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The Insurgency: S3 #20 Return (FB)
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Part 20 in Season 3 of my Insurgency series! A freebuild for the Marauders! Please comment, rate and enjoy!
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4th October 2096: Present Day

The Aurelian fleet had been bombarding the ROBKAT Engineering Shipyards for almost a day now. The entire East sector had been blown to smithereens and the rest of the place wasn’t faring much better.

I’d spent the whole time with Tracks and Ari Odanna, the Imperium Cadet we’d bumped into, sheltering in mine and Tracks’ guest suite. We’d been awake all through the night, the constant bombardment keeping us awake, both through noise and fear.

We all knew that at any moment now, a laser or bomb could breach the hull and we’d all be sucked out into the vacuum of space. However, there was nothing we could do about it. We’d offered our services to those in charge but had been turned down and after that, we'd been ushered back to the guest area of the shipyards, where we'd been commanded to remain under all circumstances. Ari' hadn't been happy about it at all, but had done as she'd been told.

The cadet had tried contacting her superior, the Lieutenant she'd been in contact with yesterday when the attack had first happened, however, she'd been unable to get through.

Now, as we sat here listening to the never ending explosions, echoing throughout the metal corridors, I found myself wondering how the hell I ended up in situations such as this! Ari' had retrieved a sketch pad and some pencils from her own suite, and was currently sat on the bed drawing something I couldn't see. She was awfully quiet and I had a feeling that her sketching was simply something to take her mind off of the current situation.

Tank: "Do you draw often?" I inquired, breaking the tense silence that had hung in the air for far too long now.
Ari': "Whenever I can." She replied without looking up. "It helps calm my nerves."
Tank: "What are you drawing? "
Ari' smiled slightly for the first time since the bombardment had begun and turned her pad to face me.

On the page was a fantastic pencil sketch of Tracks, who was sat on standby mode on the other side of the room. I couldn't help but grin.
Tank: "That's fantastic!"
Ari': "Thanks." She smiled bashfully and then continued sketching.

Moments later, the cadet's comlink started beeping and she frantically scrabbled to answer it. A little blue, holographic figure appeared in her palm.
Ari': "Lieutenant!"

Lt. Drayson: "Cadet Odanna, what's your current situation?" The hologram asked formally, however, I couldn't help but hear genuine concern in her voice.
Ari': "We're confined to our quarters. I offered my services but was turned away. I couldn't do anything, I'm sorry." She explained.
Lt. Drayson: "And what about the battle?"
Ari': "I wouldn't call it a battle, Lieutenant. It's more of a bombardment. The shipyard's defences are pitiful and massively outmatched. I think the majority of the Aurelian fleet is here. I'm not sure how long the shields will hold. When are you getting here? How many reinforcements are coming?"

The Lieutenant didn't answer immediately and a sinking feeling grew in the pit of my stomach.
Lt. Drayson: "Ari', there are no reinforcements."
Ari': "What?!"
Lt. Drayson: "You're not receiving any reinforcements. Everybody is too far away. The Aurelians' ploy of luring our forces to Toliv worked. While we're all over here waiting for an attack that's never going to come, they're attacking there and by the time we get back, they'll have gone." She explained, sounding both frustrated and upset. "I'm sorry. I tried to warn Admiral C'paya but he wouldn't listen!"
Ari': "So what am I supposed to do?"
Lt. Drayson: "Remember your training, Ari'" she replied, becoming formal again after her momentary lapse of composure. "Remember your training and get out of there. Commandeer a ship if you have to, just get out of there. I don't want you in there when it blows."

The cadet nodded vigorously with a deep breath.
Lt. Drayson: "You hear me, Ari'? Please. Get out of there." She urged quietly, lapsing back into emotion.
Ari': "I will."
Lt. Drayson: "Good luck." The Lieutenant whispered and then ended the connection.

There were several seconds of silence as the cadet sat staring at the blank comlink in her hand. Then, slowly, she returned the device to her belt and I could see that she was thinking hard. I could almost see the cogs whirring behind her eyes. Suddenly, a thought came to me.

Tank: "I have a ship." I offered and Ari's eyes lit up. "I mean, I did. So as long as it's not been blown away and the repairs were made before all of this began, then I can get us out of here."
Cadet Odanna thought about it for barely a second before nodding.
Ari': "Okay." She replied. "In return for what?"
Tank: "Trust me, I just want to get off this place, the same as you!" I replied with a small laugh. "Tracks!" I called to wake him. "Come on buddy, we're leaving."

