BOOK ONE: CHAPTER 12 – Esturias VaCoupe

CHAPTER 12 – Esturias VaCoupe


Upon Raphael’s successful sending the promised data to the library situated in the government buildings in BerAir, his head commander Esturias VaCoupe ordered the immediate departure of The Golden Bee and the remaining ten vessels of her fleet to leave BerWare space.  He also sent Commander Lantars a delayed message to the effect that The Golden Bee now would continue her search of other beleaguered motherships within the star cluster.

While Raphael was not a close associate of the head commander, it was still apparent to him that Esturias sailed rather close a lee shore when taking the law into his own hands.  Raphael personally wondered how the man’s very proper father, Lord VaCoupe would regard his son’s behavior and actions, but he was a junior officer with no authority to question his senior officer’s decisions.  Currently, Esturias was outranked by the top commanders of the motherships, so he would have to tread carefully with them so he didn’t violate Command protocol.  Perhaps if communication across the Federation had been better other decisions would have been made. 

This was another time when Raphael felt relieved not to have a head commander position in this complex fleet.  Instead, the young line communications commander and his team concentrated on locating the other mother ships and any other Command vessels that might be in need of assistance during the tremendous onslaught by enemy forces.  Using data collected from the ship’s scans, referencing the communications between the Mother Crystals of each ship, and then utilizing the star maps and the team’s own distant viewing skills, the technicians were able to locate the next mothership.  It was Raphael’s old ship, The Golden Lion.  A day of reckoning, of sorts, had now come upon Commander Esturias, as all the men he had impressed at the Elexa spaceport on Medina, belonged to the Lion under the command of Top Commander Lord Lyonell.  It was with some regret that Raphael informed Commander Kadish of his team’s findings.  Kadish took it upon himself to deliver the news to Commander Esturias.  It was a matter of some delicacy and not really Raphael’s place to interfere in the matter of ship assignments.

Since Raphael was directed by his immediate superior, Specialty Commander Kadish, to keep this matter confidential for the time being, he was unable to inform his brother, grandson, and friends of possible impending changes.  Just when the men were beginning to be accepted into their new crew, it appeared that time was about to come to an abrupt end – or so it seemed.  The enemy got there first…

After the Golden Bee came out of hyper-drive, the Intership Communications officer notified Operations Commander Cortes that he had received a distress call from The Golden Lion – she was under heavy attack from a large enemy fleet located near an unnamed isle.  The Golden Bee was not far away so the Operations team immediately responded in code.  It appeared that Commander Esturias and The Golden Bee were going into another fight.  This time the crew members of the fleet were more experienced and bonded; the men knew what to do. 

Raphael was concentrating on reading the frequencies of the surrounding space and of the planet the ship was swiftly approaching.  There are many planets located within Pleiadian space; this was a minor one, with some agriculture on it and small farming family communities much like the one that Lord Delos had visited in the past when he was training under Lord Lyonell.  The frequencies told him that the planet had already been invaded and that most of the civilian population was no longer present.  There was another enemy base already established upon it, taking advantage of the fact that there were no large cities or towns to disturb and inform the Pleiadian High Council or the Command of a disruption in local commerce and life.  It wasn’t a pretty picture that the young line commander was seeing.  Raphael conveyed his information to his immediate superior and then went back to continue concentrating on the work at hand.

Due to the strain deep scans put on his physical body, Raphael had been told to refrain from performing them unless it was absolutely necessary.  Still, due to his inborn sensitivity to the energies, he could not ward off visions when they came.  And what Raphael saw next shocked him profoundly.  It was the death of Lord Lyonell during an attack.  Lyonell’s scout ship The Golden Thistle had been attacked without warning by the enemy forces and blown out of the sky.  Within an instant, The Golden Lion had lost her top commander and at least one of the Head Commanders, Commander Ryland. And Raphael had lost one of his first great mentors.  With this vision reverberating in his consciousness, Raphael stumbled into Commander Kadish’s office, and announced: “Sir, Top Commander Lyonell and Head Commander Ryland have been killed!”

Kadish looked up at his desk, a look of disbelief on his face, “What did you just say, DeAires?”

“Lord Lyonell is dead; his ship destroyed.  He wasn’t killed in the mothership.  It was his shuttle that was shot down. The Golden Lion is without a Top Commander now!”

Kadish believed the earnest young man.  He immediately contacted Commander Esturias with the news.  The head commander responded by ordering the two officers to report immediately to his quarters.  He also requested immediate verification from The Golden Lion.

When Commander Kadish and his line commander were escorted in the head commander’s quarters, Raphael could see that Esturias had already received verification of Lord Lyonell’s demise.  It was shocking news. He had been a fixture in the Pleiadian Fleet for centuries and a mentor for many new officers and crew, including Raphael himself.  For the young line commander, it felt like he had just lost another member of his extended family.  He was devastated that he would never, again, see his mentor and friend.  Or would he?

And, The Golden Bee still had to go into conflict. The Golden Lion was still under assault by a large force, bereft of her leader, Lyonell and one of his seasoned aides, Ryland.

The Golden Bee and her small fleet came upon the battle site with all ships cloaked.  After surveying the scene, the commanders could see that it would be tough battle, but they dove into it anyway.  There was a great man and his shuttle crew to avenge.  Uncloaking and plunging in, the eleven battleships and their supporting fighters engaged the startled enemy, who had been too preoccupied with harassing the mothership to monitor incoming vessels, enemy or otherwise.  This battle lasted several hours, as all ships fought for their lives.  The Pleiadian fleet was outnumbered, but their ships were faster and more maneuverable, their pilots better trained and tougher.  Eventually, the last enemy ship was disabled and the fighting halted.  Exhausted, the Pleiadian crews were ordered to rest before finishing the mop-up. 

Commander Myka Strom, one of the remaining Head Commanders of The Golden Lion requested the commanders of the newly arrived fleet to meet on board the Lion to consider the consequences of the recent battle and loss of their top commander, Lord Lyonell, and Head Commander Ryland.  Somebody would have to take over the position that Commander Lyonell had ably held for so long.  It was inconceivable among his own crew that the great man was gone.  Being a junior officer, Raphael wasn’t invited to the meeting.  Raphael and his friends from The Golden Lion had their own grieving to do.  Suddenly the men felt like they didn’t belong on The Golden Bee any longer, but being in a war zone, the men weren’t allowed to take any leave, so they had to take some time on their own outside of working hours. 

Tazo, Tomás, Ezekiel, Garry, Earl, and Raphael met in one of the observation decks of The Golden Bee with their Feline warrior friends, including Commander Lantrill, Racquer, and Ulrus… friends with whom they had shared many adventures together, under the command of Lord Lyonell.  The men talked about their Commander as if he was still among them and in many ways, he was.  He was still in their hearts.  And the whole of the Pleiades would grieve along with his crew when they finally learned about the death of this great individual.  Unbeknownst to Raphael at the time, this would the last gathering he would have with some of these friends…

Being somewhat of a forensic frequency detective, Raphael was determined to discover what had happened.  After the little gathering, he headed to the meditation room next to the mother crystal of The Golden Bee and tuned into her frequency.  Raphael asked her if she was in communication with the Mother Crystal of The Golden Lion and received an affirmative.  Raphael asked if he could access the records of the communications between Lord Lyonell and the surface inhabitants of this unnamed isle.  Since the Mother Crystal knew Raphael’s frequency, she acquiesced to his unusual request.  Due to his unique methods of doing research Raphael had done similar things in the past when attempting to obtain data on occurrences.

