Post by doncaster on Mar 25, 2016 11:43:07 GMT -8
This tale started out as a back story moment in the originally planned fanfic picking up with an alternative cast of characters on another ship at the end of Liberation Day who were present at Cera. When I realised that backstory was huge and contained numerous interesting and formative moments, I decided to tell it as its own story first. I hope to tell a story that is in addition to or parallel to the established cannon but never directly contradictory, as if everything were happening off camera. Feel free to drop me PM’s with your thoughts. Action chapter incoming!
Chapter 1: The Brothers Marius
The pleasant tones of lightly amused chuckling voices could be heard over the sound of the evening’s second glasses of wine being poured.
“You shouldn’t be drinking that stuff you know.” Said one voice, even as its owner held out his own glass for more. “Night before a big battle, can’t have you hung over on the bridge.”
“The same goes for you brother.” Came the second voice, not allowing the reproach to interfere with his pouring. “Or at least it would if this had any real alcohol in it.”
“Ah sobranol, all of the great taste of booze, none of the nasty after effects.” Said the first voice in a tone etched with warm sarcasm.
“Really?” Retorted the second voice, with a tone to match his raised eyebrow. “Your taste buds are clearly defective.”
Grinning like a Cheshire cat the owner of the first voice flopped down in a comfortable looking leather armchair. He was a tall man, about six feet three inches tall with messy blond hair and a glint in his blue eyes that spoke of kind hearted mischief. His broad shoulders and broad chest could have given this man an overbearing, almost intimidating countenance were it not for the fact that his every movement seemed slightly floppy and almost charmingly ungainly, that and the slightly rosy tint to his cheeks. Only the hard, cracked, dry skin of this man’s hands, a man who could not have been much more than 30, hinted at the hard life he had led. This man was the first, and eldest, of the Marius brothers.
The owner of the second voice meanwhile remained standing, one hand elegantly holding his wine glass, the other wedged into a trouser pocket. He was a man of average height, standing at five feet eleven he often looked far shorter than that when stood next to his brother. Indeed, they scarcely looked like brothers at all. This second man had well-trimmed jet black hair, cut relatively short and slicked back to reveal a high forehead. He was of wiry construction and of a paler complexion than his sun kissed brother, almost pallid, almost. A thin, hard, hooked nose and sharp features gave him a slightly avian appearance and his off blue eyes seemed possessed of a strange intensity. Not the shark eyed stare of a soulless psychopath or the wild eyed gaze of a man fuelled by vengeance and adrenaline. Rather, behind his eyes seemed to be a dull but vast flame that rumbled on into eternity. Not the frantic burning of a forest fire, but the controlled burn of a furnace powering some mighty machine. This slightly strange looking man was the second of the Marius brothers.
When in a less jovial mood many men found this figure slightly off putting when not in his good graces. But for now he was smiling, half to himself, half to his brother, whilst his eyes stared out of the simulated view window and into space.
“Why do you drink this stuff anyway Valerius? Even if there was any life to it it’s hardly a proper drink!” Enquired the blond haired brother, staring at his glass with a slight air of distain.
“We fought two wars for this stuff, as you put it, Mordechai. Would you rather we were still drinking that engine grease they cooked up back on Omega?”
“You fought two wars for wine?” Probed Mordechai with an amused and mocking chuckle.
“Well no, stop teasing, you know what I meant.” Valerius had been picked up on things like this by his brother near enough his whole life, and his tone showed his frustration, all be it edged with a certain fondness.
“Stop sounding like an ass then.” Retorted Mordechai with almost humorous bluntness. “Besides, at least that engine grease had a bit of flavour to it.”
“Humm, acid and bleach I remember it well.” Valerius’s deadpan tone, whilst done for humour, hinted at the fact that his words were not entirely untrue.
“Now that’s a drink, and a damn site better than the water!” Bellowed Mordechai, slapping his thigh heartily.
“At least that chemical ridden excuse for a drink only made you blind half the time.” Agreed Valerius, trying to find the silver lining.
“Which one, the booze or the water?”
And with that the pair descended into another few moments of idle laughter, but it was laughter at the truth, Omega had been and still was a hard world, made worse for the excesses and greed of the few. But it was their home, and in a way that defied almost all logic they still loved it. Even if they were not particularly keen on being there.