We packed up the few things we had and not long later were sprinting down the corridors towards docking bay 97. As we ran I hoped and prayed that the Viper was okay and that the air shield on the bay was still intact. If we got there and discovered that the shield had been damaged or had gone down, we’d get sucked out into space.

The same would happen if the Viper’s repairs hadn’t been made in time. We’d get out into space and then it would fall apart. Or we’d lose power and fall, burning through the atmosphere. Or… any number of possible, terrible deaths!

Thankfully, when we charged into the docking bay, the shield was still in place and the Viper looked to be in one piece. Whether or not it had been repaired yet was another question though.

As we reached it, I told Tracks to check it over, while I popped the canopy release and leapt inside to check the controls.

Tracks reported back a couple of minutes later that the external damage seemed to have been repaired, but he had no way of checking the internals.
Tank: “It’ll have to do.” I muttered. “Okay, jump in.” I told Ari’ Odanna, who instantly climbed up the wing and took a seat in the back of the fighter. “Tracks, get in!” I called and he lolloped around the side, clambered in and sat in his usual seat behind me.

I fired up the engines and let them warm. No warning lights flashed at me and nothing exploded in my face, so all was going well so far.
Tank: “Okay… I think we’re okay!” I announced to the Viper’s other occupants.
Ari’: “Good. Then let’s get out of here!”

We lifted off and I took us out through the shields. But no sooner had I done that, we came under fire from the Aurelians. Punching the shields to full power, I took evasive action.

Tank: “Hold on!”
I’d been so busy worrying about whether or not the Viper would work that I hadn’t even thought about the fact I would have to pilot us right past the attacking Aurelians!

The Viper shook as a couple of lasers bounced off the shielding and I took us into a roll. Tracks whirred a warning and I spotted two Aurelian fighters on our tail.
Tank: “Yeah, I see them.” I confirmed as I yanked on the controls and we went spiralling upwards in a tight bank.

Cadet Odanna made a groaning sound from in the back. I brought us out of the banking manoeuvre and pulled us in close beside a huge Aurelian cruiser. Flying alongside of it was risking due to the constant blasts coming from its turbolasers, but it was safer than flying out in the open with the fighters.

As we flew alongside the massive hunk of metal, a glanced over the surrounding ships and was awed at the sheer amount of them. There was at least a hundred ships of varying shapes and sizes and that wasn’t including the fighters and bombers! That was just the cruisers and assault craft! I recognised numerous Cartographer-class cruisers, a good number of Ziklov-class destroyers, more Klondike-class freighters than I could count and then loads of smaller craft, like the Guardian and Račić-class patrol ships.

Suddenly I realised that one of the cruisers looked familiar. It took me a few seconds to place it but then realised why I knew it – it was the ANV Resolute.

With a gasp, I activated the Viper’s com and hailed the cruiser I recognised on an open channel. Several tense seconds later, the call was answered.
Officer: “Unidentified ship, cease all hostilities at once and surrender to the Aurelian fleet.”
Tank: “Put Captain Codder on the line!” I demanded. The officer began to speak again, but I wasn’t having any of it. “Captain Codder! Now! Tell him it’s Tank!”

The Officer hesitated.
Tank: “NOW!”

He vanished from sight and I spent the next minute flying carefully alongside the cruiser, still using it for cover, hoping and praying that Captain Codder would answer.

Thankfully, my prayers were answered when the Aurelian Captain appeared.
Cap. Codder: “Tank? What the hell are you doing out there?!” he questioned.
Tank: “My ship was damaged! I was having repairs done at the shipyards!” I replied.
Cap. Codder: “But it’s an Imperium shipyard!”
Tank: “I’m not GI!” I snapped back, noticing a fighter now on my tail. “But I’m not Aurelian either! I have no allegiance! I’m always just in the wrong place at the wrong time!
Cap. Codder: “You’re right about that.” He commented dryly.
Tank: “Now please, don’t shoot me down!” I begged.