From what Raphael could discern from the records, the mothership had arrived in nearby space a few days ago and made contact with the surface inhabitants of this farming community.  From ship scans, it appeared that the small planet had an incursion from enemy forces not too long before.  The alleged lord of the planet below requested the presence of the Top Commander and some of his staff to visit the surface so they could determine what could be done to aid the inhabitants or whether it would be better to assist them to evacuate the planet and return later.  Somehow Lord Lyonell did not initially recognize the frequency of the alleged lord or chose not to reveal that as he was, in truth, a dark lord.  And when he realized the truth, it was too late for him, his aide, and the shuttle crew.

Enemy forces had taken over the small planet some months before and established an underground base within already existing underground warehouse facilities, used to store crops until they were shipped to other isles.  The warehouses were large enough to accept some of the fighter craft from a squadron of enemy battleships, since large trading ships sometimes landed within them to facilitate loading.

The enemy apparently thought that if Lord Lyonell and some of his senior staff were taken out, then the remaining crew would readily surrender to the enemy forces.  The enemy forces were primarily made up of implanted native Pleiadians, captives who had been taken from other planets, implanted, and trained as mercenaries of the regressive Orions.  They were completely controlled by the five dark lords who were able to infiltrate and finally destroy the remaining farming families upon the small farming isle.  Due to their own methods, these “lords” were blinded by their arrogance and assumption that the Command men were without free will and self-determination. They were wrong. When it was realized by the crew of The Lion that Lord Lyonell, Ryland, and the shuttle crew were blasted out of the sky by enemy fighters, they dove directly into a fight with the enemy fighters.  Soon afterward, an enemy flotilla of cruisers and battleships arrived on the scene and attempted to take down the mothership, but fortunately, The Golden Bee and her small fleet soon arrived to aid the beleaguered Pleiadian vessels.

Raphael was still somewhat puzzled why Lord Lyonell had neglected to detect the disparity in the false lord’s frequency and that of an indigenous Pleiadian.  For a time, the line commander thought perhaps Lyonell did recognize the presence of the dark lords through the cold shadowy veil they used to disguise their presence; their form of an “invisibility” cloak.  Raphael had encountered feeling such an energy field just before the arrival of the dark lord’s agent when he was going to be tested before being purchased.

When it was too late, in recognizing the cold dark energy field for what it was, Lyonell may have chosen to make himself a sacrifice in a similar fashion as Raphael did as Lord Delos. Like Delos, Lyonell had confidence that each of his crew members of The Golden Lion would perform their duties with devotion and skill despite him not being there.  Raphael did not know just how old Lyonell was at the time of his death, but the line commander had known him or of him over the course of three lifetimes, so in terms of Pleiadian “time”, he was over 500 years old.  And Commander Ryland had served under Lord Lyonell from the time the Leonine King had entered the Command and been assigned a Top Commander position.  When Raphael asked his Higher Self, he found out that Lord Lyonell was 723 years old and had determined at a Soul level that it was time for him to move on and then return when refreshed.  By soul agreement, Commander Ryland, the one officer who had served longest under him, was also ready to move on.

Raphael was back on duty by the time Commander Esturias and the other commanders returned to The Golden Bee.  The young officer’s immediate superior, Commander Kadish and Raphael were ordered to attend a conference in Commander Esturias’ quarters.  When the men arrived, they were shown into the large conference room by Commander Paulus, Aide to Esturias. There was already a large gathering of the senior commanders from the Bee present.  By this time, Raphael was getting more acquainted with the new crew, but with the latest news about Lyonell and so many things undecided, Raphael was a little apprehensive. 

It was plain that Esturias was grappling with something big – when the men were all seated, he slowly stood up and announced to his staff: “Men, I was just selected by the Commanders of the Fleet to be the next Top Commander of The Golden Lion.”

After a long moment of stunned silence, the commanders broke out in cheers.  Understandably, they were proud of their fleet commander, who had pulled together disparate crews on new ships into a proud fighting force in an extremely short time.  Raphael was actually a little shocked as typically one of the remaining head commanders of the mothership should have been selected to be top commander.  However, as junior officer, he did not have any input into the selection of the top commander so he refrained from voicing his opinion. 

Since Raphael would probably be transferring back to his original ship, he would be returning to a crew he already knew having served on board the Lion for some eight years previously.  It would be the same for the other men who had been impressed by Esturias into his new fleet in the Elexa spaceport, all those who had attended Raphael’s matetation ceremony in Medina, now about three months later.  Yet, this time, instead of his old mentor, Lord Lyonell, Raphael and The Golden Lion would have a new and untried top commander, his foster brother, Esturias VaCoupe.

This change in ships and crews would be somewhat complicated and initially had to be postponed for there was still the clean-up that needed to be done in regards to searching the enemy vessels for any survivors, captives, or dark lords.  And the surface of the planet would have to be thoroughly scanned and surveyed to see that all traces of the dark team’s temporary base was completely eliminated.  There was still plenty of work to do.

The line communications department was given orders to do a multi-prong scan and survey to determine if there were any survivors on the enemy ships. The ship’s scanners could do that, but it was vital to get more than one reading, given the Pleiadians didn’t know the sophistication level of screening devices of the enemy’s forces as yet.  The Pleiadian forces still needed to rescue any captives remaining.  Having been one himself, Raphael wasn’t looking forward to scanning them for implants, but it would be necessary since the crew didn’t have any priestesses or priests on board to do it for the commander.  The Veyan physician Master Leu and Raphael could both pinpoint implants, but Master Leu was presently busy patching up warriors and crew members who were injured during battle.

All ships also had to be alert to the possibility that the enemy forces would be sending in new reserves and ships to the small base on the isle below, perhaps in anticipation for staging a larger invasion into the interior of the star system.  There were many questions and few answers.  When it was polite to leave the meeting, the line commander returned back to the Line Communications Station and told his team what work to begin.  The news of that Esturias would be transferring to The Golden Lion as top commander would just have to wait for the time being.  The rumor/news would travel swiftly enough through the ranks, but right now Raphael’s team had to concentrate on their jobs.

The previous survey performed by Raphael’s team had already established the presence of an enemy base on the surface of the small isle.  Raphael forwarded a description of what he had discovered during his “conversation” with the mother crystals to Commander Kadish, who forwarded the findings onto Commander Cortes, in charge of Operations.  Raphael had finally learned to function within the chain of command…yet the young commander knew he would miss the special relationship and mentoring he once shared with Lord Lyonell.

As each of Raphael’s team came out of their scans, they reported their findings to the line commander.  There were still some living survivors on board the enemy vessels, some of them in dire straits.  And there were some captives to rescue.  Oddly enough, it appeared that no dark lords had survived the space battle or were present on the listing ships. There were also some missing fighters to account for… the small squadron that had succeeded in taking down Lyonell’s shuttle.  They had either returned to their base on the surface or had left the nearby space.  In an attempt to determine the veracity of the findings, Raphael took the time to do his own deep scan of the planet’s surface, as well as the nearby enemy ships that had not been totally destroyed in the battle.  There were survivors in five of the enemy ships, some captives, some crew.  As he began to pull out from the scan, Raphael encountered a familiar low-frequency reading of an individual whom he had once known well, Gar, his former slave handler when the boy was a prize captive of the dark forces.  Raphael had known he would eventually meet Gar, again, and now that time was upon him.  Fortunately, Raphael had matured greatly since he was fourteen and being used as a child sex slave.

