NFL Draft Town photos

I went to Draft Town here in Chicago on May 2, 2015 and Here are the photos I took LINK to my Flickr page

CHRONICALS OF THE BLACK GUARD by Adrian Nunenkamp CHAPTER 3

A dull clang reverbrated through the dropshuttle as it connected with
the fast frigate Alandair’s Pride, the team’s home for the duration of
the mission. The Pride was a new ship, specifically designed to be a
self-sufficient support for the special teams. Durable enough to get
them in to a target, and fast enough to run as needs be. From where he
stood, Cishu could see the hungry glimmer in Teg’s eyes.

“Easy there, hot shot. You’re going to have your hands full with this
beast, never mind that dagger we just landed in.” Cishu’s voice was
full of humor. If there was one thing you could depend on, it was
Teg’s love of anything that flew… especially if he’d never seen
anything like it.

“I know, sir… but the size… I’ve never flown anything that big. I
bet she’s agile too, I mean, it *is* a ship of the line, but those
lines she has….” The wonder and naked desire to fly the ship that
the shuttle now rested in was almost too much for Cishu to keep from
laughing at Teg. Fortunately, self-control was one of his strong
points.

“Well, who knows? You might get lucky enough to be asked to pilot her
around. Just remember, though, that most of our time will be done in
trans-space, so there’s not much you’d be able to do. Unless, of
course, you got your astrogator’s rating and didn’t tell anyone.”

“Uhm… actually….” Teg’s voice was a combination of shy, worried,
and proud. Cishu’s response was to laugh softly and clap Teg on the
shoulder.

“Congratulations, Teg. I can’t guarantee anything, but maybe if you
spoke to the ship’s pilot, you might get a chance.” With another soft
chuckle, Cishu made his way to the main portion of the dropshuttle,
where most of the crew had already debarked, and the unloading had
started.

The landing bay on the Pride was different than most. To one side was
the bay proper where the dropshuttle would rest, ready to be ejected
from the ship towards its objective. The combined velocity of the
launch, and the momentum gained from the frigate would allow for a high
speed insertion.

Also in the landing bay were the usual class of Alliance shuttles.
These shuttles strongly resembled the Terran ‘space shuttle’ from the
Terran late 20th and early 21st centuries. Though their aerodynamic
shape was not required in space, it was of much benefit when they went
into an atmosphere.

Looking up into the cavernous ceiling area of the bay, Cishu could see
the dark forms of four of the Alliances top interceptor type fighters.
Lean and black, they hung like evil knives over the rest of the bay
from their own launch tubes, ready to be manned at a moment’s notice by
the crack pilots assigned to fly them. Teg used to fly things like
them before he was assigned to the unit, but from past experience,
Cishu knew he had no regrets.

Regrets. Regrets were something that Cishu understood all too well.
They were something he lived with daily. The sight of the interceptors
hanging over the bay as if in flight brought back quite a few regrets,
one in particular almost overwhelming his mind….

* * *

Blood… blood everywhere. She lay heavily in his arms, her breathing
rapid and shallow. Her red hair mixing with the red and black on his
arms. Her eyes were closed, and faintly he could feel her presence
fading from all of those around him. “Hang on… please…. Hang on.
You can’t leave us… you can’t leave *me*! You have to survive…
please….”

* * *

“Ki?” A soft voice, and an even softer touch on his arm startled him
back to the present. Swiftly his head snapped around towards where he
had heard his name come from, and found himself looking directly into
the deep sapphire eyes of Sengae. Her eyes glimmered strangely, and he
noted almost absently that it was caused by tears. “You were
remembering her again, weren’t you?” Her question was not so much a
question as a statement of fact.

“Damn all of you empaths,” Cishu said without rancor. A slight trace
of his humor showing through the sadness that surrounded him.
“Watching your leader to make sure he’s still stable?”

Sengae shook her head, her eyes not leaving his. “No. You were
projecting slightly… not enough for just anyone to notice, but enough
for me.”

Sighing heavily, Cishu turned to look out of the bay doors as they
closed slowly. “It’s still hard for me to accept she’s gone. To be so
close, so involved, then to lose her before anything could be said….”

Sengae nodded once, and wiped her eyes on her uniform. Cishu’s mood
was truly starting to affect her more than it should. Removing her
hand from his arm reduced the sensitivity to the raw emotions. Tucking
her hands under her arms, she regarded her leader. He was such a
roiling contradiction of emotions. He was hardened, yet sensitive to
the needs of others. Cruel in combat, yet compassionate when it
counted. A loner, but with a strong desire to have friends and family
near.

“Ki… eventually you will need to come to terms with the loss. I can
only advise you to take the time and learn your heart in this matter.
If you need someone to talk to… or even talk at… find me.” Sengae
winced as her voice caught on the last, his sorrow and loss getting
stronger.

