From The Black Free Fleet 4
The Universe isn’t always as it appears, something that Salchar and the Free Fleet know only too well.
When the black’s own creatures come tearing out from children’s nightmares. The Free Fleet will be there.
Some might call those that make up the Free Fleet insane, might call them lunatics. But in this universe, it’s good to have some lunatics on your side.
Excerpt of From the Black
“Wah yah think you’re doing?” Someone barked in a really bad southern drawl as a shoe struck an engineer working on a relay. The big creature reared its head, bloodlust in its eyes as it looked at the unrepentant Kuruvian, which was now missing a boot.
“You better damned well listen, or you’ll blow out the entire damned relay, and at least one of your blood pumpers!” Eddie said, he’s been chief engineer of the Dreadnought Resilient for the past thirty years. The boot he’d thrown returned to his hand. His usual bad southern accent disappeared into heated tones.
He was death incarnate to slackers, but if you could get the job done he might even give a grudging pat on the back. The machinery of a warship in space was more deadly and painful than any boot to the backside.
Eddie pushed up the brim of his cowboy hat, holding his boot in one hand, his manipulators others showing that he was not in the mood to be pissing about.
The big engineering bastard looked to his fellows for support. He must have been shocked by the looks that told him he must have been doing something wrong.
Eddie only used that boot when he had to, which had become a lot less since Salchar had created the Free Fleet.
Edmund looked on.
“Aren’t you going to do something to break it up Chief? That Kuruvian’s going to get his old ass kicked,” an engineer asked him.
“Nah, my brother’s been in worse scrapes,” Edmund said, he was one of the newest Free Fleet personnel. He had survived execution by the grace of Captain Lord Foshunti’s because of their mutual desire to destroy Lady Fairgate and the Syndicate. He had somehow remained the chief engineer of Talhalla, one of the three carriers that had survived the fall of the Union and the Syndicate’s dismantlement for spare parts.
Well that wasn’t exactly all true, Talhalla, was pulled together around the AI Planner, an AI that had fought in the Kalu-Union wars. When it ended he had seen the scourge of the Syndicate pulling apart the jewel that had been the Union. He had put his own plans into motion to turn the Syndicate’s control around.
Yet even with an impossible ship under his wrench, and a commanding officer he could believe in and a crew he could trust, Edmund never thought he would see his brother or his sons again.
He didn’t try to hide his excitement at seeing that familiar fire in Eddie’s eyes as he marched up to the larger engineer.
“All that huh? Well we put ships together with too little bolts and not enough people. Now we’re the ones putting your sorry ships together in stolen Syndicate docks,” Eddie said with pride.
The other Engineer swung for Eddie’s manipulators.
Eddie turned, the blow hitting his carapace. The impact made the larger engineer shriek in pain as his paw turned to mush.
Eddie didn’t give them time to recover as he turned and brought the brim of his ridiculous hard hat on the offending engineer’s optical nerves.
The larger engineer dropped, knocked out from optical overload.
Eddie shook his head and grabbed one arm of the unconscious engineer.
“Well yah gunna gimme’ a hand, or do I gotta drag him out of the way myself!” Eddie said, clearly talking to Edmund.
“I guess,” Edmund answered as he walked over to his brother and helped him drag the engineer to a nearby panel.
Dogre, I should have known. Edmund thought, this little sack had been thrown to him after he’d bungled three damned guns by running them well past their limits. The chief had hoped some time with people that knew how machines worked would teach him better.
It would have, if he wasn’t a stubborn know-it-all. Edmund had wanted to get him on cleaning detail or something until he got over his attitude issues.
The Free Fleet demanded that everyone get to work, and get every ship they could, online. Talhalla was due for replacement parts and machinery. When Edmund had requested them, the oddest thing happened, they actually showed up. No captain, commander, chief, or leader had pinched his parts or asked for a bribe. The Free Fleet was a massive war machine now, with two point three million men and women within its ranks. That wasn’t that much deployable fighting power, but thankfully the Fleet had their priorities straight. Yards, factories, and miners were a massive portion of those personnel.
“What did he do wrong?” Edmund asked to give himself a few seconds break, his shell hot with exertion.
“Didn’t even check if the line was live or not!”
“Ah..,” Edmund said understandingly. If there was power going to the relays, then Dogre would have been fried because you had to bypass the safety lockouts to pull out a power relay.
Edmund shook his head in defeat.
You can only do so much before they put their eye-stalk in plasma because it looks cool.
One should always have a safety net before they took a plunge into something as powerful as a spaceships power grids. They were powered by small stars, technically.
“’How’s it goin on yer end?” Eddie asked, leading through the engineering department of Talhalla, as if he had been there a million times before. Edmund’s brother was a lot of things, but he was an engineer first. He could understand any system simply by staring it.
“We’ve got the new reactors online and stabilized, now just connecting them into the main relays and backing down secondary reactors. Those were replaced some time ago,” Edmund said, tapping and then shifting his manipulators in thought.
