|each set that looked
back at him eagerly awaiting the answer that he had been searching for in the ceiling.
After locking his gaze with each individual in the room the Commodore raised himself from
his chair and addressed his friends and colleagues.
For just over a year we have worked to establish and
strengthen the alliances that we now enjoy. For just over a year we have worked to build a
mighty network of intelligence and recruiting agents throughout the Empires
infrastructure. For just over a year we have prepared to go to war against the
Hobbicronium Industrial Empire.
He paused for a moment to collect himself
before returning to his address. This pause allowed the rest of the Elders of the
Rebellion to contemplate the greatness of their leader. Standing over six feet tall,
Commodore Kits was quite the imposing figure. The man represented everything that the
Rebellion stood for. He appeared to be a young man of about thirty five, but his
appearance was deceiving in that he had seen more winters than all but two of the Elders.
Like those other two Elders, he had been victim to the age reduction experimentation that
the Hobbicrons had conducted on many of their subjects over two centuries earlier and, for
that reason, he was able to simultaneously represent the youthfulness of the rebellion and
the wisdom that was required to challenge an empire that had existed for nearly a
millennium. This aged and wise leader drew a deep breath and resumed his speech.
| It has
been just over a year since we were last able to organize such a gathering of the Elders.
Since the onset of this great resistance our resources have been heavily taxed and there
has been no time to consider what the next step should be. But now, with the aid of some
of our more resourceful friends, we have been given a short amount of time to gather here,
aboard Flistation. I have called you all here for a grave reason. Although we have
copyright Christopher Currell.
Used with permission of the artist, all rights reserved.
|success of late, we
have reason to believe that the Hobbicrons have recently learned of the existence of
Flistation and McCarthydom. As agents of the resistance, we have been labeled as traitors
and are now considered guilty of treason and subject to death without a trial.
A startled murmur arose
throughout the Elders, but Commodore Kits silently raised his hand and the room resumed
the reverential air that it had previously had.
I have called this meeting in order
to discuss what can be done to stem off any offensive strikes that the Empire might be
planning. It is inevitable that they will strike one of our defensive posts in the near
future; and their attack will be swift and merciless. Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you;
what can be done to stop the Empire from destroying everything that we have fought for
this past year?
The Elders spoke quietly amongst one
another, weighing options and trading ideas. As was often the case with the Elders,
however, there were few original ideas that were suggested. Commodore Kits sat patiently,
wondering why he had thought that calling such a meeting would be beneficial. All of these
men and women had once been leaders in the Hobbicronium Industrial Empire, but they had
never gained any knowledge of the intricate workings of the Empire. They knew nothing more
than bureaucratic diplomacy and how to get legislation passed in a corrupt government. The
Commodore realized this and sat in his chair with a sigh of resignation, listening
contemplatively to the mindless babble that was circling about the room.
He heard one wrinkled old woman suggest a
salvage operation, but he knew as well as the rest of them that the Rebellion already had
a surplus of salvaged engines. Since this war had begun the Rebel troops had been
salvaging the engines of every Empirical ship they had disabled. And with the help of
their engineers they were usually able to repair them and reinstall them in one of their
own ships. No, salvaging would accomplish nothing when there were no ships to use the
|| A gentleman
that sat on the far side of the table mentioned unifying the forces of the two stations,
but that would be a useless endeavor. The twin stations, Flistation and McCarthydom, sat
at opposite ends of the galactic kingdom. It would take weeks to organize all of the ships
of the two stations. Besides, McCarthydom was not known for its military strength. It was
positioned on the marginal border that the Empire shared with Cortum, a race of aliens
known for their mining
that position the station was able to orchestrate the Rebellions business
transactions, buying large quantities of raw metal from the aliens and forming it into
useable pieces to be sent off to Flistation. At Flistation, the parts were assembled into
different spacecrafts that could be used to further the resistance. But McCarthydom housed
only enough ships to defend herself. Military force did nothing but inhibit the trust that
the men of that station had built with the Cortums during their business transactions.
