the planet Tetra
Peering out from her hiding place behind a web of heavy canvas
webbing at the far aft end of the main cabin, a very frightened
Mina pulled back into the shadows when she heard William and
Phil frantically dash up the ladder, calling for her as they
came. She knew she had done something terrible, especially when
William cursed as he slapped down the cap of the control stick.
Four Traynor guns banged immediately back into their bays.
Phil jumped quickly into a modified seat in front of a large
console to the right and a little aft of William's pilot seat.
Both were rapidly buckling themselves in as William scanned the
"Eighty-five percent, Phil. You ready?"
"Indeed, sir. This instrument appears to be functioning."
William turned to look directly at Phil. Through the forward
windows, the Kintzi attackers could be seen making another approach
in the distance. William spoke calmly as he made eye contact
with his friend.
"Alright, Phil, just as we practiced it. Keep it short,
tell me what I need to know. Any questions?"
"None, sir. You may proceed."
William nodded with a smile as he flipped open a small compartment
at the rear of the center console. Mina had never seen that compartment
opened before. Her head rotated slightly with curiosity as her
tiny eyes blinked.
Reaching inside the compartment, William pulled a yellow and
red striped handle upward forcefully. Instantly, a single row
of five tiny lights simultaneously illuminated on both Phil's
panel and William's as a momentary klaxon sounded. In cadence
as the lights sequentially turned off, William called out the
"Oooo, that's nice!"
William snapped his head down in the direction of Mina's voice
to see the tiny Tetrite admiring the Rail Launch Activation Handle.
At the same moment, the last light on both panels winked out.
The Sabre burst into flight along the rail like a bullet from
a gun. Mina was instantly flung twelve feet straight back to
impact the aft cabin bulkhead. If it hadn't been for the loud
roar of the engines, William and Phil would have heard a loud
squeak as she hit.
William couldn't take the time to see where Mina had ended up
since the launch of the Sabre was directly into the oncoming
flight of four Kintzi K spacecraft. Rolling inverted and pushing
the flight control forward, the Sabre shot upward, missing a
collision with the right-center K by inches. The pilot of the
Kintzi K was so unnerved that he jammed his own control forward
to miss the Sabre, forgetting how low they were attacking. The
K slammed into the ground under full power and was obliterated
within the deep crater that marked the point of impact.
"Okay, Phil," shouted William above the roar. "Where
"You have three targets, sir. Two are..."
"I saw four, Phil!" interrupted William.
"One appears to have retired early, sir."
William smiled with a nod.
"That's fine, Phil. My mistake. Where are my three targets?"
"One appears to be moving away toward something on the ground."
William peered out through his forward-looking windows without
spotting a thing.
"What about the others, Phil?"
Phil adjusted a knob on the console.
"Most interesting, sir. They have decided to join with us
and are flying directly behind ...."
William hauled back on the control stick, forcing the Sabre into
vertical climb just as yellow flashes streaked through the part
of the sky they had just vacated. Snapping the Sabre into a hard
left turn, then breaking immediately into a violent descending
maneuver, William fought to lose the two Kintzis on his tail.
Mina had just regained her footing when William began his dogfight.
Unrestrained, she was thrown around the cabin continuously. Each
time she hit something, a loud squeak came out of her as if she
were a squeeze toy. William heard one of those squeaks as he
continued to try to shake the attackers.
"Phil! Is that Mina? What the hell is she doin' here? Is
Phil turned in his seat to see a shaking, wide-eyed Mina desperately
holding on to a loose strap about midpoint in the cabin.
"She is fine, sir."
"THAT IS INVALID INFORMA..." shrieked Mina until another
snap-roll made her lose her grip. Hurled straight up, Mina was
held against the ceiling by the negative-g forces of the maneuver.
When the Sabre rolled out, Mina fell to the deck, almost exactly
where she had been before.
Just as she regained her footing, a dozen yellow pulses of energy
penetrated the cabin in a random pattern all around her. The
loud whack of each Kintzi pulse as it tore through the hull sounded
like an explosion to the frantic Tetrite. Screaming at the top
of her lungs, she dashed wildly forward flinging herself into
William's lap for safety.
The sudden appearance of a panicked fuzzy creature in his lap
so startled William that he jerked the control stick back instantly
along with the throttles in his other hand. The Sabre pitched
up and came to an abrupt halt as it immediately ceased to fly.