“When we were children.” Began Valerius as his gaze at the stars became almost wistful. “Did you ever think we would get this far out. Did you ever think we would even leave Omega?”
“Can’t say I did.” Said Mordechai with a heavy sigh. “Thought I might shuffle through to fifty, maybe even sixty if I made officer before I got deemed surplus to requirements and the company stopped subsiding my food, drink, accommodation and healthcare.” The word subsiding was put in huge implied air quotes, suggesting it was anything but subsidy.
Mention of this topic seemed to put Valerius’s back up, his pleasant mood visibly clouded and a fowl scowl came over his face.
“Subsidies.” He whispered, in a voice that somehow demanded far more attention than shouting. “Selling the basic necessities of life to your employees at a price designed to keep them permanently on the edge of bankruptcy and calling those prices subsidised!” His tone was so mixed with both obvious contempt and cold hatred it seemed to lower the temperature of the room. “Then, to all non-employees and those you force to retire selling those same goods at such vastly inflated prices as to be sure to kill them within a month.” He seemed to fall silent for a moment before adding in a derisive snort. “Cheaper than a pension I suppose.” He almost spat out the observation. To some it may have seemed like a glib remark but for Omega it was absolutely true. If a Company could get away with it why would it bother pay a pension to anyone who no longer made it money, and why would it allow the old and unemployed to drain precious resources when it could just starve them to death instead?
But Valerius was not done yet. He let out a long and hollow sigh and his tone became more subdued, sad instead of angry.
“But worst of all, worst of all. Subsiding the children. Telling a mother, with a babe in her arms that is too weak to cry that it will let that innocent child wither and die by charging those same exorbitant prices unless that mother sells her child’s future to the company as a wage slave. Moulding that child’s education for the good of the Company, teaching it to live for the Company and only the Company, teaching it to accept death when it was no longer of utility.” Turning now, slowly to face his brother Valerius wore a face of almost empty sorrow, like a man who has just seen too much of what should be shocking to any longer be moved to great peaks or troughs of emotion by it and is instead made numb to the experience. But this look gradually changed into a cold smile, spreading with a sinister slowness across his face. “But they made a mistake when they taught us how to kill.”
Mordechai did not like that look on the face of his little brother. He had seen it before and it never ended in anything good, he had to get a grip on the situation, stop his brother from getting too wound up, or even out of control. Unfortunately that was easier said than done.
“You are right there.” Began Mordechai, hoping agreement would calm his brother. “It was the worst mistake Allied Metals ever made. Thinking they could cut costs by stopping importing their own security men and mercenary forces and instead replacing them with local recruits. All that had been stopping a revolution was the complete loss of hope. But one mistake, one wrong move to turn their own local security men against them, and suddenly that revolution looked very hopeful indeed.”
“Which of course was exactly what happened.” Said Valerius with that same look upon his face.
“I hear the chief executive that made that bad call was forced to retire.”
“With a fat pay out no doubt. Do you know where that scum is hiding?” From the look in his eye Valerius was half a breath away from picking up a rifle and going hunting for the man right now. Mordechai did his best to calm things with an almost casual reply.
“Solaris most likely.” He said with a shrug. “Most of the major shareholders and executives still come from Alliance space after all.”
“Do you think the board ever stops to think about what they have become?” Dumbfounded incomprehension was now present in Valerius’s voice as well. As though he could not conceive of anything so callus as the old Company, something so removed from human suffering.” Do you think it bothers them that they did not fire their chief executive for the abuse, they did not fire him for the war, for the loss of life? They fired him when the share price dropped!”
“I don’t think it crossed their minds once.” Mordechai was still trying to be disarmingly passive but Valerius would seemingly not be calmed.
“They are still out there. The executives and shareholders. Few of them ever so much as visited Omega, let alone stuck around when the going got tough. No, they went back to their penthouse apartments. But we are coming, oh we are coming.”
Mordechai had had enough of this. His passive tactics were not working and his brother needed to be brought back under control. When a man his size raised his voice the world seemed to vibrate slightly and he practically barked at his brother.
“Calm down Valerius! You know this will do you no good and I don’t like seeing you like this! Revenge is not what is important. Keeping Omega and the other nearby worlds we liberated from the Companies safe, helping our people. That’s what’s important!”
