblade came into that was when the learner sparred with a Defen armed with an enerblade.
After a particularly difficult day in the political realm, Richard found himself in the Defen training arena with a sparring enerblade practicing the Collosum armbreaker. He had paused for a drink, with sweat pouring down his face and body, when his newly discovered mental senses detected the approach of two people.
Turning around, Richard realized it was Ivan and And-Son. He gave a friendly wave, then returned to cooling off.
Ivan entered the arena with a sparring enerblade and began warming up. Then he called out to Richard.
“Hey! Want to have a fight?”
“I’ve no objections,” Richard said, putting his drink down and leaping into the arena beside Ian.
The two combatants circled each other for a moment, then Ivan gave a yell as he brought his enerblade in a wide arc heading for Richard’s head. Richard barely had time to dodge, but with the ease and calm that came from Repaarte, he swung a smooth cut to Ivan’s side.
Only a practiced eye could have seen the torque that lay behind Richard’s seemingly weak stroke. However, Ivan’s Shockwave block was ready, and Richard was stunned when Ivan’s blade met his and a jarring shock ran from his wrist to shoulder.
In fact, Richard found his right arm fairly disabled, and he had to dodge Ivan’s next two furious cuts. Quickly switching his enerblade to his left hand, Richard did the best he could to mount a defense against Ivan’s heavy two-handed strokes.
But Richard’s left hand was nowhere as practiced as his right hand was, and the young Defen found his guard slowly weakening. He knew he would have to do something soon. Ivan had beaten him into a corner, and was now forcing him to his knees.
Then Richard saw Ivan’s legs. Though Shockwave was an excellent defensive technique, it did have one fault, and that was the lower portion of a Defen’s body. Even if the art was mastered, the lower part of the Defen’s body would always be a weakness unless another defensive technique was combined with it.
Richard waited his chance, then he gripped Ivan’s legs in a scissor like grip between his own legs. Using the arena’s side ropes as a sort of launchpad, Richard pushed off so that he spun in a circle on the floor with Ivan’s legs still gripped in-between his.
Ivan did not stand a chance, and he fell to the ground with a loud thud. Before his younger brother could do anything, Richard brought his enerblade to Ivan’s throat. Then drawing his weapon back, Richard stood up and offered a hand to Ivan.
The defeated however, just pushed the offered hand away and stood up.
“I’ll beat you next time Richard!” Ivan called after Richard as the Defen exited the arena.
“I’m sure you will,” Richard called back, depositing his sparring weapon in the rack and exiting the room.
And-Son stepped up to offer Ivan some consolation, but the seething boy turned on his trainer savagely.
“You said I was ready!”
“You were,” And-Son told his pupil calmly. “Only you let your rage control you. If you had channeled it to enhance your combat abilities and discover Richard’s weakness, you would have seen that he could easily have been defeated. You need a third more precise art than Padalin.”
Ivan took a few breaths to calm himself, then he said, “And what art is that?”
“I was thinking of Phantom.” And-Son said, and he led his student away, explaining to him all the while the intricacies of the tenth art.
Meanwhile, Richard was pondering the outburst of anger he had noticed in Ivan as they fought. Richard himself did not realize that his quick promotion had been the cause of the tension between them, and being the kind of frank open boy that does not let jealousy bother him, did not understand what was affecting his brother.
Richard also realized that the rage Ivan was experiencing was contrary to Defen beliefs, and for a moment, he considered telling Savantone about his brother, then he changed his mind; his brother was not a bad person, and would no doubt get over his anger soon.
The door to Richard’s apartment slid open the instant he hit enter on the virtual keypad. He was about to enter when he sensed a familiar presence. Turning with a smile on his lips, Richard greeted Savantone who greeted him back before Richard’s greeting had finished.
Richard realized that Savantone had something bothering him to speak so shortly, so he asked what the matter was.
“Oh, nothing much, except have you noticed anything strange about your brother or And-Son lately?”
Richard was on the verge of saying yes, then he shook his head. “No.”
Savantone looked relieved.
“Well then, I’ve noticed that you have been rather restless lately.”
“Well,” Richard faltered. Patience was a key characteristic of a Defen, and he did not wish to admit to failure in that respect even though he did wish for change.
“Were you going to say something?” Savantone asked politely.
“Uh– no– no, it’s fine. You were saying?”
“I was saying that I have a task for you. Senator Westerbridge is going on a three day diplomatic mission and in these troubled times, it has been decided that she should have some protection with her. She already has a squad of coms traveling with her entourage but we have decided that it would be just as well if a Defen went along as well. You have been chosen to be that Defen.”
There was a pause, then Richard spoke up.
“Are you saying that this is my– my first solo mission?”
“Yes,” the aged Defen said with a smile. “Now go and get ready, they leave in half an hour.”
Richard could hardly contain his excitement as he entered his room. Even though it was not more than a diplomatic mission, it was his first solo operation and he felt both anxious and thrilled at the same time. It was a feeling that left him in a state of on-his-toes enthusiasm.
He did not have much to prepare, so his packing was done in about five minutes, but with all the added scurrying around and extra checking that Richard did, he took thrice that time. At the end of that, Richard realized he had accidentally packed his enerblade in the midst of his extra clothing, and it took him another five minutes to find it.
He gave one last preliminary check, then rushed off to the hangers where he was sure they would be waiting. Richard arrived just as the squad of coms was forming up. The senator was the first to see him, and waved him over.
“Well, Rich Hom, a Defen to protect me.” She said with a smile. Then she pouted in a playful manner. “I still don’t understand why they are taking all these new safety precautions. It’s not like the diplomatic service can’t take care of itself.”
Richard, who had seen his home planet get taken over before his very own eyes, was inclined to take a graver view of the case.