Both Kintzi rocketed past underneath the stalled Terran craft
totally confused as to what just happened. William quickly recovered,
slamming the throttles and the control stick forward. The Sabre
nosed down and accelerated after the Kintzi craft.
William was now pursuing the Kintzi.
the Bendrahar Canyons on Tolan
From their vantage point high above the battle, Dorn and the
remains of the Red Wings squadron watched in fascination at the
incredible battle occurring below. Two powerful, invulnerable
women were fighting in mid-air for the future of Tolan.
It was fascinating to watch as the two Velorians fought. It reminded
Dorn of the way birds battle, cutting and turning so sharply,
striking then swooping instantly back at their opponent again.
Every part of their bodies became weapons: fists, elbows, feet,
head, knees, anything that could be used to strike out and defeat
Dorn watched with pride as Carpathia, the Protector of his planet,
repeatedly landed incredible punches and kicks on the intruder.
Each one throwing and tumbling the intruder around the sky so
violently that Dorn almost cheered at the sight of it. The intruder,
on the other hand, appeared to want to wrestle more than fight
as she constantly grabbed Carpathia, holding her throughout repeated
counterattacks. Dorn nodded approvingly, convinced that how each
fought was proof enough that Carpathia would win this battle
and avenge his dead.
Blonde hair and fists flailed wildly in the skies over the Bendrahar
Canyons. There were times when Dorn could actually see the shock
waves from immense blows emanate from the point of impact. The
idea that such power existed in the Universe frightened him a
little, making him wonder how mere mortals such as himself could
ever survive. The answer, he realized, was right there just a
few thousand feet below. The good and the bad, the right and
the wrong. It all balanced out. It had to. Without one, the other
would not exist. Dorn smiled at the idea of his thoughts becoming
so metaphysical. He was a combat pilot, not a philosopher. Still,
he could appreciate seeing what he was seeing.
Then it all went terribly wrong.
A'ya savagely smashed both of her fists into both sides of Carpathia's
head simultaneously. The terrible blows stunned the Protector
of Tolan, leaving herself open for an onslaught of massive punches
and kicks that tore the fight from the mighty Protector.
Since neither Kintzi nor Arions could fly, Carpathia had never
fought hand-to-hand in flight before, but A'ya was well practiced.
A'ya had long ago learned to yield to her opponent's blows while
preventing her opponent from doing the same. It was only now
that Carpathia realized that A'ya would always have a solid hold
on her with her free hand or her legs when she would attack.
Carpathia's own punches would only spin A'ya or fling her away,
wasting most of the force of the blow. Now Carpathia realized
A realization that came too late.
Just as the Protector of Tolan fell limply from the sky, Dorn
almost jumped from his seat. That was impossible, his
thoughts screamed to him. Impossible! For a moment, he
didn't know what to do. Half his men were gone, the Protector
defeated, and there was little hope of turning this battle around.
A devastating realization of defeat swept through Dorn and he
hated it. Despised it. He suddenly felt as if his life lost value
because of what he saw below.
Dorn looked hard at the red indicator on his panel that showed
that he was flying on his last reserves of fuel. The rest of
his men were also critically low. He had to get them out now.
Dorn saw A'ya catch Carpathia by the hair and hold her up like
a prize. Her other hand slowly pushed into the upper belly of
Carpathia, very slowly, as if she were enjoying the moment. Dorn
didn't know what was going on, but he didn't like it. He felt
a rage building inside, a rage against the intruder. He keyed
"Red Wing Flight, Red One. Fuel is critical, fly zero-niner-five
to intercept the beacon to Valfrahn. Red Three is lead."
The radio was silent for a brief moment before a crackling sound
made Dorn jump a bit, tearing him from his thoughts.
"Red One, Red Three. Negative, sir. I'll stay on your wing."
Dorn glanced over at the bobbing Warhawk abeam of his and nodded
slowly. His voice became low, calm, almost gentle.
"Three, I don't plan on leaving."
"On your lead, Red One. I'm stayin'."
Dorn cleared his throat and keyed the mike again.
"Red Six, take `em home."
Red Six responded quickly.
"Can't do that, sir. My Commander is here and here is where
Dorn had a small mutiny on his hands.
"Red One, this is Seven. I don't know what we can do about
it, sir, but the lady's in trouble and we gotta do something.
Hell, sir, I don't have the fuel to get back anyway. Might as
well stay here."
"Red Eight's got nowhere to be this afternoon, sir."
"Anytime, anywhere, sir. This place is as good as any."
added Red Nine.
