AND SO IT BEGINS! THE FINAL PART TO THE LEGACIES SERIES!
Had to use the Qwaar-voice for that one. And so! Chapters!
Again, a reminder: For discussion of the entire series or Part III since I closed its thread, go to the HW Legacies Discussion Thread in the Fanfic section.
Gravity twisted as a powerful tunnel carved a long, narrow path between the damaged Godship Qwaar-Jet, and the Infected planet below. A split-second later, a narrow beam of light lanced from the tip of the massive superdreadnaught, and slammed into the surface of Haven. Explosions suddenly tore through the twisted ooze of Ashoran’s Beast as matter and antimatter annhilated in flashes of light.
Every telepath in the region suddenly felt an inhuman howl of agony pierce their minds, screeching in hundreds of the Beast’s newly acquired voices. Noreena grinned evilly at how much pain and destruction she was giving Ashoran and the Qwaar-deesh for doing this to her home planet.
Karan was helpless when Kharak was burned. I am not.
The Qwaar-Jet’s main gun ticked the seconds of its firing time in a chilling countdown.
The super-megaship turned towards the God of War, its limbs extending outwards as the veins on it began to fade considerably after having expended so much biomatter. Its gravitic guns continued their assault on the massed Allied fleets surrounding it like so many flies. Gravitic bubbles sparked and engines exploded among the Allied fleets with disturbing regularity as commanders frantically plotted hyper-jumps away from the dying world. Glowing windows raced across ships all around the super T-MAT as more and more Allied fleets jumped out.
A wave of boiling fury joined the screeching in Noreena’s mind, wrapping it in a familiar ice-cold darkness. It then began pummeling her memories with vicious abandon.
CEASE THIS NOW, a deep voice boomed in her mind. OR I WILL CRUSH YOU AS I DID THE OTHERS. YOU ARE WEAKENED. YOU CANNOT CONTINUE THIS.
Her enraged mind barely registered the psychic attack. She tossed it back with a laugh that could have chilled the blood of even the most fervent Qwaar-deesh soldier. She mentally reached out across the gap between the Qwaar-Jet and the darkness deep within the super T-MAT.
She leaned into the Qwaar-Jet’s Cores for a full surge of their power, then formed a blazing psychic lance from that power. She then then plunged it into the heart of that darkness, which flailed violently with a gurgling scream. It expanded, then reformed itself around the lance. It then wrapped itself around the lance, then hurled itself across the mental distance towards Noreena’s own presence. She threw it back again, this time with an infuriated shockwave of blazing fire that roared through both minds like the spectacle below.
Beneath the two ships, Haven burned in a dazzling whiteness as matter and antimatter extinguished one another in their violent collisions. Chunks of Infected debris hurtled at the ships above the planet as it began crumbling from the inside out in a chain of blazing explosions that swept across its surface. Several more pieces of the dying planet raced outwards, launched by the explosions behind them.
The timer’s relentless march went on as second after second passed.
The beam of light continued its deadly assault. Dazzling light tore through the twisted remains of what had been Haven’s crust, sending shockwave after shockwave rolling outwards as the beam burrowed deep into Haven’s dense core, detonating enormous amounts of molten rock with as much ease as it had torn through its crust and mantle. The planet promptly imploded on itself, sending outwards massive waves of tumbling molten debris that grew ever larger with each passing second. Gigantic shards of molten rock mixed with massive bubbles of lava as they spewed from the dying world below. One particularly large piece crashed savagely into the Qwaar-Jet’s bubble, causing its generators to drop from its once invincible green to the yellow.
Noreena continued her blazing psychic assault on Ashoran’s mind, pummeling it with fire, light, and rage. She could no longer delineate her movements, but rather knew them as frenzied blurs of movement, flashes of light, and scorches of flame. A furious scream howled from the darkest recesses of her mind as memory after memory of her childhood and her relatives on Haven replayed themselves while she fought in their name.
The Godship’s main gun finally shut down, its dazzling beam silenced by the timer.
In the blink of an eye, Haven imploded into a blindingly brilliant show of light and fire that sent out one final brutal shockwave that blinded even the Qwaar-Jet’s sensors. Light brighter than light poured into Noreena’s mind, overloading it within seconds. She screamed in her control bubble as every sensor feed turned into a white agony that tore into her mind with more force than any of Ashoran’s attacks. Pain tore savagely along her neural links as waves of crackling static replaced her feeds as sensor after sensor overloaded from so much energy being released. Some even exploded under the raw energetic strain.
Another explosion rocked the Godship, this time from its rear. The Godship’s gravitic generators had been in the red the last several seconds. Now it had overloaded from the strain of both the battle, and fending off the massive soup of exotic particles, vaporized radiation, and flying debris that Haven had become. Fortunately the Godship’s chassis and hull kept the resulting explosion from completely gutting his engines.