There was no way to ask the inhabitants of that station to give up the few ships they had.
Another man, one of the
other victims of the age reduction experiments, mentioned the Tour de Deuce. Commodore
Kits perked up at this, understanding the significance that this expedition had on the
continuation of the Rebellion. Organized and led by the two young captains, Jason Toft and
Eugenio Cebollero, the Tour de Deuce had set out several months earlier on a covert
operation to contact the surrounding planetary systems and recruit allies for the
Rebellion. After contacting just a few systems they had succeeded in signing up several
thousand new men to join the forces. But, for now, there was little more that they could
do. The Elders would simply have to wait for new recruits to arrive.
Finally, the Commodore turned his
attention to a couple of senior Elders that were quietly carrying on a discussion between
Gentlemen? Would you like to share
your discussion with the rest of us?
One of the men sat up straight at the
Commodores words and looked around the room nervously before beginning. He cleared
his throat quite loudly and started, I was just discussing the possibility of
utilizing Dr. Tulankos newest project.
At the mention of Carl Tulanko the
Commodore bolted upright in his seat. He quickly composed himself and, with a subtle
smirk, which he unsuccessfully attempted to hide from the rest of the Elders, he asked,
What exactly is Dr. Tulankos newest project?
Im not entirely sure
Commodore. Hes been keeping it quite secret for the past couple of months. He has
only allowed his most elite engineers and scientists to aid him in his work. The rest of
us have been kept entirely in the dark.
The Commodore sat back, resuming the
contemplative posture that he was so well known for, and asked the gathering to continue
their discussions while he stepped out for a moment.
A few minutes later Commodore Kits stood outside of an enormous
circular doorway. Tilting his head back the Commodore was able to read a small inscription
just above the door that read, Detail is what differentiates us from the
primates! The man chuckled to himself remembering the inane antics of Dr.
Tulanko, as he was known to all but his closest friends. Whatever this man was
working on, whether it was beneficial to the cause or not, was sure to be entertaining.
And besides, the Commodore hadnt seen his old friend in quite some time.
He pushed the intercom buzzer at the side
of the door and waited patiently. After a short pause the intercom began to crackle and a
voice could be heard.
Go away! Who ever you are, be assured that you are not welcome. I am conducting
top-secret research and I cannot be disturbed. The fate of the universe may very well
depend on it.
The Commodore allowed himself to smile a
wide smile at the voice of the slightly mad, but more misunderstood, scientist. Pressing
the buzzer again, he leaned down and spoke into the intercom, I believe that, for
once in your wretched existence, you are entirely wrong in your assumptions, Old
A much longer pause followed this
transmission, before the intercom again crackled and the voice simply responded,
Well Ill be damned! Man, you suck!
Immediately the towering door shook with a
resounding thud and split into two half-circles, creaking as they slid apart from one
another to reveal a portly man who stood with his legs apart staring up at Commodore Kits
through his thick, distorting spectacles. The two men stood, staring at one another for a
time, stoically bearing the others scrutiny. It was a test of wits, endurance, but above
Finally, the older man bent himself nearly
in half, succumbing to an uncontrollable fit of maniacal laughter. You always were a
hard nut to crack there James! Nothin could ever shake your nerves! So what the hell
brings you about these parts anyways?
The Commodore continued his unbroken stare
for a moment longer before relaxing his stance and explaining, You, my crazy old
friend, are what brings me around these parts. You and a rumor of a top secret
project that youve been working on. Now, as the appointed Senior Counselor of the
Elders of the Rebellion, I would like a briefing on your work and what it may mean to our
The robust man looked up at the Commodore
from under a bushy white mane of wild, unmanageable hair. There was a sparkle behind his
spectacles that did not escape the Commodores notice; a sparkle that seemed almost
playful in its own way. What did you call me earlier? Old Friend I
believe it was, the scientist answered his own question, If I am such a man,
such an Old Friend, then you, my even Older Friend, should drop the
formalities and greet me as an Old Friend should be greeted!