The Captain turned aside and barked an order.
Cap. Codder: “Okay, I’ve requested you be allowed safe passage. My troops will leave you alone, but I can’t guarantee you’ll get the same from the rest of the fleet.” He explained.
Tank: “Well, one less cruiser firing at me it better than nothing! Thanks!”
Cap. Codder: “No worries. Now get out of here as fast as you can.”
Tank: “Will do. Thanks!”
Cap. Codder: “Oh! Captain Brass has agreed to the request too.”
Tank: “Awesome. Tell him ‘thanks’ for me!”
Cap. Codder: “Sure. Now go! Quickly!”
Tank: “On it. Thanks!” I replied and ended the transmission.

Ari’: “You know an Aurelian Captain?”
Tank: “I know several.” I replied, concentrating on getting us out of there as fast as I could.
Ari’: “I didn’t realise you were so close to those traitors.” She retorted and I could hear the displeasure in her voice.

Tank: “Look!” I began as I pushed the Viper to its limits and we blasted away from the Aurelian ships. “I just told Codder this! I’m not Imperial and I’m not Aurelian! Technically, I’m just an ordinary civilian.”
Ari’ didn’t respond. Tracks grunted a series of whirrs.
Tank: “Tell me about it. Life has been far from ordinary recently.” I agreed. “Now, where do you want taking? Is there somewhere I can drop you off?” I asked the Imperial cadet.

Ari’: “I need to get back to my cruiser, the INV Anvil.” she replied. “I’ll contact the Lieutenant and get their coordinates. For now, head in the direction of Toliv. I know that’s where they were last heading.”

The Next Day…

30 hours, and a quick stop on Etrion to grab some food, later and I dropped the Viper out of warp speed. I loved my warp engine! So much!

We were nearing Toliv now. Ari’ had received confirmation from her superior that their ship was indeed stationed over the watery planet and so we’d headed straight there at full warp speed. Toliv was a little out of my way, but I couldn’t exactly just dump the cadet in the middle of space!

Ari’: “Thank you, Tank.” She piped up from the back. “I’m not sure I’ve actually said it yet.”
Tank: “For what?”
Ari’: “Well, you did save my life!” she replied with a small laugh. “And you’ve brought me across the galaxy just to return me to my Lieutenant!”

I smiled to myself.
Tank: “You’re welcome.” I replied. “Tell me, I’m curious. Who exactly is this Lieutenant of yours? You seem to like her a lot!”

Ari’: “Lieutenant Lya Drayson. She’s… brilliant.” She replied.
Tank: “Wow. Not many officers have such high opinions of their superiors!” I joked.
Ari’: “Lieutenant Drayson isn’t like the others. She actually cares. About the galaxy, the Galactic Imperium. About us. About me.” She explained and, glancing in my rear-view mirror, I could see the cadet’s eyes were glazed over as she got lost in thought.

Tank: “So how come you two are so close?” I queried.
Ari’: “Lieutenant Drayson is my mentor. The Anvil is a bit of an experiment. On our ship, each ranking officer has a mentee, a cadet – somebody who studies under them. I’ve learnt more from Lieutenant Drayson than I could have done in five years in the academy.”
Tank: “She sounds impressive. You must be quite good yourself if she picked you as her mentee?” I guessed.
Ari’: “Well, actually, L... Lieutenant Drayson picked me because I love art.” She explained and I couldn’t help but notice the slip-up over her superior’s name. She’d been about to call her by her first name.

Tank: “Art?”
Ari’: “Yeah. I know it’s strange, but… I just love it. And not anything in particular. Just… art! Every type, every form, every style. I find it fascinating. And beautiful.”
Tank: “A soldier who loves art…” I muttered. “That’s a rare thing indeed. But, in the middle of a galaxy full of turmoil and fighting, maybe a little art is exactly what we need.”

Ari’: “That’s almost exactly what the Lieutenant said. That’s why she chose me. I may not have been the top of my class, like she had been, but I stuck out for other reasons.”

Tank: “Fair enough!” I nodded. Up ahead, the ship Cadet Odanna was stationed aboard was growing larger by the second through the canopy. “Well, here we are!” I announced, as if the others couldn’t see the massive cruiser ahead of us!

There was a crackle of static over my speakers and a voice announced,
Voice: “Unidentified craft, you’re entering restricted airspace. Identify yourself and your intent.”
Ari’: “Let me.” She told me, leaning past Tracks and over my shoulder. “This is Imperium Cadet Arianne Odanna.” She announced and read out her security code clearance. “Please inform Lieutenant Drayson of my arrival.”
Voice: “Very good, cadet. Please proceed to docking bay 4.” The voice commanded and then terminated the connection.