Now that Commander Kadish and Raphael were on more amicable terms, the young man went to his supervisor’s office to share his latest findings and report on the situation.  Raphael also informed Kadish that he had once personally known a survivor on one of the enemy ships, a former slave handler.  Kadish knew Raphael had once been a captive of the dark forces, but had no idea for how long or how young the boy was when he was made a slave.  Once again, Raphael’s past was bound to come up and be displayed in front of all who witnessed.  At least this time the young man was in better control of his emotional body and not likely to break from any possible confrontation that might occur.  Still, Kadish thought it wise to inform Commanders Cortes and VaCoupe that such a possibility might arise.  Kadish advised the commanders that Raphael should be escorted by Eagles and Feline Warriors to any interview that might take place.  And so, the young line commander found himself standing on the landing bay tarmac within The Golden Lion the next day surveying a line of prisoners alongside some of their healers who could use electronic means to test whether any of the prisoners weren’t too far gone with their A1 implantation.

From the first survey done, it appeared that about 40% of the prisoners proved to be free of implantation which surprised Raphael. Those men were mercenaries from another star system.  The remainder of the enemy crews were not salvageable, having too much in the way of implantation; their bodies were now empty shells that could be used by demonic forces summoned by the dark lords. 

Commander Esturias was standing off to the side observing as Raphael worked alongside the healers.  As the young man passed along the line once more a sly voice from his past rang out, “Golden one, is that you?”

Raphael halted and turned searching the line for the all-too-familiar face of his lost childhood, the sinister man who had originally bought a little golden-haired boy from his father.  There he was, looking rather gaunt and exhausted; the prisoners had not yet been fed since the battle.  Raphael tuned within and pulled forth the white column of Light that existed within, wrapping himself inside an impenetrable energetic barrier.  Then the young officer halted in front of the man, with Ulrus and Racquer at his side, their laze guns at ready.  Raphael asked: “Gar, is that you?  Still buying children and selling them to dark lords?”

Then Raphael turned on him with a profound look of deep compassion.  Suddenly the young man understood the torment Gar had gone through to reach that level of perversion where he would treat other human beings as objects to use. Raphael realized that a look of hatred from him would have suited the slave handler better; it was something Gar would have understood as he truly hated himself.  Yet Raphael had moved past hating his own history.  Now, the young commander accepted the experiences as lessons learned.  Raphael could identify the frequency of the enemy without hesitation due to his experiences as a child.  Raphael no longer blamed himself for what had happened to his child self.  He had moved beyond feeling like a victim and could look upon this man who had tormented him as a child, as simply a broken human being who, somewhere, had knowingly or unknowingly given his power over to a dark being.  As Raphael gazed into Gar’s vacant puzzled eyes the young man saw fear looking out at him. In that moment, Raphael knew his former handler had no power over him.  What’s more, Gar knew it, too.

Raphael stepped back from Gar and turned to Commander Esturias, who had walked up closer, curious to see what was going on as his officer appeared to be speaking to an enemy agent.  Raphael calmly began introductions, “Commander, may I introduce you to Gar. He was my slave handler from age four to fourteen.”

Commander Esturias was not much taller than Raphael, but he had a forceful presence.  He glared at Raphael’s former captor with such a look of sheer disgust that Gar actually flinched away.  Then Esturias studied his junior officer’s face to see how the young man was handling the confrontation and nodded in satisfaction.  He signaled Commander Lantrill to have the slave handler placed with the men who were not deemed salvageable.  Gar actually looked frightened as the nine-foot tall feline warriors approached and when he was dragged out of the line, he suddenly started screaming, “No, what are you doing?  I didn’t do anything!”

Esturias addressed Raphael directly, “To your knowledge, DeAires, did this man participate willingly in the abuse and murder of children?”

“Yes, sir, many times”, replied the line commander quietly, his face serene.

Consequently, on the commander’s signal, Gar was dragged to the line of those who had too much AI to be saved.  Commander Esturias drew closer to these men, most of whom were staring at the pavement, with a few glaring in defiance, and others with an entirely blank look on their faces.  He spoke in clipped sentences:  “Men, we do not have the necessary means to remove the hardware that has taken over your bodies. You are therefore condemned to death!”

Only Gar howled in reaction.  Raphael did not realize what a coward Gar truly was.  Esturias signed to Commander Lantrill who gave the quiet order to his waiting warriors: “Fire!”

With the sound of crackling fire of laze guns reverberating throughout the landing deck tumbled dozens of bodies dropped lifeless to the deck. The implanted men and Gar, the former slave handler of a young boy, were dead. It was done.  One of the last vestiges of Raphael’s lost childhood were now gone.  The young officer sensed that a door had been closed for good.  Raphael had passed a test and now he could move on.

Next, Commander Esturias turned to the hired mercenaries and spoke in a loud firm voice: “You will be given one of the enemy vessels.  Fix it so it can fly.  If you are not out of Pleiadian space within one day’s time, I will give the order for your ship to be shot out of the sky without quarter.  And if you are ever captured again you will be subject to instant execution!”

The mercenaries were astonished at the mercy shown by a man who could have had all of them executed for taking part in an action against the Pleiadian Fleet.  Then Esturias asked them, “Where are you from?”

“We are from a system far from this one,” replied one of the leaders, a tall heavy-set fellow wearing a dark gray uniform.  “And we’re going home; no more fighting in other people’s wars for us!”

His gruff men nodded in the affirmative.  Esturias nodded to Lantrill, who had the men escorted onto a shuttle that would carry the mercenaries to one of the less damaged ships.  It was up to them to get it running and out of the vicinity of the isle within a day.  If the Pleiadian’s scans picked them up, they would be attacked and destroyed, which was probably what they deserved.  Esturias’ action was controversial but Raphael could see the wisdom of it; if they made it home, the mercenaries would probably tell their friends about the merciful Pleiadians.  They had also witnessed the summary justice of which the Pleiadian command was capable.  For the record, a day later the mercenary ship was destroyed by a squadron of Pleiadian Saber fighters.  It had not reached the boundaries of Pleiadian space and was, therefore, shot out of the dark skies, justice served on those who were willing to fight for the dark agenda of the regressive Orions.

There was one more item on the agenda: the captives.  Several tall Eagles escorted a crowd of unkempt children out of one of the shuttles.  Many of the children looked underfed and had obviously been beaten and probably abused in some manner.  They were frightened, clinging to each other and occasionally to one of the Eagles.  Raphael looked them over, scanning for any artificial intelligence hardware within them; thankfully there wasn’t any.  The children were very young; some looked like they were no more than four, up to perhaps up to ten years of age.  Sensing how nervous the children were, the line commander suggested to the healers that the children be washed, fed, and put to bed. Counselors could talk to them later to determine what isle they came from and what was to be done with them.  The noisy cold landing bay was not the place to try and talk to the little ones. They needed food, warmth, and comfort so they begin recuperating from their ordeal.  It had helped Raphael when he was young, frightened, and confused; it would help these little ones, too.

The healers were in agreement with Raphael’s assessment and ordered the Eagles to take the children to some sleeping compartments where they could be taken care of appropriately.  The huge mothership was better than a battleship as temporary housing for the captives until things could be sorted out.  Raphael would have offered his services to counsel some of the young ones, but knew that was out the scope of his own duties and probably would be turned down by the commander.  Seeing the Eagles gather up the children to take them to some sleeping quarters, Raphael finally realized the day’s ordeal was done.

He walked up to his head commander and asked, “Is there anything else you need me for today, sir?”

“Not at the moment, DeAires.  However, I would appreciate it if you could report to me tomorrow.  I understand you have written up a report on the planet below us. It still has to be cleaned up, too.  We’ve done enough for today here… so you have leave to return to The Golden Bee.  And thanks, DeAires, that took courage today – you did well.”

“Thank you, sir”, replied Raphael. With his escort of the Feline Warriors, Raphael began to walk back to the shuttle that had brought him to the landing bay of The Golden Lion.

