Homeworld 2 Prequel story
I. The Daiimid
Hiigara, they said, was the capital of the universe. Ever since the return of the rightful inhabitants, Hiigara had seen an economic and cultural boom unparalleled to any other empire in this age. It became the jewel among the stars of exotic culture and unique insights in an age of uncertainty and stagnation following the death of the decrepit Taiidan empire.
The blue-green jewel of the Shining Hinterlands was also graced by thousands of ships. From the smallest independent yachts to vast warships visiting from far corners of the galaxy, Hiigara sported an orbital population more numerous than any other time in it’s history.
Hidden among these many ships was a small craft as old as the new Hiigaran empire it was a part of. The small craft seemed nothing, and to the casual eye it was dismissed as another unimportant ship among the many hundred millions that populated the Hiigaran sky. To the collector, however, this craft was one of a kind- a rarity that many would kill to posses.
The white-painted corvette was supposed to be a museum piece, but she wouldn’t allow it. She saved the craft from scrapping when it was rediscovered in a boneyard twenty years after the Hiigaran landfall that century ago. Restored to flight conditions and updated for modern standards, the gun-less heavy corvette cruised into Hiigara’s sky, bound for the capital at Assam Kiith'sid.
When asked for authorization from Assam’s orbital control, the ID flashed before their eyes: Sjet-Sa’s seal of authority.
“Sjet?” Asked one of the port controllers, “I didn’t think they had a ‘sa.”
“They don’t.” Replied another, “Let’s forward this to security. Let them handle it. We got more pressing things to do.”
The corvette was put on hold while the request was forwarded to Hiigara orbital control.
“Mother,” Said a voice in the cabin, “I’ve been redirected again.”
A smile in the passenger compartment, then a voice saying, “Enter in the code I am about to say.”
She read off a list of numbers to him and he typed them in. A moment later, a voice said, “Corvette one, you are cleared for landing at the Capital landing pads. Welcome to Hiigara.”
“Corvette one confirms.” Said the pilot.
The white corvette descended into Hiigara’s atmosphere with a little less shock than was normally felt for entries into the capital planet. It sailed over the old parade grounds where a century ago it had come to land. It passed over buildings that were looted once, and over a people who had no memory of hardship.
The white Corvette came to land amongst sleeker counterparts- bigger craft with more formidable weapons arrays. The white corvette seemed tiny in comparison. Casual observers from the ramparts of the Daiimid remarked that it was a personal yacht of some kind- perhaps even a new experimental fighter. The craft was tiny.
An official came up to meet the corvette, and bowed deeply when the door had opened.
The Daiimid was two hours into its assembly. The current topic on the floor was the case of the Somtaaw.
They were viewed with both pity and scorn, Somtaaw. The greatest economic scandal in the history of the new empire was upon their shoulders. Once hailed from saving Hiigara and the Shining Hinterlands from the terrible evil known as the beast, it was once prophesied that they would be too haughty and prideful with their accomplishments and it would be their undoing. This had come to pass, as the technology that built the ‘second tier’ of Hiigara’s space navy came crashing down with the plague of equipment failures that blighted the new-age Navy of Hiigara and Republican Taiidan.
Having grown gluttonous on their income from the licensed designs, Somtaaw fell fast as profits in their technology and space hulls plummeted. They became once again a mining Kiith, forced into selling space they had purchased with their gains in ancient times. Even after selling all but the Somtaaw highlands, they were still on rough times. Pressure from the Daiimid helped matters little.
Dijin Somtaaw stood before the Daiimid with his attendants, reading the proposal he was forwarding to the Daiimid. It was an attempt to reduce the tax rates on Kiith Somtaaw by lowering prices on imported ore gathered by the Somtaaw motherships. This was the fifth iteration of such a proposal, the Daiimid having rejected the other four. It was likely to happen again, since the Daiimid didn’t seem sympathetic to the memory of Somtaaw.
At it’s end, Tjur Nabaal nodded his old head and said, “Thank you for your proposal, Somtaaw-Sa. We will consider your proposal and give you a response in our next meeting.”
Dijin said nothing as he and his attendants moved up the slope of the assembly to sit in their seats. Somtaaw had been moved ot the back of the Daiimid ever since its reconstruction forty-eight years prior.
Tjur lowered his head and half-closed eyes to the list before him. Life came into him at the next item- something he had been looking forward to all evening. He stood, and said, “The Daiimid recognizes the Sjet-Sa and invites her to approach the stand.”
This immediately caused a stir in the Daiimid. Sjet didn’t have any designated leader- they were just the name for obsessive-compulsive scientists (As popular culture described them). The last ‘sa of Sjet had died a hundred years ago on Kharak…who…?
She had red hair, trim and fit, and into her early twenties. She walked gracefully across the stage- dignified and crisp as if she had spent a lifetime rehearsing it’s effects. Her shadow- a young man, left her side and ascended the steps to the place where Kiith Sjet was placed. He sat in one of the vacant seats and watched.
The other council members did also. The oldest ones among them winced, as if trying to recall an image long ago faded in their minds.
Soban, the last of the Kiithid still present in the Daiimid, were the only group not impressed by the entry of this figure. They already knew.
The woman stood before them and waited to get their attention. “Please,” She said in a quiet, calm voice. It had a kind of effect to it that projected itself across the room, reaching every mind and stopping them to pay attention to her. The room fell silent at her one word, and those of the old suddenly had an inspiration as to who she was.