Ari’: “Docking bay 4.” She repeated.
Tank: “Yup. On it.” I replied and guided us towards the designated hanger.

As we glided through the translucent energy shielding that kept the atmosphere inside the docking bay and came in to touch down, I noticed three figures stood waiting for us.
Ari’: “It’s the Lieutenant!” she exclaimed, unable to mask the happiness in her voice.

The Viper touched down and I released the canopy. As I helped Ari’ climb down from the cockpit, the Lieutenant, whom I was surprised to see was an alien, walked forwards, followed closely by two guards. I couldn’t help but notice how official she was. Her uniform was immaculate and her posture was impeccable – she held herself upright and straight, her hands clasped behind her back.

Cadet Odanna looked as if she wanted to hug the other woman but a stern look from the black and blue skinned officer made her stop in her tracks and give a sharp salute instead.
Lt. Drayson: “At ease cadet.” I heard her say in a modulated tone, as I climbed out after Ari’.

Ari’: “Lieutenant, this is Tank. He quite possibly saved my life by flying me out of there.” She introduced and Lieutenant Drayson nodded her thanks to me.

Lt. Drayson: “You have my gratitude.”
Tank: “Just being a good person.” I replied with a warm smile. Despite her seemingly stern and cold exterior, I felt as if she really did care as much as Ari’ had said she did. However, I also got the impression that this was not a woman to be trifled with. I felt that her exterior was by no means a front. She was reserved and held an air of competence about her – I certainly didn’t want to get in her bad books!

Lt. Drayson: “If only there were more ‘good people’ in the galaxy.” She responded. “Then we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are in.”
Tank: “Indeed.” I agreed, not really sure how to respond to such a remark!
Lt. Drayson: “Now, Cadet, I must give you a full debriefing and you must inform me of every single fact from the assault. You never know what details may come in useful.”
Ari’: “Yes, Lieutenant.”
Lt. Drayson: “Mr. Tank, I will have our bay crew refuel your ship so that you can be on your way.”
Tank: “That would be most appreciated. Thank you Lieutenant.” I responded, knowing full well that I was being dismissed and also trying not to laugh at ‘Mr. Tank’.

Later That Day…

The bridge doors swooshed open as Lieutenant Drayson strode through them. Hands clasped behind her back as always, she marched with poise and purpose to the front viewing screen, where her superior, Admiral C’paya stood gazing out at the shimmering blue planet below.

Lt. Drayson: “Admiral.” She saluted and the elder man turned to face her. He saluted in return and they both lowered their arms.
Ad. C’paya: “What can I do for you Lieutenant?” he asked, sounding tired.
Lt. Drayson: “Sir, I wish to discuss the events that took place at ROBKAT Engineering Shipyards.”

The Admiral sighed, knowing full well what the dark-haired woman was going to say.
Lt. Drayson: “If you recall, on the 2nd of October, I came to you with suspicions over the validity of the Aurelian’s planned attack on Toliv. After analysing the data, I deduced that their true intent was to launch an assault on the ROBKAT Engineering Shipyards.”
The Admiral nodded as the Lieutenant spoke, the conversation going exactly as he’d suspected it would.

Lt. Drayson: “You took my advice and my findings to be, in your words, ‘nonsense’ and ‘cockamamie’ and elected to ignore them, as you have every right to do, sir. However, not for the first time, I have been proven correct against all odds and against your decision to ignore my council.”
Ad. C’paya: “I am well aware of this, Lieutenant.” He spoke calmly. “I admit it. I was wrong and you were right. There, is that what you wanted to hear?”
Lt. Drayson: “No, sir.” She replied, confusing him.
Ad. C’paya: “Then what do you want?”
Lt. Drayson: “I want you to trust me. My strength lies in tactical planning and strategies. Accept my council and my guidance.” She implored, keeping her voice even, almost emotionless. “By now you must have realised what I have known since I stepped foot on this ship - I possess a far better intellect and intuition than any other aboard this vessel. Let me use them, sir. Let me advise you as I should. And in turn, you can guide the INV Anvil to many glorious victories against the rebels of Aurelia.”

