Mick's Rejects

The fiction no one wanted


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ALL THINGS – Chapter 1 part 14

Two days later, a high ranking officer accompanied with two armed escorts, came to Sudenjah’s cell. The officer removed Sudenjah’s hat and tore the insignia off his uniform before taking him away. His escort marched him to a nearby military spaceport where huge ships waited on the runway. Only one of the ships had its cargo ramp down.

Sudenjah recognised the ships from books; Leviathans, from his father’s time. Apparently the space fleet had converted them into prison freighters. His escort marched him up the ramp. Another armed guard took custody of Sudenjah and ushered him into a lift. Almost instantly, it reached the desired floor. The door slid open and the guard waved him down a corridor.

Ordered to “stop” in the corridor, the guard placed his hand on the cell door’s sensor lock. Bars slid aside, giving Sudenjah a better view of the cell, a decent sized room with a bunk on either wall and a small porthole between them. On the other bunk, laid a huge muscled man with his hands behind his head.

“Inside,” said the guard.

Sudenjah walked to the only empty bunk and placed his toiletry bag and books on the small shelf above. The guard slammed the door shut, leaving Sudenjah with his thoughts as he stared out of the porthole. Although silent, he detected the starting of the Leviathan’s engines, in the tremor of the pernizium floor. It would take less than a minute for the freighter to climb into the stars, and weeks before he reached the prison sector. At least he looked forward to seeing the wormholes there as described in the ancient Zueccans’ writings.

His fate finally descended on him. Life on the prison planets would consist of hard work, until he died; no time off, no respite. A single word came to mind, escape; his only option, or die a slow death after years, possibly decades of abuse.

The other occupant rolled from his bunk and stood immediately in front of Sudenjah. He stood chest and shoulders taller than Sudenjah, broader too. His hair spilled to his shoulders, with thin braids at the sides. Blue slitted eyes furrowed as he adopted an expression somewhere between a grimace and a smile. Without warning, he contemptuously pinched Sudenjah’s upper sleeve.

“Space Fleet, were you?” he asked.

“Yes, Captain Sudenjah.”

“The disgraced fighter pilot?”

Sudenjah nodded.

“A high-born! Oh how far the mighty have fallen,” he said sarcastically.

Sudenjah felt no need to correct him about his upbringing. The man seemed used to not having his opinion challenged, no matter how uninformed.

“And may I ask your name?”

“They call me Machete.” He turned, to display the emblem of a moon with a super imposed skull overlapping. “I’m president of the Moon Ghouls.”

Sudenjah had never heard of the Moon Ghouls, but Machete was obviously a member of a speeder gang. They virtually rode on two seater rockets, nimble, but with no real range. Because of their limited travel capacity, they often circulated around smaller planetoids close to each other for swift evasion from police.

***

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ALL THINGS – Chapter 1 part 13

“The prosecution calls Captain Sudenjah,” said Bejasee.

Sudenjah replaced Judisvid in the witness box.

“Now then,” said Bejasee, “you have just heard Commander Judisvid’s story of what happened. Is it accurate?”

“It is, sir.”

“Then how to you account for Commander Yarris’ death?”

“It was a desperate gambit, sir; the right reaction with the wrong results.”

“It was an accident?”

“Yes, sir, unfortunate, but regrettable.”

“I see,” said Bejasee turning away.

He walked to his table and took up a large, neatly stacked pile of papers and returned to the witness box.

“Do you know what these are, Captain?”

“No.”

“They’re signed statements; two hundred and nine in all, testifying that you couldn’t have missed that shot.”

“I object, sir. Affidavits can’t be cross examined.”

“Sustained,” said the judge. “Do you have any witnesses present to prove your case, Major Bejasee?”

“As it turns out, sir, more than half have been summoned. Some were killed and others are stationed too far away.”

“Proceed,” said the judge.

Sudenjah took his seat as Bejasee called for Hunoben. The portly man carried himself proudly as if he were the hero of the Otarkwans. Medals gleamed on his ever immaculately starched uniform. The portly man eased himself into the timber seat of the witness stand. It creaked softly under the duress of his great frame.

“Commodore Hunoben,” Bejasee began, “Have you ever had dealings with the accused?”

“I have, Major.”

“In what capacity?”

“I was the main instructor responsible for Captain Sudenjah’s training.”