Before he finished his sentence both of
the men stepped forward with outstretched arms and grabbed one another in a warm embrace.
After the Commodore had squeezed his friend with such vigor that his short legs nearly
came off the ground, the men stepped back and shook hands.
How long has it been Doc? Nearly
half a year and Ive seen neither hide nor hair of you. How long have you been
stationed at Flistation? I dont get a chance to come here very often with my
constant responsibilities with the troops.
Carl smiled up at the Commodore, My,
but you have been out of the loop for quite some time! Ive been here for nearly four
months now and, of course, you have found it impossible to visit this amazing station for
any reason other than business. As always, I am forced to act as your common sense and
remind you to relax. We are fighting for the same freedoms that you insist on denying
yourself. Now what kind of leader could you possibly be if you are incapable of
experiencing the same luxuries that you are trying to defend. Now, I insist that you take
a load off and relax with me for a spell.
There will be plenty of time for
that later, explained Kits, politely brushing off his friends invitation,
I am on urgent business. We believe that the Empire knows of the twin stations and
the formation of the Rebellion. Up until now we have been able to keep our true intentions
against the Empire a secret, but there will be no more hiding for us. We now face open war
and, although we have been working towards this point, we are not prepared for the wrath
of the Empires entire fleet.
And I suppose you expect me to bail
you out with one of my crackpot inventions, huh?
Well, I was hoping that this
top secret project was more than a whimsical theory you were testing at the
expense of Flistation and its limited resources.
Tulankos face dropped at the
suggestion that he would waste the precious resources that were being shipped in from
McCarthydom. He had already faced several formal charges of that nature and, although they
had proven false, they had created an air of distrust around his laboratory.
Of course I dont believe such
ideas, Commodore Kits explained quickly. Carl continued to look concerned as he
turned down the corridor, leading the Captain towards his lab. They walked in silence;
Carl seemed lost in thought as the Commodore looked with curiosity into the many windows
they passed. At one window he paused to watch a group of men banging out the dents on the
tail end of a weathered Deuce. Seeing his companions halt, Carl turned around to
inspect the scene.
You see! the squat man
exclaimed, Thats the problem I have to deal with every waking moment of my
life! You people insist on building these ships with the engines recessed. Now I ask you,
WHY? Is it fuel-efficient? Does it increase the ships maximum speed capacity? Do you
simply find it stylish?! No, no, and no. Then WHY? All it does is make more work for me.
Every ship that docks here needs to be repaired. I have to keep at least two crews of men
free at all times to come down here and bang out the dings and dents that these ships have
in their tail ends. Some of them havent even seen battle! They get these dents from
stupid little everyday things like stray asteroids and whatnot! Now, does that make much
sense to you? No! But you people still build your ships with the recessed engines!
Its almost too much for an old man to take!
Carl had been getting more and more
agitated as he vented about the recessed engines. The Commodore had never spent too much
energy thinking about it, but Carl seemed to consider it a very serious issue. Detail had
always been one of his passions; and the one area that could truly infuriate him.
Well, when you start building your
own ships, Carl, you be sure to build them with the engine mount flush with the end of the
ships body tube. Then you wont have to deal with these mindless repairs. Your
men can return to aiding you in your crackpot inventions. We can even call it
a Tulanko Tail if you like.
Carl grinned mischievously at the
Commodore, spouting, Ill hold you to that, before he turned back down
the corridor, resuming his frantic march towards his lab. Finally the two men reached
another huge circular door, which opened at Carls voice command. Commodore Kits
entered an enormous room, buzzing with an array of complicated equipment and bustling
scientists and engineers. Carl stepped forward with a confident step as he entered the
realm in which he was God.
This, my dear Old
Friend, is my laboratory. And this is where I have been conducting my new top secret
And when exactly are you going to
reveal what that project is? asked the Commodore, whose curiosity had been growing
with every step down the hall.