“I bring a warning.” She said, “In three days time a terror from the east will attack. We have little time to prepare for the assault, but must be hasty. The enemy is already three steps ahead of us.”
She was about to begin another paragraph of her speech when laughter came from the audience. Some of the assembled Daiimid could not believe their ears, others just laughed at the seriousness of her proposal. Who did this woman think she was? Obviously Daiimid-sa Nabaal was pulling a fast one on them to break up the monotony of Daiimid council meetings.
The woman didn’t move. Her shadow placed a hand on his face.
“Who is this enemy?” Someone asked, mockingly.
“You already know.” Replied the woman.
More laughter. They weren’t taking her seriously.
“And who are you?” Another asked, “Some kind of prophetess?”
“This is a joke,” Someone said, standing up, “Some gift from Nabaal-sa to entertain us. There are no threats to Hiigaran superiority.”
The woman looked up at the man and said, “Tuubal Asiid. You seem so sure of Hiigara’s safety.”
“Humph.” Replied Asiid, crossing his arms. “No force in the galaxy can challenge the might of Hiigara. We built this empire, stone by stone, from nothing. Look how we’ve stood the test of time- no empire in existence can challenge ours without fear of swift retribution.”
“You speak of testing time,” She said, “When the Hiigaran empire fell centuries ago. Compared to that era, we’ve only been in the span of an eyeblink.”
Some gasped, others laughed, and more were brought into silence. This woman dared acknowledge the old Hiigaran empire? But that was an impossibility!
Asiid didn’t seem phased however, and replied, “There is no other empire other than that of the here and now. Hiigara has no enemies.”
The woman sighed and said, “The truth is before you, yet you deny it.”
“Are you saying the Hiigaran empire isn’t invincible?” Asiid asked.
Some voices raised in outrage, stopping the woman from replying and inviting detrimental commentary and thought in her direction. How dare some nowhere-woman come to the Daiimid and claim the empire wasn’t invincible?
“Just who is this enemy?” Tuubal challenged, “Explain to us how Hiigara will be defeated?”
The woman looked around at the assembly, then began, “The enemy is from the old east, the Vaygr. They have found the second core. Their leader, Makaan, makes intention to begin moving westward into the core with the intention of seizing our own. He is determined to gather the three and use them to reawaken Sajuuk.”
More laughter. This was incredible.
“Not only do you speak the impossible of Hiigara’s fall,” Said Tuubal, “But now you expect us to believe the legend of the mythical ‘hyperspace cores?’ Next you’ll be telling us that Qwaar-Jet is a friendly spaceship who sings bedtime stories to little girls and pulls pranks on old people and stupids!”
The assembly laughed again at the woman’s expense.
“Tuubal Asiid,” She began again, “The first of the elected members to the council… the first of the freely elected members of this assembly by population, not by assembly of Kiith. I see now why you have no humility.”
“And why should I, for a complete stranger?” replied Asiid, “You’re nothing. Worthless. Go back to whatever alleyway old man Nabaal found you in and leave us to real business.”
“ENOUGH!” Shouted the Kiith-sa, standing from his place and turning to face Asiid who was higher up in the Daiimid assembly. “Tuubal Asiid, you are out of line. The speaker is a recognized member by the Daiimid and invited to speak on my authorization. As ‘sa of this assembly, I say you will either show respect or remove yourself from this assembly at once.”
Tuubal turned his face to the old man and said, “Aren’t all equal here in this assembly? How can we call ourselves an assembly of members when one executive member has the power to silence another? I won’t keep silent and I won’t leave the assembly- unless you want to dissolve the Daiimid in protest over my departure.”
Tjur lowered his head. While young and new to the Daiimid, Tuubal was elected by popular favor with the citizens of the Hiigaran empire. Removing him would also bring the protest of most of the assembled Daiimid and also a scandal directedat the Daiimid-‘sa.
The woman stepped forward.
“Your fathers and fathers before you knew who I was on sight, so I forgive you for not remembering respect and humility where it is due.” She blinked, and then announced, “I am Karen Sjet, Kiith-Sa of Kiith S’jet and savior of our people. I say again, our empire is in danger, and the time to mobilize is now before it is too late. We invite swift death by our inaction.”
Tuubal laughed, then said, “You’re Karen Sjet? Well fine, I’m Sajuuk- he whose hand shapes what is? Pleased to meet you.”
Those assembled around Tuubal laughed. This was the audience of his supporters. They, too, felt one way or another that this act they were witnessing was impossible.
Chuckles echoed among the Daiimid. Only those affiliated with the remaining family-Kiith remained silent.
Karen remained steadfast.
Tuubal spoke again, “Thank you for your proposal, Sjet-Sa. We will consider your proposal and give you a response in our next meeting. Now,” He waved his hand, “Return to the alleyway where you were found.”
Karen had enough. She lowered her head, turned, and walked from the platform. Tjur watched her go, saying nothing.
Karen’s shadow also stood from his seat and started down the rows. The two met at the base of the stands and left together. A young Sjeti scholar stood and hurried down the rows as the Daiimid broke down into discussion about the entertainment provided.
Somtaaw abandoned their seats. For them, the meeting was over… but not the legal processes.