But Valerius would not back down so easily in the face of his brother and raised his voice to match, but in sharper rather than rumbling tones. “Of course that’s important. But what about justice?” He was angry at the inequity of the situation, not his brother. Mordechai just happened to be in the room.
“Justice at what cost?” Retorted Mordechai. "How many more Omega lives do you want to lose to get their heads?”
Mordechai could see Valerius stall, but from his body language, his face, the very aura around the man Mordechai could also see that his brother did not agree with him and that he was only struggling momentarily to get around Mordechai’s latest point. Ceasing the opportunity to change the subject the blonde haired brother continued in more measured tones.
“Besides, we have more immediate concerns. Chiefly this upcoming battle and the wellbeing of our ships.” Mention of their ships seemed to improve Valerius’s mood and a smile cracked his stern, hawk like visage. He did not want to fight with his brother either and whilst he was convinced he was right, this wasn’t a quarrel worth having and he was grateful to talk about something else.
“Ah yes, our ships.” Gesturing out of the viewport Valerius indicated a vessel just coming into view. “How are you finding her?” Enquired Valerius with a smile. “What with you having just made Captain they say there’s nothing quite like your first command.”
Mordechai chuckled as he craned back in his chair to see his vessel
“The Furious is a fine ship, Impetuous Class short range kinetic ships like that won us our freedom. They have been doing a fine job in helping us keep it to.” The Furious measured about five hundred meters long and whilst she floated amongst a small number of ships of various shapes and sizes that all shared the same design aesthetic she had an incredibly distinctive appearance when set against the PACT vessels that were floating in huge numbers outside. Her design was long and gently tapered, coming to a sharp and heavily reinforced point at her prow. The rest of her forward half was long and thin, gently getting wider until it seemed to bulge slightly in her rear half. It gave her the appearance of an elongated raindrop and her smooth curves set her apart from the hard, jagged angles of the PACT flotilla. Indeed this ship was not even red, but instead made of plates of bone white metal, making her seem even more out of place.
Sitting atop her rear section was a low smooth dome, with a pair of savage looking kinetic cannons poking out whilst the spine of her forward half was littered with assault gun and flack turrets. A keen eye may also have been able to spot concealed missile launch tubes on both sides of the vessel at the point where the bulge began. Strangely she seemed to have no obvious bridge but an attentive observer may have noticed that just beneath the ends of the barrels of the kinetic cannons of this ship that was wider than it was tall, lay a long and heavily reinforced viewing strip. A cluster of engine ports at her aft hinted at a capacity for speed whilst any sensor sweep would have revealed a decent mix of conventional armour and shielding but a complete lack of laser or pulse weaponry.
Chuckling slightly Valerius smiled and said.
“The Impetuous class might as well be on our flag. From the first ones we stole and made in the war of independence, to the ones that held the line against the New Empire, right through to now. Those things have never let us down.” Omega had long been a troubled planet, it was now a blasted hellscape. To be an inhabitant of Omega was to live amongst harsh deserts of ash interlaced by chemically tainted rivers, boiling oceans and wastes of fire. Winds blew grey sands hard enough to remove a man’s skin, acid rain would melt away protective clothing and the atmosphere had almost been stripped away, leading to vast storms soaked in radiation blowing across the surface and environmental catastrophes at the slightest abnormal sola activity. Omega had always been hard, but greed and callousness had turned it into hell.
But despite it all, humanity seemed determined to remain there. Huge populations had been crammed into over packed sheltered habitats, burrowing deep underground or towering high into the sky. Even there, where the air was called clean, men were choked by smog and wasted away on inadequate food and tainted water. And yet, the world’s industrial might never waivered.
Once ruled by the New Empire the autocratic regime could no longer control it after the Alliance Imperial War as their military and logistical machine had been shattered, but it was on the far side of the galaxy from the Alliance itself. This isolation was what ushered in the period of corporate rule. Having gone from the brutality of the New Empire to the utter cold exploitation of rule by corporations unbound by law or ethics, Omega had eventually been forced into rebellion. Whilst this had been a success they were almost immediately threatened with a fresh invasion from the New Empire, keen to reclaim Omega’s huge resource wealth and mighty industrial capacity, as well as the various worlds around it all of which were worthwhile in their own right, though none like Omega. It was an attack mounted almost out of desperation. The New Empire was becoming increasingly unstable and a new movement known as the Compact was proving to be a legitimate threat. It had been the New Empire’s hope to use Omega to prop up their military machine. It was a prize they would be denied.
