Joined: 25 Apr 2011
Location: Warwickshire, England
|Posted: Mon May 09, 2011 7:36 pm Post subject: Tarrant story
|I hope this is the right place to put this! One of my earlier stories which looks at Tarrant's life before he joined the Liberator.
Never A Dull Moment
Deep inside the domed city on Earth, two brothers met up in a small bar. “I don’t want to stay on Earth all my life.” Deeta said over a glass of a green coloured drink. “I know you’ve been accepted for the Federation Space Academy, so that’s your life taken care of.” he lamented. “How did you know about that?” Del replied, surprised. “It wasn’t that difficult, you’ve hardly spoken of anything else lately.” Deeta smiled.
With a tired sigh Del leaned back in his seat, knowing that his brother’s decision to leave was final. Both of them fell silent for a moment until a young barmaid brought another round of drinks and provided a welcome distraction. She smiled at Del who returned the friendliness.
“Where will you go?” Del asked after she’d gone. “Well, there’s always a market for a top notch marksman.” Deeta replied. “I thought I’d settle on one of the outer colonies and see what opportunities come my way”. Del nodded and took a sip of his drink. Behind his brother Del could see the barmaid looking flirtatiously at him. Aware that his brother’s gaze had wandered, Deeta looked over his shoulder and then smiled. “I think you’re going to be just fine.” he reassured.
Early the following morning and with a slight headache, Del wandered into the passengers cruiser terminal. He was glad when he saw Deeta already waiting for him. “Take care of yourself, little brother” he said. “You too.” Del smiled back. They shook hands and exchanged a brief and rather awkward hug. Before Del had fully registered that his brother was actually leaving, he’d gone. Watching the ship take off he muttered “You better not get yourself killed…”
The Federation Space Academy was every bit as challenging as he’d expected, however Del took it in his stride and made a new friends, but also a few jealous rivals. One of these was a ginger- haired young man called Petersen. Known as the ‘Ginger Trickster’ by his fellow cadets, he was always one for gambling and would do almost anything to make a profit.
His shiftiness caught out Del on several occasions, but despite their rivalry they would help each other whenever it mattered. “That’s two hundred credits you owe me!” Petersen said after the latest round of a card game. “You’ll have to wait for it.” Del replied just as the unit officer walked into the room. “Wait for what?” he asked sternly. The two cadets stood to attention and tried to look as innocent as possible.
“Come on! Get moving!” the Commander barked as the trainee officers were put through a rigorous physical exercise. Having passed all of the exams necessary to be selected for officer training, Del quickly proved eminently capable, regularly surpassing many of his peers at the challenges given to them. His friend Petersen however had not been chosen and was very bitter about it when he left.
Still out of breath from running, Del arrived at the next task, which was to complete a flight simulation. He raced to his console and activated the simulated flight systems. Designed to test responses in a battle situation, the ‘enemy’ closed in on him. Losing himself completely in his focus on the simulation. He knew he was a natural and not at all surprised to find he’d completed the task ahead of the others and with the best balance between hits and losses.
“Top of the class again Del?” the surly Commander said as one by one his other students completed the exercise. Del simply looked at him and ignored the deliberate provocation, realising that it was all part of the process of selecting those who were suitable for the senior ranks. He was keen to get through, as it meant that you could get certain little privileges normally denied to those lower down.
It took a further two years to complete all the required training. Del was amongst the highest achievers, mainly down to his concentration, high IQ but also his stubborn arrogance. His ego was given a further boost when he earned the rank of Lieutenant and was assigned to a Kairopan escort shuttle. The commanding officer, whose name was Jarvik, was a practical man who trusted his instincts when it came to combat.
Over the few months serving under Captain Jarvik Del learned a lot and got some valuable experience. When the tour of duty was over they gathered in the officer’s lounge. “Perhaps we’ll meet again some day?” Del said. “I doubt it. I’m considering leaving the service” Jarvik replied. Del looked curiously at him “Why?” “I’ve had enough. I want to enjoy my life before it gets cut short by some rebellious lunatic” Jarvik explained. “Good luck.” Del smiled and shook his hand. “You too, Tarrant. Just remember one thing. Trust your instincts and you’ll go far. You are a natural. And don’t forget that when you’re in command, you’re on your own”.