Soban was already absent.
“Kiith-Sa!” Proclaimed the librarian as he ran to the pair, “Kiith-Sa!”
Karen and her shadow turned to see the young scholar approach. Almost out of breath, then young man said, “It-It IS you! I knew! I knew you were still alive after all this time!”
Karen lowered her head. Her shadow asked, “What do you want?”
“What were you doing!?” The Librarian said to Karen, “You should have gone back there and fried his head for saying those things! It was unspeakable of how he treated you in there! You should have broken his bones or made him suffer or SOMETHING! He deserved to be punished for what he did!”
The young man that had accompanied Karen looked to her, then looked to the librarian and said, “And what would it have accomplished?”
“H-He deserves to be punished or die for-“
“Don’t wish death to come so easily,” Karen said, turning away, “It’s already advancing. You will have death soon enough.”
The young man shadowing her looked at the Librarian and then started after Karen. “W-Wait!” The Librarian said, “Kiith-sa!”
The young man turned his head and said to the Librarian, “Enough misunderstanding, please.”
The Librarian remained in his place, dumbfounded, before turning and running back into the assembly to denounce Asiid. The Librarian was excused from the Daiimid- and service- an hour later.
Karen was in orbit an hour after departing the assembly. The Corvette was high in Hiigara’s atmosphere, headed for the polar regions. It was rumored Sjet had their capital there, one of the last Sjeti holdings on Hiigara that wasn’t somehow science-related.
Karen ran her hands through her red hair before sighing and just resting against the restraints in her seat. Her hair hung about her in the weightless conditions while she had her eyes closed.
“They didn’t listen.” Her pilot said, “I didn’t think they would.”
“I know,” Karen responded. “I had to try.”
“It was the best you could have done.” Replied the pilot.
She took in a breath and let it out, going over in her head what she could have done differently. There was nothing. The Daiimid had never been the same since landfall. It was only a pale imitation of the once great assembly that had unified the Kharakian people long ago.
She could remember things with such clarity. It made her feel regret and remorse for how far her people had come.
Her people… she smiled at the thought, then looked beyond the hatch into the pilot cocoon.
The young man driving the ship was her son.
Karen closed her eyes again and probed her brain for the memories of this boy. Karen Sjet was, for all medical reasoning, immortal. The Sjet had kept this secret to themselves, for who would kill to gain the secrets of immortality? The direct interface with the mysterious hyperspace core of unfathomable power had changed her very biological process- stopping the aging of her body and rendering her immune to the detrimental effects of time.
She had seen friends, loved ones, and other survivors of the genocide grow old and die before her eyes. In time there was nothing left for her save for a few friends she worked with in Kiith Sjet and the few hundred cultists who worshipped her as a living goddess- something she didn’t wish.
Still, in those years of living alone she felt helpless…depressed. It was only the suggestion of a friend of an age that saved her from madness.
Though the core had granted her the gift of immortality it had taken away from her the greatest gift of womanhood: childbirth. Her eggs were rendered infertile by the radiation of the core and her uterus hostile to any implanted embryos. Denied a past and a future, she would have been doomed to utter loneliness had she not elected to adopt.
Under the pseudonym Neena Sjet, Karen had moved among the many orphanages and child-houses of Hiigara seeking something that only her senses could feel. She found him in one of the orphanages in Hiniid- reading a book. His name was Miach.
He was a quiet four year old and remained a quiet, intelligent man through his upbringing. She had chosen him for his quiet predictability and forcasted loyalty. He was a noble son, who asked nothing of his mother save her love and wellbeing. In time he became her attendant and pilot, unphased by the fact that his mother was the savior of his people.
It was what she wanted, and what she needed. Her son was someone she could confide in him times like this- and trust when her own judgement in things may not be enough. It always was an honest answer- never skewed by the fact that she was his mother or the Messiah of yesterday.
“Is everything okay, mother?” Miach asked from the cockpit.
“Yes.” Karen replied, “I was just remembering.”
“I see.” Miach said.
Karen smiled at the concern of her son and then felt the ship materialize some distance away. She couldn’t see it- only knew that someone had finished a hyperspace transition in dangerous proximity to the corvette. In recent years, she was even able to tell what kind of module it was making the transition. In this space, it was almost always Hiigaran.
This one was different though.
“It’s a Sobani frigate.” Miach said, confirming her suspicion. “They wish to speak with you in private.”
“Let them in.” She said, reaching up and toggling the communications panel on the ceiling before her. She would be looking up into the reception plate- the camera also facing back.
The little transmission panel, a classic in the eyes of most shipbuilders today, winked into activation and the little screen flickered to show the face of a Sobani captain. This spoke much to Karen, since Sobani rarely showed their faces if they were anyone but public figures. They had become isolationist in recent days…
“Karen Sjet,” The man began, “I am Captain Hijj Soban of Black squadron. I am here on behalf of my Kiithid to state my Kiith’s intention to mobilize and support whatever action you intend to take in the wake of invasion.”
“Your Kiith already knew.” She said.
He nodded. “Correct.”
She and Miach had discussed the entity that was Soban. While Miach had argued the noble spirit of the Sobani people, Karen believed that the Soban had been on the path for independence as of fifty years ago, when the Daiimid had collapsed. No doubt they would know of any Vaygr opportunities created to gain a chance to weaken the greater Hiigaran empire.
