Crineal Chronicles 1: In Hera's Service (6 page)

BOOK: Crineal Chronicles 1: In Hera's Service
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nodded and led him down the rows of beds. He noticed that even the uninjured
pilots were here, not that there were many of them, all lending what help they
could or moral support at least. Saymes was in the third bed on the right and
his left arm and leg were covered in biotic gel to ease the pain of the burns
and help with the healing. He saw Crineal and Strieger approaching and
struggled to sit up.

motioned him down. “Take it easy, Captain. How are you feeling?”

let out a weak chuckle. “Well, in the interests of keeping up morale, I’m doing
fine, Sir, but honestly, I feel like shit.” His face turned grave. “Is there
any news of Lieutenant Feldea, Sir?”

could see Saymes was expecting the worst. He smiled at him. “You can relax.
She’ll be on a bed next to you before you know it.” A look of relief flooded
over Saymes’ face. “SnR One picked her up a little while ago and is bringing
her in now.”

great, Sir. She’s a good pilot.”

gave Saymes a tired grin. “We don’t have any bad pilots here, Captain.”

elicited another soft chuckle from him. “That’s the truth, Ma’am. And the other

shook his head. “No news yet, but they’re still out looking. You’ll know as
soon as we do.”

raised his head to look around for Captain Naralat and Captain Olinini, Alpha
and Gamma flight leaders respectively, but before he could pick them out
someone else entered the medical bay and Lieutenant Linthea called out,
“Attention! Admiral on deck!”

turned to see Admiral Ken’Rathel stride into the room with the Annihilator’s captain,
the ebony-skinned Aldar, behind him. He started to come to attention and salute
the admiral and the captain.

waved down his salute. “At ease everyone, if anyone should be saluting it
should be us.” He looked around the med bay, his eyes taking in all the injured
pilots on the beds. His gaze came to rest on Crineal. “I thought you might like
to know the analysis of today’s battle. The rebels lost twenty-five Archer
bombers and thirty-seven Axe fighters. They only managed to launch twenty
torpedoes against us which were all successfully intercepted. Our casualties
total all of the injured here and the two pilots missing, although I fervently
hope that they are found alive.” The admiral continued gravely, “Projections show
that without your attack on the bombers, the Annihilator and Earth Orbital
Three would have taken significant damage and massive casualties. I cannot
thank you enough. I’ll be forwarding recommendations for commendations to Space
Corps Headquarters in the next few days. But, as of right now, Hera Squadron is
off flight duty and you are all on leave until our departure from Earth
Orbital. For those of you confined to medical bay for any of that time then the
extra leave will be added to your records, instead.” This elicited a tired
cheer from the pilots who were able to. “The captain and I are proud to have
you serving on this ship.”

and Aldar then made the rounds of the pilots, injured or not, guided by Crineal
and Strieger. When they were done the admiral stopped and turned to Crineal.
“General, I’d like to see you in my office tomorrow if you would?”

Sir. At what time? I have an oh eight hundred meeting scheduled with Commander Del’Tarim
but that could easily be rearranged.”

admiral chuckled. “Yes, I heard about your… meeting with the good commander. I
don’t think you should put him off. Would eleven hundred be suitable?” he

Sir, I’ll be there,” said Crineal.

look forward to it, General. Make sure your people have everything they want.
If anyone objects then send them to me.” With that the admiral turned and left
the med bay with Captain Aldar following.

moved up beside Crineal. “Who is Commander Del’Tarim? And why are you meeting
him that early tomorrow?” she asked Crineal quietly, her voice burning with

stared at the retreating figure of the admiral. “He’s our new flight bay
commander and I’m meeting with him so I can decide whether to take up
Lieutenant Perl on his offer and have him, Staller and Muscovy shove the commander
out of an airlock.”

contemplating this for a few seconds, Strieger said, “Ok, now you have to tell
me what I missed. I never get to have any fun.” Crineal looked down at her and
saw she was pouting. It looked both comic and very sexy to him. He was about to
reply when his comm link buzzed again.

here. Go.”