The shuttle trip was short.  As Raphael exited the shuttle craft on The Golden Bee, he saw Tazo, Tomás, and Ezekiel waiting for him.  Ezekiel spoke up first, “Are you okay, Rafe?”

Raphael paused a moment briefly doing a self-assessment and then answered, “Yes, I’m fine.  I actually met the man who was my slave handler for ten years. The Commander had him executed, along with the implanted enemy warriors.”

“Oh,” replied Ezekiel.  He looked over at Tomás, who, of all Raphael’s friends probably knew more of his story than even his own brother.  Raphael had never set Ezekiel down to tell him what had happened and he had never asked. Tomás knew of Gar, though, having encountered him first when Raphael was nine years old, just before his first rescue.

Raphael sighed, “I think I need to go to the meditation room for a while and release some of what is coming up for me now.  It’s inevitable; I was a captive for over a third of my life.  At least I don’t fall to pieces any more when confronted by those energies.”

His grandson, Tazo, spoke up, “Can I go with you, Rafe?”

“Sure; where are the other Eagles now?”

Ezekiel looked at his younger brother for a long time before replying, “Raphael – the order just came through from Commander Esturias that you don’t need the Eagles guarding you anymore when you’re on board. You will still retain a guard for your protection when visiting any planets.”

“Ah”, Raphael replied with a smile, “I guess I am finally considered an adult now!”

“I may be assigned to another ship now”, said Ezekiel, “It depends on what Commander Esturias wants to do with the Eagles.  I am one of their commanders, but not for the ones currently stationed The Golden Lion.”

“Yes, I would imagine that once things are settled on the planet below, there will be all manner of staff transfers as Esturias reorganizes the ships to his satisfaction”, replied Raphael, “but now I have a date with a Crystal.”

Tazo and Raphael walked slowly to the nearest meditation room.  There were other men present, each wrapped within their own meditations.  The two men sat down and blending their consciousness began to draw the powerful crystalline energies into their hearts.  The young line commander finally felt at peace now.  All the pain left over from his childhood experiences had melted away.  Raphael felt there was no one left of those who had attempted to draw him into the dark oblivion of self-hatred and fear.  Raphael felt he was finally truly free. 

Sometime later when Raphael pulled out of the deep meditative state, he turned to his grandson, Tazo, and said, “If and when it is safe to do so, Tazo, you need to return to your people, back to Sirust.  It is time for you to mate and start a family of your own.”

Raphael took Tazo’s slender pale hand into his own, “I want to thank you for being here with me for so long. It has helped me with my healing process.  I hope it has helped with your own, my dear brother-grandson.”

Tazo looked long upon Raphael’s face, into his grandfather’s blue eyes that were so different from his own sea-green ones, and said: “I have cherished this time we have shared together.  And I know we will meet again someday on another world.”

Raphael replied: “Yes, I have seen a vision of you holding the hand of a white-blonde blue-eyed boy who is tanned like me. You are his mother and your beautiful mate, a tall golden-haired man is walking beside you. You will be Pleiadian in that lifetime.  It is what stands before you.”

Tazo gave his friend one of his brilliant smiles, “Grandfather – now you’re a prophet!  I love you my dear soulmate.  It’s been both beautiful and bittersweet.”

Raphael nodded, “Indeed.  While our roads may diverge for a while, I know for certain that our paths will cross once again.”

When Raphael returned to the Communications Station, Commander Kadish called him into his office.  He said:  “Commander VaCoupe wants us to share the report you have put together about the planet below.  He is going to have to plan another expedition to make sure all enemy positions have been cleared.”

“Yes, I understand, sir”, Raphael replied quietly.  “When were we to report to him?”

“Later today, DeAires”, said Commander Kadish.  “You know, I have a feeling you’re going to be transferred back to The Golden Lion, along with its new Top Commander.  I may actually miss your services here, lad. You’re unique, but certainly a hard worker.”

The line commander was a bit surprised at the complement – and for Kadish, it was a complement.  The two men had clashed just months ago upon Raphael’s arrival under his command.  For most highly trained officers, the young officer was a bit of an unexpected phenomenon and not always welcomed.  Raphael had learned to shrug off the judgments and focus on doing his work as best he could, given the circumstances. 

Raphael replied politely, “Thank you, sir.  Just let me know when we’re supposed to go to see the Commander. The report is ready.  My team also works hard.  I hope I’ve been able to train them well so they can work well with another Line Commander if I do, indeed, transfer back to the Lion.”

A couple of hours later, Commander Kadish and Commander DeAires reported to the Head Commander’s quarters. This time Raphael delivered the report, detailing all that his team and Raphael had found regarding the enemy presence on the small planet below.  When the line commander finished, Raphael could feel Esturias already formulating plans in his head.  He thanked the two officers and then dismissed Commander Kadish, while Raphael remained behind.

Steepling his hands together in a thoughtful gesture, the commander began to speak: “DeAires – you’ve now been under my command for about three months now, although it feels longer.  I’ve seen a great change in you in that short time. You’ve stepped into your new position, acting as a leader but working with your team, as well, educating them and acting as a responsible guide to advance their skill levels without claiming their work as your own.  For a young man, I find you remarkably mature, compassionate and even-handed.  If it weren’t for your past, you may well have been considered eventually for a higher commander position – but, as you are aware, your past as a captive always makes you a potential danger to the rest of the crew due to any programming received during that time.”

Raphael nodded and replied quietly, “Yes, I have been warned of that… frequently, since my rescue, sir.  I have become used to letting go of any expectation of further advancement.  I was even surprised to be commissioned as a Line Commander.  I don’t regret it, sir.  I paid dearly when I was Head Commander of the Ashkerian Fleet.  I had to let go of everything and everyone in my life who I loved and eventually even my life.  I have no regrets, sir.”

Esturias continued, “Has Commander Kantor told you that you will no longer be required to be guarded day and night by the Eagles while on board ship?  You will, however, continue to be escorted by either Eagles or Feline Warriors when you travel or visit a planet.  This is for your own safety, given your past and your tendency to attract trouble.  For your information, these orders came directly from Lord VaCoupe, my father and your foster father.  He gave me free rein to determine when the orders would be put into effect.  From what I observed yesterday in the landing bay, I have decided that time has come. You have proven to be true, devoted and hard-working, a highly valued member of my staff.”

For a moment, Raphael stared down at the floor.  The young man had come a long way from that wounded, confused young boy who was rescued many years ago.  Blinking back some tears, he replied, “Thank you, sir.  I love and respect your father greatly.  He has been the father I never had as a child.  And I have appreciated your leadership while I’ve been under your command, sir.”

Raphael’s stern commander actually smiled as he replied: “I’m still going to be your commander, foster brother.  I am reassigning you to The Golden Lion after we complete the operation on the planet below.  And most of your friends, Eagles and Feline Warriors, will be reassigned to the Lion, as well. It was, after all, your original ship assignment.  Now that Lord Lyonell is no longer with us, I do not have to fight to keep you here on my crew. Your skills and gifts are just too valuable to the Command and to me. On The Golden Lion, you will have more access to the resources you need to formulate your unusual reports!”  

“Thank you, sir!”  Raphael was feeling a little overwhelmed now.  The reassignment meant that he probably would be working again with his original superior officer, Line Commander Lo’Telle, who was now a specialty commander.  And there was Head Commander Myka Strom, an honest individual who had been skeptical of the young technician’s value when Raphael first came on board as a cadet, but with whom he eventually became good friends.  And other crew members who Raphael hadn’t realized until now that he had missed working with during the last several months of intense challenges and changes within his young life.  “It will be good to return to the Lion, sir.  She was my first ship when I was still a cadet.”