“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures Senator,” he said. “After you.”
The Senator looked surprised at the sobriety of Richard, but she boarded the ship. Richard gave a look around then entered after her.
Half an hour into the flight, after Richard had worn off his nervousness and excitement by constantly checking the spaceship’s numerous functions, he settled down beside the com Squad Leader.
“So,” Richard said. “I never heard our destination. Where are we headed?”
“Ever since the beginning of the war there have been rumors that the border planets are divided and might switch to the enemy’s side.” the com said. “We are going to Forrerth to set them at peace.”
“I see.” Richard said. “By the way, I don’t think I got your name. I’m Rich Hom. Who are you?”
“Drax. I am Drax.”
“Well,” Richard said, rising, for once again, the nervousness brought about by his first solitary mission returning. “I must go now and attend to my duties. Nice talking to you.”
He headed into the pilot’s cabin. The copilot looked up as Richard entered.
“All fine over here?” Richard asked, preparing to return the way he had come, for the last three times he had asked that question, the pilot had assured him with a smile that everything was going perfectly well.
However, a look of worriment came across the copilot’s face, and Richard, noticing it, instantly hurried forward.
“What is it?” Richard asked, peering out the viewscreen as if doing so would allow for an improved knowledge of the situation.
“Well, nothing as yet,” the copilot said slowly. “But–” here he paused.
“But?” Richard urged.
“Well, we will be coming out of Machspace in a few minutes, and our preliminary communications have not been answered. Of course there could be a problem with their contact systems, and that is what we believe it to be, but the pilot and I had thought you’d best be informed.”
“Thank you,” Richard said. “And I’m sure we’ll find it’s nothing. Still, if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll remain in the cockpit for a while.”
The two coms told Richard there was not a problem, and finding an empty seat, the Defen sat down. Though Richard had made a pretense at calmness, really he felt just the opposite, and when they came out of Machspace, he looked up hurriedly.
He had no chance to exclaim, no chance to shout, as the cannon bolt came flying in from the cannons of a Destroyer-class Spacecruiser and blasted a hole in the spaceship.
“We have a pressure leak!” The copilot said.
“Bring everybody to the forward compartments! We’ll seal off the rear.” the pilot shouted.
Richard hurried back into the spaceship and told all the coms to hurry forward. The Senator, who had felt the shock, came out from her room.
“What is it?” she asked.
“We’re under attack.” Richard told her. “Hurry forward!”
A few seconds later, the pilots sealed off the rear compartments and let in the emergency supply of air.
“How’s the situation?” Richard asked, rushing forward.
“It’s not as bad as we first feared,” the copilot told him. “It was a glancing shot at most, and was hardly at full power. The real trouble is going to be from those.” At this, the com pointed towards the two Destroyer-class Spacecruisers turning to bear on them while smaller fighters flew out from their hangers.
“Can’t we turn around and escape?” Richard asked.
“No, we can’t, unless we want to blindly use Machspace to get us out of here.”
“Well isn’t that better than getting destroyed?”
“Whatever you say,” the pilot said, and for the first time, Richard realized that they were looking to him for command.
“Wait I–” Richard began, then he stopped. The first sign of weakness was a commander going back on his orders, and he wasn’t going to make that mistake.
“Try to aim for a trajectory along the one that we came from,” Richard told the pilot, as he swung the ship around, rolling to avoid another cannon bolt.
“Yes sir,” the two coms said in unison, and giving the ship a final adjustment, the pilot flicked the Machspace switch. A warning appeared on the tactical displaying telling the pilot that the route had not been calculated yet, but he selected the override and they shot off into space.
A few minutes later, the pilot pulled them back out of Machspace.
“What now sir?” the pilot asked, turning to Richard.
“I suppose we head back. The planet has obviously been taken by our enemy, and the sooner we can bring this news to the Head, the better.”
“Alright then,” the pilot said, but before he could adjust their course, he was interrupted by an exclamation from the copilot. A Destroyer-class Spacecruiser had just appeared on the tactical display and a strong tractor beam was holding them stationary.
“Sir! They followed us,” the pilot informed Richard.
“I suppose we can’t run?” Richard said.
“No, there is no way we can break away from the tractor beam in our damaged condition.” the copilot told him.
“Is there a problem?” the Senator asked, coming into the cockpit. She needed one look at the situation to answer her question.
“What will we do sir?” the pilot asked, as he and the copilot turned to face Richard.
The Defen was silent.
“What will we do sir?” the pilot repeated, his voice rising in volume and his tone betraying the urgency he felt as the tractor beam began to pull them in.
“Do we have cargo?” Richard asked.
“Only what we were going to use to barter.” the copilot informed him.
“Well dump it out in the path of the tractor beam, then engage the thrusters and try to break away.” Richard ordered.
“Empty the cargo!” the pilot commanded, bending over the controls as he prepared to divert all available power to the thrusters.
The copilot flicked a switch and as the cargo was ejected into space, the pilot pushed the throttle forward. The spaceship gave lurched forward, halted, lurched forward again, then halted. The engines strained with a whine, and beads of sweat formed on the pilot’s forehead.
“Can’t you divert any more power to the thrusters?” Richard asked. “What about the auxiliary lights?”
The pilot hurried to do what Richard suggested, and with a groan, the spaceship left the iron grip of the tractor beam. The people in the cabin gave a cheer, and directing the spaceship in a course for Gorthormer, the pilot reentered Machspace.
“Back so soon?” Savantone said, as Richard encountered him in a hallway after leaving the spaceship.
“There were unexpected problems,” Richard told him.
“Our enemy is one step ahead of us again. They captured the planet.”
Savantone looked up quickly.
“I must go and inform the rest,” he said. “Go and rest. We will decide what you can do next.”