She vaguely felt her mechanical holding arms break as violently superheated plasma and massive chunks of Haven’s mantle and core smashed into the Qwaar-Jet’s heavily armored hull, sending the Godship tumbling into a spin not one crewmember would escape unscathed. She felt the large neural cable held to the back of her head strain against the connectors built into her skull from the sudden G-forces of the wild spin.
It suddenly snapped, sending Noreena into complete shock as she hurtled free from her control station and tumbled towards her bubble’s forcefields. Disorientation as agonizing as the sensory overload she’d just exited crashed into her senses as ship systems were roughly traded for fragile flesh-and-blood legs and arms.
The bubble’s field sparked much like Qwaar’s gravitic bubble outside as it strained under the sudden impact of her body. Then it went out completely, sending her tumbling to the catwalk below. She crashed into it with agonizing force, her forehead cracking against the metal surface.
The dark oblivion of unconsciousness promptly engulfed her.
Noreena’s right eye cracked open the tiniest of slits. Dim red light shone into it. A console suddenly spewed a brilliant shower of sparks, briefly blinding her. She squeezed it shut with a wince.
As the sparks faded, Noreena opened it again, and glanced about. She lay on the catwalk that was normally positioned directly underneath the control bubble. Its further end had been severed from the door it was attached to, and now lay at the bottom of the spherical chamber that housed the Khar’s control interface with the Godship. Its other end was still connected to the doorway on the opposite side of the control room. Several damaged consoles sparked forlornly, puncturing the darkess with occasional flashes of golden light. Strips of red emergency lighting set into the walls cast a surreal crimson glow around the chamber.
She closed her eyes as greater awareness returned to her battered body. Pain danced along every nerve and muscle in her body. Even her skin felt like one mass of bubbling agony. Her forehead felt as if someone had smashed it in with a heavy mallet. She tasted blood in her mouth, and could feel more dribbling down her forehead from the blow she’d taken.
She opened her eyes again when a flashback of Haven’s crust reduced to a massive, squirming Infection crashed into her mind. Then came the sight of of her homeplanet crumpling brilliantly under the antimatter gun’s fire.
A low moan of pain far deeper than any physical injury’s rose from her. She closed her eyes again, yearning anew for the silent darkness of sleep. The sound of approaching footfalls caused her to open her eyes again. She glimpsed a pair of black Cleanser boots coming towards her..
Kai’s voice, distorted by his helmet’s voice manipulation unit, sounded as if it came from far away.
Just wanna sleep. That’s all. Just sleep. Wake up a couple hundred years later...it won’t hurt so much then. Sleep. Yes, sleep.
A pair of hands gently rolled Noreena onto her back, eliciting a fresh gasp as agony exploded along broken bones and torn skin. They then reached underneath her. With a quick motion, the Cleanser hefted her up into his arms. She glanced up at the Cleanser’s helmeted face, and saw a distorted reflection of her bleeding, wounded body on its obsidian visor.
The sound of more footfalls rapidly approaching pounded into her ears, causing her head to throb painfully in tune with them. She glanced over to the new arrival, and was heartened to spot a familiar Vaygr uniform on his body and a mane of pale gold hair trailing from his head. He looked about as healthy as she felt. His face sported a vicious gash along one cheek, his uniform bore several bloody rips and tears, and his prosthetic arm looked as if it had barely survived a trip through a meat grinder.
“Mak?” she asked weakly. His battered metal hand rested soothingly on her shoulder.
“I came as quickly as I could,” the Warlord said softly. “My wreck of a flagship refused to give me up easily to the extraction crews. Qwaar’s had damage of one sort or another for some time. It took us a while to get in here.”
He leaned in and gently kissed her cheek. He then looked up at Kai, his blue eyes so intense they seemed to glow in the chamber’s dim light.
“I’ll take her to Medical,” he said, his voice warning that he wouldn’t tolerate any argument – not even from a Cleanser.
“There are other wounded to tend to as well,” he agreed mildly, then handed Noreena over to the Warlord.
Makaan reached out and gently collected her from the Cleanser’s arms. He then turned and picked his way across the damaged walkway towards the doorway it was still attached to. He then used his long legs to leverage himself up and then through the door. She slumped into him as the first of many tears welled up in her eyes.
Haven’s gone, Mak. Everybody I knew down there, except Mom and Dad. Just gone. Gone.
The Warlord simply hugged her closer to his body as he walked, letting his sympathy and understanding flow into her from his mind.