The dullness of routine service operations lacked excitement and Del began to get itchy feet. A Lieutenant’s life wasn’t bad, but he felt that he could do better. Sighing heavily he changed into his non-combat uniform and headed off to the Space Research Institute. He liked the feeling of being saluted by all the junior ranking officers and other service personnel. It gave him an air of importance that he felt he didn’t really have.
Rumours of Professor Egrorian’s mysterious disappearance were flying around the room when he arrived for the flight systems class. A new generation of computers were being installed on all Federation ships and all pilots and crewmembers were being trained in their use.
“Have you heard?” one woman, a stewardess, said excitedly as he sat down. “Yes, but I don’t see as there’s much we can do about it” he replied. Disenchanted she turned away and he heard her mutter something about him being a gossip killer.
At the end of the course he caught up with her, having learned that her name was Makiea. Descended from the people once known as the Polynesians, she had long dark hair and beautiful golden skin. Tarrant had taken more interest in her as the week had progressed.
Watching her from a distance he noted that the dull passenger cruiser uniform she was wearing did nothing to flatter her trim figure. Absentmindedly he imagined her wearing the ancient traditional dress of her people and failed to notice when she walked up to him. “Still not interested in gossip?” she said, slightly sarcastically. “No” he replied, jolted out of his reverie. “But there’s a nice place to eat not far from here, if you’d like…” Makiea smiled broadly “I’d love to…”
Still a Lieutenant, Del was assigned to the planet XN-3 in the 4th sector. It was used as a refuelling depot and was rather off the regular patrol routes. Allocated a 24-hour slot to incorporate maintenance checks the crews relaxed in the accommodation block. Wearily Del lay on a bunk and tried to go to sleep, but he couldn’t help but think of all the things he’d rather be doing.
XN-3 hadn’t reported any seismic activity in at least 20 years; however trouble was brewing below ground. In the early hours a minor tremor struck. Instantly awakened by the rumbling and shaking of the building, Del got up and made a brief check for damage.
Satisfied that there was none he sat back down on his bunk. “I thought this planet was meant to be stable?” one of his comrades asked. “I don’t think any planet is completely immune from it.” Del replied. Eventually everyone drifted back off to sleep, but Del retained an uneasy feeling.
In the main hangar building a valve on a cutting torch hadn’t been secured properly and the tremor dislodged it. A slight hissing sound of escaping gases was barely noticeable and just waiting for one careless spark. The inevitable explosion came just one hour later. Blown off its foundations the hangar was utterly destroyed and large flames roared into the sky.
All the windows in the accommodation block were shattered, covering the sleeping crews in shards of glass. Del found himself desperately trying to keep calm while some of the less experienced crewmembers panicked. He managed to keep a cool head and got them all outside before their building also caught fire. All of them received burns in the heat and once at a reasonably safe distance they collapsed onto the ground.
The blaring of the alarms was deafening and everyone was coughing from the thick acrid smoke. A medical and fire team descended on the scene, taking the seriously injured away. Del waited for his turn but a medic injected something into his arm and he couldn’t remember anything after that.
He awoke in the civilian medical centre, which was a good distance from the Federation base. A sharp stinging pain in his eyes caused him to flinch and realise that a dressing had been placed over his entire face. “Just keep still” said a muffled female voice, a nurse he assumed. “You’ve got some superficial burns on your face, so you won’t be able to open your eyes just yet.” she added.
“Is he awake?” said a familiar voice, the squadron commander. “Yes, just this moment.” the nurse replied and Del heard her leave the room. “How are you feeling?” the commander asked. “I’ve had better days” Del managed to whisper. “I came to thank you for rescuing your crewmates. My report reflected your brave actions. It seems that your exemplary service record hasn’t gone unnoticed, Tarrant. I’ve been authorised by central Federation command to inform you of your promotion to Captain. Congratulations.”
Taking a break between missions, Captain Del Tarrant relaxed in one of the more respectable bars on Sigma 5. A couple of admiring women flashed smiles at him and he thought about going over when a shadow fell across the table he was sitting at. He looked up and saw a familiar face from his Academy days. Petersen, his old ‘partner in crime’, who hadn’t made the grade for officer training. Del had lost track of him after that.
