Friday, 16 November 2007

(9) Determination

The lights in the small room flickered. Their fluorescent glow causing seemingly random changes in the faces of those sat around the room, each continually changing from a collection of soft, sympathetic features one moment, to a sharply lit and sinister definition only a moment later.

This was clearly a meeting of determined people. Those present stared intently at each other across the fluid void of darkness and light swimming among the group.

'There is only so much we can do surely?' said the tall dark figure near the far wall. 'We've tried to contact them but either our signal isn't getting out, or they're just not listening.' his brow crumpled at the fleeting thought of his homeworld abandoning him and the rest of his group.

'We need to find out what's jamming the signal.' came the reply from a stout man sat among the others, 'it's the only possibility. There's no way the academy would leave us here, we all know what happens to these people's prisoners eventually.'

The rest of the group glanced around at each-other, it needed not be voiced between them the horrors they had been told of before each of them left; none wanted to be tortured and manipulated, especially at the hands of such a dishonourable enemy, playing with their minds while they waited to be taken away.

'We can't get to any decent equipment; cooped up down here.' said the tall figure. 'These pigs have us pinned down, we need to get a military radio and see if we still have any recon darts in orbit, these civvy-sets are just getting static.'

'Oh come on, Jek, we'd never find a recon up there. Our fleet was obliterated by these bastards, you think they just left a couple of guys cruising around.' said the stout man. 'A radio isn't going to help us one jot, we've gotta get hold of some ships and get the hell out of here. Maybe if we get out of the atmosphere we can get in touch with home. I know they'll send someone to help us, heck maybe we can cause some damage on the way out.'

'Maybe Kurt, maybe; but if you think it's gonna be easy to get enough ships to take us home, you're running an engine short of a sol-jump.' Kurt shot him an angry look, 'I know these guys look like you could knock them down no-worries, but they've got their systems sorted, we can't just walk in there and borrow a cruiser.'

'So if you're saying we can't get off, and we can't call home. What we gonna do genius?'

'Hey man, we're both on the same side here. Like I said, we need a military radio, and we've got to work this from the inside. Running aint gonna help us or our guys back home.'

'Ok' said Kurt 'so what are you saying.'

'We tried for nearly five years to get guys into this base, and look at us now, we're in prime position to do some real damage.' A few of the people sat round nodded. 'We need to speak with home and get the tools we need, cos I'm telling you now, it's not gonna be easy to get equipment or arms from here, and we'd be idiots to think otherwise.'

A good looking woman at the back of the room stepped forward. 'So you think we can sabotage this place?'

'Hell yeah' said Jek. 'But we can't just fool about, we need to do it right. We can't just fight back outright and expect it to get us anywhere except into prison-cells. We've gotta be smart about this.'

'Like the Jormanian resistance in the last oil-war.' said Kurt, 'Just a coupla dozen guys disrupted the rigs I was working on for almost 10 years. Real hardcore, clever guys.'

'Exactly!' he nodded his head and smiled, as the room fell deadly silent.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

(8) Chance Meeting

It had been at least three or four weeks since Tarkath arrived at Base, it was a big place, always lots going on, but somehow it was peaceful, it was beginning to seem like home to him.

As he stood at his usual window in one of the east corridors, staring at the loading platforms like he had become accustomed to doing around this time everyday, he was thinking of the pretty young cadet. After she had escorted him to his room and shown him the ropes, the general emergency call-up protocols and such, she had seemed to disappear from the base, but about a week ago she had spotted him eating in the upper-mess late in the evening and they spoke briefly.

'I know I should have asked for her name' he mused 'or even her comm. number' he paused in his thoughts, then looked down and said under his breath 'yeah, next time I’ll ask for her number' as he smiled to himself at his own quiet determination.

'And who's number might that be then?', He wheeled around, already knowing who's voice that was and he was right, she was stood there with a smile on her face, knowing she had just caught him talking to himself. There was a glint in her eye as he raised his head to meet her eye-to-eye,

'H-Hello again' he said, trying not to sound surprised or nervous, he failed, but to Tarkath’s surprise she was still there, and was now smiling that little bit more. In her sweet ringing voice she said, or she sang as Tarkath heard it

'I was just on my way to upper-mess, saw you here and I thought you might like to join me for supper?'