“Yes, I know – and you faced many personal challenges while you healed from your traumatic experiences. You have come a long way, DeAires”, remarked Esturias.  Then he looked down at his desk piled with orders.  “I better let you go now – I have a lot of planning to do on many fronts. There will be a planning meeting for the commanders who will be participating in the cleanup of the isle. You’re dismissed – we’ll talk later, foster brother.  Thanks for the report.”

“Sir!” Raphael snapped a salute and walked out.

As Raphael stepped into the corridor, he got hit with one of his visions and slumped against the corridor bulkhead. The line commander saw there were still numerous and assorted enemy troops in their secret base on the unnamed planet below, along with at least five dark lords and several fighter vessels. There were also some captives being held in the underground warehouse.  Any attack on this facility could be potentially extremely dangerous for the Pleiadian forces. 

Raphael paused a moment to verify his vision with a quick scan.  It was true. The young officer took a deep breath, pushed himself upright, and knocked at the Commander’s door.  Commander Paulus opened up the door and stared at the line commander, questions in his eyes.  He demanded, “What do you want now, DeAires?  I thought the Commander had finished your interview.”

“Yes, sir – it is one of my visions. I have new information Commander VaCoupe needs to hear!”

Searching the young commander’s pale face for a long moment, Paulus finally nodded and opened the compartment door to the Head Commander’s office, “Excuse me, sir, but DeAires has had another one of his visions – he needs to report to you immediately.  I can see it in his face that it is important, sir!”

“Come in, DeAires!” ordered Commander Esturias.  He took one look at the young man’s face and then asked Paulus to get him some juice.  “Sit down, lad… before you fall down!  What did you need to tell me now?”

Raphael told him what he had seen in his vision.  Esturias whistled and replied soberly, “That’s why I need you on The Golden Lion!  We could have sent troops into battle without proper cover and caution. Now we can better prepare. It will still be dangerous. The amount of enemy troops is not an issue; it’s the presence of the fighter ships and the dark lords!  Thanks, DeAires… and you better go lie down. I will inform Kadish that you are indisposed and need to rest for a while.”

“Thank you, sir”, replied Raphael.  He stumbled back to his sleeping compartment and collapsed onto the sleeping pad.  Tomás came in, took one look at his friend and pulled a blanket over Raphael’s prone form.

Another vision, Rafe?” he asked.  Raphael nodded and then closed his eyes.  Some things never changed for him.  Escape through sleep came quickly, but it was only temporary.  Raphael woke up in the morning to another vision playing before his inner eye, as the Pleiadian ground troops moved to engage the enemy positions on the planet below: 

One of the fleet’s battleships, The Copper Tiger, went in on the operation, releasing her Saber class fighters to make the initial attack on the embedded enemy position. The Sabers made several passes to “soften” up the resistance, but the enemy positions were well-entrenched, as the warehouses were made of reinforced concrete, designed to withstand earthquakes and windstorms.  Ground troops made up of Feline Warriors and Eagles moved in, attempting to penetrate the defenses.  Resistance was fierce. Visibility for the Pleiadian troops was impaired by a cold dark mist that obscured the entryway to the warehouses.  Withering fire from the enemy emerged from this mist, striking down those troops who approached. 

The Feline troopers were the advance guard, having the innate ability of all felines to see through negative energy patterns. The captains Ulrus and Racquer were leading their men.  Raphael saw the two captains and several of their men struck down by a barrage of bomb-like weapons sent by some mechanism hidden below.

Then Raphael saw his brother, Commander Kantor, leading a troop of Eagles into the fray.  He hadn’t realized that Ezekiel had volunteered for this fight – his brother had said nothing about it the day before.  And accompanying him were two of Raphael’s long-time Eagle companions and guards, Garry Onterus and Earl Antares. They pulled back temporarily to allow another overflight of fighters, this time several Blue Waves, that were especially adept at breaking through energy barriers. The Waves were successful in clearing the cold, dark mist, but then formidable, giant-sized warriors emerged from the dark hold and began attacking the Pleiadian ground troops.  They went after the Eagles with a vengeance, firing their weapons until they were too close; then the enemy and the Pleiadian ground troops engaged in hand-to-hand combat.  These giants overtopped the tall, broad-shouldered Eagles by a good foot or so; many Eagles died that day, including Raphael’s brother Ezekiel, Garry, and Earl.

Still, even as the Pleiadian dead piled up, the tide began to turn. Some of the Feline Warriors had managed to penetrate the enemy invisibility shielding and drop down into the warehouse. The Felines remembered Raphael’s warnings to take out the dark lords first, so the warriors sought them out. Despite all their precautions, the arrogance of these strange individuals made them easy targets for the persistent and canny Feline fighters – who were enraged at the loss of their captains and others of their people.  Finally, four of the lords were killed and the black magic spell was broken – the other Pleiadian troops were able to disable the enemy fighters and take down the last lord who was attempting to escape on one of the ships.

What few enemy troops remained suddenly dropped their weapons like they were electrified – and looked around dazedly. The Pleiadian ground troops didn’t bother to sort them out, but mowed them down.  And then the battered but surviving Eagles sought out the captives who were hidden in backrooms.

The captives, about 15 of them, were all very young children.  In Raphael’s vision they all appeared to be Morovian, which was later verified by one of the older children, a boy of about ten years.  He had been a captive for four years.  He later told Raphael that all the children, on the ships and in the warehouse, were to be killed as sacrifices to feed the black magic that sustained the dark invisibility shield which had previously protected the enemy base from detection.

The fight was over.  It had been vicious and long like the battle in space over the isle.  The enemy had obviously stepped up its game and the Pleiadians would have to, also, accordingly. The enemy troops had the advantage of being underground and difficult to approach.  And they had used strange weapons on the Pleiadian troops, amplified in some manner by black magic. Fifty Pleiadian men were dead. There were 45 enemy troops dead, eight pilots, and five dark lords… all killed or executed on the field.  Compassion for the enemy did not come into the picture that grim day.  The Pleiadians were fighting on their home territory to defend their future and that of their children; so, they gave no quarter to any of those who fought against their men.

The young line commander sat with his vision for a few minutes as he returned fully to consciousness.  He was devastated by what he had seen, for despite Raphael’s warnings, the Pleiadians had lost too many men on the mission, men they could not afford to lose right now.  This horrible tragedy that would hit all of the survivors hard, including himself, taught Raphael another lesson in humility, for despite his tremendous gifts he could not command the outcome of events that had been pre-determined from a soul level.

When he was able to gather himself together enough to report to Communications, Raphael reported straight to Commander Kadish and reiterated what he had just witnessed, as tears streamed down the young man’s face in reaction to what he had just seen.  Looking startled and concerned, Kadish immediately contacted Commander Jeffries, who was duty in operations, regarding the statistics and a list of some of the men who had died in the confrontation, including Raphael’s brother and friends.  As the reports returned from the field, the veracity of Raphael’s vision was confirmed.  Then Kadish sent the young line commander back to his sleeping compartment.  The commander told Raphael that he would be sent for when his services were needed; meanwhile, the young man was to get some rest.

Since Raphael had suffered a severe personal loss, he was later given some leave time to recuperate. The young line commander was so distraught for days after the battle and the loss of his brother and friends, that the Commander and others feared for his sanity.  For although Raphael had powerful gifts, he could not reverse soul contracts.

The small planet was cleansed; now Commander Esturias could reassign men to their new ships.  However, with such a significant loss, many of the crews were having a difficult time absorbing the changes.