Her passionate speech did not pass the Admiral by, however, it transpired that it had not been necessary.

Ad. C’paya: “I know.” He began. “I know all of this. If it were any other soldier I would have them locked up for bragging, but I know you are telling the truth. You do possess a remarkable intuition and I cannot remember any occasion where your insights have proven to be inaccurate or unhelpful. You are spot on every, single time. You have the keenest senses of any being I’ve ever known and it is an honour to have you serving under my command.”

To any other, it would have seemed flattery, but to Lieutenant Drayson, it was simply truth – exactly as Admiral C’paya had intended it.

Ad. C’paya: “From now on, I will accept your council and your insights whenever they are called into use. And you have my most sincere apologies for not practicing this sooner. If I had, ROBKAT may have remained intact. But for now, there is nothing we can do for them. I hope this is to your satisfaction, Lieutenant?”

Lt. Drayson: “Perfectly, sir.” She replied with a sharp salute.

12th December 2096: Present Day

Tank: “So if we spend Christmas at your Dad’s and then go to Judas’ New Year’s ball then?”
Riley: “Yeah. Okay, that sounds good to me. It’ll be nice to spend Christmas together.” She replied and the little blue hologram of her smiled up at me.

I was currently lounging on my sofa, with very little to do and was in the middle of making plans with Riley for the festive period.

Tank: “I’ll go and see Eris and the others on the 23rd and then we can head to your Dad’s on the 24th.”
Riley: “Sounds like a plan.” She confirmed. “I’ll let Judas know that we’ll be attending the ball.”
Tank: “Okay. I’d better get a suit, I suppose!” I joked and Riley grinned.
Riley: “I’ll take you shopping!”
Tank: “Whoopie!” I laughed sarcastically.
Riley laughed as well, the soft sound warming my heart.

Then she groaned as she got another incoming com-call.
Riley: “Speak of the devil. It’s my dad.” She informed me. “I’ll have to take this. But I’ll give you a ring later, okay?”
Tank: “Sure, go ahead.” I encouraged.
Riley: “Thanks! Love you.” She smiled and brought an involuntary smile to my face. Despite having been going out for seven months now, we’d only recently started saying that to one another, so it was still something special.

The link ended and, still smiling, I went to set my comlink aside, but as I did so, it began to beep again. I was popular today!

I activated it and Mr. Grey appeared.
Tank: “Hey.” I greeted, still in a good mood from my conversation with Riley.
Mr. Grey: “Tank, I have an urgent job for you!”
Tank: “Oh great, now what?”
Mr. Grey: “The Brain has learned that one of his informants is in grave danger! He needs you to protect him.”
Tank: “Another informant? This isn’t still relating to the stuff going on between him and The Boss is it?” I questioned, remembering back to both Rex Harrison and Lyle McTene. Both had been informants for The Brain’s rival, The Boss and both had been leaking information to the Brain. I’d been sent to protect them both, but both had been murdered before I got there. The same had happened to Jake Tapworth, except I’d actually been sent to kill him, however, somebody had beaten me to it.

Mr. Grey: “Yes, it is. This person has been a key informant for The Boss for many years, however, ever since your parent’s deaths, he has also been leaking information to the Brain.”
Tank: “Wait, what? Since my parents died?” I asked, sitting up straight, suddenly interested.
Mr. Grey: “Let’s just say, he has a change of heart.”
Tank: “Hang on – how is any of this related to my past? What’s it got to do with me?” I demanded, suddenly confused.
Mr. Grey: “Questions for another time. Tank, you need to leave right now if you are to save them!” he urged.
Tank: “No, I want answers, NOW!” I demanded, but Mr. Grey wasn’t backing down.
Mr. Grey: “Tank, this informant is Barnaby Walsh.”

I had packed supplies in under five minutes, got Tracks to ready the Viper and so less than twenty minutes after Mr. Grey’s call, we were in the air and on our way to Earth.

As we flew at the Viper’s top light speed, I silently thanked Judas over and over again for giving me a warp drive. Without one, it would have taken me four days to get back to my homeworld, but now I could do it in half that time. I just hoped and prayed that it would be fast enough.

Two days later and after dropping back to sub-light speed, we barrelled towards New York and the apartment block where Uncle Barnaby’s apartment was located.

