Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Moments in Flight

"I have to admit, it would help if I knew what I was looking at."

Darrus stared at the screen, entirely unsure of what it was they was trying to show him. The readout was obviously chaotic, pulses and lines that did not seem to ever repeat themselves, all superimposed on a grid network of red and black shaded squares.

The engineer closest to him apologized and pointed to the largest of the wildly flickering lines. "Forgive me, Silverlord. We did not know how which caste you were originally from. This is the regulation vector, one of Telos IV Station's main power core diagnostics."

Quietly, Darrus made a note to ask Maya if she knew anything about Mandalorian castes. Nodding as if he understood what the man was saying, he waited for more.

"As you can see, it is caught in a state of diametric flux. This line should never waver past 70 nanobars but it is spiking well over 100 in both directions."

With a serious expression, Darrus nodded. "I see that." Actually, he didn't, but he was willing to take the tech's word for it.

"And here," the engineer tapped along two other lines. "These are capacitance levels. We should see them at five mtj or more at all times. Right now, the s-line is at three and the p-line is almost below two." The look on the engineer's face and those on the other four in the room made it clear these arcane numbers were a big problem.

"Anything else critical? I want to see these problems addressed as fast as we can."

It became instantly clear he had said the right thing. They nodded to themselves and pushed the one speaking to continue. "Thank you, Silverlord. Our last commander did not appreciate the finer points of mechanical lore."

He nodded, inwardly concerned at his own reactions. he was enjoying this charade far more than he should. Not only was he impersonating a Mandalore warrior but he was perpetuating the belief that he should somehow have sovereignty over the people on this ship. They kept deferring to him, though, and now that he had won their ascension challenge, he seemed to be in absolute command.

All that aside, he was determined to do right by them. They had chosen to follow; the least he could do was lead. "It's all right. Tell me what we have to do."

One hour later...

He fell backwards onto the room's only real piece of furniture, a passably comfortable bed. Beside him, sitting up with a datapad open to a page of scrolling text, Maya looked down in sympathy. "Rough day?"

"You could say that." Darrus closed his eyes. "We have a problem."

That brought an amused glint to her expression. "You've managed to narrow it down to one, have you?" Shifting her legs, she made him more comfortable. "That's impressive."

Darrus shot her a dour look. "Very funny."

Setting down her pad, Maya moved so that she could lay beside him, hand in his black, silken hair. "Sorry, love. It's just that the list of potential problems around here is so vast, I'm surprised you could find a new one." She pecked him on the cheek, an adorable gesture she knew would defuse him instantly.

She was right. Sighing, Darrus closed his eyes and released all his tension in a long, deep sigh. "Well, this new one is pretty big."

"Okay, shoot. How big?"

He turned his face to hers and opened his eyes again. "The station is going to explode."


One hour later...

"That is the situation," Darrus intoned from one end of the bridge's meeting chamber. His helmet's vocal reverberation made him sound dark, grave and somber - the perfect tone for what he had just told his command staff.

They were a solid group, he had to give them that. Though most were masked as he was, even their body language betrayed no shock. The only evidence of surprise was the lingering silence. When it was eventually broken, the man talking was the one Darrus had assumed would reply first - his new second in command, Tymor.

"May I restate for clarification?"

Darrus nodded his assent. The shift of attention in the room's other occupants made it clear they appreciated the offer as well.

"The damage sustained in the battle with those forces from hyperspace has proven more severe than we had believed. Not only is our ship nearly crippled but the generators on the station were disrupted past their ability to self-repair."

"All correct."

"Within an indeterminate amount of time, less than a day at most, the reactors will all chain-critical because they can no longer sustain their own internal shielding."

Darrus nodded again. Tymor had a solid grasp on both the mechanical and personal severity of the situation. That was good to see. The more he learned of these people, the less he could believe the image of Mandalorians put forth by the Jedi Academy. They were militant, yet, but there were hearts and souls beneath all this armor plate as well.

"There is no way to prevent this from happening. When they go red line, Telos Station will explode, destroying itself and any vessel within docking range."

"That is the situation, succinct and unfortunate as it is."

Tymor nodded, his half-helmet sliding on its mounting pistons. "All that remains now, sir, is to ensure the damage to our forces is minimal. We need to leave the station and order every ship vessel with flight capability to do the same."

Darrus sighed quietly, hands gripping the back of his chair. He was standing; Darrus rarely sat even when he needed to relax. Right now, there was no relaxation to be had. Two thousand people called Telos Station home. Though Tymor obviously did not enjoy doing so, the man was advocating abandoning them.

