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The Sceptre: Prologue
Posted By: Aragorn918<aint_dutch_aint_much@hotmail.com>
Date: 28 November 2001, 12:16 am


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Joshua Kent

October 13th

İİİİİI am playing a game of cards in the passenger area of this shuttle. I have just come out from a meal with Joshua Kent, the captain. Now that I have spent the last few days with him, I feel that I can put out a more accurate description.
He is a unique man, and I mean that in the best possible way. He looks quite competent; in fact, I can easily picture him taking on an entire squad of Rebel Commandos with a revolver and winning. I admire his strength.
İİİİİHe has the alert, rapid eyes of a fighter pilot, and the hands of a gunner, never still. I would count myself lucky if he were on my ship when pirates came knocking. I admire his leadership.
İİİİİEvery time I engage the man in conversation I realize anew how much he has to have been through in his life. Behind his dark eyes lies a knowledge, understanding, and experience that I cannot fathom or begin to relate to. I admire his quiet wisdom.
İİİİİI wonder how long he has been a freighter captain like this, or if this is always what he has done. How many first-time fliers have gawked at the view from his cockpit just as I did? Did he point out the stars and constellations in the sky, so clear and bright, to others just as he did to me?
İİİİİI imagine him in the front of his shuttle, his finger pointing out towards the shape of a great bear in the stars, his other arm around the shoulders of an inquisitive young boy or girl. His eyes twinkle, his dark hair falls back from his forehead as he tilts his head backwards, and he grins wide at the astonishment and incredulity of his young passenger. I admire his kindness and caring.
İİİİİWhere has he been in his life? What has he done? What great Wonders has he seen? Where will he go after we arrive and I disembark? Will he become the Admiral of a great and powerful fleet? Will he become a famous explorer, charting vast unknown regions of the galaxy? Will he continue to ferry people back and forth, planet to planet, until his eyes become dim and the Universe holds no more appeal for him? Will he die young? Will he live long?
İİİİİNone of these things do I know of him, but even as I sit here I know I will not forget him, and when I think of him I will remember his warm smile, his loving hands, his quiet wisdom and strength, and I will smile in return.

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İİİİİThe small passenger shuttle slipped quietly through space. Its propulsion system, though unknown to the passengers, was far upgraded over a common Passenger Transport Shuttle. At the speed it was going at the moment, none but the most educated and alert observer could have noticed. This ship had reason to require an advanced propulsion system, however, as well as a much stronger shielding system, and a Captain who matched and exceeded the worth of these modifications.
İİİİİThis Captain was James Kent, and he sat now in the cockpit of his shuttle, the Grandis Corvus, and worried. He was not a worried man, normally, in fact quite the contrary, but situation oft dictate personality, and he had quite a situation on his hands at the moment. His was a choice between evils, and one not easily made. The rest of the day, and possibly some the night, would be spent at the mercy of his choice.
İİİİİ"Um... fine, I'll take the sausage. Your bacon is great, Amanda, but the sausage just tastes better, and since I'll probably get heartburn regardless, I might as well go for broke on taste." The stewardess smiled and slid a plate of sausage onto his tray along with his eggs and toast.
İİİİİ"Well I'm glad you're ruling out the option of taking neither and settling for some cold cereal," she grinned. "We mustn't be mindful of our health now." The pilot just chuckled and turned back to his control panel as the door closed behind the stewardess with a soft, peaceful whoosh. He sprinkled some salt and pepper on his eggs and cut himself a bite. As he sat back to chew, a bemusedly thoughtful look came over his face. The amusement slowly faded from his face as a small, grey dot appeared on the viewscreen.
İİİİİ"Computer: magnify." The dot began to grow, and a number appeared in the top right corner of the screen followed by an 'x'. The number grew steadily: 2x...3x...5x...8x...10x...15x... It stopped at 50. The image had grown with the number, and now the grey dot was easily distinguishable as a head-on view of a large Battleship. The shape and markings of the ship distinguished it quite obviously as a Covenant war vessel. Streaking around it were dozens of single man fighters, zipping recklessly around its hull as if they were playing a massive game of Tag with an invisible 'It'.
İİİİİAs the captain's eyes processed this, his brain functions seemed to slow to a crawl. It seemed like it took hours for the pupils to send an intelligible signal to his brain, and then several more to process the pattern of electrons into an order in which he could interpret them. Finally reality sunk in. His mouth became a thin, hard line, and his hands began to play over the cockpit controls. He spoke to the computer. "Computer, what is the estimated time until the Covenant ship is within firing range?"
İİİİİ"Estimated time of engagement: 1 minute 30 seconds and counting..."
İİİİİ"What are the chances of evasion?"
İİİİİ"Estimated chances of successful evasion: 3.5%." The Captain's face became even more grim. He slowly reached to his right and pressed a large red button. Immediately red lights started flashing and a mournful wail began to sound. Then, speaking into the intercom, he said, "This is the Captain speaking. All passengers will immediately head for the escape pods. Repeat, head for the escape pods located near the cafeteria. This is an emergency. Please stay calm and board the pods in an orderly fashion, women and children first. When each pod is full it will be jettisoned from the ship, and will head towards the nearest hospitable planet." Then his voice took on a more grim, tired tone. "Good luck, everyone." Then he turned off the intercom.
İİİİİJust then the young co-pilot, Scott Edwin, who was on his first mission, burst into the cockpit. Kent told him in a haggard voice to leave, but he refused. "I am the co-pilot. I am just as responsible as you are!" he protested. The captain pointed wordlessly at the corner of the screen showing the Covenant ship. It was within a minute of firing range now, and more fighters could be seen flying out of the docking bays and gathering into formation. Edwin's eyes grew wide, and he groaned like a man who had just witnessed his own death on video. Then he fell with his back against the wall, slid to the floor, and peed his pants. He began to hyper-ventilate.
İİİİİ"This is most likely your last chance to get out of this alive," said Kent in a commanding voice. Edwin didn't respond; he just continued to sit against the wall, staring wildly around the room, and whimpering between his rapid breathing. The captain turned away, worried, but unable to do anything at the moment.
İİİİİKent watched the display of the escape pods, and nodded satisfactorily as each one was filled and jettisoned. When he was sure every passenger was off board, he spoke to the computer. "Set hyper-space jump coordinates on random, and execute at soonest possible opportunity," he said, enunciating every syllable as if speaking to a foreigner. "Countdown."
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İİİİİ"Hyper-space jump in 30 seconds. 29---28---27." As the ship computer began counting down the seconds, Kent grabbed Edwin under the arms and began to half carry, half drag him to an escape pod. "23---22---21." He reached the last pod and placed Edwin into a seat, fastening a seat-belt around him, and carefully avoided the wet stain on Edwin's pants. He closed the door of the pod, and sprinted back along the hallway to the cockpit. "10---9---8." He fastened his own seatbelt, checked to make sure the young co-pilot was on his way, and muttered, "This thing better be as fast as they say it is."
İİİİİThe computer continued countdown: "5---4---3---2---1---execute." The shuttle's modified hyper drive kicked in, and the stars began to blur and streak around it in a blue-white kaleidoscope of light and energy.





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