A day or so after the ground battle, the crews held a memorial for all who had fallen.  Everyone on the Golden Lion attended, and some of the captives did so, the children holding the hands of their Eagle guards. They expressed their gratitude to the men there for having been rescued. It was a bright moment in an emotionally draining day for Raphael.  After the memorial, he sought out the comfort of the Mother Crystal, eschewing much in the way of human contact as Raphael attempted to comprehend the new grief that assailed his heart.  It felt to the young man as if he had lost yet another family, as the men, who had guided, protected, nursed and watched over him for so many years were suddenly gone.  Raphael’s heart was sore; his spirit temporarily dimmed.  During his leave, Raphael spent most of his time in one of the observation decks, looking down at the small planet which had claimed the lives of so many of his friends.  It was yet another trauma to absorb and somehow move through.

When his leave was over a few days later, Raphael received the official orders from Head Commander Myka Strom reassigning him to report back to The Golden Lion. Just going through motions to keep busy, Raphael found himself stuffing what few belongings he owned into his travel pack and moving to his new quarters on The Golden Lion.

This time Raphael had a legitimate reason to be housed in the quarters for the commanders, since he was now a commander albeit a junior officer.  And out of some level of compassion, Tomás was also assigned to the same compartment.  Although Raphael was no longer being guarded, Tomás knew him best of all on board – he knew what a blow the loss of his brother meant to young Kantor.  Ezekiel was the very last member of the boy’s birth family and one who had always supported him (if from afar) and extricated him from difficulties. 

After Raphael had finally resumed duties, this time on The Golden Lion, he continued to do his meditations on one of the observation decks.  One day during a daily meditation period, golden-haired Ezekiel came to Raphael in a vision, his great blue eyes looking upon his younger brother with compassion and brotherly love:

“My dear brother – It was time for me to leave.  You are now on your road to healing and I have entered mine.  I will be with you, again – if not in this lifetime, then in another, for our lives are connected through a vow that I made a long time ago to a great Lady.  I have never shared the vision she showed me that day so now I will – you are old enough to understand the significance of this information and why you are the amazing person you are today –

With that he opened the floodgates to an ancient vision:

“All around her was white; the light of the sun, the walls, and the flowers sprayed across the wall, the garden steps…her dress.  She was very tall and slender; a dress of shimmery white silk flowed down her exquisite form to pool on the ground at her feet.  She had tiny silver sandals on her white feet.  Her wavy white blonde hair flowed down her back, held back by hairpins decorated with tiny silver flowers.  Around her long slender neck, there was a delicate necklace of white gold and diamonds.  She was a vision of great, yet delicate beauty and entirely female in her essence.  Silver anklets covered with tiny bells twinkled whenever she moved across the garden.

As she lifted up a white rose to smell its fragrance, she listened within… a Voice spoke quietly… there will come a child, a boy who will be born of your essence.  You will be its mother and the father will be a great Being of Light.  Together, you will engender him.  As a Priestess of the White Ray, you still require a balancing of your feminine and male polarities.  Carrying with him a fragment of your essence his lifetimes will bring forth the needed balance with your Higher Presence.  As he succeeds in his missions, you will collectively soar higher in your soul evolution.  Eventually, his essence will choose to reblend with yours but he will choose the timeline for this… and We see that by this last lifetime as a separate entity the balance will be accomplished fully and the child, the soul fragment will return to you in a female form…Before that time comes, you and your Twin Flame will act as guides and mentors for this one who, we see, will be walking through perilous times ahead… in another quadrant of Creation. 

With a graceful nod of her head, she acknowledged the message from Source.  Tucking the rose into her bosom, she slowly swayed towards the side door to enter the Temple.  She heard the bells calling her priestesses to prayer.  And she was gone — vanished into the golden light…”

And Ezekiel told his young brother: “You, Raphael, are that boy, but within your being, you carry the essence, courage, strength and gifts of a great Archangelic Lady.  It has been a blessing to be your brother – we will see each other again.  It is our destiny, Raphael.  I love you!”

And with that Ezekiel was gone. Raphael dissolved into tears.

Raphael’s grandson Tazo finally came to collect him.  He took one look at his grandfather’s face and said, “You’ve seen him, haven’t you?”

Raphael nodded, tears flowing unheeded down his face, “Yes… and he showed me who I am and what my fate will be… someday.”

“He showed me something, too”, replied Tazo.  “The vision you shared the other day – Ezekiel showed me the exact same thing.  He called me blessed.”

“I miss him – we never really spent much time together – but I miss him!”, Raphael replied breaking out into tears, again.

“Sorry to be brutal, grandfather, but Commander Esturias is looking for you right now.  You had better report to him”, said Tazo as he handed Raphael a handkerchief for his face.

The line commander nodded, feeling devoid of words for the moment and got up to leave.  As Raphael stumbled, Tazo grabbed his arm to stabilize his friend’s balance.  Raphael often did that when coming out of a vision in those days.

Tazo left his friend outside the Commander’s quarters. Raphael knocked and went in.  Esturias looked up, scanned the junior officer’s face, noticing the streaks of tears and remarked: “Another vision?”

Raphael nodded and replied, “Ezekiel showed me a vision of how I was originally engendered.”

“Oh”, was all Esturias said in return.

Something in that one word made the line commander study Esturias’ face more closely.  “You knew?”

“Yes – I asked him one day to explain why—why you’re so different from other men”, replied the commander quietly.  “Was it the White Lady?”


“Well – we can thank Her for granting you some unusual gifts, lad,” replied Esturias.  “But now we have to return to practical matters.  We need to reestablish communications with the other motherships. I want you and your team to continue working on locating them.  And if you can work with the Mother Crystals to facilitate the process, I would be ever so grateful.”

He paused for a moment and then continued: “I’m sorry for your loss – losses. Commander Kantor was a good man. And the warriors and Eagles will all be missed. Damn – we lost too many men in that skirmish, but I know more would have died had you not warned me first.  So thanks, DeAires.”

“Can I go, sir?” replied Raphael.  His heart was sore, but going back to work would be healing.  Hearts could mend… eventually.  Raphael had proved that to himself many times during the course of his challenging life.

Days later, Raphael was inspired to teach the Mother Crystal of The Golden Lion how to see through any psychic or black magic veils that would be utilized by the dark forces to camouflage themselves from discovery. She promised to teach her sisters and the lesser crystals of the battleships the method to penetrate these black magic practices. The young commander showed her how the energies felt when he was still a slave and what was used to disguise the presence of the enemy forces on the isle where the battle had been fought.  From that day forward, many of our crystalline friends could decipher the locations of the dark forces; their powerful black magic proved useless against the sentient mother crystals on some of the Pleiadian ships.  Later, Raphael took the time to inform Commander Esturias of what he had done.  

His foster brother, Esturias VaCoupe, looked at Raphael for a long time and then shook his head: “DeAires – not for the first time I have to say that I’m glad you are working on our side.  With your uncanny talents, you far outstrip the rest of us right now.  I hope we will eventually evolve in awareness so we can keep up with you!”

“Sir – I do what I can to assist. If sometimes it seems a bit out there, these things I do are quite innate and just a part of me. Thanks to the White Lady, I am able to serve my people in my own unique fashion. I don’t want people to be afraid of me, so if you please, sir, don’t share this information if it bothers you so much”, replied Raphael.

Commander Esturias smiled, “I won’t share this – no one would believe me anyway. But perhaps someone will notice eventually that the Crystals have learned a new skill!”

Well, sir”, Raphael replied with a shy smile, “Only one with my own gifts would be able to speak to the Crystals to find out who was their Teacher.”

Esturias shook his head in wonder, “Someday I will share this with my Father… our father, Raphael – do you mind if I use your given name in this instance, foster brother?”

“Not at all, sir”, replied Raphael with a gulp.  He still missed his brother Ezekiel and his other friends fiercely. 