Cishu nodded once. “I will Sin… you know that.” The two of them
stood in the bay for a few minutes longer, then Sengae turned and
headed towards the main portion of the ship. She knew that, when he
felt he could, Cishu would seek her out for counsel. That was why he
had made her his second after…. Sengae shook her head and quashed
the thought. It was not something she could think about at that moment
herself.

* * *

“Attention on deck!” The call rang out in the squad briefing room as
Cishu stepped in, followed quickly by Sengae. The sound of eight sets
of booted feet striking the deck echoed in the small room.

“As you were.” Cishu moved towards the front of the briefing room as
Sengae moved towards the rear of the room. He knew he could count on
her to keep the mood of the room under observation.

Upon reaching the front, Cishu activated the holoscan for the upcoming
mission. “This mission is a little different from the normal. We’re
not just doing a seek-and-destroy this time.” Stopping long enough for
the brief murmurs of suprise to die down, Cishu nodded then continued.
“We’re also to be ready to do a rescue mission.”

The uproar after that announcement was one of disbelief. Flicking his
glance towards Sengae, she motioned that everything was fine so far,
and to let it run for the time being. Moments later, some semblence of
calm returned to the room.

“Okay sir… what’s the skinny on this mission?” This question from
one of the more senior troopers on the team.

“Well, Anderson, here it is.” With a touch on the keypad, a galactic
map spun into life. A green and a red dot appearing in relative
positions. “As you know, green is us and red is the target. In this
case, the red dot is one of ours. Three weeks ago, the ship Rhyzan’s
Fury lost contact with Headquarters. The area that they were
travelling through was known to have some fairly heavy ion particle
storms at the time, so nothing was though of it. When a week had come
after the storms were over, the Fury still had not contacted HQ.”

“It is suspected that the Fury was ambushed, and with think she may be
lost.” Changing the view, a diagram of the Rhyzan’s Fury appeared.
“As you can see, the Fury is a Tamlin-class heavy cruiser. She was not
outfitted with outrider fighters, being more of a recon cruiser than a
heavy cruiser.”

“Our mission is to find out what happened to the Fury. If she was
attacked, we are to find what survivors there may be and to either
rescue them, or whatever we can do for them.” Unspoken was the fact
that if they could not be rescued, they would not survive their time.

“Any questions?” Cishu waited for a minute or two, observing the faces
of his people, then nodded once. “We will rendevouz with the last
known position of the Fury in three days time. Dismissed.” He watched
quietly as everyone stepped out of the room, avoiding Sengae’s gaze.
Once the door had closed again, Cishu sat and remembered….

* * *

“C’mon, slowpoke! For someone that looks like an animal, you’re sure
holding me up!” Amber’s cheery voice sounded from just over the
verdant rise ahead of Cishu. It was early summer in the Northern
Hemisphere, and the first leave that his team had had since the start
of their training. Amber had prevailed upon him to with her back to
her homelands, the island called Ireland.

Ireland, like the rest of Terra had regressed on the surface. Now, all
one could see is the odd stone building… either cottage or church,
and even time to time one could see even older stone structures, ones
from the earliest history of the lands.

The bleat of sheep from one of the many green fields made its way to
Cishu’s ears, even as the smell of fresh grass and an ocean breeze came
to his nose. ‘This is the way life is to be lived,’ he mused to
himself as he crested the hill. Just ahead, near a precipice facing
the ocean, Amber stood, grinning at him. Her long auburn hair flowing
around like a red halo, the light shining through to almost give an
etherial aspect to her.

“What took you so long, slow one?” Amber’s emerald eyes glinted with
merriment at him. Her head cocked slightly to one side as she waited
for his answer.

“Just admiring the view, furless one. The history surrounding this
place must be thick.” He turned slowly in a circle, noticing the
well placed stone markers, including a beautifully detailed Celtic
cross standing behind and to the side of Amber. Just off of the coast,
a storm was starting to churn the waters, the slate gray forms of the
clouds hovering over the near black ocean.

“Oh… it is, most assuredly. As thick as the amount of my kin. And
that’s quite a lot, as you well know!” Amber’s sly tone, caused Cishu
to look at her suddenly, then relaxed as her infectious grin started to
get to him.

“Yes, you do have several kin, don’t you?” Cishu kept his voice
light, even though the pain of his lost family came back to haunt him.

Amber must have sensed something, however, because she moved closer,
placing her hand on his arm. “Cishu,” she started, jumping slightly as
he turned to regard her, hearing his name in full for the first time
from her mouth. “Cishu, you don’t talk about your family. I could
tell that you like having family around, from the way you acted with my
younger siblings. What about *your* family?”