Which is why, after two wars to establish and maintain their sovereignty, most on lookers would have been surprised to see the two brothers in what seemed like a version of PACT uniforms, although a strange version. They wore heavy, hard wearing black boots that came most of the way up to their knees. They had similarly black trousers with a bold red stripe up each side and a heavy black jacket which was almost a trench coat with a high and stiff collar and a single row of buttons running across the top and then coming down the left side of their chest. The Collars, cuffs, edging, a stripe of fabric up each sleeve, running over the shoulder up to the collar and the line of fabric behind the buttons were all in PACT red. But the duo lacked those distinctive PACT cloaks.
Both brothers also had an array of medal ribbons pinned to their chests, though Omega and PACT were far more sparing in their award of medals than the Alliance was and so they had a great deal fewer than their opponents on the other side of this war, who wore so many decorations that the brothers found it comical.
“The Impetuous class has served us well, but she is getting old. Its ships like yours that will secure our future brother.” Commented Mordechai, causing Valerius to chuckle and stroll over to his desk, bringing up a holographic image of the ship they were on. The Elysian was the first in a new line of Guardian class assault carriers. The comparatively recent innovation of the assault carrier, combined with the vast expense inherent in creating a ship like this, caused Omega to only produce the one ship for now. Plans were in place to produce more but they were waiting on reports on the battle effectiveness of the Elysian in the field before committing to larger scale production.
She was vast, measuring just a little over one thousand and five hundred meters from prow to stern she was a little over twice the length of the Sunrider but half the length of Legion and considerably slimmer. She shared the same, smooth design and basic shape as the Impetuous class. Her front five hundred meters was an oval shaped cylinder, wider than it was tall, but with a very top and bottom that were so gently curved as to almost be flat, one hundred meters wide tapering down to a point at her prow. There was a gentle bulge after the first five hundred meters just as the impetuous class bulged which quite gradually expanded the width of the ship’s mid-section up to three hundred meters. Whilst no lower decks were added further decks were added to the upper section, increasing the height of the main hull up by about 20 meters. The rear third was marked out by another gently tapering bulge, taking the ship up to five hundred meters wide at her widest point, though no further upper decks were added to the main hull. Meaning that whilst she was significantly longer than the Sunrider she was not as tall.
Her engine ports were flush to the gentle curve of her rear most section, meaning they were well protected from all but the most direct of shots. Her many hydra flak turrets and venom class assault guns were too small to accurately make out when set against the kilometre and a half long bulk of the Elysian without a closer inspection. Six mark fourteen pulse cannon turrets could however be clearly seen, three mounted on each side of the mid-section. The mark fourteen was an impressive weapon, originally designed for the Bluestar laser cruisers these were not insignificant weapons and possessed a single barrel that protruded for fifty meters from their housing.
In the forward facing curve of her rear most section the Elysian also had two long ranger scythe model laser weapons, one built into the main hull itself on each side. These were not turrets but rather concentrating strips, designed to rapidly focus energy generated across the whole of the panel into a single tiny point and project it forward. This was a new approach, the efficacy of which had yet to be determined.
The Elysian also possessed a dozen missile launch tubes, arranged in two rows of three on each side of the ship to the rear of the foremost section. When not in use these tubes were well concealed by protective panels. But the majority of the Elysian’s fire power lay in her macro scale kinetic weaponry. With shielding becoming ever more advanced, and the relative ease with which extremely effective shield overlaps could be arranged, the engineers at Omega decided that kinetic weapons would be the decisive factor in any ship to ship battle. But their historically short range presented a problem. And so three innovations were made for the Elysian.