“What was he like as a pilot?”

Hunoben’s brows furrowed as he pursed his lips. “He showed remarkable aptitude. As a result, he graduated a year early, and was assigned to an active fighter wing.”

“Could he, in your opinion, have pulled off the manoeuvre witnessed by Commander Judisvid?”

“Without doubt. I saw him do so a dozen times during training. On his first day in the simulator, he flew will all the skill of an ace veteran.”

Sudenjah took in the shocked faces in the stands.

“I see,” continued Bejasee. “But Captain Sudenjah has claimed to have missed. Surely it doesn’t necessarily follow that a good pilot is also a good shot. How is a pilot trained at shooting his cannons?”

“We have a place reserved in the desert where cadets are made to fire practice rounds on discarded tank bodies. The tanks are turned on their sides and ringed targets are painted on the hulls. Pilots are told to fly at high speed while attempting to hit the tanks. Captain Sudenjah; Cadet Sudenjah at the time, consistently scored higher than any other pilot.”

“Oh, I take it he hit the bullseye everytime?’

Hunoben snorted. “No pilot hits the bullseye all the time. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they miss the target altogether.”

“So Captain Sudenjah missed too, like any other pilot?”

“No,” Hunoben said softly.

“No?”

“He didn’t always get the bullseye, but he never missed the target.”

Murmurs arose as Sudenjah anticipated the next question.

“Is it possible Captain Sudenjah could have missed?”

“From what I’ve seen of Captain Sudenjah’s prowess, he could never have missed something the size of an enemy fighter.”

Astonished conversations arose among the stands. The judge had to bang his gavel a few times along with the shouts of the bailiff to quieten them.

Sudenjah laughed inwardly as witness after witness came to the box to testify against him. He wanted recognition for his skill; deserved it, but always left in obscurity for being a low-born. How ironic that they should speak of his prowess if only to convict him? Past instructors, superiors, and comrades all stood in the witness box. All said the same thing, “he could never have missed.”

***

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ALL THINGS – Chapter 1 part 12

The guard returned with two armed military escorts. He placed his palm on the sensor lock. It scanned his prints, then the lock disengaged.

“Attention!” said one of the escorts.

Sudenjah stomped into position.

“Fall in.”

The escorts flanked Sudenjah and marched him down several secured corridors. Another guard, standing sentry by a final door, scanned the lock and allowed them through. They marched into the midst of an amphitheatre styled courtroom. Murmurs arose as the guards led Sudenjah to his seat on the bench a few metres from the elevated judge’s panel. No one presided in the seat. A door slid open at the rear of the court. A middle-aged man in high-ranking space fleet uniform marched through with a curled wig on his head.

“All rise!” boomed the bailiff.

Voices died instantly as the judge climbed the stairs to his seat.

He banged his gavel lightly, then peered over his bench. “Are you Captain Sudenjah of the hundred and eleventh Otarkwan fighter wing?”

Sudenjah stood. “Yes, sir.”

“This court is convened in order to ascertain whether you did or did not murder your direct superior, Commander Yarris, during battle. I understand you have waved your right for a defence counsel?”

Sudenjah snorted.

“I assure you, this is not a laughing matter!”

“I’m sorry, sir. I meant to say that I have waved that right.”

His captors had lied, but it didn’t matter. Whether he defended himself or not, they would find him guilty.

“Very well,” said the judge. “How do you plead?”

“Not guilty, sir.”

The judge banged his gavel. “The prosecution?”

Three seats down from Sudenjah, an officer in dress uniform stood to attention. “Major Bejasee, sir.”

“Proceed, Major.”

“Thank you, sir.” Bejasee  rounded the table and turned to face the rest of the court. “I would like to call, Commander Judisvid!”

The court watched Judisvid cross the floor and take his place in the witness box.

Bejasee leaned on the witness box bannister. “Commander, were you present during the incident of Commander Yarris’ death?”

“I was, sir.”

“Then could you tell us what happened?”

“I, along with my fighter wing; the four hundredth and forty-seventh, were sent to assist in the Icbwhean civil war. I intercepted a distress call from Commander Yarris, who at the time was pursued by two adjoined Bolo fighters. I attempted to rescue Commander Yarris. Unfortunately, I couldn’t save him.”

“Why?”