“I… I don’t have one, Amber. I lost my family to the Iush when I
was younger.” Slowly the story of horror poured from him, and
throughout it all, Amber sat, and listened to him. Never once
critisizing or complaining that he should have done this or that.

What suprised him most was, as he finished, he felt her arms slide
around his shoulders, hugging him softly from behind. Amber tried to
form words, but her throat was too constricted by emotion. Finally,
she found her voice. “Cishu… I’m sorry. I shouldnae ha’ asked ye
tae speak o’ it. But I want ye tae ken… should ye want a family, ye
got one in mine. M’whole clan enjoyed meeting ye, an’ I know they
would be proud tae ha’ ye… nae matter yer past, or the fact that ye
arenae human.”

Slowly, tears started to fall from Cishu’s eyes. He had not expected
this, not in his wildest dreams. To lose one family, then to gain
another, it was something he would not have been able to conceive of,
except that it was happening to him at that moment. For the first
time, in several years, Cishu began to weep openly. The sound of his
tears striking the stone base of the cross mixing with the sound of the
first raindrops of the storm….

* * *

The sound of tears striking the plascrete surface of the briefing
table brought Cishu back to the present once more. His Terran family,
yes, they were that. They only knew he was off on another of those
‘damned fool missions’, as Grandpa Douglas would say. Though his work
was often a source of consternation and amusement for the family, they
all knew the import of what it was that his team did, even if they
never knew the specifics.

Using his sleeve to wipe up the track of tears, Cishu pushed himself
upright, then wiped his eyes. It would not be good for morale to see
the commander of the unit crying, even if they understood the whyfor of
the emotional response.

Mercifully, the walk to his quarters was short. The briefing room was
just off of ‘Officer’s Country’, and his own quarters were about half
the distance into the corridor. Sengae was just a few doors down
herself, and briefly he considered knocking on her door. He then
decided that it would probably be best that he not disturb her with the
memories he carried. It was hard enough for him to carry them, he
didn’t want to add to the burden of another.

Palming the lock, Cishu stepped into his quarters. A few moments
later, he realised something was different. The lights, though low,
were already on. Music, soft and soothing was playing, and a drink
was already resting on a nearby coaster. Next to the drink was a small
note. It read, ‘Ki- I figured you might need this, and Sin agreed.
-Teg’.

With a half grin, Cishu through his duty jacket onto one of the
chairs, snatched up the drink, and flopped down on his couch. It was
just like those two felines to keep an eye out for him. They, like he,
had taken to heart that this was a family. A dysfunctional one, to be
sure, but a family none the less.

Raising his glass to those of the team no longer with them, be they
reassigned, or gone to a greater glory, Cishu downed the contents. He
then stood and moved towards where he knew the carafe to be. Pouring
another glass, he moved back to the sofa, and sat down. Taking a few
moments, he allowed himself to relax, then sat back up and put the
glass to the side.

Reaching out, he found the data pad with the latest reports on what HQ
thought happened to the Fury. Though thinking back allowed him to
remember friends, it was no longer the time for him to think of that.
Keying the reports, he sat back once more, pad in one hand and his
drink in the other.

First was the report from a scouter that made a high speed flight
through the probable area of disappearance. The traces of the ion
storms still lingered, but what they could pick up showed that there
was a high concentration of hull materials within a parsec of the last
known position. They could not get a solid fix, but early estimates
showed that the amount *could* constitute the majority of a
Tamlin-class cruiser.

There were also photon emission trails fairly consistent with Iush
standard space propulsion systems cris-crossing the area. The enemy
was out there somewhere. The question was, did they have anything to
do with the disappearance of the Rhyzan’s Fury?

Perversely, Cishu hoped they did have something to do with the
diappearance. It would allow him to add to the total that the Iush
owed him, not that they didn’t owe him enough for his family and
for….

Shaking his heard to clear his thoughts, as well as to stop the
incipient tears from starting again, Cishu then switched to the second
report. This report was from a research vessel that was 10 parsecs
away from where the Fury may have disappeared. They had detected a
large energy flash, and some subsequent smaller flashes, from the
general area where the scouter had detected the metal masses.

More and more, a picture of what may have occurred started to form in
his mind. The signs, the hallmarks of an Iush attack, were there,
plain as a dead moon. But still, the part of his mind that still
argued fairness even for enemies, still there was the chance that the
Iush had nothing to do with the report, and that their presence was
merely coincidental.

With a snort, he pushed that idea to the side. There was nothing
coincidental in the way the Iush did things. They knew what they were
doing, and what they were after. The Fury would be a definite prize,
if they could take her in one piece. That though, was more than
enough to make Cishu’s blood run cold.