Right this instant, answered
the scientist theatrically, as he stepped up to a large instrument panel. He punched a
huge red button with great force and stood back to watch a titanic metallic shield
separate and slide open. Commodore Kits stood in speechless awe as the shield opened to
reveal an enormous space dock. A dock that housed hundreds of ready-to-fly ships that Carl
Tulanko and his crew of engineers had constructed.
This, my Old Friend, is
what I have been working on. I call her the Flis Fleet. Isnt she magnificent?!
the old man cried. And indeed she was. The gigantic space dock, which had been leased to
Dr. Tulanko to aid in his research, now opened to reveal a fleet of ships that could very
well match the Empires Royal Armada.
How...how is this possible? he
asked in stunned amazement, feeling a newfound respect for his friends work.
As you suggested before, this
project has used up a great amount of Flistations resources, but I am faithful that
it will be well worth it in the end. Especially considering the predicament that you were
describing earlier. Here you have the most versatile fleet that the Rebellion has ever
had, Carl paused for dramatic effect as the Commodore noticed with more than a
little amusement that each and every ship in the fleet sported a Tulanko Tail.
Here we have, of course, the Deuces
Wild, the ship that our troops favor above all others. But this one differs slightly from
the Deuce that is typically flown by our Rebel captains. Although it still has its
signature, two cluster canted engines, I have modified it to my own specifications, giving
it a 38 Special model engine and adding to its arsenal. It now has much greater offensive
capabilities along with enhanced shielding.
Kits exhaled in disbelieve. The Deuce was
already a formidable ship. With these upgrades it could become the leading power in the
This next ship, Carl
continued, leaving no room for such contemplation, Is an amazing addition to our
defenses. The Praetor is a leading factor in this new fleet of ships. Although it is slow
in takeoff, it is incredibly stable during flight and it contains a small payload section
that can be used to transport materials and troops of men.
Also, as far as defensive ships go,
the Cougar 440 and the Cougar 660 are going to be invaluable to the continuation of the
resistance. These two ships differ primarily in size and power, but both are incredibly
fast and are equipped with a parabolic nosecone and high-grade, titanium fins allowing for
amazing performance and speed. Also, these ships sport streamer recovery systems that
allow for incredibly quick, yet equally safe, landings. This will be useful when
transporting men or documents during wartime. The Empire doesnt have a single ship
that could lock onto either of these vessels during landing.
Carl smiled at Commodore Kits as he moved
onto his next set of ships.
These five, my old friend, are going
to constitute the primary offensive force in our new fleet. You have before you the
Cheetah, the Nomad, the Corona, the Drake, and the Richter Recker. The Cheetah is that
long, narrow ship with trapezoid fins over there, he explained, pointing to the far
end of the docking bay, That ship is an ingenious two stage craft, using its second
acceleration stage to outmaneuver other ships. Also, when it runs into trouble the Cheetah
can split, its Sustainer stage using a streamer recovery system to make a swift landing,
while its Booster stage remains in combat, making use of a new evasive maneuver I like to
call the Tumble system. The Tumble system is used to confound the enemy. Once detached
from the Sustainer stage, the remaining portion of the ship becomes imbalanced and is sent
tumbling out of control. Or so the enemy thinks. But, in reality, the
ships onboard computer readjusts for the imbalance, allowing the crew to continue
fighting as if nothing were different.
The Nomad is an incredibly powerful,
multi-stage ship, but the beauty of this design is that she only appears to be a two
stager when, in fact, she has a hidden third stage. You see, the second and third stage
fins form together to create the appearance of a single stage. The Nomad is one of the few
ships capable of outmaneuvering the Empires Conquistador line of ships. Its extended
length allows for smaller fins. This decreases the ships surface area, making it
virtually invisible to enemy radar.