Dorn closed his eyes for a moment before he spoke the words.
"Alright, gentlemen, our weapons are ineffective against
her, but maybe we can draw the intruder away from Carpathia long
enough to make a difference. Our orders call for `maximum effort',
but in the history of the Red Wings, there's never been any other
way. Carpathia's put her life on the line for us all too many
times for us to leave now. Now's the time and here's the place
to do the same for her. Let me hear you."
With the discipline of a machine, each checked in.
"On your lead, sir. Red Six."
"Damn straight, sir. Red Nine."
That was it then. Dorn's shaking hand steadied as he spoke one
"Form on me, you magnificent bastards. That's one of our
own down there and no one gets left behind. Red Wings! On my
mark, descending break to the left, attack in sections, and....MARK!"
A'ya had just about gripped the still beating heart of Carpathia
when she heard the incredibly loud shriek of six Tolan Warhawks
descending on her from above. Her eyes widened in disbelief at
the incredible foolishness of such an act. Don't these Tolanai
learn? Why aren't they running for their lives? Well,
she thought, if they needed another lesson, they could have
A'ya flung the unconscious body of Carpathia over and gripped
both slender ankles. Wielding Carpathia's invulnerable body like
a club, A'ya charged upward toward the attacking Tolanai.
pursuit of a Kintzi K, Tetra
"Are you going to harm them?"
A still frantic Mina stared intently at the bobbing Kintzi craft
just ahead. One Kintzi had peeled away; Phil was tracking him.
William stayed on the tail of the other, waiting for a weapons-lock.
The Traynors were deployed and ready to fire.
"Yes, Mina," responded William, obviously distracted
by her questions. "I'm afraid I really have to."
"Couldn't we just..." Mina's question was interrupted
by a loud beep that signaled a lock. The Traynors were now articulating
freely to keep the Kintzi K within a narrow cone of fire. William
pulled in his index finger on the control stick and all four
Traynors erupted in a blinding flash. Mina screamed loudly and
could be heard even above the immense din of the Traynors.
The burst only lasted a fraction of a second, but the Kintzi
K was gone.
"For crissakes, Mina! you've gotta stop yelling like that!"
William picked up the stunned Tetrite, looked around for anywhere
he could put her within reach, and chose some exposed hook'n'loop
material on a nearby rigging. Mina's fur stuck perfectly, giving
her the appearance of a large lint ball on an olive-drab canvas
sweater. She didn't notice the indignity at first.
"Wher....where is the Kintzi?" she asked, stunned to
see open sky ahead where a large craft had, just moments ago,
been bobbing and weaving.
"He's gone, Mina." William was back to flying the Sabre.
"Phil, where's that other guy."
"He appears to be leaving the planet, sir."
"Gone?" Mina asked.
"Yes, Mina." said William as he pulled the Sabre around
to return. "He is completely gone."
"Poor Kintzi." muttered Mina as she hung from her perch.
"They don't talk much, do they?"
"No, Mina, unfortunately, they don't. Phil, where's that
other guy, the one that was moving toward the ground?"
the surface of Tetra, at the Tower
Toomethatilutus continued to crank the air raid siren handle
Although they had all discussed how to start the warning signal,
nobody had brought up how to stop the signal. Afraid that he
might blunder by stopping too soon, Toomethatilutus continued
to crank away throughout the entire raid, in spite of the roaring
Kintzi K strafing the area from overhead.
At the base of the tower, his female mate tried desperately to
call him down. Around her, a dozen tiny offspring bounced and
chittered anxiously up at their father.
"Toomethatilutus! Come down! Come down and hide with us!"
But Toomethatilutus could not come down. He could not leave his
post as long as the siren needed to be sounded.
When the Kintzi craft roared overhead, all of the young would
immediately retreat underneath their mother, like a school of
fish darting from a threat. When the threat was gone, out they
would come to bounce and chitter as before. All the while, Toomethatilutus
cranked away on the `sweetheart' device.
It was now that the Kintzi decided to deal with the tower. Rolling
over into a steep approach, he setup his attack run at the single
Tetrite who was cranking something on that structure. An easy
Toomethatilutus seemed to sense that the Kintzi was now coming
for him. His terror should have made him run for his life, instead
it somehow forced him to crank the handle even faster. As the
Kintzi opened fire, Toomethatilutus cranked the siren like a
Tetrite possessed, the wail rising in pitch to a high shriek.