“My Star Shredder suffered engine damage, reducing its performance. By the time I got there, Commander Yarris would have been killed. As it turned out, Captain Sudenjah got there first and fired on the fighters. His actions also destroyed Commander Yarris’ fighter.”

“I wonder, Commander, if you could tell us of the manoeuvre, Captain Sudenjah performed?”

“He barrel rolled as he fired, sir.”

Murmurs arose. A stern look from the judge lulled them into silence.

“I realise this may be a difficult question, Commander. Not that I’ve flown myself, but I understand numerous shots can be fired from a fighter’s cannons to bring down a single enemy; is that correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well then, I’m sorry to tax your memory, Captain, but if you were to guess, how many shots were fired?”

“Three, sir.”

“You said that quite readily. Are you sure it was three?” Bejasee said with theatrical incredulity.

“Yes, sir.”

Voices arose around the room, this time silenced with the judge’s gavel.

“Thank you, Commander. Your witness, Captain Sudenjah,” said Bejasee.

“I have no questions, sir,” Sudenjah told the judge.

“You may step down, Commander,” said the judge. “Call your next witness, Major Bejasee.”

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ALL THINGS – Chapter 1 part 11

Sudenjah grinned broadly. Recognition at last.

For the next three hours he banked, climbed, and dived, delivering controled bursts of his cannons. Each bolt found its mark while enemy lasers went wide. He docked later in the mother ship carrier, the Hargon, and tossed his helmet aside into a waiting ground crewman’s hands. Today, Kilmere’s prophecy would come to pass. Space Fleet would accredit him with his kills, more than likely promote him. Soon he would command his own wing.

He looked about the docking area. Flight crew towed fighters into workbays for either maintenance or repair. An officer in flight suit, not far from him stopped a mechanic to ask a question. The mechanic pointed Sudenjah’s way. With a nod of thanks from the officer he began his trek to Sudenjah’s Star Shredder.

Sudenjah vaulted down to the pernizium floor and saluted.

“Are you Captain Sudenjah of the hundred and eleventh?”

“I am, sir. You must be Commander Judisvid.”

The officer ignored him, looking away. He snapped his fingers and gestured. Two soldiers with laser rifles halted at either side of Sudenjah. As one pointed his rifle at him, the other relieved him of his pistol.

“You’re under arrest, pending an investigation into Commader Yarris’ death. Take him away.

***

Sudenjah waited in a cold cell, deprived of visitors; not that he had any friends, and his family lived too far away. The prison permitted him a few books. He read about the beliefs of the  Zuecca’s, an ancient race that had long become extinct, or perhaps they had merely travelled to a distant galaxy? Archaeologists found graves and many of their cities still intact on the outer planets of the Otarkwan system. A theory had long formed in his mind; one he later found, shared by some historians. It was believed the Zueccas were the earliest explorers. Most Otarkwans dismissed the thought, as no race had discovered the secrets of flight before them.

Sudenjah had heard of the sector reserved for convicted criminals. Prisoners lived out their days in hard labour, mining minerals on the planets in the region. Even if a criminal commandeered a ship to escape he’d have to fly carefully to avoid the many wormholes riddled about the area. For an escapee to negotiate a safe route, he’d have to fly slowly and turn often, making it easy an Otarkwan fighter to destroy him.

Every Otarkwan, including Sudenjah feared to enter the wormholes. Cases arose throughout history of an Otarkwan craft straying into one of the many openings. In each instance, the wormhole collapsed immediately after, and disappeared. The Zueccas had a theory though…

He was rudely interrupted from his perusal by his uniform tossed at him from between the bars.

The guard grinned at him. “Get dressed. Today’s the day. I hope you get what’s coming to you, low-born.”

Sudenjah closed his book and dressed. It had only taken a month to arrange his court-martial, he realised as he buttoned up his tunic. Denied the right to speak with a defence lawyer and given that the court convened in such a short time, informed him that they had already decided his fate.

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ALL THINGS – Chapter 1 part 10

Sudenjah banked hard and dived, using full throttle, making the craft seem to cart-wheel down. His trajectory soon brought him into the Bolo fighters’ wakes. In the slip stream, he pulled gradually closer, hoping that his Otarkwan comrade would continue to bob and weave. Sudenjah didn’t need to catch them; only get close enough to shoot. The targeting system beeped, informing him he was in range of his cannons.