“Long time no see Del” he said and sat down. Tarrant didn’t fail to notice the large sidearm he was wearing and surmised that he’d taken to smuggling or some other illegal occupation. “What changed you, Petersen? You turned to…” he paused. “It was a setback, but only temporary my friend. I realised there’s a lot more profit to be made in the outer sectors. It’d increase your income I guarantee it.” Petersen replied slyly.
Tarrant frowned slightly. “By rights I should report you, Petersen”. “You wouldn’t do that to an old friend, would you?” he replied. “You can join me if you want, or even go out on your own, it really doesn’t bother me either way. That Captain’s insignia doesn’t suit you. You always were more interested in profit than duty”.
He couldn’t argue with that. One of the main reasons he’d pushed himself to get into the higher ranks was for the privileges that came with it, including being able to take a share of any spoils from conquering un-colonised worlds. Even within his unit he’d made a modest profit from selling on small items of contraband.
“Don’t tell me you’ve never thought about it?” Petersen continued. “Not until now.” Tarrant replied. Petersen leaned back in his chair and caught the eye of one of the women across the room. “We’ll discuss it later.” he said and headed towards them. Tarrant pondered the idea for a moment and then followed his old friend.
The brief moment of enjoyment scratched at his itchy feet and a few days later a chance presented itself. Tarrant was ordered to take a small group of pursuit ships to hunt down a group of rebels that were destroying convoys of supply vessels between Earth and various colonised planets.
Two ships closed in on one of the rebel craft and destroyed it. However Tarrant’s ship remained behind to provide support. He made it deliberately vulnerable and the rebels took full advantage. They fired several shots and Tarrant’s Mutoid crew were killed in the resulting aftermath. Listing out of control Tararnt had to use the manoeuvring thrusters to keep the ship from heading on a collision course with a nearby planet.
He managed to take the damaged ship behind one of the planet’s moons and out of sensor range. To make it even more convincing he dumped the dead Mutoids out of the airlock plus the contents of the hold, which included several large metal canisters. On a long-range sensor sweep it would look like a typical debris trail from a destroyed vessel.
“Damage report Lieutenant?” Major Torres enquired when the operation was over. “All ships and personnel are accounted for except Captain Tarrant’s ship sir”. “Tarrant? That’s not like him to get caught out like that. Very well, list him as missing for the time being. Until the investigation is carried out” Torres added. “Yes sir”.
Naturally it didn’t take long for the experienced Major to work out what had happened, once the space debris had been closely examined. Of course he knew Tarrant would be long gone by now. Angrily he ordered the Lieutenant to change his missing status to deserter, which was automatically worthy of an execution order.
It took Tarrant three months to get the ship repaired without access to the Federation’s facilities. Having limped his way to one of the outer planets, he scrounged a living selling arms and anything else of value to whoever would buy. Eventually he had enough credits to purchase replacement parts for the ship. Catching his finger trying to fit a circuit board he cussed Petersen for telling him that this way of life was better than being in active service with the Federation. However he felt confident that it would change once the ship was ready. Besides, it wasn’t just the profit that made him make his choice- it was exactly the different life- style. At least now his feet were never itchy. Tarrant ignored the pain and went on working on the circuit board, grinning to himself.
As time passed Tarrant established a reputation for being able to supply almost any item of contraband you could think of, including weapons. He made more than an acceptable profit in the process and equally a number of enemies. On one trip he stopped to pick up fuel and food supplies at a popular meeting place for all smugglers and privateers operating in the outer sectors, called Ice City.
It was his first visit and he wasn’t comfortable with the notion of having to run the gauntlet of viscous pirates that frequented the place alone. Aptly named, daytime temperatures barely reached above -70°C as the large moon the base had been built on was almost constantly in the shadow of its uninhabited planet.
After arranging the necessary supplies Tarrant relaxed in the most elegant bar he could find. The barmaid seemed to take a liking to him and they started talking and laughing. Meanwhile at the back of the room a very tough looking man had walked in and scowled at the newcomer apparently making friends with his favourite barmaid.