“And now, could you get to work on the analysis so we can locate the rest of the motherships?  We have a lot of work ahead of us!” ordered the commander, a little impatiently.

“Yes, sir – I’ll get my team right on it”, the line commander replied. Then another thought occurred to him, “Sir… is Commander Paulus going to fill Commander Ryland’s old position?”

“Yes, DeAires – Paulus has been my aide for a long time and will become the third Head Commander on The Golden Lion, which means there will be two openings now on The Golden Bee:  Head Commander and Aide.  I’ll sort those assignments out in a day or so; I’m sure there is bound to be some ambitious young commanders who would like to take over The Golden Bee”, explained VaCoupe.

“You’ve made her a fine ship, sir, with a good crew”, Raphael replied quietly.  “And now, I had better get to work.  I’ve had too much time off of late – but now I’m ready to focus.”

“Good thing, DeAires; or should I call you Kantor now that your brother is gone?”, replied Esturias.

“Well, since I am on The Golden Lion, again, and everyone in the crew knew me before as “Kantor”, perhaps that would be best, sir”, replied Raphael. 

“Okay, son”, replied Esturias… “It will mean you will have to get new insignia for your uniforms, but I’m sure our men in Stores can manage something.”

“I’ll stop by stores tomorrow if you can have Paulus or Lo’Telle issue the necessary orders, sir”, replied the junior officer.

“Will do – now get back to work, DeAires – er, Kantor!  Hmmm, that will take a little getting used to saying”, laughed Esturias.

When Raphael left the compartment, the commander had already turned back to his interactive comm and was in the process of issuing various orders.  It was a big job running the huge ship.

Return to the Golden Lion

Upon having been reassigned to The Golden Lion, Raphael found he was suddenly thrust into what felt like enemy territory.  No longer shielded by Lord Lyonell, he was now merely a junior officer among 27 other men within the Line Communications Department.  As such, he did not normally attend meetings for the higher-level commanders or to put it more accurately, he was not invited.

The Level Two Commander overseeing the operations of Line Communications was Hercules Kadish.  This individual was, apparently, one of Raphael’s distant cousins, although the commander never openly acknowledged the relationship.  Raphael again reported directly to Commander Charles Lo’Telle, who had been his original senior officer and Line Commander when the young cadet was posted to The Golden Lion.

On the larger mothership, Line Commanders worked in tandem with a team of six technicians. Raphael’s new partner, Daniel Sathor, had been a Line Commander for twenty years and was considered by the 2nd level commander Hercules Kadish to possess a superior skill set than the younger officer primarily due to Sathor’s seniority in the position.  From past experience, Specialty Commander Lo’Telle sincerely doubted Kadish’s assessment but knew better than arguing the point with the strong-willed, contentious, and opinionated 2nd level commander.

Raphael was definitely considered the “junior” officer of the commanders within the Communications Department and as a consequence his work was undervalued by most of the senior officers, with his own Specialty Commander Charles Lo’Telle being the exception.  As an empath, Raphael could also discern there was some lingering resentment and jealousy for all the attention originally paid to him by Top Commander Lyonell when he was a communication technician barely out of University Ship and then when the boy unexpectedly became his aide.

Sensing that Raphael was at a disadvantage with their senior commanding officer, his new partner, Daniel Sathor, took advantage of his favored position under Commander Kadish by preventing Raphael from working with all the team members assigned under the two line commanders. While officially the two officers oversaw the same six communication technicians, Sathor only allow Raphael to work with three of them, all Feline Warriors who had learned their skills on the line (Leo Bakken, Leo Rongess, and Leo Ulrich).  Due to the young officer’s unconventional and untaught methods and a general if unspoken prejudice against the ‘uneducated’ Feline technicians, some of the senior officers were uncomfortable with relying on Raphael’s small team’s findings, often choosing to suppress the reports unless Commander Esturias specifically requested them.

It was obvious to Raphael that his partner and other senior officers regarded the Felines with prejudice, as being inferior in their skills since they had not attended University.  Raphael found that bias assessment to be quite inept and prejudiced.  Raphael had been introduced to Felines when he was rescued as a child.  He intuitively felt comfortable around the men since their innate gifts and psychic sensitivities were similar to his own including their native ability to see into other dimensions and to discern frequencies.  He also knew that generally Felines were courageous, loyal, and fiercely protective of his own person, for some reason yet unknown to him.

The Feline Warrior commander Lantrill, a long-time friend, knew of the fleet’s need for good line communication technicians, and so he had personally selected these men to be considered as potential techs. The ships were too far away from the University Ships to request the latest cadets for training, so they had to make do with what personnel was already onboard ship.  Lantrill had gone through and chose the most sensitive of his warriors and, as a result, Raphael ended up the superior officer of three brand-new new technicians.

Since Raphael had encountered similar prejudices and judgments before directed against himself and now his team, he was extremely careful to follow protocol as much as was possible, although he couldn’t always control or predict when he was personally going to be struck with another vision or unexpected dreams.  Working within these limitations, the increasing criticism from senior officers, and the refusal of his fellow line commanders to cooperate with him proved to be taxing on Raphael’s sense of well-being.  As a result, Raphael began to suffer from profound emotional and physical exhaustion and started experiencing nightmares once more, something the young officer thought he had long outgrown.

The line commander’s roommate and friend Tomás noticing the steady decline in Raphael’s health due to stress, became concerned about him and contacted Head Commander Strom directly.  The head commander was mutual friend from Raphael’s early days on The Golden Lion.  Strom sent the Veyan healer, Master Li Teu to examine the young officer after he had experienced a particularly violent nightmare that was similar to the ones Raphael had experienced just years after his rescue from slavery.

When Raphael didn’t show up for his shift that day, Commanders Lo’Telle and Kadish showed up at his compartment to find the young officer in bed, unconscious, mumbling incoherently, in the midst of a fever brought on by a combination of the nightmares and emotional stress from his difficult working conditions.  Master Li Teu was finishing up his examination of the young officer’s physical condition when the two officers showed up.

The short statured healer glared at both men and bluntly asked them how they had allowed Raphael to get into such a state.  He then proceeded to inform them due to the young man’s extremely sensitive nature; Raphael needed to fully recover from the fever before reporting back to work. The strongly opinionated Veyan continued lecturing the commanders saying Raphael required more rest than the other techs in order to rejuvenate his hypersensitive system before the young man sickened and would no longer perform his duties.  Commander Kadish wasn’t pleased with this news and stood over his junior officer’s sleeping pad.  Aloud, he started loudly accusing his junior officer of being a slacker, even though Raphael was hardly in a position to defend himself being in the midst of a fevered sleep.

When Master Li overheard these remarks from Kadish, he straightened up his small body to his full height and stared up at the tall dark-haired Line Communications Commander with his large almond-shaped brown eyes and said in his soft tenor: “Unless you want to kill this boy, I suggest that you take my suggestions seriously.  If Commander Esturias and you wish to utilize his skills and gifts, then you are going to have to grant Commander Kantor some leeway.  If he has had enough, especially after a deep scanning session, then he needs to leave the station, even if it isn’t the end of his shift.  And if there are any issues with other department personnel, I suggest you find someone who is more compatible working with Kantor’s high degree of sensitivity.  I understand he has many Feline warriors as friends and recently lost a few during the last battles.  And he used to have full-time Eagles as guards and nursemaids; I would suggest that this practice be started up, once again.  Commander Kantor is no weakling, but as a male, his highly sensitive nature is extremely unusual and requires special handling and care to keep him functional and healthy in a restricted environment such as the Command structure. I know that his foster father, our Supreme Head Commander Lord Demetrius VaCoupe, would be extremely unhappy to hear that his foster son was suffering ill effects due to mismanagement by his superior officers.”