“I know,” he said almost affectionately to his Star Shredder.

With a sharp, but controlled tug of the flight stick, he barrel rolled aside, firing twice. Two bolts spat from his fighter’s nose, destroying the Bolos flanking his comrade. The Otarkwan pilot waggled his wings and veered away. Sudenjah’s radio squawked.

“Flight Commander Yarris here! Can anyone assist?!”

Sudenjah scanned the region about him, then spotted another Otarkwan fighter, chased by two connected Bolos, very close to the planet’s orbit. A smirk formed on Sudenjah’s face.

Who would ever know? he asked himself.

He could fly off and leave his superior to his fate; one richly deserved. The officer had bullied him, given him extra duties, not to mention denying him a well earned promotion. Sudenjah had learned to abide by the over privileged high-born’s abuse. But Yarris went too far; he took credit for a majority of Sudenjah’s kills. To take the glory from Sudenjah, amounted to blasphemy, a sin he would tolerate from no man.

He tensed on the flight stick, about to veer off in another direction, but changed his mind.

“Sudenjah here. I’m free and clear, Commander Yarris. Coming to assist,” he said into the radio.

He angled his nose down and jetted off at full throttle. On the dive down, Sudenjah managed to destroy a sphere in pursuit of an Otarkwan fighter and deftly evade a laterally spinning, damaged second sphere. Sudenjah thought of Yarris as an accomplished pilot; a good one by Space Fleet standards. At least he had the sense to fly erratically, but the spheres had almost caught him. Yarris’ weaving permitted Sudenjah to close the gap via a straight route.

“Sudenjah where are you?! They’re almost on me?!” shouted Yarris.

“Behind you, sir,” said Sudenjah sharply angling level with the spheres. “I won’t let you fall into enemy hands.”

He barrel rolled to port, firing three white bolts. Two found their marks in the Bolos, shattering them at their cores. The third nicked the top of Yarris’ cockpit. Cracks instantly appeared in the glass, spreading wider, then broke away. Seconds later, the fighter made an erratic dive into the planet’s orbit, diminishing somewhere in its blue expanse.

An Otarkwan fighter, trailing smoke, slid into view on Sudenjah’s port side.

“This is Judisvid, Commander of the four hundred and forty-seventh wing. Identify yourself pilot.”

“I am Sudenjah, sir, of the hundred and eleventh.”

“From what I’ve seen, you’re an exceptional fighter.”

“Thankyou, sir.”

“Don’t thank me, yet. There’s only a few of you left. Join my wing. I could use the help. Later, if we’re still alive, I’ll take you up to see high-command.”

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ALL THINGS – Chapter 1 part 9

“Bolo fighters,” said Yarris. “Peel off and fight at will. Remember, they like to fight in pairs.”

Yellow vapour trails streamed from spheres from Icbwhe’s surface. Space Fleet referred to them as Bolos because when they worked in pairs they were joined by an arc of electricity. They would attempt to fly in behind an unsuspecting enemy and flank him. When close enough, the arc of electricity acted as an EMP device, sapping all power. Once sent dead adrift in space, they became helpless victims of an Icbwhean fighter’s lasers.

Sudenjah had read the reports on the weaknesses and strengths of the alien craft. It flew much fast than a Star Shredder, yet didn’t turn as sharply. It could however, come to a stop and roll its cannons to fire from any position. He banked to port, allowing an arc linked duo to pass. His fleeting view of the spacecrafts didn’t reveal any windows.

They must navigate by instruments alone.

Yarris banked into a steep dive, spewing a trail of white laser dots, cutting through a Bolo fighter. It erupted in a brilliant spray of sparks. More Star Shredders engaged alien fighters far to port and closer to Icbwhe’s orbit. He sensed, before he heard the alarm on his radar, warning him of the Bolo fighters that had just overshot him. They sped rapidly for his tail. He banked hard, assisted by his port side docking jets. Sudenjah’s Star Shredder pivoted and sped across their path, delivering two laser bolts. Each one found a Bolo fighter, obliterating them as he veered wide to avoid the debris.

Another Otarkwan fighter flew erratically, narrowly dodging laser bolts fired at its fuselage by the Bolo craft flying in pursuit.

“Someone help me! I’ve got a Bolo on my tail!” trilled the Otarkwan pil0t.