The first, and arguably most important, innovation was the awakened targeting system. Named after the old legends of Ryuvian royalty being able to enter a so called awakened state in which their accuracy and general ability was greatly increased, this new system was designed to replicate such effects by mechanical means. Whether it lives up to its name is a matter for debate, though surely tales of being able to strike down single ryders from well behind the lines of battle were nothing but fairy tales. But all testing and the limited battle fought thus far by the Elysian indicated that this ship was able to use her main kinetic turrets at laser ranges. Though this was also in part due to the second innovation.
The super luminal macro kinetic cannon mark one, or SLMKC for short, was always supposed to be affixed to this ship. But development had suffered numerous setbacks, and so construction of the Elysian began based on more normal turrets. Development was only completed at the last possible moment, leading to some rapid changes towards the end of construction. Capable of projecting a round faster than the speed of light, this immense speed as well as the accuracy that came with it, markedly increased the range of the main canons. But the weapon was a monster, unhoused the barrel was two hundred and twenty meters long and could deliver huge shells with a variety of payloads across great distances.
But this was significantly longer than specified and the turrets had to be redesigned, indeed the associated power demand was so great that one turret was dropped altogether. Three of the four remaining turrets, each of which was a softly curved twenty meter high elongated dome, just under a hundred meters wide and hundred and fifty meters long, contained twin linked SLMKCs which protruded one hundred a fifty meters out from the turret. Two of these great turrets were mounted near the extreme aft of the ship, sitting on the top deck on each side of the ship. The third was at the front of the mid-section.
This turrets barrels protruded over the top of the fourth, and smaller turret, at the very rear of the foremost section. The smaller turret still contained a pair of SLMKCs, but one hundred and eighty meters of them were exposed. This turret was only eighty meters wide and one hundred and twenty meters long. There simply was not enough width left on the top deck or time left in the production schedule to make this last turret any larger. As such, not only was it more cramped for the crew, but some secondary systems had to be stripped out and Valerius worried for this foremost turret.
But even the range and power of the SLMKC was dwarfed by that of the Defiance model hyper kinetic railgun. The Defiance was a kilometre long rail gun concealed entirely within the main hull of the ship, her firing port in the very nose was usually hidden by armoured panels, which could slide back momentarily to allow firing and then slide back into place. It functioned in much the same way as a Machiavelli cannon, but larger and more accurate, particularly when coupled with the awakened system. The Defiance had first been produced at the outset of the war with the New Empire. Omega’s strategists feared they would not be able to defeat the Imperial fleet but were confident of a victory on the ground. The Defiance was meant as a surface to orbit weapon, designed to repel or destroy enemy capitol ships. The intent was to make prolonged planetary blockades impossible and to prevent ground forces from receiving orbital bombardment support, forcing the New Empire into a conventional ground war. Since then the Defiance, which was capable of deploying a wide array of payloads, had been mounted on a few of the largest space stations but never before had it been mounted on a ship. This third innovation would make the Elysian a threat to large enemy ships such as carriers deployed even at the very rear of enemy formations.
The Defiance did not have the ability to strike multiple ships at once, unless an enemy vessel was suitably fragile to allow a round to pass right through and even then it would be a spectacular trick shot to line up the enemy so neatly, and its range was not infinite. Some people may have therefore described it as inferior to the Vanguard or Legion’s main cannon. But whilst the Omega engineers had been aware of the still under construction Sunrider and the formidable Legion at the time of design they believed the power drain caused by a pure energy weapon was simply too great and presented too many risks for such a situational tool, and preferred to root that power to other systems, hence the use of a Defiance gun.
A heavily reinforced bridge tower stood thirty meters tall in between the two rear SLMKC turrets and behind the tower sat a large launching and landing bay, a hundred meters by fifty meters wide. Again, when not in use armoured panelling concealed the entrance way but this launch facility was the primary launching and landing facility for the ship's fifteen ryders.
The Elysian was meant as a symbol of Omega’s new wave of military production. A clear sign to the galaxy that Omega was a force to be reckoned with, not exploited, and that her engineers were capable of producing military marvels. But Valerius worried about his ship. Late stage design changes, off spec cannons, huge size and enormous length even with a comparatively low and narrow profile, innovations that had yet to see the true heat of battle and a high command that did not really know how to use her. He was not as confident as many may have expected him to be.