After her experience in the Daiimid earlier, she now fully understood why the Sobani would feel that they were fit to control Hiigaran politics. It was dangerous thinking that guided the Hiigarans now. She had no choice, though.
Or did she?
“Captain,” She said, “I thank you and your Kiithid for the assistance and acknowledgement. There is a favor I wish to ask of you…”
Space was hardly empty. Anyone who said Space was purely a featureless void was obviously a planet-bound scholar who had never stuck his head into space.
That’s how Lamia saw it anyway, while sitting in her seat.
The Massadai Clouds were located some light years from the border of Alcogoran space, in what used to be the prime hunting grounds of one of the fringe Turanic Raider bands. Now extinct in the eastern part of the galaxy, their legacy remained in the form of ancient space mines deadly enough to punch a hole in a frigate.
This was what Lamia was on the lookout for as the ancient Explorer Naab-Coroum was hanging in space, with a modern Hiigaran carrier aside them on lease from the navy. It was in case the Naab-Coroum failed- something completely possible given the age of the explorers.
Somtaaw still operated six of these behemoths- they had no choice. Taking odd jobs across the universe for whatever pay they could get ensured the wellbeing of their loved ones back home. It had been that way ever since Kiith Somtaaw’s profits on energy cannons and unique technologies backfired.
So here they were, in a hazardous region of space, doing only what Somtaaw could do. Though they had fallen far, none disputed the daring and capability of the Somtaaw miners.
It was said once that only the insane would risk plunging into a field of diamonds to get at the rare radioactive isotopes found in the field. The Massadai clouds were the result of an unusual chemical combination in a unique setting. Lamia didn’t know much about it- only that it had something to do with twin neutron stars, a gas giant, and an explosion. The briefing said some mention about Progenitor doings, but she hadn’t been paying attention. She was just here to do the job and forward the money home to mom to pay for schooling for her sister.
It was a hell of a job- and not in the sense of a good time. She was bound to a chair studying graphs and input reports from the workers out and about in the field. Though all of them had been given the diamond-resistant polymer coating to prevent getting holed by the micrometeors of death, they still had to be wary of the dangerous Turanic mines. At this distance and in space, an explosion wouldn’t just blow up an entire worker in one go. The shockwave would propel diamond shards, ranging from fingernail to fist size, at light speeds in a spherical space. There was not enough paint supplied by the Alcogoran freelands to cover the explorer- nor could they afford any. Nor would it offer much protection if the diamonds struck the hull at a right angle.
So like air traffic controllers of old, Lamia was under a mountain of stress, and had just about taken enough of it. She glanced quickly at the mission clock before returning to study the panels. She had been on duty for twenty hours- eight of which without a break. She felt like snapping- and she wanted sleep.
“Break.” She announced and prepared to put her panel on standby.
“Ah-ah,” Her director said behind her, “Not yet. You’re on for another two hours.”
“Han, I’ve had it.” She said, “I’ve been on duty for-“ She heard the tone and turned, “Hazel! WAKE UP!”
“Sajuuk! Thanks Lamia.”
“Keep your fucking eyes on the panels dipshit!” She screamed, then ripped off the mic and threw it at the panel.
“Where are you-HEY!” Han declared as Lamia stormed from the operations station.
“Fire me if you want.” Lamia threw back and continued for the transport tube. She didn’t feel any guilt for abandoning her station. There were always a minimum of two flight control officers on duty. Han had been showing blatant favoritism to Prenna just because she laughed more and was easier to seduce.
Lamia stewed in the transport tube as she headed down to her bunk. This was the last run of energy she’d have before she collapsed. Even her vision was getting fuzzy at the lack of sleep, and she had to rub her eyes and pinch herself to keep awake.
She exited the tube and headed through the main artery corridor of the ship’s spine. The dormitories were located some levels above the hanger module, and the ship’s bar- the Wryx- was here. Going into it usually meant socialization or alcohol and she had the patience for neither right now.
She ignored the lights and laughter from the cramped bar and strode into the dormitories. These were the lower-level quarters for officers like her- pilots and miners shared bunks in the hanger module. The three proper cabins on the ship were reserved for the Captain, executive officer, and project manager.
She walked into the large space of nothing more than stacked bunks. Depositing her jacket in her locker, she climbed up to the top-most bunk and crashed into it, taking a deep breath and sighing heavily.
This has got to change, she thought one way or another our luck has to change.
She dozed off dreaming of an exotic prince from the deep east who came to rescue her from the evil castle of a spaceship.
II. The Warlord
‘Vaygr’ was a word alien in the core. Currently, whenever someone mentioned ‘Vaygr’, the kind explanation was ‘those exotic people in the east’. They were known on Hiigara for their rugs and cheap liquor.
For most of the galaxy, they were dismissed as the ‘Eastern Turanics’. The only difference between the Vaygr and Turanic people seemed to be that the Vaygr had unified ship designs while the Turanics still relied on the ‘bolts and boxes’ design of their cobbled together space craft. The Vaygr seemed to imply an older lineage that time had forgotten somehow- but only poets and specialists of the Vaygr would say this.
Like all stereotyped races and peoples, there was a deeper voice to the Vaygr. Nobody understood that voice greater than the one they had called the messiah of their people, the Warlord Makaan.