Energy bursts impacted all around the tower, tearing pieces away
and blasting holes through it, but still Toomethatilutus cranked
the siren faster and harder until the handle suddenly broke off
the shaft. As the siren wound down, the handle dangled loosely
in the grip of the stunned Tetrite.
No longer able to sound the alarm and still under attack, Toomethatilutus
became frantic. Scrambling first one way then the next, he started
to panic at the screeching sound of the coming Kintzi K and the
impacts of the yellow energy pulses around the tower. Finally,
enveloped in the roar of the Kintzi K as it passed incredibly
low, directly overhead, the terrorized Tetrite squeezed his eyes
closed to hide from the horror before mindlessly flinging the
useless curved metal handle straight up into the air.
The antique handle grazed the heavily armored leading edge of
the Kintzi K and spun wildly into the underside of the craft
where it impacted a small, unarmored inspection plate. The high
speed of the K gave unusual force to the otherwise benign object
as it tore through the plate and smashed rearward. Glancing off
a spar plate, the handle continued back toward the fuel mix system.
When it impacted a hose fitting, the coupling broke immediately,
releasing large amounts of Composite-G, the Kintzi catalyst fuel.
The main engine immediately stopped, releasing a puff of black
smoke from the rear of the craft.
On the ground, one Tetrite on the tower and thirteen on the ground
all rotated their heads simultaneously from curiosity as to why
the Kintzi K puffed smoke and stopped. By then, the pooling Composite-G
found a minor leak of the primary fuel, Zylstrom. When they touched,
the reaction only left enough time for the Kintzi pilot to snarl
with contempt at the sudden fire alarm light.
The Kintzi K erupted into a massive fireball that shattered the
craft and everything in it. Burning remnants fell through an
arc to the Tetra desert floor in a cascading shower of sparks,
flame, and smoke. The twelve small Tetrite young immediately
retreated under their mother as both of their parents stared
in complete disbelief at the destruction. When the last of the
wreckage smashed noisily to the ground, the female looked up
at the tower.
"Toomethatilutus!" she scolded.
Toomethatilutus slowly looked down from the tower, his mouth
still open from surprise. He said nothing as he saw his mate
shake a leg at him.
"What did you DO?!"
Toomethatilutus closed his mouth, blinked innocently, and sighed
with the thought that he might be in trouble.
the orbit of Tetra
Captain Fhar, the Kintzi Squadron Commander, was livid with anger.
He had come to Tetra with seven K fighters to do a simple probe.
Even the plan was simple - three high to observe and four low
to probe. Of the four K that probed the Tetra defenses, only
one returned and that one wasn't responding to him. The coward
would merely stare straight ahead as Fhar unleashed a steady
stream of curses and threats at him over the radio.
The one Fhar truly wanted to get his hands on was Krag, that
idiot who started this whole disaster. Unfortunately, right now
Krag was spread over a large area of the planet's desert region,
his K destroyed by some sort of ground-based weapon. Served
him right, thought Fhar. Jumping at some perceived threat
like a cub when he should have followed orders and withdrew.
Instead he jeopardized his entire flight of four. By the stars,
what if the Protector had suddenly appeared? They would all be
dead by now and the Fleet wouldn't know a thing about it!
As the K craft roared out of the Tetra system on their way back
to the distant Kintzi fleet, Fhar held his mic button closed,
snarling his words to the young pilot flying in formation just
to his left.
"Well, young Ensign, you live while everyone else dies,
eh? Do you know what I will do to you when we return to the Fleet,
you filthy coward? I will shred your stinking hide with my own
claws and eat your heart. I will bleed you, Ensign, bleed you
from a hook. You ignored my orders. No one ignores my orders,
you filth. But to ignore my orders and then to run away from
what comes of it? No one flies in this squadron who makes two
stupid decisions in a row. I will gut you, Ensign. I will..."
Something flashed inside the cockpit of the Ensign's K, instantly
flinging large amounts of red liquid and pieces of goo all over
the inside of the clear canopy. Realizing that the Ensign had
just shot himself, Fhar shouted for the two other craft to break
away, but it was too late. The uncontrolled K of the dead Ensign
snapped violently to the left impacting the close flying K of
Leutenant Ngar. The explosion detonated a third K just before
impact, killing Flight Sargeant Vbok instantly. Fhar watched
spellbound as the fireballs dissipated and the debris continued
on as if still in formation flight.
The mistakes of the morning had grown into a disaster by midday
and Captain Fhar returned to the Fleet through the silence of