This next one is the Corona, a long,
sleek, highly stable design. And, frankly, I built her with a futuristic starship design
that I find quite entertaining. Its not often that you see a futuristic
ship these days, seeing as were living in what used to be considered the
future, Carl chuckled to himself, but seeing his friends utter amazement, he
continued, This ship does, however, have a futuristic ability. The ring around the
Coronas fins is a new technology that allow for cloaking. You may have seen some of
the prototypes earlier on, but the one that Ive installed here is as modern as they
Carl paused for a moment, thinking to himself before he began again. There are,
however, rumors of a new ship that is being designed on one of the Outer Ring Stations.
Apparently this new model uses three separate cloaking shields, each of which houses a
second device used to magnify the ships invisibility. Im not sure how true
these rumors are, but if they hold any truth then we must get our hands on that ship
before the Empire does.
Carl suddenly realized that he had gotten off track and
decided to resume his original speech, Anyways, the Corona was actually designed and
built years ago to commemorate the seventh and final gathering of the Nemroc Senate before
it was dismantled to make way for the new industrial organization that now governs the
Empire. Those bastards will stop at nothing to enforce conformity and industrious
productivity throughout the galaxy.
At the mention of the Hobbicronium
Industrial Empire, the Commodore once again found his voice, adding, The people of
the galaxy were so willing to accept them in the beginning. With a single uprising the
Hobbicrons were able to gain power and, within two years, their new government stopped the
infighting between systems and restored order to the universe. But that order, that
conformity, cost us all dearly. But no one was willing to stand up to them. They were too
strong and too organized. It wasnt until they passed that legislation outlawing all
creative endeavors that the Elders were able to justify leaving the Empire. And for that
we are all traitors. But now... Now, it seems, you have given us the means to fight back
against our enemies.
| My Old
Friend, you have seen nothing yet, Carl smiled at the Commodore as he drew his
friends attention to the far end of the docking bay, You see that ship over
there? Thats the Drake. Shes probably the most elite ship in the Flis Fleet.
You may recognize her design from the prototype, which was known as the Proconsul.
The Commodores jaw dropped. The Proconsul was
designed and built only once before, by Drake Demerau, to compete in the Galactic Sports
|There wasnt a
single ship in the competition that could match the Proconsul in any of the judging
categories. And for that reason, the Empire had outlawed its production. If a ship of the
Proconsuls capabilities got into the wrong hands, it could be devastating for the
It appeared, however, that
the design had, in fact, gotten into the wrong hands. Commodore Kits leaned forward
eagerly, imagining the possibilities that such a ship could mean to his forces.
Of course Ive made some minor
modifications to the older model, Carl said smugly. The Commodore wondered what
could be modified to improve such a groundbreaking design, but he opted not to ask. For
all he knew, Carl had simply added a Tulanko Tail to the original design, but he would
have to find out when he saw the ship in battle.
And finally in our offensive line of
ships is the Richter Recker, a massive, flying warehouse of military might. This ship
houses more firepower than all of the McCarthydom station and was designed for only one
purpose; to seek and destroy empiric warships.
The Commodore gazed out on the behemoth of
a ship. The Richter Recker was larger than any other ship he had ever seen. He let out a
low whistle of respect and awe at the immense stature of the ship. What ship did the
Empire have that could match this one?
Although it is incredibly slow in
take off, there are few ships that are capable of destroying the Richter Recker once it is
on route. She is the pride of my arsenal and invaluable to the struggle that we are sure
to face in the coming months.
And what are these last three over
there? the Commodore asked, Those little ones in the corner?
Those, my friend, are intended to
infiltrate the enemys borders. For all intents and purposes, they are spy ships,
capable of unheard of acceleration and mind boggling evasive maneuvering. We have the
Flea, the Overdrive, and the Tumbleweed.
The Commodore looked over them, not overly
impressed with their miniscule stature. To him, size was everything. These tiny ships
couldnt even put a dent in even the smallest ship in the Empires fleet.