Tarkath stood stunned for a moment then through the surprise at his good fortune, then quite enthusiastically replied

'Sh-Sure, that would be' he paused a moment, searching his vocabulary for a suitable adjective that didn't sound too enthusiastic 'nice, yes, that would be nice' he then smiled back, not only at her but also at his own success at not saying something stupid yet. He stepped to her side like he had done a month ago and felt instantly at ease again.

'I haven’t seen you in a while, Mr. Aloirun wasn't it?'

'Please, call me Tarka, all my friends do.' Then looked into her eyes as she smiled.

The sun was setting and the desert outside had taken on a greenish red hint, the large windows were creating a glow inside the dinner hall, the couple had been talking for the last hour or so. They had both enjoyed a snack and a small drink and were now getting to know a little about each other. Tarkath felt so comfortable with her, and she hadn't stopped smiling for a moment.

They sat back and looked out of the window.

'It's beautiful out here at night' said Tarkath

'Oh, you should see it from the green-land, it's incredible.'

‘Maybe I’ll visit some…’

The doors across the mess swung open and in marched Endrin. He sounded quite rushed as he approached, but his usual commanding self

'Tarkath,' he saw the young woman with him and paused a moment, 'Excuse me interrupting but I have to talk to you about something important, I'll wait outside.'Tarkath replied 'I’ll be with you in just a moment'. As Endrin left Tarkath turned to the cadet

'Sorry, but I have to go, maybe we can get together again sometime?'

'I'm sure that can be arranged' she said, and smiled at him again, then added 'I’ll look forward to it.' With that Tarkath, smiled, turned away, and walked out of the door.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Great Ideas for Writing

As most of our visitors seem to be people who are interested in their own writing, across various styles, we thought this would be an interesting article to link.

The Talented Writer's List

(7) Recollection

Tarkath found his mind wandering to thoughts of his homeworld. Every time he rounded a corner in this place he still half-expected to see the unknown and unimaginable horrors that he had seen in the propaganda back on his planet, but as he walked the many halls and turned the many corners, all he found was clean-cut, organised, smiling faces. Each person continuing their day as if they were without a care in the world.

He imagined that his own base of operations, likewise his entire world, would still be locked in frantic disarray, as when the attack which had brought him to this comparatively calm oasis had been launched.

Wild orders being constantly shouted between decks, rushed tech-hands desperately loading ships with any supplies they could manage to find in the chaotic and understaffed cargo yards. The captured prisoners yelling in agony from the cells in the city's main square.

Tarkath suddenly shuddered at the memories of his people's brutality. Before he had left for the attack, he had attended one of the public punishment events. Watching and cheering with the other members of his flight squadron while the prisoners were beaten, shocked, burned, and eventually hung up on spikes, all to breathe their final breath before the jeering crowd.

These times troubled Tarkath now. His realisation that there were these people with rehabilitation facilities and repatriation centres to help those that needed help. He considered himself a fortunate subject of this greater society's achievements, and as he walked with the delightful cadet and listened to her silken voice, he smiled. He had found a new home.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

(6) A Place To Stay

'You're going to be our guest here for a while Mr. Aloirun' said Administrator Krell.

'I take it by that I am not being returned home?' asked Tarkath.

'You've missed a few developments while you've been in orbit, we're not exactly on good terms with your government, they won't speak to us, and any ships we've sent carrying you guys home have been destroyed. You're people are just too suspicious that we will launch a counter attack.'

Tarkath stood for a second or two in thought then spoke 'Endrin has told me about your society, it sounds like a nice place to visit, but to be honest I’d like to be returned to my family Sir.'

'That’s understandable but...' Krell paused 'there is little we can do young man, we will continue to attempt making contact with your people, as soon as we do you, and the others that were rescued after the fight will be informed.' Krell paused again, he seemed somewhat apprehensive to speak but he did so 'I shouldn't really do this, but since you and Mr. Endrin have become friends I will place you near his Quarters, your fellow people will have quarters below among our civilian population.'

Tarkath pondered this offer for a moment, 'Well, I thank you for your hospitality Administrator, please will you let me know of any progress?'

'Of course I will Tarkath, there is no need to be concerned, you have nothing to worry about. The cadet will show you to your accommodation and brief you on the facility's guidelines'. Tarkath gave a nod of respect and turned to face the cadet that had stepped forward to his side. 'Cadet, 275th floor for Mr. Aloirun, next to Mr. Endrin's quarters'.