On the journey, I’d had plenty of time to think about what Mr. Grey had revealed to me in his brief com call. Uncle Barnaby worked for The Boss? Why? I couldn’t confess to knowing an awful lot about my ‘Uncle’, but he’d always seemed to me to be a good man. It was hard for me to believe that a man I respected, looked up to, even adored and loved as the closest thing to family I actually had, could be an informant for a… well, for whatever The Boss actually was. An information broker? A gang lord? A mafia-type boss was the best way of looking at him, I supposed.

It hurt to believe this, but what intrigued me more was that, if Mr. Grey and The Brain were to be believed, after my parents had been killed, Barnaby had had a change of heart and started leaking information to The Brain. Had their deaths softened him up? Was The Brain really that much better than The Boss?

I had so many questions that I couldn’t possibly answer. The only person who could give me those answers was Barnaby himself. I continuously prayed that I would reach him in time.

As soon as we touched down at the nearby landing pad, I left Tracks to deal with the parking fees and sprinted for all I was worth towards Uncle Barnaby’s apartment block. I barged through the front door and then took the elevator up to the correct floor.

I dived out whilst the doors were still opening and headed for apartment 55C. The front door was unlocked – a worrying start. I didn’t ring the bell, in case the assassin was inside. I didn’t want to alert them to my presence.

I stayed as quiet as I could as I hastily crept through the apartment. I flung open the living room door and froze in place. There, stood in the middle of the room, was the same mysterious assassin who had beaten me to Lyle McTene, the last informant.
Tank: “NO!” I screamed in rage and agony as I noticed the body at their feet. Uncle Barnaby was dead.

The assassin whirled around having heard me, a long, black sword coated in fresh blood in their hand.

Now, having a chance to properly see the figure, from their shape I could tell that it was definitely a woman. I had had my suspicions before, after smelling perfume at the last crime scene, but now those suspicions were confirmed. She took a couple of steps backwards, frantically looking around. She clearly hadn’t expected to be caught. She looked as if she was going to make a dash for the window, but I drew my pistols and fired laser after laser at her.

She dodged aside and took a diving roll behind an armchair.

I charged forwards, fuelled by rage and hatred. This bitch had taken the closest thing I had to family away from me!

And I was going to kill her for it.

I fired around the armchair, but the assassin had already leapt away and had swung themselves up to stand on the chair. Before I could react, she had swiped upwards with her sword and I felt the sharp metal slice through my back.

I cried out, this time in pain, and staggered away, dropping both of my pistols in the process. I didn’t think the cut had been deep, but it still hurt! I could feel the blood seeping out and into my shirt.

As I turned, I saw the assassin preparing to dash for the large windows. Grabbing the nearest object to me – a lamp, I hurled it at her and it smashed against her back, making her stumble.

I charged towards her, roaring with anger, but before I could get to her, she grabbed hold of the armchair and flipped it over, right onto me.

I collapsed under the sudden weight and felt pain sear through my back from where I’d been cut. I could do nothing but scream in anger and watch as the assassin escaped – leaping straight through the glass window.

I hastily shoved the chair off of me and scrabbled over to the smashed window to look outside. The assassin was nowhere to be seen. We were a heck of a long way up – there was no way they’d have survived a fall. But this was the second time she’d escaped through a window, so clearly she had some way of getting down safely.

All of this passed through my mind in a flash, as I then turned and raced across the room and fell to my knees beside Barnaby.

Tank: “Barnaby? Uncle Barnaby?” I pleaded urgently, checking for a pulse. His skin was still warm and the blood was still oozing from his body, but there was no pulse.

Tank: “Uncle Barnaby…” I pleaded, trying to hold back the tears as I gently shook his body.

I knew it was fruitless, but I was an emotional wreck and didn’t know what to do. My attempts at both waking him and stopping myself from crying failed and I broke down.

Tears streamed down my face and I started to sob uncontrollably.

He’d gone. The last remnant of my old life. A life with my parents, my family. A life before prison, The Shift and a whole new system of planets. Cruelly snatched away from me.

I suddenly realised that I would never find out the answers to the questions that Mr. Grey had given me either. With Barnaby gone, I’d have nobody to ask.

That just made me sob even harder.

I don’t remember doing it, but I found myself laying across the elder man’s back, sobbing into his jacket.