The point of these ships, Carl
interrupted the Commodores train of thought as if he could read his mind, Is
to pass by the Empires Guardian ships in order to retrieve information. Now, I know
that you hold little respect for small things. Might is Right, as you always
say. But I must assure you that these ships are crucial to our success in this war. My
hope is that the Empire looks upon these ships with much the same disdain that you know
look upon them. They are hardly worth the time to notice. And with an attitude like that,
teamed with their stealth and agility, these three ships will become key players in the
strategic game that is about to begin.
The Flea is a small, brightly
colored ship. She is so conspicuous that the Empire will never suspect her. She could fly
right into empiric military space, and they would simply ask her to turn around without
any further questions. But, for the same reason, we cannot use the Flea for any truly
covert operations. She will simply be used for open trading and shipping from within the
The Overdrive, on the other hand, is
slightly smaller than the Flea and capable of much higher acceleration. She will be used
explicitly for infiltrating some of the more highly secured stations and outposts of the
Empire. Like the Flea, she uses a streamer recovery system in case a quick landing is
necessary, but the Overdrive also makes use of its unique forward swept fin design, which
allows the ship to fire its primary weapons forward and backward. For such a small,
maneuverable ship, the Overdrive has the most deadly arsenal.
And finally, we have the Tumbleweed,
bar none, the smallest ship in our fleet. This craft will disappear before your eyes on
takeoff, and she will maintain a mind-boggling speed for an amazing duration of time.
Unlike the Flea and the Overdrive, the Tumbleweed is equipped with the Tumble system (as
her name so aptly alludes to), allowing her to utilize her miniscule size to evade enemy
fire or even homing missiles. Without a doubt, the Tumbleweed is the most invisible ship
that I have ever created. And even when she is seen, I guarantee that she is impossible to
catch. We have run a few field tests, and none of our ships have been able to match the
Tumbleweeds agility on the field.
The Commodore continued to look on with a
hint of skepticism in his eyes, but he had to admit that Carl made a good point concerning
the usefulness of these latter ships. The Rebellion was lacking in covert operations. Most
of the information they had received since the Elders split from the Hobbicrons had come
from the defectors that continued to stream to their cause directly from the Empires
forces. These three could very well mean a changing in the tide for the Rebels. Perhaps
they could gain the upper hand on the eve of this war.
What do you need to get these ships
into space? What will get them ready for war?
Men, replied Carl, They
need only men to man their posts and these ships will be ready to fight.
Then men I will get you my Old
Friend, replied the Commodore as he stepped up to the Central Control
intercom. Pressing the transmit button, the Commodore took on his authoritative mannerisms
and said briskly, Contact the Tour de Deuce. Tell Captain Toft and Captain Cebollero
that they are to concentrate only on the more sympathetic systems until they receive
further orders. And get them Randy Williams.
Who is Randy Williams, sir?
the intercom asked.
Carl chuckled to himself again and the
Commodore shot him a look that could have been taken as either condoning or condemning the
mans laughter. One way or the other, Carl wasnt sure, so he opted to choke
back his chuckling for the time being.
Ill field this
Commodore, Carl offered as he stepped up to the intercom, Randy Williams, my
young and uninformed companion, is the most renowned Minister of Propaganda that the
Empire ever had the pleasure of employing. And the Rebellion is lucky that he is now on
its side. Toft and Cebollero will do well to enlist him in their operation.
Just get him aboard the Tour de
Deuce. And tell those Captains that we need as many men as they can recruit. And we need
them as soon as possible. We have a fleet to man.
Commodore Kits eyes flashed as he
spoke those last words.
A fleet, sir? asked the
Yes, cadet, a fleet; the Flis Fleet,
to be exact. We are on the brink of a massive war against the Hobbicrons. A war that, it
appears, we are now prepared to wage. A war that we now have a chance of
Commodore Kits, the man who represented
all of the strengths that the Rebellion could hope for, turned as he let his finger fall
from the intercom to gaze once more on the magnificent sight that Dr. Tulanko had just
revealed to him. His eyes moved across the bay, looking upon the splendor of the Flis
Fleet project. This fleet would win this war for him. If it didnt, then nothing
Go on to Part 2: Unforeseen
Return to Preface