Nobody knew much about his orgins or where he had come from- only that he was a skilled and learned man. Some thought he was an outcast from the core, others thought he was the last descendant of the king of Vay. Whatever his origins, among his people he had become a legend.
And in his possession now was the last of the trinity- the final core. Though it was a powerful instrument with much capability, rallying the crusades had not been so much a deus-ex-machina of the core as it had been with his own innate ability to control men. He was a natural born leader, anyone could see that, even the Crusade’s leader when Makaan was young.
So it was fitting now that the Messiah of the Vaygr was the prince of his people by strength of his character, and not the machine he had himself pulled from the treacherous ice fields of Hethhelim.
And he would not disappoint them. He had called together every crusade that would follow him and prepared to instruct them on the first of many tasks.
His flagship, so named by many as the Sword of Vaygr, was host to the assembled crusades from across the far east. Nobles, heirs, princes, and Sikhs all gathered in the great hall he had constructed for the purpose of planning his conquest. No other flagship of the Vaygr people had this design incorporated into their ship.
It was a vast hall with a ceiling dominated by a clear dome display. In it could be projected any image Makaan so desired. A long table was also set in the middle of the room, which also could display anything the warlord so desired. Now the ceiling was dominated with the sky over his mothership, looking into the many types of design Makaan had approved for his new armada. The table showed the map of their intended path from East to west- the Vaygr lands at the rear of the table and their target of the core at its head. Hiigara blazed there, shining like a pale blue gem opposite of the harsh rubies set in the Vaygr homeland.
Makaan was present in the war room, not atop a throne or chair as some artists would portray him in later days. Instead he was on the level of his fellows: standing like them at level with many of the other princes and clansmen who had joined him in his crusade. Makaan had said he did not want to weigh the expense of elevating himself above his peers just for show.
He moved among them, conversing with them and asking their opinion. He knew which of the crusades he could trust and which of the crusades were wary. He knew which ones had strong faith and which ones were weak. He knew which ones could turn if bribed, and knew which ones would follow him to the end. Makaan had made it a study to observe the collected crusades of Vaygr and learn the character of each one.
And if he didn’t then he would learn. Makaan was observant.
The Warlord at last came upon the Taiidani delegation. Clad in the yellow and red of their imperial colors, the Taiidani didn’t seem out of place in a room of clansmen. Makaan knew, however, that the Taiidani weren’t the ones who he would have wished to have at his side. Still, an ally was an ally, and he knew the Taiidani’s weaknesses if the imperialists dared to move against him in shadow.
Makaan approached the Taiidani and covered his strong voice with a velvet tone as he said, “Admiral Richau. It is a pleasure that you have come all this way.”
“Indeed.” The eagle-eyed Imperial Admiral said, taking Makaan’s hand and shaking it firmly. “The council elected me as their avatar to participate in the meeting. I was surprised.”
“Oh? Even my crusades have heard of your skill in the Imperial fragment. Your presence among us will not be regretted.” Makaan said.
Richau turned to his aide and said, “My aide to this mission, Vice Admiral Lyssao.”
“A pleasure.” The other Taiidani said, shaking Makaan’s hand. “I’m here in spirit of the Taiidani economy. It’s my task to consider the resources for this campaign.”
Makaan knew the man would attempt to sell him far-jumping hyperspace cores as Taiidani merchants had when they caught whiff of Makaan’s name. The warlord did not smile, but did so inwardly. The Taiidani would be beyond surprise when they learned of Makaan’s plan.
“I appreciate your input, gentlemen.” Replied Makaan and excused himself to move among the other clansmen assembled here.
A young boy came to him and tugged at his sleeve. Makaan bent down to hear the whispers of the child, nodded once and put a hand on the boy’s shoulder to dismiss him. Makaan surveyed the audience, then approached the table.
When he arrived heads clustered around it turned to face him. Makaan’s next words silenced the room, and all eyes paid attention. “All eyes, here.”
The room went quiet, and Makaan summoned the hologram.
The room’s lights darkened, then between the table and the ceiling of the room materialized the graphical map of the universe. It swirled once before zooming in on one location. Zones, then lines, materialized depicting the universe in a geographical and political light.
“Assembled guests,” Makaan began, “We will prepare our assault on the core worlds very shortly. Now, I will announce to you the strategy which we will be using to overtake the core worlds with such a force that not even they will be able to withstand.”
“How?” One voice asked, “The core worlds are far in advance of anything we have! Even our new ships cannot compare to the economic might possessed by these nations. Surely the strength of their economies can negate our advantages in numbers!”
“I understand your concern,” Makaan replied, “And yes, given the traditional thinking of attack, it would be a war of attrition.” Makaan gestured his hands on the table and this motion was copied in the air above him. With a hand, he moved the icons representing the Vaygr armadas to the borders of Ukabeh and Alcogoran. “These nations,” He said, “Know us by name and by heart. Though they dismiss us, they would immediately rouse alarm and suspicion were we to begin an assault. I project a sustained battle of two years before we were ultimately forced to accept defeat.”
“Then how will you give us victory?” Asked another warlord.
“The strategy,” Makaan announced, “Is to attack where they are least expecting us to. The borders of the core worlds are strong. Like the cells of a living organism they all have strong walls to ward out the invasion of an infectious organism.”
“A diversion, then?” Asked Admiral Richau.