Control, Sir. SnR One is just about to dock in Bay Beta One. I thought you’d
like to know.”

you, Flight, I’m on my way. Crineal out.” He turned to Saphya. “Fill the major
in on our new flight bay commander would you, Lieutenant?”

saluted him “Yes, Sir, my pleasure, General.” Crineal returned her salute and
headed out to meet the arriving Search and Rescue craft.


arrived at Bay Beta One just as the ramp was being lowered on the Search and Rescue
shuttle. Crineal strode over and stood there waiting as two med techs pulled
the floating med unit out of the craft. A doctor was checking the readouts
attached to it. Crineal winced as he saw the form on the bed. Lieutenant Feldea
laid there, her coppery red hair damp and limp on the pillow beneath her head.
He saw that her left arm and leg were pulped and her right flight boot was
melted. The damage looked horrific. He knew it could be repaired using the
wonders of Imperial medicines and technology, but Feldea was going to be in a
lot of pain for some time. They moved off towards the med section, Crineal
keeping pace with Feldea’s head. Her hazel eyes flickered open as he looked down
at her. They were clouded by the heavy doses of painkillers the med techs had
been feeding her.

Sir…,” she croaked.

saw her try to shift. “At ease, Lieutenant. Don’t move. The doc here has you in
hand.” The doctor nodded at his glance.

be fine, Sir. It’ll just take time.”

just rest, young lady. We want you back on the flight line as soon as
possible,” Crineal smiled at her reassuringly.

licked her lips. “Did…did we stop them, Sir?”

Lieutenant, we did.”

others?” she whispered.

be seeing most of them in the med bay. Captain Saymes has the bed next to him
earmarked for you.” They turned a corner. “You’ll have some company there for a
while. We’re still looking for Bannerman and Rochelle, but everyone else is
going to be fine. Including you. I’d take it as a personal favor if you
rejoined us soon, medical gives me the creeps.”

gave him a weak smile and her eyes closed as they entered the medical section.
The med techs had cleared the uninjured out and the senior doctor met him at
the entrance.

I know you want to look after your pilots, but that’s our job right now. Please
let us do it and you’ll get them all back that much sooner.” Doctor Marrash
looked at him sternly.

stood there for a second and then nodded. “You’re right, Doc, and I know
they’re in good hands. You’ll let me know if anything happens or if any of them
need anything?”

doctor nodded. “Of course, Sir. You’ll be the first to know.” He held up a hypo
injector. “Just a mild relaxant, General. We gave them to all the pilots we
evicted.” Crineal grimaced and undid the top of his flight suit a little. The
doctor placed the hypo against the general’s neck and there was a small hiss.
“All done, go and get something to eat. You’ll feel better and it will help you

left the med bay after a final look around and went back to his quarters. Once
there he peeled out of his flight suit and left it in a heap on the floor. He
dialed up a sandwich from the replicator and sat on his bed as he ate it,
watching the data feeds from the med bay. Crineal hardly noticed when he
finished his food and before he knew it he was asleep.

Chapter Four


eyelids fluttered open and he groaned. He ached all over and he felt like crap.
Between the long patrol and the dogfight yesterday, his body had taken a
pounding. He sat up and realized that he hadn’t even taken off his flight
undersuit before falling asleep. Looking at the clock caused another groan,
five-thirty. It was way too early, but he needed to move. Crineal stripped off
the undersuit and changed into his exercise shorts and shirt. Once he’d hung up
the discarded flight suit and grabbed a glass of water, he went to the gym. It
was still early for most of the crew and he passed very few people. Those he
did snapped to attention and he nodded to them as he went past. He wasn’t in
uniform; therefore, they weren’t supposed to salute him but occasionally some
new recruit did it anyway. Most days some of his crew were here; today he was
the only Hera pilot. Hopefully, his people were either still in their bunks or
getting ready to go on leave. He got onto a cross trainer and started his work
out. Flight stresses required that all pilots maintain a minimum level of
fitness. He hadn’t been blessed with access to Imperial health care in his
youth so he had to work a little harder at it than the rest of his pilots.
After the previous day’s exertions, he limited this morning’s session to thirty
minutes, rather than his customary hour, and then returned to his quarters for
a shower and brief breakfast. With that done, he dressed and went to his
office. The first thing he checked was the condition of his injured pilots.
They were all showing improvement and even Lieutenant Feldea was listed as out
of danger. There was still no news on his missing pilots though, and that
depressed him. He started in on the post battle reports and review. After a
while his door panel chimed and he looked up to see who it was.


