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Firekkan LD Sensor Command Post Albradegis-HQ; Control Room Alpha
Near planet Albradegis
The Antares System, Antares Quadrant, Epsilon Sector
APR 02 2684/2684.092; 0409 Hours (CST)

It was four o’clock in the morning and the command post was staffed by but three hapless Terran officers: a watch officer and two junior officers who had drawn the graveyard shift. The watch officer was reading through the most recent issue of the Epsilon Sector edition of Hustler on his console.

The two junior officers had long since dozed off, bored from watching banks of flashing instruments.

As it were, no one seemed to notice that a group of unfriendly red dots had suddenly appeared on the edge of the long range sensors. It took ten minutes before the red dots moved out of the sensor range.

FCS Ragnarok; CIC
In orbit over planet Firekka
The Firekka System, Antares Quadrant, Epsilon Sector
0449 Hours (CST)

"What do you mean we lost Albradegis?"

The young Firekkan captain nodded, swallowing. Blair could see there was fear in her eyes. "It was full Kil-rath-i Battle Group, General."

"Kilrathi?" Blair nearly shouted. Sure he’d known about the rise of the Ninth Kilrathi Empire in 2674hell, he’d even played a small part in the subsequent Second Kilrathi War during the "Operation Crusade" Campaign—and later the rise of the Tenth in 2681 (both the Tenth Empire and Kilrathi Assembly of Clans entities existing side-by-side, as if the Cats couldnt make up their mind about even what to call themselves), but after the Nephilim gave them a beating on their turf second only to the destruction of Kilrah in ’69, he tended to take the Kilrathi a lot less seriously. At the time it was all happening he was too drunk to make heads or tails of it, much less care. But Kilrathi in Firekkan space meant... "They broke through the Ghorah Khar blockade."

"Telemetry indicates it was the D’vd Tang blockade, sir. We lost Commodore Carle-ton and the entire 617th Tactical Flight Wing at Al-bra-deg-is. And it look like the planet itself was hit with full anti-matter warhead bombardment. Our most accurate decoding of message indicates they were taken by surprise. The enemy fleet apparently used nearby proto star and a comet to hide their tracks, but..." Captain Tesla broke off. Her beak seemed to vibrate, like teeth chattering.

"But what?"

"The latest long distance telemetry indicates the Battle Group is headed over jump line from the Antares System... here."

"Then we h"

"The Battle Group has entered the system!" Tesla’s face went from timid to horrified as she made the announcement. "They just exited Nav 4 jump point from Al-bra-deg-is. By the spark! I am reading three heavy cruisers, two Bhantkara carriers, seven Fralthi II cruisers, nine destroyers, seventeen corvettes, five assault sloops, a few support vessels, and a Kla’meq-class battlecruiser!"

Ensign Hendricksen, a Border Worlds Union defector, revolved in his chair to face Blair. He seemed one of the calmest on the bridge. "Sir, message from Ki’roth Station."

Blair nodded. Tesla spoke of Ki’roth, the orbital defense station Confed constructed a decade ago for the planet Firekka. Straightening his uniform, he soon found himself face to face with the holographic likeliness of a disgruntled Admiral Thomas Perez.

"General Blair, we don’t have a lot of time here."


"The Kilrathi fleet has just broadcasted Ki’roth Station footage of the catastrophe at Albradegis. Looks like we’re dealing with a Kilrathi khantahr called Khrath’kar nar Sho’lar. The son of a bitch has got some major balls, and I’m guessing we’ve got a hell of a fight ahead of us."

"We’ve still got four carriers in-system and the Ragnarok making up the Firekka Garrison Fleet," Blair said. "No word from the Andorrans?"

"They’re holding Confed for us at Epsilon Prima, and doing a damn fine job of it. I have a feeling they’ll be occupied for quite a while to come. We won’t get any help there against the Kilrathi, unfortunately."

Damn, Blair cursed. The option of falling back to support from the Commonwealth’s Andorran allies was one a key point in the backup plans he’d been counting on. "Still, we have enough of a fleet to at least deter them."

"Do what you need to do, son. Good luck. Now, let’s get to it." The Admiral forced a smile under his white beard before stopping the transmission.

Blair whirled around, intent on remedying the situation as quickly as possible. If it was possible. "You know what to do, people," he spoke loudly enough for everyone on the bridge to hear. His voice was icy, modulated, and methodical, as not even those that had known him close to his entire life would they say they had ever heard the man be, "Bring the superlaser banks to full readiness and begin choosing your targets."


"First and foremost I want that Kla’meq of theirs reduced to free-floating atoms as soon as it comes within range, understood?"

"At once!"

"Um, General, the Battle Group isn’t advancing toward Firekka or Ki’roth."


"Telemetry indicates they’re headed toward Nav 6... the K’calano jump..."

"They’re not attacking?"

FCS Reaper; Bridge
0502 Hours (CST)

"Vice-Admiral, all squadrons deployed and moving into escort formation. They await your orders."

Flint nodded at the Firekkans’ Teehyn Ree, Pak’kik, the leader of flock leaders, acknowledging his report. "Good. But first, let’s get some capship missiles ready, shall we?"