“Not quite,” Makaan said, “A diversion or several would be obvious. The core worlders would read our traditional strategy with ease and counterattack with their superior technology. I know of several prominent admirals among the core who would be able to defeat many admirals here in conventional battles because of this skill.”
“You make it sound as if victory is impossible.” Voiced a warlord.
“Yes,” Makaan siad, “That is what I am saying. Victory cannot be attained by us in a conventional fashion. The best we, the Vaygr, can hope to attain in an all-out war against the core worlds is a stalemate- with few ground gained. At the best, we can expect the border empires to fall to our control under the sustained assault.”
He put both hands on the table and said, “We would need a miracle in order to accomplish what I am proposing for all of you.”
“And you have that miracle?” Asked a prince.
Makaan looked up and around at the audience, saying, “You all joined my number because you had faith in my ability. While some are more devout than others, and some more misguided than others for joining my cause, you are all here because you have faith in my ability to deliver you a victory beyond any other victory you could have achieved in the old lands. Do you still believe in me now, even after all I have said?”
Heads nodded in the audience. If Makaan could accomplish the impossible again as he had at hethhelim, then again he could surprise them. Many of them were waiting and eager to learn Makaan’s strategy at overcoming a seemingly impossible enemy.
Makaan nodded, then said, “Good.”
He tapped some buttons and the hologram above them dimmed, replaced by an object. “This object,” He began, “Is a tool. Originally it was a piece of salvage remarkable to me in it’s difficulty to obtain. Surely, such an object that demanded death in it’s acquisition is worth having? I dove into Hethhelim myself to salvage it, and soon I discovered what it was.
“All of you know what hyperspace is. Our methodology before the coming of my fleet was a crude application of its use. The distance traveled was counted only in the month-distance of light’s travel. With this, we have gained insight into the construction of similar devices that can allow our fleets to travel the distance light takes in a decade.”
Gasps were drawn across the assembled fleet at the concept. Light decades? Impossible! The boundaries imposed by Sajuuk in ancient times were absolute!
“The device itself,” Makaan said, “Will allow our fleets to travel to any point in the western hemisphere that I so choose in the span of a week.”
Outrage. Voices exploded into impossibility and discussion. Unthinkable! It would take years to reach the core, where only the old could return and tell stories of the impossible, wonderful things in the golden lands.
Makaan waited for the audience to simmer, and did so by turning to the table and tapping the image of the core off. It shrank, descending into the icon of Makaan’s flagship, the Sword.
Eyes returned to Makaan, all waiting to see what he would do next.
“With this,” Makaan said, “I intend to strike…” He moved the icon far across the table- beyond the Alcogoran space, beyond the Ukabeh freelands, beyond the limits of Vaygr knowledge…
Into the place of Taiidan, the Taii-yahr of mythology. This was the location provided by the Imperials, as well as knowledge of the core worlds.
“This is our destination.” Makaan replied, “And with the Hyperspace core, it will be possible. From there, the core-worlders will be completely distracted by our assault such that they will have no choice but to doubt, then mobilize, all too late to forestall complete domination of the eastern hemisphere. They will be too confused and too scattered to deal with us.
“From the Taiidan,” He said and moved icons out from the Sword, “We will attack every empire bordering. We will devour the Republic from within and then spread outward like a tide. Since the core has defenses arrayed against us, they will not be expecting an assault from within the space of one of their own. The confusion and traffic of refugees will likewise add to the confusion and offer us golden advantages against our foe.
“Our ultimate goal,” He said and threw a pointed hand at a sphere of blue at the head of the table, “Is Hiigara. This is the capital of the core. If Hiigara falls, then the core will have no choice but to become the submissive power in the universe to our might.”
“What promise is there that the Hiigarans will wither once we take Hiigara?” Asked a warlord.
“The Hiigaran forces are powerful and unquestionably strong…however… I judge that they are like a snake: when the head is severed then the snake will writhe uncontrollably before it dies. The Hiigarans will be disorganized and pressured into making more and more failures we will exploit.
“As for a promise- fear will be our adversary. The fact that we are able to reach out and touch Taiidan from our remote location will plant fear in the hearts of the core-worlders. Like the scourge that plagued the Shining Hinterlands a decade ago, we shall also be feared for our swiftness and unpredictability in our attacks. The enemy will not know where we come from or where we are going. We must be swift in all of our objectives.”
Makaan rose, and said, “These are my intentions and plans. All of you have orders forwarded specifically to your ships with your intended functions and deployments. Any questions will be forwarded to me before we jump, and I will do my best to answer them.”
Makaan cast his gaze about the room. Nods greeted him. They believed.
He held up a hand and said, “Let it be known that any with doubts are free to leave now. This is your last opportunity. I can promise you great wealth and success on our jounrey, but I understand that some may have doubts too deeply sewn into their hearts to continue. Those who I know require a further test of my abilities will remain here in preporation to attack across the borders when word of our success has been made. Those who are eager for war will join me in the assault on Taiidan.
“That is all. May Sajuuk smile on our labors.”
The room broke into discussion after Makaan’s statement. The warlord remained to answer individual questions and commentary in the war room. Some of the crusadesmen left already, headed to their ships.
The Taiidani, however, stood beside one another with arms crossed as they stared at Makaan.
“He’s found the third one.” Rear Admiral Lyssao said.