Pushing his way through the crowd he stood right next to Tarrant, interrupting the conversation. The barmaid turned around and served Tarrant with another drink and noticed the unpleasant man who had appeared. “Hello darlin!” he said in a very sleazy manner and pushed Tarrant to one side. “Sherm” she replied coolly. “I suppose you want the usual?” she enquired. “Of course! And be quick about it!” he barked back at her. She gave him a withering look and set about preparing the drink.
“Haven’t seen you around here before?” Sherm said to Tarrant who had backed off and was doing his best not to invite trouble. Before he could respond an extremely lascivious looking woman, who clearly had business and pleasure in mind, saved the day. It didn’t take much to persuade Sherm to take up the offer and he gulped his drink and left.
“If I were you I’d stay away from him” the barmaid said as she poured another drink. “He’s one of Bayban’s cronies”. Tarrant nodded for her to continue. “Bayban’s the meanest trader I know of. He’ll kill anyone and for no good reason” the woman explained. “I mostly operate in the outer sectors, but thank you for the warning” he replied and gave her one of his smiles as he paid for his drinks. The barmaid watched him leave and thought that alone he’d be no match for Bayban’s henchmen if he crossed their path again.
Unknown to Tarrant, Bayban was also heading towards the landing area and they arrived at the same time. After checking that all his supplies had been loaded he handed over the required sum of credits. Seeing this Bayban thought it would be an opportunity to relieve him of any other items of value he may have.
He followed the young man into the landing silo and loosed off a warning shot causing Tarrant to whirl round, gun in hand. Several of Bayban’s companions came up behind him and Tarrant knew he was hopelessly outnumbered. “That’s enough, Bayban” said a familiar voice from behind them. They turned around to see the barmaid that Tarrant had met earlier with a number of her friends.
“You?” Bayban scoffed. “Ha!” He opened fire and everyone dived for cover in the ensuing fight. The barmaid ducked down alongside Tarrant and the two of them barely managed to keep their assailants at bay. “This may not work out to our advantage!” he said. “Better than the chance you had alone” she replied. Moments later she took a hit in the leg and was knocked backwards.
Tarrant shot the man responsible and Bayban started to retreat as the barmaid’s friends shot a number of his comrades. The battle was over as quickly as it had started and Tarrant knew time was short. Bayban would almost certainly try to pursue him once he left. In the eerie silence of the landing silo the barmaid winced in agony. “What’s your name?” Tarrant asked. “Dolly.” she replied with her hand clasped over the bleeding wound.
“Thank you, Dolly.” he smiled. “Will you be alright?” “Yes.” she replied. “You’d better get going before Bayban has a chance to catch you”. He helped her to stand and she limped away. “Good luck!” she smiled. “And if you ever find yourself back to Ice City…” Winking at her in gratitude, Tarrant ran up the access ramp and quickly got the ship underway.
As he suspected Bayban pursued him and the battle continued. Tarrant’s opponent was fast but his ship was the more manoeuvrable. Even with the slight advantage he took several hits before managing to return fire. Now he was glad for the superior Federation armament and the plasma bolts quickly disabled Bayban’s ship. Outraged at being defeated, Bayban slammed his fist on the control console “I swear if I catch that snivelling weasel so help me I’ll kill him where he stands!”
During a return journey after making an arms run, Tarrant relaxed on the flight deck. However his drowsiness was interrupted by the alarms when the detectors began registering numerous contacts at extreme range. Jumping into action he sat open mouthed at the myriad of alien ships beginning to appear on the detector screen. He also picked up the approaching Federation fleet. Although it was hopeless he was caught in the middle and he had no choice but to open fire. He managed to loose off a few shots before taking a hit. The ship reeled from the damage and the drive systems were almost immediately put out of action.
With no prospect of saving the vessel he despaired until hope arrived in the form of another pursuit ship. Setting an explosive charge he hastily changed into one of the Federation engineer’s uniforms he’d left aboard just in case. He waited alongside the hatchway and ran across as soon as it opened. “They’re all dead!” he called out. “The ship’s gonna blow! Get us out of here fast!” The Mutoids believed his deception and relayed the message to the Captain who wasted no time in complying.
Tarrant sat at the back of the flight deck and watched as his ship exploded. Then from a sharp angle numerous Andromedan shots struck the aft section and damaged the drive systems. ‘So much for a rescue’ he thought. Another blast hit very near the flight deck area and a large explosion engulfed them. Tarrant was blown out of his seat and was the only survivor. Everyone else had been killed outright.