It was simple math. There was no way to know when the reactors would blow. Staying and evacuating the station put everyone at risk. Leaving now at least saved those aboard what few ships could still launch.

Simple math, but not numbers he could accept. He had abandoned billions to die before. Darrus had no intention of adding to that total now.

Fortunately, this time? This time he had a plan.

"Negative. This is what we are going to do."

One hour later...

"I will not discourage the others, Silverlord Wraith, but I must voice my concerns."

Darrus was standing with Tymor and Maya on the loading deck of the starship. Its docking ramps were all extended and people were flooding in as quickly as they could. None had anything more with them than they could carry or would fit in small personal speeders. Between swoops and hovercraft, several dozen little vehicles were now in the bay. Activity outside in the crowded streets of the station suggested many more would be coming soon.

"Go ahead."

"Every moment we linger here is another moment you place all our lives in jeopardy. We cannot predict when the station will be lost. I implore you to..."

Darrus raised a hand to quietly cut him off. "You are not wrong in your assessment but I have resources you cannot factor for, T'siel Tyvor." He used his second in command's traditional title of rank, a word Maya had dredged up for him earlier.

In fact, Maya was the 'resource' he was alluding to as he spoke now. "My woman has witch blood, Tymor. I assume you had suspected it."

That brought a curt nod from Tymor. "Yes, sir, but I had not wanted to mention it. Some of the crew..."

"I know and your discretion is appreciated. I keep her around for her usefulness though."

It disgusted him to trivialize Maya like that but she was all right with it and right now it was necessary. She only cared about his opinion in any case and she had let him know many times that she loved the way he cared about her. If the crew needed to think she was little more than property, so be it.

"And just what usefulness is relevant right now, Silverlord?"

Darrus put his hand on Maya's shoulder while she stared out into the empty reaches of the station beyond the hangar's open doors. He caught the prurient reference to what uses he likely had for Maya under normal circumstances but chose to let that pass. "She has a sense for the flow of things. She is watching the reactors in ways that no machine can."

The implications were not lost on Tymor. "So she will be able to give us warning when they finally begin to fail?" He sounded instantly relieved, completely stepping past any racial bias he might have had before. "Excellent."

"Just so. Between her magic and our metal, we can save these people."

Tymor stepped closer, pitching his voice so that only Darrus could hear him. "It is still a risk few would take, my lord. Most men would have abandoned this place." There was a new tone in the T'siel's voice, one of respect. Perhaps even admiration.

"I am not most men, Tymor."

Quietly, the Mandalorian warrior murmured as the tide of evacuees continued, "Indeed, sir. I am beginning to see that."

One hour later...

"Just one question, love."

Maya was laying beside him, fingers on his chest as she asked. "We managed to get everyone off the station and onto the three ships we have with the ability to jump into hyperspace."

"Right." Darrus stared at the ceiling. "Everything else had to be left behind."

She nodded. "And we salvaged what we could from the derelicts and the station itself. Parts, machines, droids, weapons... the lot."

"Right again."

"And we only left at the last possible moment so everyone could get aboard safely."

Darrus nodded quietly, his mind's eyes still seeing the fireball of plasma consume Telos Station as their battered little convoy sped out of range. None of the ships were in particularly good condition but they were space worthy. Right now, that was enough.

"And we had to enter hyperspace to avoid the gravitational wake of the station's destruction. That's why we could only take ships capable of making the jump."

"Yes." He rolled sideways to stroke her arm. None of this would have been possible without Maya's help. She was taking to her lessons well, showing a surprising aptitude for Battle Meditation, a rare gift among the Jedi. With it, she had been able to guide the evacuation flawlessly. "So where in all that was your question?"

She blushed, covering his hand with her own. "Oh, I forgot to ask it."

"Go ahead then," he said with a quiet laugh.

"Well," she started, leaning down to kiss him. It was soft and honest, two things that hallmarked her completely. "I was just curious... I mean, I don't want to pry... but..."

He kissed her back and sat up. He knew what she wanted to know. It was sweet that she did not want to question him but she had a right to know. "You'd like to know where we are going?"

She nodded, grateful for the hug he gave her next. "Yes, please. I know you haven't told the others but... well... would you tell me?"

Darrus smiled at her, reassuring her that the question was not offensive with a silent look of approval. "Of course."

And with her eyes widening at each word, he revealed exactly where he was taking them all...


erisraven said...

Darrus is enjoying this command a great deal. I'm worried about what happens when the cracks show... Even he can't keep this masquerade up forever. And what about his original mission? Or are they headed somewhere on that course with a ton of refugees in tow?

Tarek said...

Oh, this ought to be interesting.