“Well well, I see some things haven’t changed,” Eddie indicated to Edmund’s manipulators. Edmund looked on, unrepentant. “You was sayin?”
“Before I was interrupted,” Edmund said, Eddie scoffing but staying quiet.
“We’ve been able to fully repair the flight decks, our hull armor is half completed and we don’t have enough new cannons,”
“You leave that to your good ole brother Eddie,” Edmund expressed his thanks with his manipulators, already writing off the issue. Eddie never made half promises.
“’How yer new syndicate people doing?” Eddie asked, looking to Edmund.
The Syndicate personnel they had picked to serve out their terms with the Free Fleet, were getting quickly integrated into their jobs. At least the ones that had the skills and training to be slotted in so quickly.
Foshunti had been sentenced to a number of years of service, he’d taken the option to serve the Free Fleet and Rick had pushed him back into the position of commander of the Talhalla. The crew couldn’t quite believe it, Edmund didn’t think Foshunti himself did either.
From the private conversations that Foshunti had spoken about with Edmund; he, Salchar, and Rick were dealing in pretty simple terms. He’d shown that he wasn’t part of the Syndicate, the people hadn’t charged him of anything especially bad, at least no worse than the other Syndicates serving in the Free Fleet. Plus he had experience as a carrier commander, which no one else did. If Foshunti kept his place then his people would see that the Free Fleet were looking to fight the damned enemy instead of let their prejudices push potential allies away.
That said, Salchar’s promise had been clear, if Foshunti did the damned best job he was capable of, then Salchar would let him be. If he failed to do so, then Salchar would personally kick his ass out of an airlock.
Some might say that was pretty extreme, but Edmund knew that Foshunti would have done the same in his boots.
Even with Foshunti pushing his people to work with the Free Fleet, Rick mixing the crews and Salchar keeping a weathered eye on things in case they went sideways.
There had been some issues, especially in engineering. There had been a lot of retraining. Some had accepted it and grown, others had stuck to their old ways and were now currently being pushed to other jobs.
Though the overall affect was good, more bodies meant more things got done faster. There was animosity, there was anger, but there was also the knowing that if they didn’t work together, then they would die by the Kalu. A very sobering thought.
It was something that Salchar had pushed home, and probably why he had made Foshunti a ship commander as well as Commander Kelu of a newly minted battle cruiser. It had ruffled some feathers, but it had shown the ones on terms that it was possible to rise. Once those that received accommodations doubled their efforts, the grumbling seemed to fall away.
Many people had some gripes with Salchar, like working the crew too hard. They disliked how secretive he could be, or when he was too soft on people. Yet under that, the personnel of the Free Fleet trusted and respected him. He always seemed to have a plan, he always put his people first and if they were working twice as hard he was working four times as hard.
He was quiet about it, but those around him made sure that the fleet knew what their commander was up to.
Edmund had met him once when he went to Nancy to be reunited with Silly, his other son.
Silly had been having a meeting with the commander, both of them just sort of hanging out as they sketched things out on a work table, LaRe was there in holographic form.
Salchar had a presence about him, maybe it was the blood red eyes, or the Avarian tough skin. He was intelligent, but he was also not a man to be crossed.
He had introduced himself and quickly left, even though he was the commander of the free fleet, he was not going to get in the way of a family reunion.
He had walked away with his two juggernaut body guards as Edmund had been left with a question.
“Is Salchar a lonely man?” Edmund asked Eddie. This gave his brother pause as he checked they were not in earshot of anyone.
“Think if you were a man leading a force, races of all types, followed by planets that rest solely on your carapace and knew that you were going towards a war that could take all that away. While he has friends and people he talks to, he is probably the loneliest man in the universe. At least Yasu is there to keep ‘im in check!” Eddie said, something softer in his voice, despite the volume.
Edmund nodded, feeling Eddie’s eyes weigh him in a way he didn’t expect. While Eddie was something of a free spirit, he was loyal to Salchar right out to his exoskeleton. The man had given him freedom, saved countless Kuruvians, and sent scouting fleets to find the Kuruvian home system. He actually listened to Eddie instead of shoving him away. Edmund recognized something, –Paternal– about Eddie’s look before his brother continued walking.
“So what do you think about the new inertial system?” Eddie asked.
“Damned impressive, I heard a rumour that you cooked it up from some records on the Kalu,” Edmund said, turning the statement into a question.
“Some of it, the rest came from studyin’ gravity plates in Hachiro and sum water critters,” Eddie said simply. “With the nuclear acceleration system Felix is playing with. Well it became apparent that we were goin to break past the abilities of our inertia systems,” Eddie’s manipulators went from casual acknowledgement to excitement.
“I’ll say one thing, those humans do know how to light a fire under an old engineer’s backside!” Eddie’s manipulators made Edmund unsure if he should be scared, or feel sorry for whoever got in the way of whatever his brother and Felix were cooking up.
The future will be interesting no matter what, Edmund thought, with his manipulators in an amused position.
-I agree with Edmund