“Yes.” Richau replied, “It would seem as much. As Makaan isn’t one to bluff I don’t think he would offer a forgery and attempt to sell the leaders unless he really believed in his ability.”
“Do you think he can do it?” Lyssao asked, “Topple the Hiigarans?”
“When Makaan arrives in the core,” Richau said, “The Hiigarans will quake in a fear they’ve never before experienced.”
The planet Taiidan was being given the attention it deserved.
When the Republic was founded in the skies of Hiigara, they needed a capital. The planet of Taiidan, woefully underutilized in the eyes of the Republic, was descended upon and made the subject of a planetary beautification project. Taiidan would be a glorious capital which a glorious nation would be founded.
The old wooden and stone constructs which had survived the ages of the evil Imperial forces were quickly demolished and replaced with modern stone and steel construction. Old worksmiths were quickly dismissed and automated machines moved into their place. Stone quarries, family-run and performed by hand, were quickly commandeered and converted into automated strip mines to capitalize on the wealth Taiidan had squandered in practically living in poverty.
The Capital itself, Taiidan, was transformed. The only evidence of its previous state before the renovation was the first palace- transformed into a museum of ancient Taiidan. The second palace, erected in the fifth age of Taiidan’s Imperial line, was quickly demolished as it was seen as a symbol of the old regime.
Citizens walked the streets clad in the fashion of the latest core-trends. Expensive skimmers traversed the skies while commoners walked the streets or were regulated to their ground-cars. The police forces were busy ticketing looters and shooing out loiterers who were busy crying over what used to be their family estates.
Taiidan had been modernized, thanks to the programs introduced by the Taiidan Republic. The old had been disposed with, and in its place was the new: embodied by the pearl white pillar-supported dome of the Republic Senate Building. Over this flew the flag of the Republic: the round, barred circle denouncing ill-will and the soft teal background depicting a new change from the evil colors of yellow and red, as was in the previous regime.
The Senate was in its 153rd deliberation. It was a noisy place, every seat of the circular room inside the capital dome was filled with suited politicians wearing one of the same three shades of suit jacket prevalent in the room. Almost everyone had a suitcase with important documents in them. The President of the Senate was on his recess, present in the Takiido halls playing Takiido and smoking with his business partners, discussing trade policies with the Tobari and upping the price of their exports. The senate was fine running without him.
Officially the topic of the floor was the 89th debate on convincing the Hiigarans to lease the Republic the licensee to their newest interceptor. The proposal itself was still fluid, but the Republicans intended to convey that they could no longer manufacture ‘quality’ ships, citing the A-8 Valiance as their ‘best’ that the industry could produce.
Of course, the Republic wouldn’t mention the fact that military funding had been drastically reduced since the disappointing failure of the Nomad Moon, and the fact that the Republic was always two steps behind the Hiigarans in terms of military research (spurred in part by the fact that the Republic lost the battle at fleet base alpha, only to be upstaged by the Somtaaw of all people).
When the hour turned, it became time to switch topics debate. Now the issue was on water conservation in Lehiibed. The conversation didn’t cease as diplomats discussed proposals of their own with other diplomats, and the barter and trade of money and politics continued unabated. Only several heads raised to hear the guest speaker today that would come in and speak on the matter.
Three men were permitted entry on to the floor- a white marble polished surface two full stories below the bottom-most ring of the senate floor. Bathed in the light coming from within the dome, the three white-clad officials entered the room with their hoods raised and their robes flowing. Those that were paying attention assumed that these were some backward desert nomads who were here to complain about the water issue. All but one who had been paying attention lost interest in the topic and turned to listen to their neighbor’s discussions. The one that remained focused had a lobby in desert nomads and had to listen to what they said.
The nomads just stood at the bottom of the hall, letting the chatter go on for several minutes. Then, suddenly, one of them raised something high in the air and threw it to the floor.
The crashing of metal on tile echoed loudly through the chamber, dropping the conversations to a dull murmur immediately as most heads in the chamber looked down at the three who had entered.
Resting on the floor where the leading man had thrown it was a sword, broken into several shards of polished, damaged, metal. The sheathe, discarded with it, was also colored in the same manner as the banner attached to the end of the hilt: Yellow and Red, with an ancient clan symbol pressed into the cloth.
The nomads discarded their white garbs instantly, transforming themselves into warriors clad in the ancient armor Taiidan used to make war against itself with. All of them were clad in the yellow and red cloths of the Amaterasu kingdom before its annihilation at Hiigaran hands. Heresy was the feeling about these three as they stood in the glistening capital of the New Regime.
The unarmored police tried to stop them, but their caliber pistols were deflected against the modern rendition of ancient armor. The leader stood still while his two escorts threw darts at the guards, stopping them by making them fall over in places and dropping their weapons. The two guards in the capital were soon paralyzed.
Many of the council members turned to leave, frightened at the thought that those darts would be coming for them next. But the clansmen had locked the doors before the proceedings, the guards that could save them were knocked out and tied up together in the lobby.
“HEAR ME!!” Shouted the leader of the three, “HEAR THIS! Come a day’s time, no stone in the capital shall be standing upon another! No stone will be melded to metal, and no masonry binding buildings will be left standing! The flags of the false Taiidan will burn, and nothing will remain of this assembly save a memory and a shiver-spoken name!”