Master Teu went on to add: “I will personally report on this boy’s current rundown condition to Commander Esturias who happens to be the boy’s foster brother.  I suggest you follow my directions to stay on the good side of our new Top Commander. I have it on good authority that he highly values the services of Line Commander Kantor.”

Tomás was a silent onlooker to this confrontation which was primarily directed towards Commander Kadish.  Raphael’s immediate supervisor, Commander Lo’Telle, was well aware of the needs and requirements of one of the most brilliant technicians he had ever encountered in his entire career, but his superior officer, Kadish, did not know Raphael well or seem to appreciate Raphael’s unique qualities quite yet.  In fact, Tomás and Lo’Telle noted that Commander Kadish generally seemed to regard the young line commander with an unusual degree of antipathy that seemed imbalanced based in their knowledge of the young man’s earnest ethics and dedication to his work.

Commander Kadish was surprised at the passion and conviction in the Veyan physician’s voice and demeanor.  He knew that the small statured Veyan healer commanded great weight with the Top Commander and his command staff and was revered by the crew in general. He knew he would have to acquiesce for now, if unwillingly, and make new arrangements to ease his newest line commander’s assimilation into the department as requested by the Veyan healer. 

While Commander Kadish was puzzled and disturbed by what passed as truth about Raphael’s past – that he had been a captive of the enemy for years and his parents had both perished in unusual circumstances – the commander had already read a few of the young man’s reports from his team and had to admit that Kantor was talented despite his own prejudice against the new line commander.  He turned to Tomás who had been assigned as Lead Commander for the Eagles after Commander Kantor’s recent death, and said: “Commander Monteras, can you assign a couple of new Eagles to watch over our young line commander as suggested by Master Teu?”

Certainly, Commander Kadish”, replied Tomás, careful not to show his disapproval of Raphael’s superior officer and his recent treatment of the line commander, “I’m sure I could find a couple of volunteers – his brother, Commander Ezekiel Kantor, used to be their commander after all. The Eagles formerly assigned to guard Commander DeAires Kantor recently died in battle alongside their Commander.”

And so, it was that when the young line commander finally woke up days later from his fever, Raphael discovered a new Eagle guard standing outside the compartment.  As the patient stirred under his blankets, the Eagle stepped in through the open door and introduced himself, “Hello, Commander Kantor – my name is Felipe Diaz, from Morga in the Ashkera system.  I’m going to be one of your guards and nursemaids, according to Commander Monteras. You’ll meet your second Eagle later, but I think the two of you are already acquainted. His name is Paul Dominguez.”

“I thought I outgrew being guarded by Eagles”, said Raphael, while staring blearily up at the towering Eagle. He was still feeling a bit woozy and dizzy from the fever.  “What changed?”

Felipe, who was a handsome man with great blue eyes, shoulder-length white blonde hair and the creamy complexion characteristic of Ashkerians, just gave his new young charge a dazzling smile and replied in a musical tenor: “You could say it’s “doctor’s orders”; Master Li Teu believes you have been under too much strain in your new work assignment and need more rest, so we’re here to monitor your physical condition and make sure you get it – and ward off your superior officer, Commander Kadish, who isn’t quite sure what he has inherited in you.”

“Apparently, I have friends in high places…” replied Raphael, his voice a bit harsh having not spoken aloud for a while.

Felipe just laughed merrily; the two men were going to be great friends.  He overtopped Raphael by about eight inches, with broader shoulders, and a thick sculpted torso.  It felt reassuring to Raphael to have some Eagles around again besides his very busy cousin, Eagle Commander Monteras.

Felipe accompanied Raphael to mess hall.  The line commander noticed other crew members giving Felipe looks; he was strikingly handsome, but didn’t seem to notice or if he did, to take it seriously.  He was extremely good-natured, reminding Raphael like a handsome version of his faithful Garry Onterus.  Next, the two men made their way to the Communications Station where Raphael discovered some more alterations had been implemented.  Felipe quietly took up position at the outer door of the communications station while Raphael proceeded to greet his team members.

One of Raphael’s Feline technicians looked up from his work and said: “Welcome back, boss – we have a new Line Commander, Leo Argus.  Commanders Kadish and Lo’Telle switched out Daniel Sathor to the 2nd Shift; Daniel will be working with Line Commander Stannis Domingo.”

Leo Bakken looked up at his line commander with concern, his eyes slightly out of focus; Raphael knew the Feline was viewing his auric field: “Are you feeling better?  You looked like you weren’t sleeping well for a few days.”

“Thank you, Bakken. I’m improving.  I was beginning to have nightmares, again. I tend to get them when under stress”, replied Raphael softly.  “There have been a lot of changes in the past months for me, and the rest of us.”

“I’ll say – it was a shock to lose Lord Lyonell, Commander Ryland, and all those other men”, replied Bakken.  “And didn’t you lose your brother and some good friends?”

“Yes, my brother, two Feline warriors who were good friends and two Eagles who had watched over me since I was a teenager”, replied the line commander.  “Well, we had better get working before Commander Kadish shows up to reprimand me for being a slacker.”

“You – a slacker?  Did he say that?” Raphael could see the astonishment on Bakken’s feline features. 

We needn’t discuss our superior officer here or in private, technician Bakken”, admonished his line commander.  “Do you have an initial scan of the isle available for me to review now?”

And with that, the team members segued into their work session, until Line Commander Leo Argus showed up for introductions.  He simply welcomed Raphael back, gave the other line commander a great toothy grin and the men got to work analyzing the latest data obtained by their combined team members. With this one minor change in personnel, Raphael felt more at ease having a partner with whom he no longer had to compete.  Line Commander Leo Argus was a lot more compatible and understanding of Raphael’s methods than his former partner, Sathor, had managed to be.  It was quite a relief to Raphael.

Although Raphael had recently lost two close Feline friends, now he had four new ones to work with on a daily basis. These were welcome changes and Raphael was thankful for Master Li Teu’s insight and compassion, as well as Tomás’ concern as a friend for his welfare.  Raphael also sent Head Commander Strom a thank-you note for handling the situation diplomatically.  Raphael hoped he could eventually thank Strom in person, but at the present moment the Head Commanders were busy making adjustments to the crew assignments, not just on The Golden Lion, but also on several of the battleships, who had also either lost crew members recently or needed some men to fill vacant positions.

Raphael was excited to work with the Felines.  While on shift, the men would work on gathering information using conventional research techniques.  Then, they would all go into deep scans and compare their findings.  And Raphael would augment the information using the data and information gathered from his contacts with the isles and starry bodies, plus any visions he might be having.  Then, Raphael and Leo Argus would present their team’s findings at the general Line Communications departmental meetings.

As Raphael had done on The Golden Bee during his short stay on her, both he and Leo Argus continued to work with all six team members to perfect and advance their distant reading skills, improve their sensitivity in reading frequencies and improve their skills with integrating high level information derived from more conventional ship to ship intercommunications, findings from the mothership’s research teams, and ship scans.  Under the leadership of Specialty Commander Lo’Telle, the third shift “team” became very, very accurate in their findings as a result of mutual cooperation and teamwork, something that eventually became very apparent to senior commanders.

Raphael was uneasy competing with the other Line Commanders and didn’t want to draw more attention and resentment than already existed, but there came a point when Commander Esturias went over the head of Commander Kadish and requested that his team perform specific reports for his operation commanders, Commander Michael Pollos and Commander Bolundrias.

So, this uncomfortable state of affairs continued during on the first three months after Raphael’s return to The Golden Lion.  Little did he know that his life was about to change yet again…

© All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, videos and recordings of this material are not permitted. and


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