“Do not place your faith in super ships or super weapons Mordechai.” Cautioned Valerius. “Wars are won by normal soldiers and normal ships. Super ships can be overwhelmed and can only ever be at one battle at a time. Super weapons can be countered or destroyed. Putting all your eggs in one basket, I think is the phrase. I prefer to spread the risk.”
“But if no one can stop the ship…” Began Mordechai, but he was abruptly cut off by his dark haired brother.
“Someone will always stop you in the end Mordechai. A lucky shot, overwhelming numbers, new technology, exploitation of a flaw that was not previously perceived, an exceptional enemy commander with an exceptional crew. Eventually that luck always runs out.”
There was a pause for a few moments eventually broken by the smiling Mordechai joking. “Well, if you don’t want this technological marvel I’ll take it.” But Valerius was not willing to give it up, nor technically speaking was he allowed to.
“They gave it to me for a reason brother.” Implying that even though he was the younger brother Valerius was better at this than Mordechai. “And now we have built her I intend to put her too good use.”
“Very well Commodore.” Replied Mordechai with mocking formality complete with a jokey salute whilst remaining flopped in his chair.
But something about what Mordechai said caused Valerius to sigh for a moment before saying through a forced smile.
“It’s just Captain these days.” But Mordechai did not even feel the need to try and force a smile, and made no effort to conceal his irritation.
“Damned disgrace that. Why did they make all the Omega flag officers step down to Captain or equivalent when our militaries were combined?” It was not just the inequity of all Omega flag officers being forced to accept demotions that annoyed Mordechai. It was the fact that his little brother had been forced to accept one and all these years later that big brother protective urge had never gone away, even though Valerius had been promoted above him.
Valerius however, seemed to be strangely more accepting of the situation, though he was by no means ecstatic about it.
“Because we were a bunch of untrained, backwater amateurs.” Then adding after a chuckle and a dismissive gesture. “They put it more politely.” But Mordechai was still in no mood to joke.
“Nonsense. We were a popular revolution just like them, we had the same good officers and the same bad officers” Valerius could only sigh and wave a dismissive hand.
“I know Mordechai, I know. Without wishing to blow my own horn too much I should be an Admiral by now. I would be if our fleet remained independent. It’s just politics. Command on New Eden wanted to ensure long term control. If that was the price for peaceful unification of the militaries and a bloodless move into PACT where we still keep some of our autonomy. It’s a price I will happily pay. We are stronger and safer inside PACT. On our own the Alliance could have overwhelmed us and restored corporate control. But with PACT our future is much more secure, and they share our core values. We all rebelled against tyranny, we all struggle for the wellbeing of the whole, the common man and the greater good, we all grow tired of greed and self indulgence. This union is the right thing for us all.”
But Mordechai was less than convinced.
“I only hope you are right Valerius.”
“I am, trust me.” But Valerius asking his brother to trust him seemed to improved Mordechai’s mood.
“It’s difficult to trust you, you know, when you are such a tricky and deceptive swine.” Commented Mordechai, through well-meaning laughs and a broad smile.
“When have I ever lied to you?” Asked Valerius, with a tone of mock offense that actually borderd on being genuinely hurt. Though he did add after a pause. “About anything important.”
“Plenty of times I am sure, I just haven’t caught you.” Said Mordechai, still gently chuckling. “Besides. I am thinking more about your reputation as a commander.”
“I prefer the term innovative.” Protested Valerius, with a wry but happy smile on his face.
“Hang what you prefer, tricky fits!” Came Mordechai’s robust reply, unwilling to let his brother snake his way out of this one. “How many times did you lure New Empire ships into ambushes with fake distress beacons?” Valerius just chuckled at the question though.
“They never stopped falling for that one the morons.” But Mordechai was not done.
“What about the time you put well concealed emitters on a space hulk you already stripped out to make it seem like there were some salvageable components when you had in fact filled it with…”
“High explosives.” Finished Valerius, his chuckling now starting to turn to a laugh.
“Do you remember that time you put only defunct ammunition in a supply cache, fought a small battle in which you lost no ship to sell the illusion and then retreated, so when the New Empire used the looted ammunition the shells blew up in the barrels?” Valerius just nodded his agreement through a happy face and an irrepressible chuckles that he was trying so hard to keep down it was almost choking him, his pale cheeks even seemed to tinge with a little bit of red.