I had no idea how long I’d been like that, but I was still there when Tracks arrived. He stopped beside me and whirred mournfully. I sniffed loudly and took in a shuddering, emotional gasp of air. I sat up with a sigh and a few seconds later, forced myself to stand.

I took one look up at Tracks and his big red eyes set me off again. As the tears started to fall once again, Tracks wrapped his metal arms around me and held me. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, hugging a huge metal skeleton, but it was the thought that counted and despite my world falling to pieces, just having something, someone, to hold on to, made everything that tiny bit better.


Hammerstrike: "This is pointless!" He grumbled.
Ranger: "Yeah, well if you'd been keeping an eye open like you were supposed to, this wouldn't have happened!"
Hammerstrike: "Don't blame this on me!" The green hunk growled.

Beta Squad were falling apart. Their arguments had been becoming more and more frequent and they were bickering over more and more petty subjects. With Colonel Ramson in hospital and out of the equation, at least for now, it had fallen to Wolfhide to try and hold the squabbling band together.

Hammerstrike: "You're a weakling." He insulted and Ranger glowered at him. Jaws chuckled.
Jaws: "Says you." He snarled.
Ranger: "I might not have huge, over - sized muscles like you two, but I've got more brains than everyone else here combined." The human retorted, angry.

Wolfhide: "Want to say that again?" The bounty hunter interjected as he arrived.
Ranger: "This is ridiculous! We're not getting anywhere anymore! When was the last time we actually caught somebody?!"

Wolfhide: "We nearly had Foster."
Ranger: "Yeah, well 'nearly' isn't getting the job done, is it! With the Colonel in charge at least we were catching people. Hell, even when Darkblade was here we did a better job!"
Wolfhide: "Are you questioning my leadership?" The one - eyed, grey - haired man threatened, stepping forwards to stand up close to Ranger.
Hammerstrike: "Who isn't!" He replied with a laugh and Jaws chuckled as well. Wolfhide turned and glared at them.

Download: "Guys, arguing isn't going to help the situation!" The voice came in their earpieces. None of the squad had ever met their tech support guy, Download, but he had been a vital part of the team, assisting them from afar, by monitoring surveillance cameras, hacking through security systems and just generally helping with all things technical.

Wolfhide: "Butt out, Download!" He snapped back. "You don't get a say in this!"
Download: "Why not?! I'm as much a part of this team as any of you!"
Jaws: "We're no team." He stated simply in his gravelly voice.
Ranger: "We were when Darkblade was here..." He muttered, earning a other glare from Wolfhide.

It was no secret that Wolfhide had wanted to lead from the start. But he had wanted to lead a team. A team of highly - dangerous individuals who could work together to get a job done. That's what they had been to begin with. But now, now that he finally had his chance, all he was in charge of was a squabbling band of idiots. Their formidable team had been reduced to a selection of petty morons.

Wolfhide: "Hey!" He snapped, drawing a pistol. "Who's in charge here?"
Ranger rolled his eyes.
Ranger: "You are." He sighed and began to walk away.
Wolfhide: "Exactly! So shut up and put up. We have a job to do, so do it! Understood?"
He was met with various mutterings of "Yes, boss."

8th June 2094

My eyelids fluttered slightly before falling still again. It didn't feel like it at the time, but it was minutes until they fluttered again. This time, I was able to force my eyes open for a second or two before I passed back into unconsciousness. I had just enough time to notice a rocky cave ceiling above me.

Finally, I fully came around and opened my eyes properly. I could see the cave roof above me but it took a few moments for it to click in my mind that I was somehow back in mine and Jarred's hideout.

I frowned, confused. The last thing I could remember was... Suddenly it all came flooding back to me. The plane crash, the secret lab in the snow and the crazy doctor who'd injected Jarred. What had happened? I'd been shot. I remembered now. So how was I now in our cave?

With a groan and a lot of effort, I pushed myself into a sitting position and looked around. I couldn't see Jarred anywhere, but his bed area was obscured from my view around an outcropping of rocks.
Tank: "Jarred?" I called weakly, but there was no answer. He must have been out.

I winced as I spun myself around to sit sideways on my bed, leaning back against the rocky wall.
Breathing deeply, I examined the wound where I'd been shot. Somebody, Jarred I assumed, had cleaned and dressed it. It ached but at least I was alive.
I wondered how Jarred was. He'd been... scary, when we had escaped the lab. I had no idea how he'd found the strength to break us out and destroy those generators as well. It must have been something to do with whatever the heck that doctor injected him with.