Sudenjah had already veered the Star Shredder and throttled in his direction.

“This is Sudenjah. Assistance is on the way,” he said calmly.

“Hurry! Where are you?!”

“Straight ahead of you.”

The distressed Star Shredder filled Sudenjah’s cockpit window.

“Sudenjah, no!” the pilot shrieked.

The merest arc of the alien’s sphere bobbed spasmodically into view above and around the Otarkwan fighter’s tail. Sudenjah fired once, almost skimming his comrade’s cockpit and narrowly missing his tail. It sent the sphere spinning aside, then exploded as both Otarkwan fighters barrel rolled to port as trained to avoid collision.

“I felt the heat from that one,” said the pilot over the radio. “Thanks, Sudenjah.”

Sudenjah scanned in all directions through the stars. Fighters from both sides engaged in a vicious exchange of laser bolts. Although well outnumbered, he could see the Otarkwans were the better pilots. By his estimation, they shot down Bolos at a rate of three to one. He had no doubt they would win. It would just take time, and not without significant losses.

A radio call came through his head set. Words reached his ears intermittently. Although they cut in and out, he could tell the tone sounded panicked.

Damaged radio.

The source of the call became evident, as two Bolo craft linked with an electrical arc pursued an Otarkwan fighter. They passed Sudenjah’s Shredder two kilometres beneath him and headed swiftly to port.

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ALL THINGS – Chapter 1 part 8

Sudenjah’s life in the academy passed without incident. His respect grew among the other cadets and officers, albeit grudgingly. At times when he passed other spacefleet members, he wondered if their expressions were sneers or smiles; or perhaps a mixture of both.

The academy graduated him a year early and gave him a probationary spot in a fighter wing. Icbwhe, a planet on the western extremity of the galaxy currently fought a civil war. Their rightful king commissioned the Otarkwans to aid him in quashing the rebellion. Yarris, the flight commander detested Sudenjah and tried to make his life as difficult as possible, but he would never have Sudenjah thrown out of the wing. Although the Yarris would never openly admit it, he valued Sudenjah’s company as an escort.

Sudenjah looked ahead and laterally. He flew as one of seven Otarkwan pilots in arrowhead formation aboard one of the famed Star Shredders. The stars in the system seemed strange to him, but then he had never visited the region before. Yarris flew in the lead, while five others, jetted at the side and behind Sudenjah.

Immediately ahead of Sudenjah’s cockpit, his vision rippled, slightly distorting his view of the stars, due to the heat from Flight Commander Yarris’ burner. The flight neither bobbed, nor deviated in the least, as if part of a larger machine.

“Make last minute checks,” Yarris’ muffled voice ordered over the radio.

Sudenjah had no need to inspect his instruments. He understood his Star Shredder intimately. In empathy with the spacecraft, he could sense and feel for its needs as if it could speak to him. Many a time, Sudenjah had surprised his mechanic by pointing out things missed in the fighter’s routine maintenance.

He peered down, clearly making out the brown, green, and blue world of his destination. Flashes of orange and yellow spread intermittently in small patches.

“Flight Commander,” said Sudenjah into the mask, “I suggest we bank to port now.”

“Ninety degrees to port!” barked Yarris.

Sudenjah’s radar beeped rapidly in mid turn, showing dozens of small dots.  They had nothing to fear. Planet defense had merely launched artillery, not missiles. Spiked balls exploded behind them. The fighter wing avoided the immediate explosion, but they had more to fear.

“How does he always know?” one of the pilots asked incredulously.

“Evade at will!” yelled Yarris, almost shrieking.

“How kind of you,” muttered Sudenjah.

The fighter wing scattered like gnats. Saw blades spun like a shotgun blast from the exploded shells. Unguided, they zipped by most of the fighters without incident. One cut a clear path for Sudenjah’s fuselage. With a casul twist of his wrist, he pulled up, allowing the blade to harmlessly pass beneath him. It tore through another Star Shredder’s cockpit and continued to zip into dead space.

“Forget him!” said Yarris.

Sudenjah knew he referred to the fighter now hurlting away from them without a pilot. His slitted eyes rolled down to take in more objects leaving the planet’s surface; alien fighters this time. He waited like a chained dog, anticipating the moment Yarris would allow him to hunt his prey.

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