"Already one step ahead you, ma’am." Pak’kik smiled, if half-heartedly. "Any other orders? I would like to make my speech to my people on Firekka."

"Get Admiral Perez on the comm and ask for confirmation to break off from the Firekkan garrison and intercept the Kilrathi heading for K’calano." It didn’t make sense. What the hell was in K’calano? The Kallan refinery at Nav 3? Ki’roth Station is right in front of their noses and they instead go for a meaningless target? Even the jump to Ma’kik, the key energy production planet for the Firekkan territories, was only a nav point away from them at Nav 5. No, it didn’t make sense, but Flint had learned long ago not to try and second guess the Kilrathi. There was a time to sit and contemplate strategies and there was a time to act. It was time to act. "We want this as organized as we can get it."

"One step ahead you again, ma’am, but..." Pak’kik ruffled his feathers. "That not seem, ah, possible at this time."

She crossed her arms at the Teehyn Ree. "Explain."

"The Kil-rath-i seem to be jamming our transmissions. I request permission but receive no response from Per-ez. Or anyone else, for that matter."

Great. Just great. "Ideas?"

"I recommend we hold our present position. We can not afford to lose Firekka. The Kil-rath-i are not weak-minded as some of us like think. I found them to be cal-cul-ating and strategically-oriented when the situa—"

"Thank you. Recommendation noted." She may have asked for it, but wouldnt hear another word of Pakkiks play-it-safe advice, a typical outlook from the pacifist society that made up the majority of the Firekkan populace. It was a time of war, and war called for aggression; for initiative. And where the Kilrathi were concerned, Flint had a special place in her heart for sending them to their deaths. She could have blamed them for the death of her father, but at least he was slain in a fair confrontation. No, her hatred ran deeper than that. Years ago they shot her out of space, robbed her of the victory that she knew in her heart awaited her on Kilrah. They could have had at least the respect to kill her and end her shame right there and then. Instead, they scooped her out of space, giving her a free ride back to Confederation space while spouting lies of their interest in peace.

The Firekkan Commonwealth had given her the chance to right the wrongs of her life. To regain the honor that had been stolen from her; to take her place in the long line of warriors that history remembered of her family line; to redeem herself. Perhaps that was why she cared for Chris so much—she saw a kindred spirit in him.

Yes, she told herself, soon. But Flint couldnt afford to spend any more time considering it. Newly determined but still angrily, Flint stalked over to one of her navigation officers. A human, she noticed to some surprise. "Plot an interception course for the Battle Group. Full speed."

"Yes, Admiral."

Hopefully Blair and the others would take their lead and provide enough firepower to overwhelm the Kilrathi. The Reaper was only a Paradigm-class destroyer, pulled all the way from the Gemini Sector. With the Ragnarok and some of the actual carriers like the Concordia-class light fleet carrier Preeminent and the Confederation-class dreadnought Geppeto the Commonwealth had in its arsenal, however, their victory was almost assured. Almost. The important thing now was to keep the furry bastards away from Firekka.

The large HUD above one of the primary sensor consoles revealed that yes, the Ragnarok and a great deal of the overall garrison fleet were indeed following. As she passed the time going over squadron run-downs and paid little notice to the minutes rolling by, the startled voice of her tactical officer nearly sent her jumping out of her skeleton.

"Sixteen Tarkhan-class fighters decloaking directly ahead, Admiral!"

Cloaking! For Christ’s sake, could she have overlooked something that should have been so obvious; underestimated them so terribly? Flint said nothing as she made a dash for the sensor console. Gods, they’re less than two thousand klicks off!

"They’re... they’re targeting the garrison fleet."

The bridge became illuminated with a pulsating red light, followed by sirens blaring loudly.

"They’ve locked projectiles on us! Ah... almost all... all of them..."

She didn’t need the youth’s announcement to know what was happening.

"They’re firing!"

Flint looked away from the pale, empty expression on Pak’kik’s feathered face. Quietly, she took her seat on the command chair. Burying her face in her hands and whispering apologies to the air for all the wrong she had done in her lifetime, Robin Peters prepared to pay the price for the last mistake she would ever make.

FCS Ragnarok; CIC
Interception vector to Kilrathi Battle Group; ETA: 00:10
0517 Hours (CST)


Blair looked on in shock and horror as seven torpedoes impacted the Reaper at nearly point-blank range. Not even a second later it was enveloped in a tremendous explosion that spelled the end for the ship and all hands aboard.

God please... no... not this... anything but this...

Moments later he saw the same fate unfolding for the other Commonwealth capital ships that headed the fleet in pursuit of the Kilrathi Battle Group. One after the other they were destroyed, snuffed out of existence with dizzying haste.

All of a sudden, he remembered the words he had thought to be Flint’s last those three years ago on the Kilrah mission. Her voice coming over the speakers of his Excalibur with static and empty patches, she had spoken to him the sentence she had never finished: "Don’t forget... I could have loved"

Not like Angel... not again... damn it, don’t put me through this again...