‘I’ll stand a better chance looking like a Captain’ he thought and removed the dead officer’s uniform. Throwing off the engineer’s suit he abandoned ship in a life capsule. “I just hope the air doesn’t run out before…” he muttered as he pressed the release switch.
Through the tiny viewing portal on the capsule Tarrant could see flashes of light as the battle raged on. Suddenly the wreckage of another pursuit ship flashed past, narrowly avoiding the capsule and causing it to rotate violently as the atmosphere from the damaged vessel vented into space. He closed his eyes and sighed in relief, although he knew at any given moment he could be wiped out in a collision.
The capsule continued to spin for several moments and eventually left the battle area. However it was heading into deep space, out of the reach of any ship that might’ve survived the war. Tarrant watched with increasing horror as hour by hour the capsule drifted further away.
Then out of his viewing range and directly in the capsule’s path a large ship was apparently adrift. Gradually it came into view and Tarrant forgot about the battle around him, about his endangered life and just gaped at the ship in awe. He could see that it had taken several direct hits. Hoping that it was still salvageable he thought that it would make an excellent new ship, but wait….”I recognise it” he muttered aloud. “It’s Blake’s ship…the Liberator”.
The life capsule’s basic computer system locked onto the Liberator’s docking hatch and he quickly climbed out. ‘I just hope the natives are friendly’ he thought as he closed the airlock. Unknown to him the clunking sounds created by his arrival had attracted the attention of a group of Federation troopers who were already aboard. Three of them closed in on his location and soon had him surrounded.
“Who are you?” the apparent leader asked sternly. Tarrant could see that they meant business and had to think quickly. “Space Captain Tarrant…and you are?” he asked with authority in his voice, lifting his chin haughtily. The man straightened and took on a more respectful tone “Section Leader Klegg, sir” he replied. “This is Lieutenant Harmon”. “Very well, what’s the status of this ship?” Tarrant asked, skilfully using his Federation training to bluff his way out of trouble.
“We’ve conducted a thorough search and are satisfied that there’s no one aboard. Therefore we’re claiming the salvage rights.” Klegg replied. “I see” Tarrant said looking around. “Take me to the flight deck”. “This way sir” Klegg said and indicated for him to follow. Both Harmon and Klegg seemed suspicious, but went along with Tarrant’s authority. As they approached two more troopers joined them from a side corridor.
‘I just hope that none of them recognise me from the deserters list’ Tarrant thought to himself. However the thought was soon lost when they arrived on the flight deck. Tarrant was really impressed. There were five consoles, each with a large seat and a lounging area in front of a viewing screen. On the far wall was the much-rumoured Zen computer. As they walked down the steps its lights flashed intermittently as if receiving instructions from some outside source.
“It’s been doing that at fairly regular intervals, sir” Klegg reported as Tarrant walked over to Zen. “We’ve also been monitoring communication signals being received and the computer appears to be transmitting back.”. Tarrant turned to face him. “Presumably then the crew are somewhere in the vicinity?” he asked. “We assume so sir” Klegg replied.
Unsure of what to do next Tarrant stood at one of the consoles and observed the signal indicators for himself. Finally he decided to set his new and very unwelcome, comrades the task of trying to figure out the control systems on the flight deck while he conducted his own tour of the ship. Again Klegg looked at him suspiciously. “Very well, sir” he said and stood at the pilot controls.
Once safely out of earshot Tarrant sighed heavily. “This isn’t going to be easy” he muttered. Besides the Federation uniform and plasma rifle he’d salvaged from the doomed Captain, he’d also managed to retrieve a small dagger type knife. Thinking it would be quieter than the rifle he hoped to create confusion by picking them off one at a time, thereby making the others believe that there was still someone on board.
However his plans were put on hold as he approached the teleport section. A man and a woman had appeared from nowhere and were about to leave the area. “Wait!” the young woman said to her stern looking companion. “Summary execution is the usual punishment for boarding a Federation ship without authority. What are you doing on my ship?” Tarrant said firmly.
"The river tells no lies, though standing on the shore, the dishonest man still hears them"