Del’Tarim stomped down the corridor in a foul mood. After yesterday’s
humiliating episode on the flight deck he had returned to his office and fumed for
a while before calling in his aide. Even before the man was through the door,
he’d demanded to know of him what the blazes local emergency flight regulations
were. The idiot had looked at him in confusion before explaining that each
fleet commander had the prerogative to stipulate exceptions to certain
procedures in certain circumstances, but they had to be codified in a set of
locally issued regulations. Del’Tarim snarled at him and asked how it applied
to post-flight checks by pilots. The answer was hardly reassuring to his
nerves. Injured pilots were exempted by normal regulations, but under the local
regs flight and squadron leaders were also exempt from post-flight checks to
enable them to check on their wounded. Del’Tarim thought that if he was in charge
of the fleet he wouldn’t allow such soft-hearted sentiment to permit officers
to avoid doing their jobs. Now, here he was, having to go and explain himself
to some midget of a general. He stopped outside Crineal’s door, made sure his
uniform was in order and then pressed the access plate.

watched as the door slid open and Del’Tarim marched stiffly in to stand at
attention in front of his desk and salute him. He returned the salute but
didn’t invite the commander to sit.

ease, Commander. I take it you’ve now studied the regulations as I suggested?”
he asked.

fought to keep his expression blank. “Yes, Sir. I now understand that you were
following the local regulations.” He paused for a moment and then forced out.
“I apologize, Sir.”

noted the careful phrasing of the words and the forced apology. “What was your
previous posting, Commander?”

was bay commander on Earth Orbital Three, Sir”

nodded to himself. This idiot had been the one to screw things up and was why
Hantos had been rotated down there. He was some noble’s son, so the local
commander didn’t want to risk disciplining him and had transferred him here.
Great. “Is this your first shipboard assignment?”

Sir, I look forward to helping improve the discipline amongst the bay crews
here,” he stopped and flushed as he saw Crineal raise his eyebrows at him and
he realized he’d just maligned both the previous officer, whoever he was, and
the crew of the ship as well.

routines will be somewhat different to what you’re used to, I suspect, Commander.
It might be wise in future to make sure you understand all the regulations and
why they are there. I’m sure that if you find you’re having any problems with
them then either myself, Captain Aldar or Admiral Ken’Rathel will be happy to
explain.” Crineal gave him a smile as if he was talking to a five year old
child, and a not particularly bright child at that.

clenched his jaw muscles. How dare he? he thought angrily and ground out “Yes,
Sir, thank you, Sir.”

right, Commander, you’re dismissed.” Crineal waited for the salute and without
giving one of his own he turned back to his reports. Del’Tarim spun on his heel
and marched out of the office. Crineal was sure that if sliding doors could
slam then his just had. What an idiot! Del’Tarim represented everything that he
disliked about the Empire. The noble families were arrogant, corrupt,
overflowing with entitlement, cruel and venal. There were a few that worked for
the peoples of the empire but in most cases they were exactly like Del’Tarim or
worse, if that were possible. Crineal wasn’t surprised that the rebellion had
broken out and he would have perhaps supported it if the rebels had been
looking to make things better. Unfortunately, they seemed to be even more
corrupt and twisted than the nobility. So here he was trying to protect the
average imperial citizen and having to put up with cretins like Del’Tarim. How
did the universe get this screwed up?


few hours later, Crineal was sitting in the admiral’s office.

are you feeling today, Crineal?” Ken’Rathel asked, as he sipped his kafe.

grimaced into his tea. “Like I’ve just been through three hours of Colonel
Jaynes’ hand-to-hand practice.” The colonel was the commanding officer of
Annihilator’s Marine complement and took her troops’ fighting prowess very
seriously. Her fitness workouts were legendary and, having watched them on a
number of occasions, Crineal thought they might be a good punishment detail for
the rowdier pilots.

chuckled. “Well, you’ve got a little over three weeks of leave now, so take it
easy and perhaps get some time planet side.”

looked at him in surprise “Leave, Sir? But I’m covering the other squadron
leaders’ absences.”

black-haired admiral stared at him. “Didn’t you hear me yesterday? I put all of
Hera squadron on leave. The last time I looked that included you.”

the leave rosters are already in place, Sir, and there’s nothing I need to do
on planet. I don’t mind staying and covering. I’d really prefer to stay on
board, Admiral.”

put down his cup and sighed. “Why do you always have to be a hard case,
Crineal?” he paused and thought for a second. “Alright, it probably would help
if you stayed on. But next station you go ashore for the entire stopover. Am I

Admiral, crystal.” He took another drink of tea.

reviewed the logs from yesterday. Your squadron’s bravery was exceptional. They
are a credit to themselves and your leadership.”

you, Sir; I’m very proud of them. No one flinched even though going in against
those odds could have meant all of their deaths.”

afraid that I’ve recalled the search teams. The survival suits of your missing
pilots would have given out hours ago and the teams still hadn’t found any
traces. I’m going to post them as lost. I’m sorry, Crineal.”