I heard a rustle of movement from across the cave.
Tank: "Jarred?" I called again and this time, he appeared around the corner and trudged towards me.
Jarred: "What?" He asked bluntly and I frowned.
Tank: "What happened?" I asked.
Jarred: "You got shot and passed out." He responded looking thoroughly grumpy.
Tank: "How did we get back here?"

Jarred: "How do ya’ think?" He retorted, as if I'd asked something really stupid.
Tank: "I don't know!" I replied defensively. "That's why I asked! What's the matter with you?"

Jarred: "Nothing. I'm just peachy." He responded without looking me in the eye and he trudged over to the table. There, using one of his intricately carved black knives, he started chopping up a large fleshy fruit.

I scowled at his back, wondering what his problem was, but then I remembered everything that he'd just been through. Whatever that doctor had given him, it had changed him.

I gave him some slack.
Tank: "I'm sorry, Jarred. How are you feeling?"
Jarred: "Grand." He replied, still not facing me. Okay, so he wasn't up to talking yet. That was fair enough.
Tank: "Okay." I said quietly and slipped off the bed and had a stretch.

Jarred: "I carried you." He suddenly said. He was still concentrating on chopping up the fruit, which I was sure was small enough already.
Tank: "What?"

Jarred: "That's how we got back." He explained, finally turning to face me again. "After you passed out I took you back to the speeder bike and started heading for the equator. Was about half a day's ride from the border when the speeder ran out of fuel and gave out on me. We were still in the middle of nowhere, there was nobody else around. So I carried you. I walked for a good day before I finally reached one of the border settlements. I made sure you had some water and found us a trader with an old swoop. I asked for a lift but he wanted money. Money which I didn't have. I would have killed him and just taken it, but there was a crowd around and I had you to carry as well. So I continued walking. I carried you all the way back here, dressed your wound and let you rest." He concluded and I felt moved to my core.

I didn't know what to say! I couldn't believe that he'd done that for me! He'd carried me halfway across the planet!
Tank: "I... I don't know what to say." I confessed and my pal began to walk away.
Tank: "Thank you." I breathed.
Jarred: "Don't mention it." He muttered despondently.
Tank: "But you..."
Jarred: "I said don't mention it!" He snapped angrily, so, slightly confused and still emotional, I remained silent.

Jarred left the cave, leaving the door open behind him, and I limped over to the table. I helped myself to a piece of fruit that Jarred had left skewered on his blade and then moved over to my workbench where my droid was taking shape.

I sighed, looking down at the lifeless form.
Tank: "What's the matter with him?" I asked aloud, albeit quietly. I certainly didn't expect Tracks - we still hadn't thought up a better name for him - to answer and he didn't. I just needed to ask the question out loud.

I just hoped that with time, Jarred would return to his usual boisterous self.


The set for the guest quarters at ROBKAT.

The set for Barnaby's living room. When we last saw this set during Season 2, I took the pictures for this scene because I've always planned for it to happen. However, Tank's look has changed since then so I had to recreate the whole set again!

N.B. Captain Codder created by Indy Beetle.
The ships used in the space scenes were all created by different builders. Credit where it's due.

As my series is going to be jumping around though time, I will include a date on each episode and add it to the timeline at the end of each episode so that you can follow it.



 I like it 
  December 23, 2016
Really love that shipyard build.
 I like it 
  December 23, 2016
As always, a stunning episode. Lots of revelations with a few more questions. Shame to see Barnaby go, and an even bigger worry about how Tank copes with the death. It's nice to see Beta Squad as well, and how they hate each other's guts even more. Awesome work, and I look forward for the next one!
 I like it 
  December 23, 2016
Great episode! Looks like a lot of photoshop work that had to be done!
--R.K. Blast--
 I like it 
Blizzard -
  December 22, 2016
Hey, a Battlestar! Already wins this episode over for me XP Can't hate BSG. Awesome episode, and brilliantly written! Love the effects in the space scenes, they're very well done. Shame about Barnaby, but it was a very nice scene.
 I like it 
  December 22, 2016
Great episode! I can't wait to see more!
By --R.K. Blast--
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