After a few moments of waving his brother into silence in order to catch his breath Valerius eventually managed to say.
“I won conventional battles to you know.”
“I know you did, but whenever you had the opportunity you would cheat.” Accused Mordechai, wagging a condemning finger at his brother.
“Of course I did!” Protested Valerius, as if there was nothing wrong with it. “A low cost way of winning, very few lives and ships lost. Or weaken the enemy up before a big fight. Lives were on the line, our freedom was at stake and our foe was a lot bigger than us. Why would I want to play fair?” Mordechai gave an exasperated sigh at his brother’s sudden earnestness.
“Way to make this whole conversation serious Valerius. But you make a good point.”
Valerius just laughed again and took a moment to look at his brother. “Bless you Mordechai, tall, blonde, long limbed, kind, determined to find a joke and just a little too moralistic for your own good.” Then adding after a pause with a small chuckle and an equally small but warm smile. “You take after mother.” Mordechai’s response was swift.
“Dark haired, rat faced, hook nosed, scheming, manipulative, cheating egotistical arse. You must take after father.” The duo burst into hearty laughter for a good long while, not an ounce of actual offence meant or taken.
“Whoever the hell he is!” Managed to call out Valerius between his guffaws.
“Do you think we will ever know who that man was?” Enquired Mordechai idly.
“I don’t even think it was the same person in all honesty.” Gesturing between the two of them Valerius continued. “I mean look at us, chalk and cheese!”
“You’re defiantly the chalk Valerius.” Swiftly interjected Mordechai, only to be equally swiftly cut off by his brother.
“White, flaky and prone to snapping?” Said Valerius with a raised eyebrow and a smug smile.
“It’s not fun when you steal the line.” Grumbled Mordechai.
“Well at least I’m not prone to stinking to the stars and attracting rats.” Mordechai’s only response was a mocking and sarcastic laugh. “Don’t really care all that much who he was though.” Continued Valerius. “I did once. But you, me and mother. Was it always perfect? No. But we were family and close family. On Omega that meant something. It got you through the day.”
Mordechai could only nod his solemn but earnest agreement for several long, contemplative seconds, before raising his glass in a silent toast and taking a drink. There must have been a full minute of silence between the brothers. There was a lot said in that quiet, their looks to each other and away again, heavy faces full of simultaneous sorrow and happiness, pride and shame. Words would only have ruined it, confused it. The unspoken understanding was far more powerful.
But it was Mordechai who eventually broke the silence as he headed over to the artificial window that was in fact a camera feed of the outside, and stared out to the stars.
“Enough of yesterday Valerius. Let’s look to tomorrow. They say the battle we are due to fight tomorrow will win us this war. Break the back of the Alliance before they can even rally and from there it’s an open road to Solaris.”
Valerius however, looked a little less than enthused.
“I am troubled. A small force defending their home against a larger opponent. Remind you of anything?”
“You are saying they could do what we did?” Asked Mordechai, an obvious note of disbelief in his voice.
“Perhaps.” Said Valerius cautiously. “We don’t have a monopoly on gifted officers you know.” Rising from his chair Mordechai walked over to his brother and gave him a singly hearty pat on the back.
“You are too pessimistic Valerius.”
“I still think we can win this fight and win it hard.” Retorted Valerius, almost snapping at his brother as if keen to refute some accusation that was never made. “The numbers are all on our side. But let’s not throw that advantage away with rash overconfidence and careless tactics. If we are conservative, if we play it safe and calculated we win. If we try to show off and muck it up we can lose.” But his note of caution fell on deaf ears and Mordechai’s optimism was undented.
“Rest easy brother. Arcadius is near, our fleet is vast, the enemy is ill prepared and we have won every battle worth mentioning up to today. We will carry the day.”
Whilst he still had reservation Valerius realised that further pessimism was pointless, it would only undermine his performance and the Captain was far too junior to stop the battle or alter the strategy. It was better to pursue the battle with conviction. So instead he just put on a smile and said.
“Of course you are right brother.” Then raising his glass he said with all the confidence and cheer he could muster. “To tomorrow.” Almost beaming Mordechai raised his own glass in agreement.
“To tomorrow brother, to Farport.” Valerius supressed the knot of unease that seemed to building his stomach as he simply concurred.