bowed his head in sorrow for a moment, but he had expected the news. “I
understand, Sir. Bannerman and Rochelle were good pilots. They’ll be sorely

know, Crin, it’s never easy losing good people. On a happier note, medical
tells me that the rest of your wounded are responding well. Even though the
doctor notes he had to order a certain officer out of the bay.” He flashed
Crineal an understanding smile. “Let me have your battle report by the end of
the week, along with recommendations for awards.”

do, Sir.”

how did your meeting go this morning?” Ken’Rathel asked with barely suppressed

Admiral, we managed to clear up the confusion that happened in the flight bay

unofficially?” the admiral inquired with a smile in his tone.

a total ass,” said Crineal bluntly.

laughed. “Please don’t hide your feelings, General,” then his face became
sober. “I might even agree with you but he is very well connected and even
though the thought of transferring him somewhere ASAP might have occurred to me,
it would be politically unwise to do so until he has been here a suitable
length of time. You need to watch your step with him, Crineal. He may only be a
commander, but he could still cause trouble for you.”

Sir. I’m not without my own connections, though, and it might be harder than he

admiral nodded. “I know and I’ll throw in what support I can but be careful.” Ken’Rathel
paused and then said, “I think that wraps it up for today, General. I’ll page
Doctor Marrash that you’re leaving my office so he can bolster med section’s

smiled at Ken’Rathel. “You know me too well, Sir.” He stood and placed his cup
on the desk before saluting. “Thank you for the tea, Sir.”

waved him away. “Go see to your pilots.” Crineal turned and started for the
door. “And try and keep Lieutenants Perl, Staller and Muscovy under control.
I’d hate to have to explain to Del’Herat how his son managed to fall out of an

Crineal left the office he shook his head. He would love to know how Ken’Rathel
came by his information. It could make a man paranoid.


entered medical to find Major Strieger there as well. She was sitting and
talking to 1st Lieutenant Sumomo. He waved at her to keep her seat and went to
Lieutenant Feldea’s bed. She opened her eyes as he approached. Her left side
was covered with a regeneration sheath; her right foot seemed to be similarly
encased. He took the chair next to her bed. “How are you doing, Lieutenant?” he
asked, smiling at her.

ok, Sir. Mostly numb with this thing on me.” She gestured to the sheath with
her chin.

it’s hardly the most fashionable of bed wear, Fel.” He knew that off duty she
considered herself highly fashion conscious.

gave a little giggle which made her seem very much like a teenager, at odds
with the veteran pilot he knew her to be. “Doctor Marrash says it could be a
month before I get out of here, Sir,” Feldea said somberly.

it gets too bad I’ll arrange a roster for the squadron to come and pester him
to release you.” She smiled at him weakly. “And the admiral gave everyone leave
for the duration of our stopover here. Yours is being held back for when you’re
fit again. You’ll have a whole month to shop and sun yourself.”

sounds great, Sir. Did the admiral also volunteer to pay for my credit tab to
cover the shopping?”

shook his head. “Sorry, Lieutenant. I don’t think the entire fleet’s budget
would cover that large a bill. You’re on your own there. Anything I can get for

at the moment, Sir. The techs here are doing a great job at making me
comfortable.” He reached out and patted her right hand before standing. She
gave his a squeeze in return. “Thank you for being here, Sir.”

deserve it, Fel.” Crineal released her hand and joined Strieger to finish the
round of visits.


left the ward together, neither speaking, both distressed by the injuries of
their comrades. They found themselves in the observation room of one of the
cargo bays, watching as various shuttles docked and unloaded before taking off
again. Crineal was the first to speak.

admiral suspended the search. Bannerman and Rochelle will be posted as lost in

bowed her head. “Damn.” After a few seconds she said, “I know they can’t still
be alive, but…” Crineal nodded in sympathy with her.

stood there silently a little longer as one shuttle left the bay and another
edged in.

major sighed. “Well, at least you’ll be getting leave now, Sir,” she waited a
few seconds and, when Crineal didn’t reply, continued. “The admiral did say all
of the squadron,” she pressed. The silence continued. She slapped her forehead.
“You turned it down, didn’t you?” Crineal nodded.

I don’t understand you at all, Sir,” she said in frustration. The shuttle in
the bay below dropped its cargo ramp. “Please, Sir, come with me and show me
some of the sights of Earth,” she was almost pleading with him now.

tried to defuse the situation with humor. “Is that an indecent proposition,
Major?” he asked her with a small smile he didn’t really feel.

BOOK: Crineal Chronicles 1: In Hera's Service
12.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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