The cadet nodded at the Administrator 'Yes Sir' she added.

At that, Krell turned and walked down the corridor. Tarkath stood for a moment to look around. This facility was very different to the vessel he had been on, the environment was spotlessly clean and ordered, almost like a hospital on his home world, but there was an air of warmth and comfort around, everybody else in the area was relaxed and chatting among themselves, to Tarkath this looked nothing like a military base, it was more like the pictures he had seen once of a country club shown to him by his grandfather. It felt good to be in a relaxed atmosphere like this. Tarkath took a deep breath, exhaled, and relaxed.

'Sir, are you ok?' asked the cadet.

Tarkath suddenly realised he had been lost in his thoughts,

'Oh yes, of course, my apologies cadet'.

'No problem sir, shall we go, follow me sir, its not that far'. Tarkath thought to himself how soft the cadet's voice seemed as she turned to lead him to his quarters. He turned and stepped to her side, as they left the room he turned his head to the pretty young cadet and asked

'So, what can you tell me about this place then? It looks like I’ll be here a while.'

Monday, 5 November 2007

(5) Welcome To Base

The salvage vessel lowered slowly into the atmosphere, with the landing thrusters firing there was the most incredible noise Tarkath had ever heard. His entire body was shaking violently, as he sat staring out of the window at the planet below, he couldn't help notice how beautiful it looked, like a big green emerald shining in the darkness of space.

He had seen it before, during the battle, and since then through the windows of his captor’s ship, but not from this close, it seemed almost unreal. As they lowered closer to the planet he could see the continents covered with bright green vegetation, separated by vast oceans of sand.

The ship's shaking made it almost impossible to focus properly on the ground below, everything was blurring together, with all the colours mixing and blending to create a beautiful shining green like he had never seen back on his home planet.

His thoughts drifted to his homeworld, the expanses of plains and sparse grasslands that he had been so used to as a child. At that he was suddenly very worried about his family, and wondered if they knew he was alive.

He had not been allowed to contact them since he was captured, but not counting the incident in the holding cell he had been treated well and had even become quite close friends with Endrin. He had learned a lot from him about the fruitlessness of this war that was going on.

Endrin still maintained his authority and seemed just as mysterious and powerful as the day he had woken him in the cell, but he could see Endrin's human side, and had come to trust in him and his judgment. Tarkath could see why he was so well respected among the men he commanded.

As the ship got closer to the surface, a large desert area between two small continents, the shaking eased, and he could see a large tower directly below reaching into the sky. The thrusters seemed to become quieter and quieter as they reduced their force on the air.

The ship sank slowly and the tower came could be seen clearly, thousands of windows all the way down and round the construct. Tarkath looked closely at the upper levels, people bustling around behind the small windows carrying on with their work, ferry resources and other supplies to and fro. As the vessel drew closer to the ground he could see all kinds of ships, silent in the parking bays behind giant windows and doors.

Abruptly the most incredible bang shuddered through the entire ship and then ceased. Tarkath's chair almost shook itself from it's fixings but everything settled and all became silent, the engines had stopped, the vibrations slowly disappeared and everything was still.

The ship had landed. This was Base.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

(4) The Lost Watch

Tarkath froze for a moment, gripping the aged steel handle, he just didn't want to go into that room. The fear had seized him and he felt frozen on the spot like an icicle.

'Get in there!' ordered Endrin in his powerful and commanding voice. He pushed down on the tarnished rod, and inched the door open on its hinges. The smell of decomposition hit him like a club as he entered the morgue, the sight before him was terrible the bodies were just piled on top of each other in the dirty and dark room. The smell was eating away at him, it seemed to stop him breathing for a minute, Tarkath just froze.

Endrin looked into his eyes and his own features softed in sympathy for the young man.

It had been 12 ticks since the fight, and the dead had all been recovered from space, or at least what was left of them. The remains of the ships had been recovered and recycled easily, and were now stored in the resource bays ready for use. Recovering the soldiers, pilots, and other crewman had been a long process. They were here now in the small morgue, chilled, but with this many bodies it was impossible to stop the decay.

Tarkath stared at the piles, one after another, he couldn't even try to count them without fear and guilt overwhelming him. There were rivers of liquids and blood all over the floor, just draining away through the grate in the centre of the room, browns and blacks just trailing across the tiles and dripping away.