Noreena stood painfully leaned into her cane, the hand holding it protesting with its own misery. Her dress uniform hugged her various regen patches and sheaths far too closely for her comfort. It reminded her of a corset – the kind reserved for torture.
Makaan, Chief Tydaar and the two Cleansers stood next to her in a solemn silence. Since her discharge from the Qwaar-Jet’s Sickbay, Noreena had found herself wrapped in a lonely silence she could barely tolerate. Only the Warlord and the Cleansers spoke to her now; everyone else seemed too terrified of her temper after what she did to Haven after Ashoran infected the planet.
A corner of her mind hoped that her pale, weepy-eyed, withdrawn self seemed harmless enough for them to reconsider that fear. Now she understood how Makaan must have felt towards her after seeing the toll losing his temper with her in the Sickbay conference room had taken on her.
She peered about the Qwaar-Jet’s Main Hangar. It looked as wounded as she felt. Gashes peppered the walls, while craters pocked the floor. Various robots carted away the cut-down remnants of ceiling girders that had fallen onto the craft and technicians within the massive chamber. Techs moved about somberly, steering clear of the few dried pools of blood that hadn’t been cleaned up after the wounded and dead had been removed from where they had fallen.
A Somtaaw diplomatic shuttle rumbled over the wreckage as its pilot warily picked his way to the only cleared spot in the Main Hangar: a twelve meter-by-twelve meter square at Noreena’s feet. It turned its starboard side towards her, then settled onto its landing gear with what sounded like a sigh of relief.
Its ramp promptly extended and settled itself against the Hangar floor. A pair of Somtaaw Marines tromped down, then stood at guard positions on either side of the ramp’s foot.
Noreena exchanged glances with Tydaar. The Chief, his own nose and eyes puffy with having cried nonstop for the last several hours, quietly nodded with a pained expression. He strode towards the ramp, then climbed up it.
With the two Cleansers and the Warlord at her side, Noreena slowly picked her way towards the ramp, her entire body protesting the movement as if she had spent six months in a tank before being extracted. Her cane was the only sound in the Hangar besides the occasional clatter of debris being hauled away. Its tip clanged noisily into the floor, the sound echoing about like a surreal funeral dirge.
Then she reached the ramp’s foot. The two Marines stiffly saluted her. She noticed their eyes glistened with fresh tears and winced at the sheer effort it took them to maintain their otherwise professional demeanor.
She shifted her weight to fully on both feet, and held her cane out to Kai for a moment. The Cleanser took it without a word, as if sensing what she wanted to do. Ignoring the pain racing up her legs at standing like this, she then reached out one hand to each Marine’s arm.
“Nobody’s gonna blame you guys,” she said softly, her voice cracking as she spoke, “if you break down. Least of all me. Okay?”
“Nor will I,” Makaan added quietly. “Such pain is not to be borne alone.”
They nodded shakily. One Marine swiped at a fresh tear rolling down his face, while the other one sniffled. Noreena gave their arms a fresh squeeze with both hands, then released them.
She retook her cane from Kai, and painfully worked her way up the shuttle’s ramp. The Warlord and Cleansers strode behind her, then caught up to her once they were inside the shuttle.
The group shuffled to their seats, then settled in as they sought their restraints. Noreena cringed and grunted through the normally easy task of pulling a four-point harness over her tortured body, but managed to get it buckled on without breaking any safety regulations. The Warlord fared little better; the grimaces that flew across his face told her exactly how much rushing to her side so soon after the battle ended had cost him.
A quick glance around the passenger compartment showed ship captains from all walks of the Alliance strapped into the other chairs. Noreena spotted a bizarre yet comforting sight: an elfin Kadeshi MBF Captain resting her hand comfortingly on the shoulder of a burly Somtaaw Archangel II Captain who wiped his tears away with the palm of his hand.
More glances turned up similar things going on throughout the compartment. She felt a grateful mental smile grace her thoughts at such compassion flowing towards the Somtaaw.
“All right, everyone,” the shuttle pilot’s voice spoke over the loudspeakers with a Republican Taiidani accent. “We’re all set and will be en-route to the Kuun-Lan. Please be aware that there are a lot of repair craft and debris going around right now, so the ride will take a good bit longer than normal.”
He paused a beat, then continued.
“For those just coming onboard, I’m filling in for Pilot Veskrin who was killed during the battle. Just in case our new arrivals are wondering why a Taiidani is flying a Somtaaw ship.”
“Veskrin,” Noreena mused sadly. “He used to fly Workers on rotation with me, Rizzie, and Rey. Happy-go-lucky sort.”
She let out a huge sigh, feeling as if all her friends and family were falling away from her as every moment ticked past.
“Guess the War finally caught up with me,” she sighed.
“Caught up with all of us, I’d say,” Tydaar agreed.