“Who are you!?” Called a senator, “What gives you the right to interrupt the assembly!”
“The same right Sajuuk gave to all of us to breathe air and speak our thoughts!” Replied the leader, “I am a traditionalist, and I come here bearing a warning: a terrible force is coming from the east to raze the name Republic from Taiidan. This world itself will become nothing more than a shadow and a memory at their passing!”
‘Fah! Traditionalist! Go back to daydreaming of the past!”
“Yeah! Go home and stare at your pretty pictures! We have business to conduct!”
“Business!” Repeated the man, “Business of slavery- of selling souls to buy false promises and power. While you reside here in your white capital, the spirit of Taiidan cries out in vengeance for your criminal acts. You sit here, hoarding wealth, while the rest of us hope and cry for a better future that you fail to deliver!”
“But we have cities!” One argued, “Roads, power, and light for everyone!”
“But what do you have to give that is Taiidan, and not Hiigaran? All the progress made here was beggared from the Hiigaran people- People who once bombed this very city into nothing regardless of the casualties they caused!”
“Its called progress, dumb ass!”
“Progress implies that we are growing beyond ourselves. We are borrowing from others, like leeches sucking shamelessly from the life or other organisms! Taiidan will smile when this building and it’s occupants are ripped from the ground and cast into the void as is fitting for borrowers and soothsayers! You’ll sell the soul of Taiidan to the hands who burned our opportunity for greatness to the ground!”
“I have delivered my warning- you have day and no more to consider your lives and repent for the evils you have caused. There will be no further herald.”
The three turned and left, ignoring the mockery and scorn that followed them from the building. They were arrested as soon as they left the capital, but once at the station they broke from their bounds and promptly disappeared.
Hiigaran’s polar regions were quite comfertable. Not many people travelled in these areas as they were too remote and difficult for builders to construct monster cities as they had in other latitudes.
Karen’s home was a simple place, constructed from wood and stone, with some metal put in. She had saught a retreat from the metal surroundings she was forced to endure when coupled to the mothership, and having this cabin built was an adequate remedy. Though the sickness had gone, Karen didn’t think to move into a bigger place or have a proper house built.
Things decorated her abode- Miach’s entire life was placed in the house one way or another. Artwork from when he was four years old to paintings he was attempting now. Bookshelves of salvaged literature from ancinet Hiigaran libraries dominated one wall of the main room, and several fleet intelligence seats that had been down-flown and converted to normal seats added another memory to the room. Miach was in one of them, with a book of ancient Kharakian history open as he was studying the history of Somtaaw’s legendary priestesses. It was for a paper he was writing on Kharakian mythology. Gifted, the boy was, but he had not yet graduated academy and gained a proper leg up in society.
Karen was proud of him and his achievements he accomplished on his own without the benefit of the name Karen Sjet following him to give him blessings. He was treated as an ordinary Sjeti child- but perhaps with a noted streak of Sobani in him. The boy studied military tactics and history and aspired in one thought to be a tactician. Karen didn’t discourage her son from any particular field, but supported him in whatever study he chose to undertake.
Karen herself was seated by one of the open windows, reading through her fifth book of Hiigaran poetry. A hundred years on life had allowed her to do many things- and she had done them under aliases here and there when the reclusive life had been too lonesome. Before Miach had entered her life she had been quite the eccentric personality in secret, drinking deeply from the benefit of an alias and appearing twenty. All that was behind her now, and she felt comfortable being a mother and leader to her people and her son.
In those hundred years she had read many books, and was now going through the poertry written by the ancient Hiigarans. Her favorite, she decided, were ones following the theme of nature. Hiigara was a beautiful place, and even more beautiful things were written about it. Someday, she decided, in her immortality she would sit at the places these writers described to try capturing the feeling they had transposed in their writing.
But then the feeling returned to her, and her book drooped. She stared into space- coincidentally at the globe of Hiigara placed at the center of the seats. Miach noticed. “Mother?” He asked, bookmarking his place and standing, “What’s wrong.”
“The feeling.” She said, still staring and shaking her head, “He’s coming. He’ll be appearing very soon…. And nobody believes me.”
“The Sobani do.” Replied Miach, “The Kiithid do. They’re doing what they can to prepare.”
“it’s not enough.” Karen replied, taking a deep breath and then sighing, “It’s not enough. We won’t be able to save everyone.”
“In war, that isn’t possible.” Miach said, taking a seat beside her on the windowseat, “There is always one death in war, even if it’s pride.”
“I wish pride was the first casualty in this,” Replied Karen, “The Daiimid wouldn’t believe me.”
“Then they’ll believe you after the enemy makes himself apparent.” Miach said.
“By then it might be too late.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not. We’re forced to behave on the defensive in this war, since the Daiimid won’t allow us a totally offensive operation. The Sobani are watching- perhaps they will act when the enemy begins to move.”
“I hope so.” Karen said, “We need every advantage we can get in the time to come.”
Miach nodded, then stood and asked, “Can I get you something from the kitchen? Tea?”
Karen smiled at her son and said, “Yes dear, that’ll be fine.”
Miach smiled and left her to go get the pair of them something to drink.
Then something, suddenly, hit her. She turned her head suddenly- her eyes seeing beyond the wall and the atmosphere of Hiigara, beyond the boundaries of space and into a whole other world altogether.
It was beginning.