As he looked around the room he noticed a large skip full of pieces of people, floating atop the pile was a large hand, severed at the wrist. He walked apprehensively upto the skip and stared at the hand, as he looked through the blood he noticed a watch, he focused on it, and he could see that the time was still counting.

'All this yet we still go on...' He paused and turned to Endrin, stared at him directly eye to eye, and spoke quietly 'This shouldn't be happening, its just wrong, wrong.'

Tarkath lowered his head, turned and walked away, across the blood stained floor and out back into the corridor, trailing partial footprints in his wake. Endrin started after him

'Hey kid, this is war, this stuff happens, it's not pretty but you needed to see that'

'Nobody needs to see that...' replied Tarkath 'Nobody'.

'Well kid, if only we could convince everybody of that' he paused to exhale, 'come on, you're coming with me, we've got something important that needs doing.'

They both started down the dim corridor, back into the dark maze of halls Tarkath was now becoming accustomed to wandering during each day.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

(3) Rude Awakenings

Tarkath awoke, abruptly this time, his face was stinging, he could tell he hadn't been woken gently. The room was dark and he still couldn't see anything around him, his vision was coming back to him, but slowly. Just as he tried to shout again, his head wrenched backwards as somebody struck his face,

'Wake Up' ordered the voice.

He could feel the blood starting to run from the corner of his eye and his entire upper body felt numb, he'd obviously been unconscious for some time. As he moved his head dirt around him entered his bleeding and swollen eye, the pain hit him like a thousand pins in his temple.

'Stop. Stop. I'm awake. Stop.' He desperately shouted,

'Finally, I was just starting to get bored of this' said the voice.

A light came on overhead, it didn't help Tarkath to see anything around him, but he knew what was there, and from what little feeling he had left in his body he knew he'd better listen to what it said. 'Well mister! What the hell were you doing here?'

Tarkath was just a pilot, he'd never had any formal training for anything like this, he felt like breaking down and crying but he'd learned enough from the pros in the core that wasn't gonna get him anywhere.

'I don't know. I don't know, this is where I was told to come. Where am I? Please?' he pleaded. He could feel the blood dripping down his face, the oil on his skin felt like it was eating into him, the pain was making it difficult to speak but he managed more

'Who are you? Please, don't hurt me, I don't know anything. Please,' He sat waiting, listening, cringing, expecting another hit.

'I'm one of the guys who has thousands of friends left floating out there mister.' At this point the strangers voice sounded almost sad, but that was to be expected

'Please, I was only doing what I was told to do' said Tarkath, his voice shivering from the mixture of pain and fear.

'And you are?' inquired the voice.

'Interceptor Pilot 3147, Tarkath Aloirun, I was only ordered into the core three weeks ago,' in desperation he added 'please don't hurt me.'

Through his right eye he could see the shape of a man in front of him now, he was big and broad. He was so close he could smell the man, a mixture of dirt and metal. The voice replied 'hmmm, I think we can keep you here for now, expect me to be speaking to you again, and make sure you wake up faster next time'.

A sense of relief came over Tarkath like he had never felt, he certainly didn't relax, but he could tell from the man's voice that there was good in him somewhere.

He heard heavy footsteps walking away, the clang on the metal deck with the echo that can be heard in any large ship. A voice came back down the corridor

'Crewman, get that prisoner cleaned up, I want that bleeding stopped.'

At hearing this Tarkath relaxed a little. The pain in his eye was terrible, but he could tell he would suffer no more for now. A stronger light came on above, he could now see some of where he was, it certainly didn't look bright, and it wasn't going to lift his spirits. He bowed his head as a ragged crewman entered his cell with clean water and a cloth.

'What now?' he whispered quietly to himself.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

(2) Aftermath

'We've picked up a pilot from the invading force, on roid-212 sir' announced the voice coming over the internal comm-sys of the salvage vessel.

Endrin pondered the next move for a moment or two, 'Take him to a holding cell lieutenant, I’ll get to him later' he replied as walked through the corridor toward the command station.

He paused a second as he passed the window, he could see the floating debris from the battle, hundreds of tonnes of metal and thousands of corpses were drifting through the abyss. From this vantage almost the entire planet could be seen, with its few remaining asteroids in orbit, surrounded by fallout from the fight.