Blair staggered out of his chair, feeling as if a knife had just been plunged, twisted, and left in his stomach. His throat getting thick and his eyes watering, he made little effort to conceal his pain as he approached his bridge crew. "Fire the superlaser!" he screamed at Captain Tesla. "Fire it now!"

Kill them... destroy them... annihilate them... make them pay!

"We are not within range of the dreadnaught. The superlaser is not made for small moving targ"

"I don’t want to hear your fucking excuses!" he bellowed, throwing his hands in the air. Grief had become anger, and anger was now becoming fury. "Launch everything we have, use all the turrets, all the capship missilesI don’t give a shit!"

Tesla looked meekly back to her console, her yellow feathers folded back as if in fright. "Yessir."

No... this can’t be happening... Jesus, haven’t I sacrificed enough?

Even by the time the fleet scrambled every fighter they had aboard their hangars, it would be too late. As the Kilrathi fighters began launching their fifth and sixth salvos of torpedoes into the advancing Commonwealth fleet, a reality began to dawn on Blair through the pain and fury that clouded his mind.

He was standing on a ghost ship.

In less than three minutes the fighters would be targeting the Ragnarok. Even with its unmatched shielding and armor, it could not withstand the combined onslaught of an entire flight group’s torpedoes.

After all I’ve done... all I’ve given...

Damn it all to hell.

He couldn’t die here. Not now. Not like this. He had to get off the ship, get away away, and find the power he would need to sow his vengeance on his enemies.

Blair offered no explanations or excuses as he walked into the turbolift, leaving behind his hapless bridge crew. They stared at him as he left, their young, bright faces looking to him with such earnest he could not bear it.


Docking Bay 09
0521 Hours (CST)

Choking down the emotion that threatened to overcome him, he had found his way to the place he could make his exit. After suiting up and grabbing a helmet, it became time to choose the ship of his escape. Of all the fighters the Ragnarok held in the 131st FW, only a lonely trio of battered ships in need of repair they would never receive remained.

The first was a battered F-108S Panther-class Space Superiority fighter, one of the newer fighters to fly off Confed’s drawing board that had fallen into the hands of the Firekkan Commonwealth. Still, it looked far from spaceworthy.

The second was a TB-80S Devastator-class heavy bomber. It would have been perfect, save for the fact that it seemed to be missing its entire canopy module.

The third and last was a Demon-class fighter. It had to be a personal fighter, as the Commonwealth had no Demon squadrons that Blair was aware of. It was an outdated ship in the current day and age, perhaps, but reliable enough that he heard the bounty hunters of the distant Gemini Sector still used them for their purposes.

Between the battered Panther, the unspaceworthy Devastator, and the antique Demon, Blair chose the latter. Not having the time to assess any exterior damage, he ran to its side, wheeling a ladder with him that he climbed to reach its canopy.

On his way up he idly noticed the name "Star Runner" emblazoned along the side of the ships nose. Grunting, he unlatched and threw the canopy open, leaping onto the seat and hurriedly strapping himself in. As the ships core whirred to life, twenty crucial seconds were lost as the necessary systems came on-line. Just a cursory glance at the status screen that appeared revealed the Star Runner to be a top of the line fighter, equipped with a Confed-standard Cloaking Device, advanced isometal armor, a BS Omni sensorary system, speed and thrust enhancers, a tail turret, a Mk4 ECM Package, a Mk5 Shield Generator with Shield Regenerator, and containing a Mk5 Engine upgrade.

As a multitude of explosions from somewhere at the Ragnaroks fore sections rocked his fighter, Blair knew it was time to leave. The ship responded to his sudden maximizing of speed. The speedometer jumping from zero to five hundred KPS, he maneuvered the Star Runner to the electromagnetic airlock of Docking Bay Nine, hitting the afterburners when he was in the clear.

Shooting into space, he had left with no more than five seconds to spare before the Ragnarok was consumed in a fiery blast of at least ten simultaneous internal explosions. Incandescent light from the eruption bathed the cockpit of the Star Runner, and the shrapnel and debris hurled from the dying ship clattered against the fighters aft.

As the Kilrathi Battle Group whose feint toward K’calano had brought about this disaster returned, the doomed remnants of the fleets fighter detachments were all that was left of the Firekka Garrison Fleet. And Kiroth Station... Blair winced at his HUD at the sight of the mottling of twenty-three decloaking Strakhas and Zartoth EWs that met no resistance while they began their pummeling of the starbase.

He couldnt help but look again at the shattered remnants of his former flagship. Like being shot, the pain had not yet set in. There was still the disbelief; the shock.

Cloaking the Star Runner, his fingers hovered over the navigation panel.

Where would he go now?

With the loss of Firekka and its garrison fleet, the Commonwealth and Antares Quadrant would be forfeit in the days to come unless the Andorrans decided to pour half their fleet beyond Epsilon Prima. And Confed... hed turned his back on them for the second time. There was no going back this time.

Then where could he...

As fury, grief, and hurt came together as an expression of sheer madness on his face, an idea came to his mind. He knew where he could go. He would go where none had ventured. Then, he would find what he sought or glady die trying. Then he would return.

God help his enemies.