'This is going to be a major cleanup job' he murmured.

'Captain on the bridge' announced the young officer at the helm as Endrin entered the room.

'Report please Mr. Driani.'

His second in command rose from his seat and spoke in his usual gruff and ordered tone 'sir, we've lost 32 thousand smaller vessels, 500 or so frigates and jettisoned sections of the new Dreads have been spotted drifting nearby. The enemy lost a similar number of vessels before leaving, and took 74% of our roids with them. All salvage crews are ready to depart.'

'How long is it gonna take us to finish the job?' requested Endrin.

'Well sir, if we can avoid too many collisions we can have all the material ready for use by the next tick.'

Endrin smiled slightly, his first officer always was efficient, then reached for a grooved panel on the wall to flick on the ship wide comms 'We have suffered great losses today, but with this crew I’m sure we'll have a perfect cleanup. Very well, get to work boys.' He ordered to the entire station. He flicked the switch to off, gave a swift nod to his officers, and departed to head for the cells on the lower decks.

Tarkath awoke gently, his entire world was still dark, but as he concentrated on what was around him he could make out the basics of where he was. He felt cold and battered, like he had just fought 12 rounds with a Retallion Gorilla.

He was lying on a solid bench in small dark room. The air around him was not pleasant and if he had been able to move he probably would have wrenched as the smell and taste of oil and dirt hit his senses.

'Where am I?' he whispered to himself, not like he expected an answer, but at least he knew he was able to speak.

'Jekrell' he shouted out and waited a moment, then shouted again, this time with more urgency, before dropping his head back down on a hard surface. His vision seemed to clear a little more, and he realised he was not on the surface, and he was not in his ship. He could feel the distant drumming of a large engine through the surface he was lying on.

'Where am I?' he said a little louder, still not expecting a response, but this time he got one, it wasn't a response he wanted to hear, and the voice was certainly not one of his friends,

'You don't need to worry about where you are, you should be more worried about what my men will do to you if I'm not satisfied with what you tell me.', Tarkath shuddered a little and once again drifted away to unconsciousness.

(1) Descendence

Tarkath sat in the cockpit of his interceptor, frantically avoiding gun lines of the War Frigate to port.
The panels around him flashed and beeped chaotically as the computer calmly announced 'Incoming enemy interceptors.'

Tarkath froze, his eyes bouncing around the cabin trying desperately to make sense of any of it; panic was setting in, his chest heaving as if trying to keep up with his heart, his ship rapidly descending into the thin atmosphere of one of the roids below.

'What do I do?' he shouted aloud, half to himself and half to anyone who might be listening. Falling back into his chair, his propulsion systems were down, he was rapidly losing hope of survival and started to think of his family, at home on the plains. Waiting, wondering, whether he would first be destroyed by the Frigate or the impact.

A voice came over the radio, it was hurried and crackly, yet familiar, 'Tarkath, what’s your bearing? Your velocity? Tarkath?'

He jumped forward in his seat, the restraints had broken earlier. It was Jekrell, his wingman, and good friend; he took a second to read the panels, and then replied, 'I'm on bearing 32mark7, heading for the roid.'

Tarkath noticed Jekrell's ship in his wing mirror and swung his head to watch, he had just narrowly escaped one of the Dreads close to the planet, but was still functional, for the most part.

'Tark, good to see you’re still alive. I'm going to give you a nudge, I just hope the hull is going to hold together.' His entire ship jolted around him, and he could just see the horizon of the roid below lift into his view, he was still falling
'You're gonna have to ride the atmosphere and land on the roid, I’ll follow you down friend. I'm losing comm. sys...' Tarkath's radio fell silent, and his friend disappeared from view behind his own heavily damaged ship.

He was falling ever faster but he dropped the gear and pulled back the air-brake, 'surely being behind enemy lines has to be better than being dead' he mumbled.

He knew the enemy ships would let him down, they could always use more hostages in their war effort, and any ship that could be repaired is of use if they find it. As he approached the surface he took a glance in the wing mirror and saw so many of his own ships left floating in the empty space, his colleagues, his friends, just out there.

'How many will I ever see again' he asked 'if I ever see anyone again tha…'

At that moment his gear hit the rocky surface below, and his ship became no more than a dart of steel jumping across the terrain, he closed his eyes, hoped for the best, and the world just slowly faded away to black.